Which side of the Android/iPhone fence do you fall on? Although I review a lot of phones and usually carry one of each with me most of the time, my SIM card is currently finding purchase in a Pixel phone – the Pixel 8 Pro to be exact. Or at least I did…
Although I've tested iPhones for review — most recently with the iPhone 15 Plus review and iPhone 15 Pro review — outside of the scope of the review, my personal use is mostly on Android phones and has been doing so for years. I like the flexibility and customizability of the platform, and the ability to address shortcomings or customize with third-party apps and tools in a way that doesn't exist on the iPhone. The interoperability with a wide range of devices/operating systems – be it iPhones, iPads, Macs, Windows PCs or other Android phones and tablets – is also undoubtedly superior. Even Android file management offers greater control and versatility (don't do it for me).
However, I am often curious about what it would be like to live on the other side of this divide wholeheartedly. Can I fully embrace Apple's smartphone right now or will I miss the Android way of things too much? What barriers might I encounter, and conversely, what aspects of the iPhone and iOS experience might I prefer.
After a week of living the iPhone life, here's what I've discovered.
First impressions and setting
picture 1 to 5
Jumping from Google's latest and greatest Pixel 8 Pro to the most modest member of Apple's best iPhones of 2023 may seem like a step down. But as first impressions go, the iPhone 15 looks like a very special piece in its own right.
Sure, it doesn't get the titanium frame of its pro-brand siblings, but next to the Pixel, its frosted glass back and carefully rounded aluminum body look absolutely premium, and at some angles even better. Tolerances are tight, the front and rear glass surrounds are a joy to use, and I was keen to enjoy the physical alert slider, because it probably won't be that long in this world – now that the action button has arrived on Pro models.
It's also nice that — compared to every previous generation of iPhone — I didn't have to unplug all the cables sitting next to my bed, in my bag, in my car, and on my desk at work. Apple may not have been happy with the move to USB-C for the iPhone 15 series, but this is definitely a win for consumers, and might make the transition to iPhone for existing Android users a little easier.
The first obstacle
The biggest barrier that kept me from using an iPhone in the past was WhatsApp, and after a lot of research, it seems that my concerns about the transfer process are still very real. While it's easy enough to transfer chats and media from one Android phone to another, the terms for moving to iPhone — even with Apple's Move to iOS Google Play Store app — are a bit more directive. Going back to Android from an iPhone is still more difficult, at least in my case.
WhatsApp can be transferred from Android to Android (or iPhone to iPhone) at any time, with both phones in any state (as long as there is enough storage space on the receiving device). Things get trickier when you want to move across platforms in either direction; In either case, the receiving phone must not have been set up yet.
picture 1 to 2
While I was more than comfortable resetting an iPhone that I had already set up for a chance to use WhatsApp on iOS, I realized that going back to Android at the end of the experience would be close to impossible, unless I was willing to reset the Pixel I'd been using for months. Doing so meant re-verifying banking apps, reactivating individual cards in Google Wallet, losing game save states, smart home configurations, automations and routines, not to mention making sure loose files and media were backed up safe and secure. That was a huge inconvenience for just a week's worth of testing on the iOS side of the fence.
As such, while the iPhone has been my daily driver, my use of WhatsApp has remained an Android-only affair — something that will only change when the ability to transfer chat app data between the two operating systems becomes as easy as between the two devices they run on. Same operating system.
And operate it
Before I really took my iPhone out on the road, I also had to put a case on it. I can't imagine people who like to use their $800+ smartphones without a case; Assuming they care about keeping the thing looking nice. Apple talks about the durability of the iPhone, and while its IP-certified body may be class-leading and its Ceramic Shield is the toughest ever, I know that maintaining the gorgeous finish that Apple's designers spent so much time perfecting is important. For me too just like with any expensive Android phone (including Pixel).
Removing the case and using your phone without an outer casing is a luxury I keep at home; The furnishings are soft and the floors are carpeted. In the wide world, one of the best iPhone 15 cases is a must-have, in my opinion.
Once I made the call about WhatsApp and got started on a status, I proceeded to download all the other major apps I knew I'd rely on and/or enjoy: social apps, my favorite email clients, banking apps, and streaming services. While the gap in availability and quality – in terms of popular apps – is narrower than ever, between Android and iOS, there's still a degree of polish to Apple apps that Android apps often lack; Even if the App Store itself still suffers from a relatively slow navigation experience.
Along with all the essentials, I grabbed Genshin Impact as well; Because despite being the more modest member of the iPhone 15 line, I already knew that the 2023 standard model would be up to the task of running the game without issue; Something that can't always be said for every similarly designed Android competitor.
This is one of the qualities I've always loved about iPhones: it doesn't matter which member of the series you buy each year, performance is always guaranteed to be up there in volume, with even the most modest hardware beating some of the most competitive Android flagships in synthetic benchmarks.
On the software side, the situation is the opposite. I'm still very happy that I stuck with Google's app ecosystem and Apple's cloud storage all those years ago; Bringing all this functionality and data to your iPhone is quick and easy. If it were the other way around, iCloud and many Apple apps wouldn't exist on Android, and frustratingly, that's exactly what Apple wants.
The days that followed
picture 1 to 3
Once I got it up and running, I got the familiar iOS experience I've grown accustomed to since I've reviewed iPhones. But there were differences this time that I wouldn't normally have noticed.
First, I was more aware of how iOS apps check permissions, especially location access. On Android, once you grant permission, an app will happily use your device's location or microphone — or whatever it's allowed to use — without asking, and if you stop using a particular app for an extended period of time, those permissions will be revoked until you allow them again. On the iPhone, even many native Apple apps — like Camera and Weather — ask to “Use your location” when you first open them, but they don't give you an “Always” option in the pop-up menu provided. So you have to dive into the phone's settings menu and search for it yourself; It's not the most intuitive approach and most users likely won't know how to check it, leaving them wrestling with permissions pop-ups for much longer than they need to.
iOS also likes to remind you which Apple apps you're using no used (or you uninstalled) when trying to use a feature within the application you are on. For example, the watch app's custom wake-up alarm can't work without the Health app installed as well… apparently. Google's native Android apps are designed in such a way that interconnectivity is available, but not as perverse or as seemingly necessary as it is in iOS.
picture 1 to 2
For all the little oddities iOS throws around, it's an undeniably great and consistent experience, but with the overt familiarity and obvious glacial sophistication of iOS over Android, it certainly feels like Apple could do more with it. The iPhone 15's Dynamic Island, for example, is one of the most well-executed examples of interplay between hardware and software, yet Apple chose not to build on its implementation, even though the company made it a large-scale addition with the 15 Series.
The AI-powered features — especially on the Pixel — are far superior to what's possible on the iPhone, with Google Assistant interactivity and features like Live Caption both miles ahead of what their iOS-based counterparts can offer.
Also, while I praised Apple's smartphone hardware earlier in this article, the thickness of the screen bezels, as well as the fixed 60Hz refresh rate, are comically behind the curve in 2023, holding back what is otherwise considered a high-end smartphone.
Another thing that Apple's hardware and software excels at in every Android phone is power efficiency. In our tests, the iPhone 15 series as a whole beats most major Android alternatives by several hours; In terms of screen on time per charge. The iPhone 15 was a phone that lasted about two days in the time I spent with it, while the Pixel lives from charge point to charge point if I want to avoid worrying about the battery.
The iPhone 15 is an undeniable triumph in its own right, and while the Pixel 8 Pro offers one of the most polished Android experiences ever, it still feels a little rougher around the edges than Apple's less expensive alternative.
However, Android offers much more flexibility than iOS, and Google offers specific functionality that highlights how far behind the iPhone is in areas like artificial intelligence and personalization.
If you're happy with the labels, the iPhone offers a fully premium user experience with great battery life, performance, and a level of reliability that Pixel devices — and Android devices as a whole — struggle to match. But Apple's way of doing things is presented as the only way to do things more often than not, a directional tendency that conflicts with Android's approach. If Apple doesn't have a solution to a problem, the implication is that there shouldn't be one; If you can't find the solution on an Android phone, you haven't looked hard enough, someone has definitely found it.
Speaking of which, it's time to put my SIM card back in this Pixel.
You may also like
“Certified food guru. Internet maven. Bacon junkie. Tv enthusiast. Avid writer. Gamer. Beeraholic.”