After trying out an iPhone 6+ for the last year on my work phone, I decided that it was time to move back to Android on the Nexus 6P earlier this year. While both phones and mobile operating systems are great choices, there are a few features that I missed in Android that had me coming back. Please take this as my opinion on specific features, rather than a “YOU MUST SWITCH NOW” article. Let’s cover some features.
Background App Refresh
This feature, for Gmail and Exchange ActiveSync in particular, was something that I missed greatly when traveling in areas with slow/spotty coverage. Because I didn’t use the iOS mail app – I used Outlook and Gmail apps instead – I would receive notifications and previews for email, but would be unable to actually open the email if coverage was bad. I don’t notice this in Android, because it appears that the data is being loaded by the app in addition to the notification.
Another app that benefits from background data is Google Photos. I rely on this service for automatically backing up photos that I take on my phone, and it works well for me when using Android. With iOS, I had to remember to open the Google Photos app periodically to initiate a backup. If I forgot to do this, I could have hundreds of photos to sync after a big trip.
The downside to this background refreshing is that it can take a toll on battery life, especially in bad coverage areas. It’s a tradeoff that I’m willing to make, but I did notice a bit of a faster drain on the Nexus vs the iPhone 6+. This is also why I understand the decision to limit this feature on iOS.
This is a really silly thing, but I have a very particular way of assigning sounds to different apps on Android. My process involves loading a few distinctive notification sounds, and using a different one for my 4-7 heavily used apps. This setup makes alerts for work email (MGS alert tone) or IM (Pac-Man lost life) stick out from my personal Gmail (You’ve Got Mail – yes, it’s ironic) or SMS (Zelda Item Catch) alerts.
While you can load custom notification sounds for iOS, many of the apps that I used didn’t use these custom sounds. Instead, I had to use a collection of sounds that really didn’t hold any significance, and that were harder to get used to. If more apps supported custom sounds I’d be happier, but it is probably a niche request that many people don’t care about.
Speaking of notifications, I find it much easier to process and clear notifications on Android than on iOS. One of the biggest annoyances for me was accidentally clearing notifications on the lock screen by swiping them away when removing the phone from my pocket, and then not having the same notifications available when unlocking the phone and pulling down on the bar. For example, the bar would show each new email that came in instead of the brief summary shown on the lock screen. A simple count with the ability to expand the notification for more details is exactly what I am looking for, and is what Android provides for Gmail.
It is also nice to be able to clear all notifications with one button, rather than only being able to clear one day/app at a time. I would just not keep up with clearing notifications in iOS, and would have to deal with clearing out a weeks worth of data in one sitting. This is probably more of an issue with my workflow than the phone, but Android works well with the single button approach.
App Drawer and Home Screen
This difference is pretty well-known, but I enjoy the Android method of accessing apps in a central app drawer on the launcher. I also like having the option to add widgets for weather and calendar entries as needed. This makes lesser-used apps easier to ignore, but still available quickly if needed. On iOS, I found that I would have to scour the catch-all “Extra” app group for those apps, or use spotlight search. This is an OK alternative, but not one that I prefer.
Google Now is also something that I use heavily for daily planning, reservation details, or other news items that might be of interest. Having Google Now accessible from the home screen is useful, and it helps me make use of the feature more than I would if I had to launch a dedicated app.
So what do you think of these points? Do you have things that you miss from Android, iOS, or Windows Phone when using other platforms? Did I miss a feature or workaround that would have made me happier on iOS? Please sound off in the comments!