iPhone 13 Pro/iOS Impressions from a Pixel 3/Android User

Last week on Wednesday my new Apple iPhone 13 Pro finally came in. I was super excited to get it all unboxed, SIM card inserted (I put my case on and then realized I needed to put the SIM card in, then had to take the case off again :facepalm:) and then put the case back on, ready to use as my next phone for the future (or until Apple no longer supports the device). Below are some of my initial and first impressions from someone who has only used an Android phone consistently in the past and is using an iOS device for the very first time as their main mobile phone.

Look and Feel

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro is built like a tank when compared to my old Pixel 3 phone. It is very close in size, with the iPhone 13 Pro being only slightly taller, wider and thicker but it is significantly heavier. I think the combination of the battery, stainless steel frame, and front and back glass make up most of that weight. When I pick up my old Pixel 3 it is like picking up a feather compared to picking up my iPhone 13 Pro. It took me a little bit to get used to the new weight difference. I do like this weight change though as it does feel a little more premium.

I like the way the phone does feel in my hand too. It is not too large and manageablefor single hand use, which is one of the reasons why I moved from Android to iOS. I am sorry Google but the Pixel 6 Pro to me does not look good, I absolutely hate the curved display on the edges and being such a large size makes it a deal breaker for me. The case helps to ensure that the frame does not dig into my hand and slightly protect my back cameras as there is a little lip.

One thing that I do know about Apple products is that generally they make extremely well-built products, be it their laptops to their tablets. Sure, sometimes they make “foldable” devices but by and large Apple does not skimp on using quality materials for their products. Paying for more premium products to get a better finished product is a no brainer for me and is something I am willing to pony up for. This may not be possible for everyone, but I am in a fortunate position where I can do this, so I took advantage of it.

I am a little disappointed in that it has a lightning port to charge the iPhone 13 Pro and I cannot use my many USB-3 cables that I have laying around, but it is what it is. The silent switch on the left-hand side of the phone is superb and I wish more phones incorporated something like this as it is very useful. The massive camera bump is not an issue for me, and I am not too fussed about the notch compared to other people. A single hole punch camera hole is a little cleaner but you lose out on Face ID.

iOS 15

Moving from Android to iOS I knew was going to be a little difficult at the start but there are a number of frustations that I have with iOS when compared to Android.

Less customization is something I knew I was going to lose on iOS. I did generally keep my Pixel 3 stock with what came out of the box, but I did like the ability to change the icon shapes, folder shapes and the ability to keep the icons, folders and widgets at the bottom of my screen and not have them all go at the top. That is my first gripe with iOS. Why does Apple not allow me to have icons, folders and widgets placed anywhere on my screens? I would like to have even easier access to my apps and folders by only using my thumb.

Something I thought I would not get frustrated by was notifications. Now I have to perhaps make some more changes in the settings, but I find notifications are absolutely horrible on iOS compared to Android. I find I am missing more notifications on iOS compared to Android. The notification center is okay but not great. I would like to have a small notification indicator on the top bar to know that “hey you have a message, etc.” instead of looking at the notification center. I am not too sure if it is a bug but there are times when I would get a message and sometimes I would get a notification sound and other times I would not.

I do like the iOS settings, permissions and app management compared to Android. Everything is more clearly laid out and is much easier to manage. Pulling down the control center from the right-hand side is also nice to have, but I found the universal pull down anywhere at the top on Android (notification drawer) to get access to quick settings and notifications is a little easier and more user friendly than how iOS makes you swipe down elsewhere for the notification center. If iOS could adopt something like this then that would be great.

My biggest two gripes are to do with notification/media volume levels and universal back gesture behavior on iOS. On Android you have dedicated alarm, notification/caller/alert and media volume controls while on iOS I found that managing my audio levels a major pain. I have no idea how I can keep my notification/alert levels high while keeping my media volume levels low. If I use the buttons on the side and keep the volume low all my sound minus the caller audio is low, and if I raise it then when I watch YouTube or listen to music, I need to quickly lower the volume. Perhaps I am missing something or have not set something up correctly but why are those volume levels paired? I would like to have all my notifications and alerts at the same level as my caller volume levels but keep my media volume levels low.

Now to the back gesture. This is something that I need to get used to as on Android I would swipe left from the right edge to go back to whatever screen I was on and even to previous apps sometimes. On iOS 15 there is no universal back gesture itself. You can go back to the main home screen by swiping up from the bottom or you need to press the dedicated back button located somewhere on the app which can be either on the top left or the bottom. It would be great to have a single and universal way to go back to the previous screen from any part of the right edge, but I guess that would fundamentally change the way iOS would work and would require apps to be re-worked to allow for the gesture.

All in all, I am not finding iOS very difficult to get used to. I am using many of the native Apple apps instead of my usual Gmail, Google calendar, Gboard apps, etc. But I do have installed Google Chrome and Google Maps as I have all my favourites, etc set up there and it would be a pain to migrate all of these to Safari or Apple Maps (as well as this being my only Apple device at the moment for personal use). All the other apps that I had used for travel, fitness, my smart home are all there so I have not lost anything but I did need to buy new licenses for the iOS app versions which is a little bit annoying but expected.

Final Thoughts

I knew there was going to be some initial teething issues with using iOS. I knew I had to adjust to the way iOS worked compared to Android. I knew that moving from a Pixel to an iPhone was going to require a little bit of mental and physical gymnastics. Overall though I did not find the initial migration and adoption of an iPhone or iOS that difficult. I do miss the ability to perform some customizations, the more accessible notifications and universal gestures. However I gain some of iOS’s handy streamlined, accessible and user friendly features while being housed in what I would again call a mobile tank.

Now I do have an iPad Mini 2021 version coming my way as well so that I can take more notes, read a little more and also watch videos and surf the web a little easier. Plus the new Apple Watch series 7 is also being delivered sometime next month. Did I jump completely in the Apple ecosystem? Yeah. For me to take advantage of everything that Apple offers I need to really start looking at investing in their ecosystem, even if it is for the next 5 years and has a very very steep entry cost. But I feel that in those 5 years (at least) it may be all worth it and I may be a permantely converted Apple user for mobile, tablet, watch (and perhaps laptop).

Bye bye Android and hello iOS

I wrote a blog post recently about potentially switching to the Apple ecosystem for my smartphone, smartwatch and tablet with the laptop also being an option. And I can officially say that I have bought an Apple iPhone 13 Pro, Apple iPad Mini 2021, and am waiting on the new Apple Watch 7.

If Apple do have an October 2021 event and showcase a new Apple Macbook Pro 14” with the M1X or M2 and it can support 32GB of RAM, 2 external monitors and have a good battery life then I may skip out on the Framework laptop and just go with the Macbook Pro. Even though I really like the repairability and upgradability of the Framework laptop there is no information about availability in Australia and my Surface Book 2 battery is not doing so great 😦

The more I see what the Pixel 6 Pro looks like the more I do not want it. The glossy back, the large size and the curved glass edges are all turn offs for me. I like to have a nice small smartphone that is powerful in the hands, and at 6.1” the iPhone 13 Pro is just that. Android 12 looks fantastic and what Google is doing with their software apps and assistant is going to be a major loss IMO by switching to iOS as that native support is gone. Most if not all the Google apps I use are on iOS so I am not missing too much there as Google seem to update their apps fairly frequently, sometimes even before they update their Android apps.

Currently I am still waiting for Apple to deliver my iPhone 13 Pro and Apple iPad Mini 2021, but I do have with me an Apple Pencil Gen 2 and leather case for my smartphone. The smart cover for the iPad Mini 2021 is still in transit the last I checked.

So by the end of October 2021, I will have my new smartphone and tablet, and am looking forward to using them. From the people that I have spoken to, getting used to iOS is not that hard and some of the workflow might make things a little easier. Overall I am looking forward to moving to a new mobile OS as I have been with Android for a very long time with a short stint using Microsoft’s mobile OS.

Will I go back to Android? Perhaps, but if I am happy using Apple’s products and they continue to support it for a long period of time (which from what I read and see, they like to continue to update their older devices) I may be in the Apple mobile ecosystem for a long time. My smart home/devices however will be still primarily Google/Nest and Philips Hue as I really like the Hubs and smart lights.

Thank you Android for all the fond memories starting with my HTC Desire HD all the way to my current Pixel 3. You have generally been very rock solid but the current hardware missteps, the lack of a proper first party smartwatch and tablet, and the poor security and update policy for the devices has made me decide to move on. I may see you again in the future :wave-bye:

Switching from Google to Apple?

I do not have any Apple products I personally own or bought for myself. I did buy my mum a iPad mini for her birthday. My work computer is an Apple Macbook Pro and is the only Apple product that I have actively used. On the other hand I own a Google Pixel 3, a Fossil Gen 5 smart watch, several Google Home Hubs, a Google Home Mini, a Google Chromecast Ultra, and several other Google branded smart home devices. I am entrenched in the Google ecosystem.

This week Apple showcased their next iPhone, smart watch and iPad refreshes. It was the first time I actually watched an Apple event. I always knew that Apple had the superior software and hardware harmony. Their entire ecosystem works nearly flawlessly together. This flawless cohesion is something I find sorely lacking from Google. The commitment to hardware from Google I do not find very authentic and could change at the drop of a hat. Their support for their products is also questionable unfortunately. The one thing that made me stay away from Apple and their products was their extremely high price. Apple is a luxury brand more than a technology brand IMO.

The more articles I read and videos I watch on Apples products the more I am inclined to make the switch over from Google to Apple. The way I look at it, there are several core products for me; the phone, the smart watch, the tablet and the computer.

The Phone

With Apple, you know exactly what you are going to get. You are going to get a generally well built device with a mature operating system that while lacking in customization options is simple, clean and easy to operate. There really is not much to write about here. Generally not much changes between revisions and from what I can see, the difference between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 is very minimal. If I was to get an iPhone the iPhone 13 Pro is very tempting.

Google Pixel phones on the other hand is a little bit of mixed bag, like the box of variety chocolates. You know on the software side you will be getting the Android experience that far outshines the competition. You get a clean OS and something that I feel is what Google wants Android to be. The hardware is where Google stumbles hard. While the devices may generally be well built there are always short coming such as a bad battery life (Pixel 4) to mid-tier/average specifications (Pixel 5). The Pixel 6/6 Pro appears to be targeting once again the premium market so I’ll need to see more before I can decide if it is a worthwhile purchase.

Previously I have said that I will not be purchasing another Android device that is not a Pixel and I still stand by that statement. With Android updates both OS and security sorely lacking from the other brands, Google is really the only option.

The Smart Watch

Here again Apple does it near flawlessly. A perfect device that does what you would expect with the addition of all the health monitoring. I really like the Apple Watch and what Apple is trying to do in the health market is great. If I gave scores for devices the Apple Watch would get a near perfect 10/10.

There is no competition with the Apple Watch. Google and the entire Wear OS ecosystem is an absolute mess to put it kindly. I also do not think the new partnership between Samsung and Google will save it. What Google needs to do is release their own smart watch, a Pixel Watch. My Fossil smart watch is now no longer connected to my phone anymore as the bluetooth continued to lose pairing somehow. I gave up trying to keep it connected. It was not a good user experience.

If you are in the Android ecosystem then I suggest you just stay away from any Wear OS smart watch, even the Galaxy watches from Samsung (unless you have a Samsung phone). I do not regret getting my Fossil Gen 5, but I will never buy another Wear OS smart watch that is not Google branded.

The Tablet

This one is very much identical to the smart watch section.

Apple hits it out of the park with their iPad line. The Pro, Air, Mini and even the standard iPad are all brilliant.

I do not know what Google is doing with Android tablets. They have no first party Android tablets. The last Android tablet that Google produced was the Slate and that was a disaster. The other brands like Samsung and Lenovo continue to sell Android tablets but again, I do not want a skinned Android tablet. It is pure Android or nothing at all.

There are also the Microsoft Surface line of products. I have a Surface Pro 3 that I occasionally use as a tablet but it is far easier I would feel to use an iPad for entertainment and basic tasks. If I needed a device for productivity then my Surface Book 2 or gaming PC would be my go to. Sorry Microsoft.

The Computer

For all my gaming needs then my custom built gaming PC is my go to plus it can handle any productivity task. However it would be nice to have something portable that I can also get work done on.

At the moment I am using my Surface Book 2 to get this post written up. A fine device but it is getting on in age and I can see that the battery is not where it used to be.

Originally I was looking at some Chromebooks. Again, it seems that Google does not want to support their official line of Chromebooks in Australia. There are only third party Chromebooks and based on the build quality of those devices I am not too happy with them. If Google did offer their latest Chromebook here in Australia then I would have purchased it especially with the new Linux support in Chrome OS.

If I did go all the way in the Apple ecosystem then purchasing a Macbook Pro would be a no brainer and then I could create some iOS apps too. I would not buy an M1 Macbook Pro but an M1X/M2 Macbook Pro when announced would be a worthwhile purchase. So right now on the laptop front it is a wait and see. If I do go with an iPhone and Apple Watch then a Macbook Pro may be a smart purchase.

The only spanner in the works is the new Framework laptop. The ultra repairable and upgradable device that from everything I have seen is really good. However that device too is not shipping any products to Australia at this time. I am monitoring this closely because running Linux on that device seems like a smart option for a portable, repairable, and upgradable productivity laptop.

Android Wear Are You?

Is it just me or has every smartwatch that doesn’t run watchOS become vaporwear? I feel like if you want to buy a smartwatch then you will most likely have to settle for the Apple Watch or a smartwatch that really isn’t “supported” by Google. By supported I mean that they are featured on the official Android Wear web page and will be getting continual OS updates from Google.

When the start of the current smartwatch craze occurred I really wanted a smartwatch too. It wasn’t for the style or visual appeal but the convenience of not having to actually have your smartphone in the same room as you to respond to a new message, or even check the time (like a standard watch). Right now I generally carry my smartphone with me and leave it on the table whichever room I am in. Recently I started to get the itch to get a smartwatch but when I saw what was on offer I was a little disappointed. There was nothing on the market that I could find that was easy for me to purchase or supported by Google. Living in Australia has not made getting a smartwatch very easy it would seem.

Going to the official Android Wear website and examining the different Android smartwatches that are available was flat out disappointing. Not only was the selection fairly poor but actually getting a hold of one of the smartwatches through the officially supported stores was near impossible. Starting with the LG Android Wear smartwatches, none appear to be available to purchase in Australia. I continually get routed to the US website and when I change to Australia and check for availability it shows “coming soon”, even though these smartwatches have been out for some time. The three other Android Wear smartwatches (Zenwatch 2, Huawei Watch and Moto 360 2) all are supposed to be available through the Harvey Norman store. But when you click the link to examine the item all you get is a “Page Not Found” page. Google appears to not have abandoned the Android Wear platform entirely either. Android Police appears to have obtained information about Android Wear smartwatches that will be getting Oreo updates and/or already have the latest version of Android (see here). But why are these smartwatches not displayed on the Android Wear webpage?

Microsoft is also out of the smartwatch market as of 2016. They stopped producing more Microsoft Band 2 devices and unfortunately had no plans to release a Microsoft Band 3 according to this article from The Verge. Unlike the traditional smartwatches the Microsoft Band was closer to a fitness band with its emphasis on health and fitness monitoring. With Cortana integration it was super appealing to me as that is my primary AI assistance, even on my Nokia 8 (running Android Oero), Cortana has replaced Google Now/Assistant. Maybe Microsoft will return back to the smartwatch market, but with them also pulling out of the smartphone hardware market I doubt it very much. If (and this is a big if) they release a Surface Phone or Surface Watch then I will most likely be picking them up. I have never had any major issues with any of the Surface products that I have purchased, even the Surface RT. But nothing Microsoft has said, shown, or even hinted at has indicated a new smartwatch from them.

Do I really need a smartwatch? Not really. Would it be a nice to have? Absolutely. I have a couple of really nice standard watches. Some have leather bands, some have metal bands. None are “smart” and none do anything more than show me the time and date. For now this will have to do. I will be taking a look at various online stores to see what I can get here in Australia, but right now the Android Wear future does not look as bright as it once was.

Surface Book 2 Impressions Part 2 of 3

If you haven’t already please check out the first part of my Surface Book 2 impressions here. It outlines how I chose the Surface Book 2 and what I was after in a laptop.

This post is going to be about the look and feel of the new Surface Book 2 13.5” version. I will be doing a performance and usability break down in the coming week as I want to have as much time putting the Surface Book 2 through its paces first.

The Surface Book 2 unboxing experience (actually any Surface product I would say) is very close to how I would imagine an Apple MacBook unboxing would be. I’ve never had an Apple product so I wouldn’t know exactly, but from what I hear Apple tries to make the unboxing experience as premium as their device. The box is extremely durable, minimalistic and has each component placed ever so thoughtfully to make the experience as pleasant to the consumer as possible. From the get go Microsoft has made the experience feel premium, kudos.

Once you take the Surface Book 2 out of the box you immediately feel you are holding a premium product. I will probably end up using the word “premium” or the phrase “top of its class” a number of times in this post because that is probably the best word and phrase to describe the Surface Book 2. The Surface Book 2 is not too heavy and not too large, so carrying it and using it on the go or on your lap is not going to be an issue. Note that I am using the 13.5” version and not the 15” one, so perhaps the 15” might be a little different; the 13.5” is the perfect size and weight for me your experience may vary.

Covering the ports and buttons quickly, the Surface Book 2 has on the left of the base two USB A ports and an SD card slot. On the right side of the base it has a USB C port and a proprietary charging port. Something most phones in 2017 don’t have is a 3.5mm headphone port; however the Surface Book 2 has a 3.5mm headphone port. It can be found on the top right of the display/lid which is great when you are using the device as a tablet but not so great when you are using it as a traditional laptop. The top left of the display also has the power button and the volume buttons which is nice to have, especially if you are going to use the device as a tablet.

Every part of the device is made from what appears to be a premium metal, it has a matte finish so there are no finger prints and makes the entire device look and feel luxurious. There are really only two colours on the device (not including the chrome inlayed Microsoft logo on the display). The colours are the light gray and black. I don’t think I can find any plastic on the Surface Book 2. Microsoft seems to have gone the route of “if you are going to be spending big bucks on a new device, then you are going to get premium parts” and I commend them on that. I have bought gaming laptops in the past which come close to the price of the new Surface Book 2 and have significantly more plastic in the build. They could have skimped on some parts but they didn’t.

If you look at the device from the side with the display/lid is closed there is a gap (it does not completely close) and that is a result of the hinge that Microsoft uses. I personally have no concern that my device does not completely close and actually am a fan of the hinge design; it is unique and does the job well in giving the consumer a good display tilt. Lifting the display/lid is extremely easy and takes minimal effort. Closing the display/lid is also just as satisfying as when the display/lid touches the base there is a satisfying magnetic click; most likely they added this to highlight to the consumer that you have closed the display/lid and it will not open up by accident. It is the little things like this that make the device feel premium and well thought out. Microsoft didn’t need to add these little touches, but it shows they really care. This is something that Apple does well and many other manufacturers miss.

One of the top two most important features of any laptop is the trackpad. Many manufacturers like HP, Dell, Lenovo, etc. generally have extremely poor to barely adequate trackpads. They are sized poorly, or placed in an odd location, or feel cheap. The Surface Book 2 trackpad however is top of its class. It is positioned perfectly on the base, is large enough, and feels smooth which to me allows for extreme pointer precision. Apple makes some of the best trackpads in the business, but Microsoft has caught up and its trackpad on the Surface Book 2 is on bar with the best that Apple offer. Kudos to Microsoft for not skimping out on the trackpad, they could have easily given us something smaller and made from plastic but they have gone again with the premium materials used throughout the device.

Something that a laptop needs to truly be useful is a solid keyboard, especially if you are to be typing on your lap or are not docked anywhere. Along with a premium trackpad there is a premium feeling keyboard. I have used many different keyboards, both on laptops and on desktop PCs. Personally I am a major fan of mechanical keyboards. There is something about that key click and key travel on them that makes typing on it such a pleasant experience. The Surface Book 2 has the keys perfectly spaced and the key travel is also near perfect. I don’t know if it is a mechanical keyboard but it sure performs like one. Every time you hit a key you get a satisfying click, and with the optimal spacing and travel you can easily type with little slow down. The keyboard is backlit which is pretty common now and is a handy feature to have. Out of all the laptops I have used this has one of the best if not the best keyboards. A close second would have to be my old Lenovo ThinkPad which also has that satisfying click and mechanical feel. It also worthwhile to note that the device feels perfectly weighted so there is little to no wobble when you are typing on your lap.

With the keyboard and trackpad covered I should probably move on to the display. You get a beautiful 3000 x 2000 resolution display. Some people are really picky about the colours on their displays, me personally I am not overly too concerned. As long as my blue is blue and my red is red I’m happy. The colours on this display are perfectly acceptable and I would not think many people would have any issues with them. The display also can go extremely dim and also extremely bright, so you have both ends of the spectrum covered. Images, video, everything that is presented on the display is crystal clear and extremely sharp. On a laptop, it has to be one of the best displays I have used. I cannot fault Microsoft here on the display. If there is one thing that I would have liked is a slightly smaller bezel, but I can understand why they had to have a bezel of this size. Coming from the Surface Pro 3 which itself had a large bezel and brilliant display, the Surface Book 2 is miles ahead in display quality.

Overall I feel that Microsoft has crafted a premium and top of its class product. I know there really isn’t much different when you first glance at the Surface Book 2 over the original Surface Book but this device really has been refined. From the precise trackpad to the near pixel perfect display, everything has been thought of. Microsoft have designed and engineered a marvelous device that can act as a laptop and a tablet. Nothing feels cheap or tacky, you are getting a premium product with premium looking and feeling parts.

As noted at the start stay tuned for my final post which will cover the Surface Book 2’s performance, and let me know if there is anything specific you want me to test. I’ll be pushing the device to its limit while I use the development tools I have installed and work on my side projects.

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