Musing #20: A 6-year journey from Android to my first iPhone (a.k.a. an iPhone 7 review)

It would be presumptuous to not acknowledge that all those who pre-ordered this device, myself included, have done it simply for the allure of the latest iPhone. Even as I say this, I wasn’t entirely convinced of the iPhone 7 when I watched the livestream of the Apple Keynote. However, a timely launch in India, less exorbitant pricing and a hefty cashback was what finally swung me in favour of it.

Although this is about Apple and iOS, I can’t help put a foreword on Android. This is coming from 6 years of using Android, starting with Froyo (2.2) and extending to Nougat (7.0). It has been an eventful journey with Bugdroid (or Andy for preference) and inarguably the best part of it was the time when I created my Custom ROM and shared it on XDA. In fact, I thoroughly despised Apple’s walled garden, especially so when I purchased my first iOS device 4 years back – the 3rd generation iPad and immediately resorted to jailbreaking it. Over the course, I have jumped across 4 Android manufacturers (LG, Sony, Samsung, OnePlus) and thoroughly appreciated the value for money I got out of them. Android can indeed be heralded for democratizing the smartphone. However, it comes with its own set of pitfalls. You have to accept the fact that you won’t see more than 2 major OS upgrades even if you have a flagship device. More worryingly, you won’t even get the security updates for your existing OS. Least someone mentions it, even the Nexus line fails to placate Android’s woes by not guaranteeing any major update post two years and security updates after three. But even those numbers are often meaningless, since newer releases for older devices somehow tend to make the device less usable. In case of the OEMs, it is even worse as you are left with a half-baked OS update (seen it happen with Galaxy S3 and Moto G2). Google’s insistence on sharing data across the OS for a better experience (Search, Now on Tap, Allo) makes it egregious if you are privacy conscious. For better or for worse, Android takes a brute force approach to speed which is evident by the facetious approach to ever burgeoning specs. Comparison of the same apps between Android and iOS indicate that letting developers run wild may not always be in the best interests. For all the revolution that Android has brought about, an unhindered premium experience is not one of them. Having unexpected reboots, battery drains and screen lock-ups when you need your phone the most is not particularly enchanting. Even as I prepare to put Android behind me, I appreciate that Google’s approach to Pixel is more Apple-like and people will get to experience the best of what Android has to offer, even as most continue to enjoy the more mainstream options.

So, what swung it for me after all these years? For one, Apple has been more forthright about picking up what’s good in others (as has Android) which means a more accelerated rate of iOS progression compared to an approach of deterrence through suing. Also, Apple’s walled garden now has a pet door with overtures to developers to utilize aspects of iOS that were previously, preciously locked away. iOS also continues to be the platform of choice for innovative app developers who are not simply targeting income through baited ad clicks. Even Google and Microsoft continue to offer an incredible experience on iOS which is inexplicably better than what they offer on their own platform. It is perhaps not contestable that iOS offers the best security, privacy, optimization and consistency of any phone, even though most of it comes from Apple’s control of every aspect of the device. Also, the exclusivity of the OS has some appeal to it at a time when Android can be experienced on any PC.

While Apple might have not made much headway in design for 3 generations now, I take some solace in the fact that I got the Black variant which sets it apart from the earlier generations. Having said that, the accumulation of the incremental updates is what makes this a significant step up from the 6s - IP67 protection, cleaning up of antenna lines, camera with better low light performance and OIS, stereo speakers, brighter screen with wider colour gamut, 40% faster quad core CPU, hexa core GPU and the bigger 1960 mAh battery. However, the focus will be more on what has been lost, namely, the headphone jack and the physical Home button. Coming from Android phones with capacitive only buttons, the latter doesn't matter at all, especially since it is now a multi-function button that does a lot more than the physical one. However, I must admit that pressing it felt odd initially and I mistook the vibration as flexing of the case in which my phone was encased. The loss of the former however will not be an easy one. It may have been a courageous move but also a bit impractical. I use a Sony SBH54 Bluetooth headset and the audio quality is still some way off to justify using it all the time. It is even more antagonizing when you have invested a significant amount in purchasing high-end 3.5mm jack headphones. At least, there is the headphone adapter which comes only in white and goes very well (not!) with the Black variant. I guess that is a compromise I have to live with and really hope that Apple has made the Lightning port a lot sturdier. I can somehow accept this decision if indeed, as Apple has stated, it was a price to pay for a larger battery, water resistance and stereo speakers without ruining the dimensions, even though I can accept an additional 2mm of thickness any day. Apart from the device itself, you buy yourself in to a large repertoire of accessories that simply don’t exist for other devices and is evident by the fact that I was able to get one-day delivery of my case and tempered glass screen protector even before the preorder.

I hope that I have let my exuberance and not bias seep through when writing this for I am often left aghast at flame wars emerging from consumers defending the companies they purchase the product from. Frankly, you cannot go wrong with buying the iPhone, unless you had to take out a mortgage to finance one.

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