I’m Not a Mac #10–How Android Won Me Away from iPhone (Video)

This post is part of my “I’m Not a Mac” series, chronicling my controversial migration away from Apple after 15 years as a Mac user. Find other entries in the “I’m Not a Mac” series archive.

After nine months of considering becoming a PC user again, finally ending my 15-year relationship with Apple Mac OS computers isn’t the only titanic technology shift I’ve made recently. Last week, I gave up my iPhone in favor of Google Android. It’s the best phone platform I’ve ever had the pleasure to use–and yes, I did exactly what I promised to do to my surplussed iPhone (think: hammer, and read on or scroll way down for the video.)

As previous posts in this series chronicle, I spent the second half of 2009 increasingly annoyed at Apple’s heavy-handed manner of selling under-featured, over-expensive computers and then sternly limiting the uses to which those machines–and Apple software–could be put. When I finally realized the ease of use, abundant choice, and astounding affordability o the PC side of things, I became an unexpectedly satisfied convert to Windows 7.

Last week, I followed the same trajectory with my iPhone. It was Google Voice that finally drove me away from Apple’s hyper-popular handset. Long a fan of both iPhone and Grand Central, the precursor to Google Voice, I believed that as a user of both I had the right to use them together. When Apple disagreed, by very publicly dumping Google Voice alternatives out of its App Store last year, I did something I never thought I’d do. I jailbroke my iPhone to install a third-party Google Voice app on my own.

I was thrilled when Google began offering an HTML 5 web app of the service for iPhone users earlier this year. I even restored my phone back to its non-jailbroken state to use it. But it wasn’t the same as having a native application on my own handset. So as 2010 continued and my yearning for an OS alternative to Apple on my laptop along with it, I started to wonder whether things might be more happily liberating in the non-Apple smartphone world, too.

I began to ask friends what brand of mobile phone they had. If it turned out to be a Google Android phone or a Palm Pre (WebOS) phone, I asked them to demo it for me and let me play around with it. I also started reading reviews–dozens of reviews–discussing the Android and WebOS platforms, the relative worth of specific handsets and carriers, and how the Google and Palm experience compared to Apple’s iPhone.

To my surprise, I repeatedly encountered people telling me they were former iPhone users who had migrated over to Android or Palm or were planning to do so, and reviews wondering why Apple couldn’t get its act together and offer an iPhone with multitasking, an open app store, and  a unified notification method. And better Google integration, for that matter.

I’ve long loved friend Pastry Chef Chris‘s Palm Pre. But learning that an Android phone could offer me Google Voice as a permanent, baked-in option for calls and texting really did it for me. I found myself wondering why a third party was willing to give me what Apple wouldn’t. And, frankly, I was tired of more than two years of dropped calls, delayed voicemails, and spotty data service from trying to use an AT&T phone in urban America.

Last week, after all that research, I walked into a Chicago Best Buy and walked out with a Verizon Droid Eris, the HTC-built alternative to Motorola’s Droid. After a single evening of use, I turned off my iPhone 3G for good. Here’s why:

  • Four full bars of Verizon service in my downtown Chicago high-rise apartment, vs. AT&T’s (at best) two bars;
  • An entire evening–that has now become an entire week–with no dropped calls, anywhere, at all;
  • 3G data download speeds that feel like 4G compared to the consistently pokey service I suffered through with AT&T’s network;
  • The ability to press the “Phone”  button and make calls directly and seamlessly with Google Voice;
  • The ability to forego paying $20 an unlimited text plan–or paying for any text plan at all, thanks to Google Voice’s native texting feature;
  • The ability to see all of my email, voicemail, text, chat, facebook, and application notifications in one place, simply by pulling down a single notification screen, instead of having to run all over an iPhone looking for little, red, separate notification badges (this is like a dream come true for iPhone users);
  • The ability to download whatever I want, whenever I want to, from Android’s “Market” app store and third-party app stores, too.

Why Verizon? I wanted the network. Why the Eris and not the Droid? I didn’t like the latter’s keyboard and I wanted HTC’s nifty  “Sense” interface overlay (that is best used, not described, to fully appreciate its ease of use.)

Why Google’s Android and not Palm’s WebOS? This was a close call, because both platforms integrate your email and Facebook contacts (unlike iPhone), and WebOS adds in your chat contacts, as well. But I really wanted a native Google Voice solution, and only Android phones have one right now.

After a week with Verizon’s network and HTC’s Eris Android phone, I can’t believe how long I bought into Apple’s hype about how iPhone offered the best smartphone solution. Sure, as with all things Apple, iPhone tries to make the mobile-phone experience as painless as possible. But in siloing off the device (i.e. “Use only the approved apps in our app store or else…”) and refusing to allow their own users access to common technologies and features, Apple sends one message to iPhone users–that Apple thinks they’re too stupid to make their own decisions.

Unfortunately, the decisions Apple tends to make for anyone who uses one of their device (laptop, desktop, or handheld) always seem aimed at locking people permanently into Apple solutions. And once users are locked in, why should Apple break a sweat worrying over the relative merits of another phone platform’s feature set?

I’m happy to thoughtfully consider my own mobile-phone experience, and I bet many people reading this are, as well. I will say when I thought about it, I realized how easy making the leap from iPhone to Android would be. All of my favorite iPhone apps had doppelgangers in the Android Market. I can download podcasts directly via Google Listen, obviating the need to sync my Eris with my (new Windows 7) PC, and I can use third-party software like the free DoubleTwist or Mark/Space’s paid MissingSync to move my iTunes playlists over to the device (or at least, as soon as Mark/Space and I figure out why my copy of the software won’t sync with my new Eris.) If I had contacts and calendar information living on said PC instead of in the cloud, I could also move those over with Missing Sync.

Bonus being, I don’t ever have to sync my phone with iTunes anymore. I just plug it in, juice it up, and go. And, yes, I continue to use iTunes, because it’s got a great music store and I’m not a total anti-Apple zealot, though I can also download tunes directly to my Android phone thanks to the Amazon Music store.

The one fly in the ointment? No direct path to sync bookmarks with my Eris from Google Chrome. But since I use Xmarks anyway, I sync my bookmarks with the Xmarks cloud and access them there from my Eris until Google offers a bookmark-syncing solution for Android. (I have no doubt one will eventually arrive.)

So except for iTunes, I am finally, officially, and fully out of the Apple and Macintosh ecosystem, at long last. And although Steve Jobs led me to believe that using non-Apple solutions would ruin me and my computing life, I’m here to tell my former fellow Mac users, after 15 years, I couldn’t be happier.

My old iPhone 3G on the other hand has seen better days. In defense of what you’re about to witness, its mute button was broken, anyway (from the phone being regularly tossed across the room in frustration over rotten AT&T service.) With that, I fulfill a more than two-year-old promise and show you what happens when a hammer meets an iPhone.

Yes. Oh yes I did.

(Click the HQ button for a higher-quality video. RSS subscribers, click here to view the video on CHICAGO CARLESS.)

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