The View From the Dark Side -- Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love* the iPhone

By Reader Darrell Jones on at

If you've been in Gizmodo UK's comments for more than 5 minutes (and if not, hi) then you probably know me -- or, at least of me. "Android Fanboy" is probably the politest epithet thrown at me for my unashamed preference for things Googley in the mobile sphere. So, how is it that I came to use an iPhone 5S?

 

Me and My Big Mouth

Kat Hannaford, Giz UK's Editor, had been on at me for a while to write a spiel, but I was stuck for a subject. I'm an incredibly dull person and prefer not to talk about my private life in case others realise just how dull it is. Then inspiration struck: What if I, with my reputation for hating all things Apple, was forced to use the very thing I had been deriding all this time? It appealed to my perverse streak and, to be honest, I never thought Kat would trust Giz UK's "most well-known Android fanboy commenter" (as she put it) with a loaner iPhone. Whoops.

 

Enemy at the Door

Fast forward a couple of weeks and a courier shows up at my door with a 5S courtesy of those nice chaps at EE. I know that if nothing else I'm going to enjoy trying out the super-fast 4G network as it is getting near the time that I myself may want to switch, but it was the thing surrounding that SIM that I was going to have to live with.

 

First Impressions

My absolute first impression of this phone, fresh as it was out of the courier's van, was how cold it was. That silver grey, sorry "Space Grey" metal back was like an icicle. Even once it had warmed up it was still uncomfortable to hold -- those hard, straight edges look nice, but they aren't comfortable to hold when you are used to the softer lines of the N4 (or indeed pretty much any other phone). Then there's the screen -- beautiful, sharp, clear and tiny. Maybe you young'uns find it easy to see small text and press tiny buttons, but for an old git like me, larger fonts and bigger buttons for my fat fingers are an absolute must and you can't have those without a bigger screen.

The next big problem was that everything is in the wrong place. Even though iOS looks a lot more like Android these days, it still has its own way of doing things. I lost count of the number of times on the first day that I attempted to press the non-existent back button or struggled to find something in the settings. Of course this would be true of anyone switching platforms, but I've always heard that iOS was simple and intuitive. Not for me.

Then there is the keyboard. This is another thing that I recalled hearing so many people say was far better than the Android alternative. I can only assume these comparisons were done in the early days of Android, as these days that simply isn't true. Leaving aside the issue of the tiny screen size making for tiny keys, the fact you have to press a key to get any kind of punctuation or numbers is just insane and slowed my typing to an absolute crawl along with the poor autocorrect. I accept that Android's default keyboard isn't the world's best, but at least you get the choice of others, and the constant battle between Swiftkey and Swype (along with others) mean you will be able to find an input method that suits you. As it was, my online chats to my friends became littered with errors and the acronym FTK (I'll leave it to you to work that out).

 

But There Must Have Been Something I Liked?

Build quality, you just can't fault it. It's a solid and well put together piece of kit. While I didn't like the style and how those hard edges feel in the hand, there is no compromise or corners cut.

The lightning connector gives you 50 per cent less chance of attempting to plug it in the wrong way round, than micro USB. If only Apple would release it as a free standard rather than keep it to themselves.

The fingerprint scanner: When this was announced I, along with many others, screamed "gimmick" but it really does work well. It is vitally important too, since otherwise you have to type your password in every time you download any content and as I may have mentioned...the keyboard is shit.

The Camera: Certainly better than the Nexus 4 Camera, but to be fair, not a lot isn't and if the camera was that important to me there are plenty of Android OEMs I could choose from.

4G: Obviously nothing to do with Apple this one, but I really enjoyed the extra speed of LTE. While certain my London-based friends are still getting twice the speed I got in Bristol (note to EE, sort it out) the difference between 3 and 4G is really noticeable and now prices are dropping from an arm and a leg to less important body parts, I'm really tempted.

In general once you get used to the fact it isn't an Android phone it's pretty much the same as any other smartphone. The third party apps look and work pretty much the same as their equivalents elsewhere and the stock Apple apps are as good, in their own way, as the stock Google versions on Android and Microsoft's offerings on Windows Phone. And the app catalogue, another thing both Apple and its fans have held up as being superior, is really no different. Certainly a lot of apps start their life on iOS, which makes perfect sense as the smallest amount of work gives you the largest number of potential installs, but what with Apple having introduced several different screen sizes in recent times it's not so easy for those developers now. And let's not forget that 80 per cent of the world's smartphone users is a very large number that no developer can afford to ignore.

 

Must Try Harder

Siri and Maps: No longer the absolute jokes they were on launch, they still lag massively behind their Android counterparts; the worst example being Maps giving me directions to a burger place in Oxford 85 miles away, when there is a branch 20 minutes from where I live.

Notifications: Again, not as well implemented as on Android, but you're getting there, Apple.

Wallpapers: What's the point offering these when your interface doesn't let you see them?

 

The Bottom Line

If the rumours about Apple testing a larger-screened iPhone are true and they release something more in line with the 4.5 to 5-inch screens that are standard elsewhere, well...let's just say that if I were forced to use an iPhone for work, I wouldn't hate it. But I see nothing here that makes me want to switch.

Now Kat, how's about you send me a Windows Phone to test next?

*Alright, not love, but at least not absolutely hate.

Darrell Jones is a grumpy old git with a love of tech and a big mouth. Having recently relocated to Bristol he divides his time between seeking employment, and telling everyone else on the internet they are wrong. You can find him on Google+ or just hanging 'round the Giz UK comments.

Spiels From “Them Below” is our new series of columns written by “them below”; the thousands of readers who comment tirelessly, or tirelessly read, Gizmodo UK. Have you got something to lament? Extol? Ponder? Get in touch at kat.hannaford[at]futurenet.com, after reading the details here. Disclaimer: Content in Spiels From “Them Below” doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of Gizmodo UK or its editors.

Original Image Credit: Dr Strangelove / Columbia Pictures, via Renew Theaters

Thanks to EE for the loan of the iPhone 5S