Apple has remained THE premium brand in our eyes with the (supposed) best hardware and software integration. I believed I had a fair idea about the shortcomings of Apple devices and hence made a conscious decision to get the iPad 6th gen in 2019 and the iPhone XR in 2020. I was aware of the restrictions that iOS has (when compared to Android) and I was sure I could live with those. I consider myself a minimal phone user so I guess it would be fine to have less control if it meant I could get better security, privacy, long term software support and an overall premium “it just works” experience, so be it.
Boy, was I wrong. I was badly mistaken about not needing much control over my device going from Android’s super granular customization options. It turns out, Apple just wants us to buy all Apple devices, and they want everyone on the planet to get Apple devices because that’s the only way they will talk to each other properly.
I faced a large number of problems when switching from Android to iOS for my primary phone. After almost 2 years of using the XR and close to 3 years of using iPad 6th gen, I have to say that although most of the praise heaped on iOS is justified, there are a lot of hidden problems that most people don’t discuss. iOS and Apple devices have just as many problems as their Android counterparts. This is often a shocker for some people as they believe that Apple devices, being such premium priced devices are supposed to work perfectly, all the time. I was under this impression as well and boy was I shocked.
Since I am no tech reviewer and don’t have access to a large array of devices to switch in and out of at my pleasure, I have to live with the device I bought for as long as it works. So, here are the major issues I face on iOS along with my top strategies to try and mitigate the disadvantages:
- Horrible connectivity to non-Apple devices. This one makes my blood boil. I can’t share files to and from Windows/Linux/Android. AirDrop is ok I guess, but horrendous because it is the ONLY proper solution to transfer files wirelessly. There is no easy way to use any wireless file transfer solution on non-Apple devices. Bluetooth on Apple devices cannot transfer any files to non-Apple devices. You know what the normal solution to my eyes is? It is so simple to connect a cable to any Android phone to any computer and copy whatever you want. No matter the OS of your computer, it will work 100% of the time and works fast. How to connect Apple devices to Windows and Linux via cable? I cannot transfer videos or documents to iPhone without that horrendous iTunes app (not available on Linux) which sucks on Windows. Forget about connecting via cable, except only for camera files and even then it won’t work 100% perfectly. Once, I had recorded a large video file on iPhone but it absolutely refused to show up on PC while it was perfectly visible in gallery!?
How to solve this? Use the “Documents by Readdle” app which connects PC-iOS on the same WiFi network and allows to drag-and-drop files . This is a crucial app because not only does it help make PC-iOS transfers easier, it is also a very capable file manager with a good set of inbuilt features: audio player, video player and PDF viewer. Another app that works to send files from Android to iOS is SendAnywhere.
- Speaking of cloud, downloads and uploads would stop entirely when the screen is off. I was so irritated when I found about this while uploading a 1GB+ audio file to Mega, I turned off the screen and went about my day and later when I found it was still under 10%. I understand that this might be good for privacy but I would like the option to have stuff happening in the background when I want it to, instead of keeping the screen on all the time to keep going. This also happens when downloading movies on Netflix or updating playlists on Spotify.
EDIT: This has been partially solved by a factory reset. Although the apps open in background can download stuff that I initiated, it still does not download automatically. Example: upon connecting my android devices to WiFi, it automatically downloads next episodes on Netflix and updates playlists on Spotify. Also, Android provides a helpful notification on downloads progress which is absent on iOS.
- Bad battery life on iPhone XR. Battery life is excellent on my XR when on standby but terrible when screen is kept on and working. With a few hours of messaging apps, social media, web browsing and video watching, my phone reaches close to 50% by lunch and goes below 20% when I leave office. Extremely frustrating because my BlackBerry KeyOne used to go a full day on heavy use and two days on light use. iPad has good battery life but I use it much lesser so it’s hard to comment.
Solution? None, just use a wall charger multiple times during a day and get a portable power bank.
EDIT: although this is still largely true, I have to admit that with the tiny battery inside my XR, the battery backup is acceptable because Android devices having a similarly sized battery are much worse. Something about the iOS integration with the hardware.
- Lack of headphone jack. This hurts less now that I’ve gotten used to it. I used to use the Apple lightning to 3.5mm jack dongle for connecting my KZ ZSN Pro X IEM earphones when out and about but it is actually much less convenient than wireless solutions. So I got the Lypertek Tevi earphones which have wonderful audio quality (KZs are slightly better) and work perfectly with iPhone. However, if I do want to listen to music at home and don’t have access to my standalone music player devices, I would be ok to use the dongle. Not perfect, but that’s the world we live in now. iPad 6th gen has a headphone jack, thankfully.
Solution: Bluetooth audio. Or a dongle if you’re comfortable with it.
- Lack of control over active connections: Speaking of disabling connections, it is a major pain to go to settings every single time you want to turn off WiFi, Bluetooth or GPS. Turning it off from the swipe down menu only disconnects from all devices until the next day, when it will reconnect automatically (while keeping the connection on the whole time). Apple fanboys claim this is good for staying connected to the internet and other Apple devices but I really require the satisfaction that my phone isn’t connecting to useless stuff and wasting battery.
Solution: If you have access to a charger all day and actually use some of those wireless connections for a good part of the day, keep it on and connected. The screen off standby time is good so it won’t drain your battery too much. Probably. I’m too scared to try so I go through the trouble of turning everything off when done.
- Absence of many apps that I like: Tachiyomi, retro game console emulators like MyBoy, and other alternative apps like NewPipe are absolutely not available and I miss them sorely. A few India-specific apps are better optimised for Android and lack features on iOS. An essential app for Mumbai citizens is m-indicator and it is absolutely horrendous on iOS.
Just to round it off, here are the the things I like and appreciate:
- Excellent device feel of iPhone XR: curved edges, comfortable to hold from any angle and well-sized at 6.1 inch diagonally; not too small, not too large. The red colour looks damn good. Good minimal UI, although sometimes it is too damn minimal to be of actual use. iPad has large bezels which I am ok with because it gives a good place to grip it. The silver back looks very nice although the display isn’t bright at all to use outdoors so it’s alright for indoor use.
- Good privacy controls to prevent third party apps from snooping on me. The little light that indicates if camera, microphone or GPS is actively used and the app that is using it is very good to decide which apps need to be deleted. Apple still might be tracking me, but at least it seems like they don’t let any other apps to do the same without my knowing it. So thanks?
- Stereo speakers on iPhone XR. Amazing, I never knew how life changing this hardware feature is. Alarms and calls are loud and clear. I can even listen to podcasts and watch videos in a quiet room without any headphones. iPad doesn’t have stereo speakers but has a headphone jack.
- Apple Music, my favorite music streaming service, works leagues better on iOS. I think this might be deliberate on part of Apple. It still malfunctions on iOS but it’s much rarer than the Android app. So it is a fact that iOS devices give a better experience on Apple Music.
So Apple vs Android?
In conclusion, there is no one solution fits all to the age-old Apple vs Android debate. Both have many compromises that the other performs better at. As for me, my next device will be an Android but I will continue to use the iPhone for as long as it lasts. Or until the next compelling Android tempts me to sell the XR.