- Although I’m usually a loyal iPhone user, switching to Android recently reminded me of the key areas in which Google’s smartphone software outshines Apple’s.
- The flexibility and convenience the Pixel 3a offered through features like Android’s multi-user support and Google’s Discover feed impressed me the most.
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Switching from the iPhone to Android (or vice versa) is a little bit like moving to a new city or transferring to a new high school. It’s unfamiliar, at times uncomfortable, and it takes a while before things start to feel normal.
But once you get used to it, you almost forget what made you so uneasy in the first place.
I’ve temporarily switched from the iPhone to various Android devices on many occasions over the years, but ultimately I’ve always ended up choosing Apple’s smartphone as my primary device. And the longer that remains true, the harder it is to make the switch to Android. (Not only do I have to get reacquainted with the Android operating system, but I have to come to terms with giving up my AirPods and Apple Watch).
But after recently swapping out my iPhone XS Max for a Google Pixel 3a XL, I was surprised by how little I missed my iPhone, despite the fact that Google’s phone was less than half as expensive. Going back to using an Android device as my regular phone also reminded me of the areas in which Google outshines Apple when it comes to smartphone software.
Here are a few Android features I wish were available on the iPhone.
Support for multiple user profiles.
If you frequently share your smartphone with a spouse or family member, you’ll appreciate Android’s multi-user feature. You can set up a separate profile for family members that lets them store their own apps, accounts, and data in a space that’s completely separate from yours.
So if you hand off your phone to your 9-year-old cousin so that she can play “Angry Birds,” you can just switch to her account or a guest account and rest assured that she won’t accidentally make a purchase or change your Facebook status.
A display that always shows the time and notifications.
Many Android devices, including those made by Google and Samsung, can show the time, date, and notifications on their screen even when the display is turned off. That makes it easy to see information at a glance without having to reach for your smartphone.
The iPhone’s screen automatically lights up when you lift it, but it’s not quite as useful as being able to just quickly pivot my gaze to see if I have any unread notifications. Since I still have to reach for my iPhone to check whether I have a new message or see the time, the temptation to dive into other apps and distractions still exists.
A more personal news feed.
Swipe to the left of the home screen on a Pixel phone, and you’ll see the Discover page, a collection of news articles and updates tailored to fit your interests. During my time using the Pixel, I was pleasantly suprised at how accurate and specific Google’s choices were.
The feed included a mix of everything from technology news about the companies and products I follow the most, to updates on my favourite video games and movies, to local news about my neighbourhood. Of course, you can tell Google what kinds of updates you’d like to see in Discover, which helps it surface more accurate results.
Plus, the company has the benefit of leveraging the data stored in your Google account to help it pick personalised content.
Because of all of this, I found myself adding Google’s Discover feed to the list of apps and services I check first thing when reaching for my phone in the morning.
Google’s Discover is also available on the iPhone and other Android devices through the company’s main search app. But having it built into the operating system on the Pixel puts it front and center, making it much more useful.
The iPhone has a somewhat comparable offering – when swiping to the left of the home screen you’ll find a customisable stream of widgets that includes your next calendar appointment, suggested apps, news stories, and other updates of your choosing.
While they’re similar features, they served different purposes for me. I definitely spent much more time scrolling through Google’s Discover panel to get up to speed on the topics I’m most interested in, whereas I’d sometimes glance at Apple’s feed to see the weather or how long it would take to get home from work.
But the decision to switch from the iPhone to Android will depend on more than just a few clever features.
The proliferation of cloud services makes it easier than ever to transfer photos, apps, and other data between operating systems. But the decision to make the switch will still boil down to many factors, such as your budget and the ecosystem of services you prefer.
I’m not quite ready to give up my iPhone for good, but using the Pixel 3a served as another reminder that when it comes to pioneering new software features, Android is often ahead of Apple.
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