Anyone who knows me would never have guessed that I would some day switch to an iPhone. But this week, in a landmark move, I did exactly that. And in the two days since, I must confess that I’ve had no regrets — in fact, I will even go so far as to say that I like my iPhone!
The iPhone has been popular around the world for so many features: style, design, ease of use, security, reliability, emphasis on privacy, innovation and pride of ownership. But all of these were not enough to win me over because I hated three things about Apple products.
What I don’t like
~ ‘I know best’: First, I was opposed to Apple’s philosophy that it always knows best and that the rest of us are dumb. Steve Jobs famously said: ‘A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them’. This vision is reflected in the design of every iPhone.
You can’t open the back cover to see what’s in it; you can’t hack into your phone and install apps that you like — something I have done multiple times on Android devices (Once, I jail-broke into my Barnes and Noble Nook device and converted it into a regular Android tablet. My instructions are on YouTube); you can’t replace the battery unless you want to void your warranty; you can’t use an SD card to expand your storage — you must pre-decide how much storage you need and buy it from Apple at exorbitant mark-ups in its different variants, such as an iPhone with 16 GB or 32 GB storage, and so on. Buy a phone with less storage than you need, and you’re out of your investment forever.
There’s more. Everything that the tech company makes is neither standard nor compatible with any other global system. Even the USB charging cables are unique and crazily priced. The company is dictatorial in its edicts, giving customers no options whatsoever. With the release of iPhone 7, it unilaterally decided to abandon the 3.5 mm headset jack — a staple of phone users for two decades. People who had bought expensive Apple airpod headsets were forced to throw them away.
~ The price
The second, of course, was the price. The iPhone X retails at over $1,100 — pricier than a top-of-the-line laptop with Intel’s fastest i7 chip. Budget Android phones can be bought for $200 and while they’re not as fast or as cool as an iPhone X, is the X worth five times the price? I never thought so.
~ Life-cycle management
The third — and the most important — was Apple’s product life-cycle management strategy. Coming up with new phones each year with slightly tweaked features, the Cupertino-based tech giant became the world’s master at baiting consumers into upgrading to newer versions.
To this end, Apple’s marketing alone did not help. It had a trick up its sleeve which was revealed only recently and is now the subject of a federal lawsuit. As the battery in a customer’s current phone neared its useful life, the operating system was programmed to slow down several functions, supposedly to protect battery life and keep vital phone functions (such as calling and messaging) going. Customers, frustrated that the phone was losing performance, were taken aback by battery replacement costs — $89!. They would then gladly trade up to a new phone for a little more money.
The case became a public relations nightmare for Apple. The company has apologised to its customers profusely and insists that it has fixed the OS to not slow phones down. It now sells replacement batteries for just $29 (until December 31, 2018), thereby extending the life of a phone far beyond its original battery’s. Strangely, this move alone is expected to cannibalise Apple’s newer phones, as more consumers delay their upgrades.
So why did I defect?
This last reason was by far the most important — that is, were I to switch, I should never be forced into making needless upgrades.
The price was less of a factor because I simply turned to the used, certified-refurbished iPhone market. The laws of supply and demand hold well for iPhones. So many late models are traded in for newer versions that the used iPhone market is booming with volume and choices. Companies like Gazelle and Glyde buy these phones, refurbish them to factory specs and sell them for a fraction of the cost of an original phone. Millions of phones are recycled in this manner.
Regarding ceding control to Apple, I decided it was something I had to live with. And so, I lost this battle, confident that I won the overall war.
This week, I bought a certified-refurbished iPhone 6S — clearly Apple’s best-ever phone — for $300 from Glyde. The phone is faster than any equivalent Android phone with the exception of the real high-end Samsung models. I can hold on to my favourite wired headset without having to change my habits. Further, I chose a phone with 128 GB of storage, so I don’t have to worry about running out of memory.
To make the most of my experience, I have decided to mix and match technology from the two giants. Every photo I take is automatically programmed to upload to Google Photos, which offers unlimited storage in the cloud for high-quality images. Greedy Apple charges me for its iCloud service beyond the first 5GB, so why use it? I have decided to not configure Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, because ‘Ok Google’ is decidedly superior. Google Maps is also a much better product than Apple’s offering.
The setup process had its drawbacks. I could not recover my vaunted WhatsApp history because iPhones can only recover WhatsApp messages stored in the iCloud. Mine, from an Android phone, had dutifully backed up on Google Drive. Apple has an app to seamlessly transfer photos and other data from my Android phone. But while the app started off well, it failed to complete the process.
As a strong Android fan all these years, there was one thing I didn’t like about the arrangement. Phone manufacturers have no incentive to push newer versions of Android software because they want you to trade up each year. In my household, we have three Android phones — one running 5.0, another 6.0 and a third 7.0. Each phone is made by a different company so the look and feel of each is different.
I have no such qualms about my iPhone. Apple, renowned to keep its phones always safe and secure, automatically pushes out the latest iOS to all of its phones, as long as the hardware can deal with it. This it can do because both hardware and software are owned by Apple. Complete control, I suppose, does have its advantages.
The first day of the switch, I had buyer’s remorse and almost toyed with the idea of returning my iPhone. But no more. If I do switch back to Android, I’ll be sure to write about it in these columns. But don’t hold your breath. I intend to be a lifelong Apple customer going forward.