I finally bought an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone.
I've been a regular iOS user for years (iPads and household iPhones) but since 2010, my daily driver has always been an Android smartphone. I was an early proponent of Samsung's (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) Galaxy Note series -- I bought my first over-sized Samsung phone when the tech press was still widely mocking them. I've owned plenty of other Android handsets along the way -- Droids, Alphabet's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) Nexuses, and several Moto models. They've served me well, and I've enjoyed using the Android operating system.
Yet, here I am, sitting with an iPhone 6s Plus.
Why I switched
My conversion to iOS ultimately came down to two things: The availability of large-screen iPhones, and a variety of issues I encountered with six different Android handsets over the course of a few months.
In April, Verizon upgraded my Galaxy Note III to Android Lollipop. At that point, everything went downhill. My mobile Internet began cutting out frequently in different locations for no apparent reason. When I attempted to get help, I ran into perhaps the most significant problem facing the Android ecosystem: there is no central authority willing to take responsibility. I contacted both Verizon and Samsung, but neither was able to offer much in the way troubleshooting. Samsung has employees working at Best Buy locations, but they aren't equivalent to Apple's Geniuses -- the Samsung clerk at my local Best Buy informed me he wasn't empowered to do much beyond running some basic diagnostics. As a courtesy, Verizon replaced my phone even though it was out of warranty, but the replacement presented the same problem.
Frustrated, I purchased a Nexus 6. Reception was adequate, but the phone suffered from overheating. Just browsing with Chrome for more than a few minutes made the device scorching hot to the touch. I replaced it under the warranty, but my second Nexus 6 also ran hot, and so did the third. After returning the device altogether, I switched to a Moto X, which incidentally, suffered from the same issue.
At that point, I went back to Samsung, buying a Galaxy Note 5 on release. Thankfully, it had strong reception and it didn't overheat, but the battery life was horrific. The Android operating system includes a tool that allows you view how your battery is being used -- which apps are draining the most power. It wasn't my display or too many games of Candy Crush, but rather "cell standby" -- a function within the operating system that looks to find signal. A quick search returns dozens of forum topics and reddit posts citing the same issue -- an apparent bug that seems to afflict particular versions of Android on some phones on some carriers at some times. The fragmented nature of Android practically ensures bugs like these will exist, and there's no guarantee that they'll be resolved.
If it had been 2013, and all Apple was offering was the 4-inch iPhone 5s, I would've stuck it out, keeping a backup battery bank in my pocket and a spare charger on my keychain. The larger display meant that much to me. But given the existence of the Plus series, I was willing to switch.
What I miss
I haven't had any major problems with my 6s Plus, and if I do, I feel comfortable knowing I can get help by visiting the Apple store. Still, I'm not blown away by the device, and would be willing to switch back at some point in the future. Despite the problems presented by the fragmented nature of Android, I still believe it's the better operating system, and the actual hardware is often superior.
The Galaxy Note 5's display is significantly better than the iPhone 6s Plus, offering a noticeably higher pixel density. I miss the S-Pen, the digital stylus included with every Galaxy Note. Android itself is more complex than iOS from a user interface standpoint, but easier to use once you become accustomed to it. Android's universal back button has no iOS equivalent, and Google Now -- Google's digital personal assistant -- is far better than Apple's Siri. It's easier to work between apps, sharing files and passing links from one app to another. I'm a heavy user of Google services, and I don't get the same calendar notifications and reminders on iOS as I did on Android. In general, the iOS home screen is useless, and Spotlight search is required for almost everything. It's more than the lack of widgets -- folders with their miniature icons are impossible to make out.
I tested Apple Pay once, but have never felt compelled to use it again. It may be an issue of habit, but I often forget 3D Touch even exists. Battery life is excellent, but it comes at the cost of multitasking. Google Photos, Plex, and Audible don't sync in the background like they do on Android. Third-party keyboards now exist on iOS, but they seem riddled with bugs.
Android switchers have surged to an all-time high
"We recorded the highest rate on record for Android switches last quarter at 30%," said Apple's CEO Tim Cook on the company's last earnings call. I was among the 30%. Apple's decision to embrace large screens seems to have been the driving factor -- it certainly was for me.
Android vendors have taken a variety of steps in recent months to ensure loyalty. I'm not sure if I'd use Samsung Pay any more often than I use Apple Pay, but I'd definitely make use of Gear VR. The shatterproof display on the Droid Turbo 2 is intriguing, as is Now on Tap.
But the fragmented nature of Android is a major problem. If you run into any issues on your Android phone, I can only wish you luck getting them resolved. Google is allegedly considering making its own Android phone, according to a recent report from The Information. That sort of development could strain the search giant's relationship with its many hardware partners, but it could go a long way toward delivering a better user experience.
Android remains the dominant mobile operating system, and that's unlikely to change anytime in the foreseeable future. But the growing number of Android converts isn't a surprise to me.
Sam Mattera has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Verizon Communications. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.