Until the iPhone 12 release, I had been an avid Google Pixel fan since 2015. This meant that I was also part of many, many conversations where people were shocked that I –a UX designer– would opt for an Android over an iPhone, despite iPhone having a “““better””” experience for its users. But I loved my Pixel and how integrated everything felt, and didn’t have many complaints about it over all. Why switch to an iPhone if I loved everything about my handy dandy Pixel 3?
My love affair with Google Pixel ended when I began having significant issues with messaging anytime I messaged an iPhone user. Around July of 2020, I would receive jumbled messages, a short text would get broken into 30 separate messages, and sometimes I –or the person I was messaging– would not receive anything at all. Group chats that my husband (another proud Android user) and I were both in had the same problems, but amplified. Unfortunately all of my close friends and family were on iPhones and there was no way to convince everybody to switch to Android. Talking to my few other android friends who had different carriers revealed that they were experiencing the exact same issues as well, so I knew it wasn’t Google Fi that was at fault.
The solution became obvious: I had to cave and get an iPhone myself if I wanted to actually use my phone to contact people.
It’s been a month since I’ve made the switch and I’ve realized two things:
- I hate the iPhone.
- iMessage is what forces people into loving/staying with the iPhone even though the rest of the experience is awful.
If you’re an iPhone user, the only reason you love it is because Apple has tricked you into thinking it’s the only option. And I get that you might be a little indignant right now because I’m saying that iPhones are inferior to Androids, but let me explain the areas that I’ve found to be… lacking.
Buying Anything Digital on iPhones is a Broken and Confusing Experience
Over the summer, I heard about Epic Game’s feud with Apple over digital transactions, but didn’t fully appreciate what they were fighting about until I decided to purchase an e-book off of Amazon. I found the book I wanted, selected “Kindle” from the format dropdown, and then was confused to see that the “Purchase” button just said, “Download Sample.”
At first I thought that maybe on iPhone I can only purchase the book after I read the sample, so I sent the sample to my Kindle app, read it, and then couldn't figure out where I was supposed to go from there. After a weird amount of googling on the issue, I learned that I could not purchase the book from the Amazon app on iPhone because Amazon would have to give a percentage of the profits to Apple if I did. Instead, I had to separately open a Chrome browser on my phone (because you will pry Chrome from my cold, dead hands), go to Amazon.com, sign in again, find the book again, and then I could purchase it.
The whole process was so clunky and ridiculous and was solely that way because Apple is determined to keep all digital transactions in the walled garden of the App Store. I encountered the issue again when I went to rent Spy Kids (2001) from the Google Play Store.
Bringing up this issue with longtime iPhone users also led to a lot of, “Well duh you have to buy it using your browser,” like it was normal, and to be expected. Anybody with an Android knows better, but iPhone users just accept it as the status quo.
Apple’s Gif Game is Trash
I’m sure this is not a big deal for some users, but I use gifs when I’m messaging people religiously. On Android, Google’s Gboard accommodates that with a great gif search that returns thousands of different options every time. It was extremely rare that I’d ever need to search for a specific gif outside of Gboard. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the default image search on Apple’s keyboard just returned a few mediocre options.
There’s also no haptic feedback on the Apple keyboard, which feels less satisfying and cheaper as a result, but really I just care about the gif issues to be honest.
Thankfully, Google actually shares its tools on the App Store and I was able to download Gboard to move past these issues. Or so I thought.
Then I discovered that Apple forces me back to their keyboard randomly. This is a minor thing but it’s frustrating when the keyboard I’m using switches to a fairly different one for no rhyme or reason. Just let me use what I want, Apple!
Face ID is Inconsistent and Unreliable
I’ll be honest, I love makeup and tend to do a variety of extreme looks, so maybe this is just a “me” issue, but Face ID recognizes me maybe 10% of the time. I’ve even tried retraining it multiple times and adding an “alternate” face scan of myself to no avail. By the time I get to the screen that lets me enter my passcode and I type that in, it’s taken me 10x longer than it ever did to access my Pixel with its fingerprint ID.
Apple even previously used a fingerprint ID before mysteriously switching away from it. I’m convinced they did that because Android implemented the same feature, and Apple wanted to be “different” and “cool” even though the Face ID results in a worse experience.
The worst will happen if I’m using my phone in bed at night, because there is absolutely no chance it’ll work at that point with my screen brightness turned down. Given that using your phone before bed is a pretty common practice, did Apple just not care that this was going to be a major sticking point for its users? Since using your phone before you go to sleep actually results in lower quality sleep, maybe Apple just did it to encourage us to put our phones away before going to bed!
Also, Face ID is definitely not the best feature to be stuck with in 2020.
Common Actions are Placed at the Top of the Screen
Remember when tons of these thumb reach heatmaps were floating around the UX scene a few years ago?
Android generally has all common actions towards the bottom of their phones, such as having the back button always located in the bottom left. This makes it easier to navigate through my phone, painlessly. And I mean that quite literally.
Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines recommends placing many actions in the top ¼ of the screen, resulting in iOS apps' having a majority of their interactions (such as a back arrow) being at the top. Not only does it make it a pain when I need to do a minor action like returning to a previous screen, but my hand will start to actually hurt from these repetitive actions. Why is Apple optimizing for the least comfortable experience?
There’s also been three separate times now that while trying to reach something at the top of the screen, I’ve dropped my phone on my face, so there’s that too.
iMessage and Its Power
I’ve actually brought up these issues with some of my friends who are iPhone fanatics, and each time they respond with, “That’s true but I can’t lose iMessage!” Which honestly, is a very impressive feat that the iMessage team has accomplished. I wouldn’t be surprised to see users switch off of iPhones en masse if Apple ever released iMessage onto the Google Play Store because it seems to be one of the sole reasons a lot of Apple users stick with iPhones.
iMessage does a great job of making a satisfactory messaging experience, but where it really shines is how great at othering people who don't have an iPhone.
By making the experience of messaging an Android user obviously worse, and honestly, just ugly, Apple subconsciously convinces users that this is because Androids are inferior. When in reality, it’s on Apple for making conscious design decisions that degrade the experience. This leads to convincing its users that iMessage is the best messaging experience there is without considering other options seriously. This narrative then extends to how users view iOS vs Android, because texting is one of the key features of a phone. Because surely if Apple has some weird interactions, Android has to be somehow even worse… right?
Thus Apple maintains its dominance in the luxury phone market in the US by giving its users an inferior experience. (Did somebody say dark patterns?)
Bravo Apple, bravo. But also please put iMessage on the Google Play Store so I can switch back and get on with my life.