From Apple Fanboy to Apple Slave
They’re everywhere; the salivating masses, itching for the latest glass and aluminum confection to come from the unparalleled industrial think tank that is Jony Ive’s brain. They stand by with bated breath as banners are hung outside Moscone Center in San Francisco, and spread rumors among their millions of closest internet friends based on nothing more than a whisper of what the latest OS looks like. They are the Apple fanboy(or girl), and I am one of them.
This is the simple, yet strangely complex, story of how I transitioned from Apple Fanboy to Apple Slave without even realizing it was happening.
First, for the sake of clarification, slave is a purposely selected word, which carries a great deal of weight and seriousness. No, I cannot compare my servitude to Apple to those whose lives were burdened with unimaginable persecution and oppression, but I’m using it to make a literary point. I have no escape. Now that I’ve qualified that, let me explain.
I started out in 2007 like so many others. I was completely awed by the sleek appearance and irresistible allure of the first iPhone. It was devoid of so many features that others had come to expect from their phones, such as copy/paste, MMS, video recording, and more. Having never been a smartphone owner, this didn’t faze me at all. I was lost in the coolness of having an iPod in my pocket that could also make calls, and was super nifty with that Apple logo on the back. It was rare, it was beautiful, and it was exciting. It was also incredibly fragile, and I had broken mine once within 24 hours, and again a month after Apple gave me a new one.
After that I spent time with BlackBerry, and was pretty thoroughly pleased with their devices from the Pearl to the Bold, but it was after the release of the iPhone 3G that Apple once again caught my eye. Long story short, in the last six years I have owned an iPhone every single year, with the exception of one model, the 4S. Well that’s all fine and dandy, but how does that relate to my somewhat inflammatory title? I’m getting to it, I’m getting to it!
Over the course of those six years, I have invested hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars in Apple hardware, accessories, music, and yes, applications. I have carried many of them with me from the iPhone 3G to present, including other devices such as iPad Minis and iPad 1s and 2s. Without realizing it, I became more heavily invested in the Apple ecosphere than I could have ever imagined. This became apparent to me this last week.
I work almost exclusively with Android users. I would say the ratio is a good 10 to 1 in favor of Droid lovers. I confess, the peer pressure eventually got to me, and looking at those big beautiful screens, open environments, and groovy features, I finally caved. I popped on Craigslist and worked my trader magic, gaining myself a shiny new Samsung Galaxy S4. It was cool, it was feather light, and that screen was to die for. I dug in right away, downloading apps, integrating my Google Apps account, and exploring everything this new toy had to offer. It took about 24 hours for the party to end.
That big beautiful screen turned out to be a bear when it came to one handed operation. I often found myself dropping what I was doing so I could hold the thing two handed and type on it. This led to the second problem, the stock keyboard was terrible. I’ve become so accustomed to increasingly accurate autocorrect that the lack thereof was like a slap in the face. Sure, I could have eventually gotten used to it, but my mobile habits have been conditioned to expect my misspellings to be fixed auto-magically, not given to me as an option. This was correctible by installing a third party keyboard, which I did. I later realized I had just installed a third party keyboard to make my phone more functional. That was also a less than desirable revelation. Compounded on top of this was the fact that I could not reach the top of my screen without sliding my phone farther down my hand, which led to several nerve racking drops as the device continued to slide more than once.
I calmed myself though, knowing that habits can be readjusted.
I found out pretty quickly that the Samsung flavor of the Jelly Bean OS is incredibly large. My 16GB unit had something in the neighborhood of 8GB of usable space left when you factored in all of the non-removable bloatware, and sheer mass of the feature set included in their particular revision. Before you say it, yes, I know I could root it, install another ROM, or remove the bloatware; but should I really have to do that with my device out of box? No. If I wanted to as a hobbyist or modder, that’s a different story, but for someone wanting a simple and unified mobile experience, this was definitely not it. Storage in an Android device is an easy problem to solve though, so I supplemented my onboard memory with an SD card, which made things better, and gave me a little bit of comfort knowing that I had room for my music and photos. Ah, music and photos, who knew those two could be such an adventure?
To Android’s credit, the ability to simply attach the phone via USB and immediately have access to a mass storage device is absolutely divine. I grabbed the backups of my iPhone photos, and had my cute baby picture wallpaper restored in a matter of seconds. The gallery interface was nice, and I could easily move photos back and forth with no intermediary software. VERY cool. That, however, is where the cool ended, and the frustration began.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have compiled a rather large library of Apple purchased media. This includes a sizable music library, which I customize into playlists, and upload depending on my mood via iTunes. Getting music onto my S4 would have been a snap if I had never darkened the door of iTunes, but I have, and that complicates things significantly. There is no easy way to integrate an iTunes library into an Android phone. There are some apps that will do it, but they’re cumbersome, expensive, and have a ridiculous failure rate. As such, my phone remained devoid of any audio beyond the ringtones it came with. The best bet would have been to convert the entirety of my music library into MP3, separate out all of the m4a files from the mp3 files, and upload folders by drag and drop from there. I’m sorry, but I don’t have that kind of time to invest, and that is certainly not a user friendly format. I could have done it, and made little issue out of it having worked in technology for the bulk of my career, but Joe user would find that incredibly frustrating, and likely make a mess of things. I tend to side with poor Joe user, even if my own abilities personally exceed his. I’m sympathetic that way.
The final nail in the coffin came when I started looking at apps. I have dabbled in Android over the years, so my Google account has a few of my daily drivers in there, and those were easy enough to download again, but the rest of it? I have years’ worth of apps stockpiled, many of which I actually use, and some of which I really don’t want to throw another $10-$30 at on a new platform. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect to be able to use my Apple apps, but I did expect to be able to use the apps that exist on both platforms with the same quality. I was let down. The Android equivalents of my daily iOS apps were poorly constructed. This is likely because they weren’t originally designed for the platform. One of the first things I noticed was that some of the games I paid for in iOS were free on Android. I discovered this was because their Android counter parts were littered with ads, annoying in your face ads, that often interrupted the gaming experience so I could click through them. Not cool. These particular games didn’t have purchase options either, which sucks. Research taught me this is because of rampant piracy on the Android platform due to its openness. That’s sad.
I was willing to look beyond this because, well, the S4 was just so stinking cool. But after another 24 hours I started to get that familiar itch: the itch to own an Apple product. Sure, I still had my iPad, but I had all of this media just sitting there on my laptop; hundreds of dollars’ worth of apps, music, and other media that I couldn’t use without extra work on my S4. It was then that I had this epochal moment: I can’t be without my iPhone.
I am so heavily entrenched and invested in Apple’s ecosphere, there’s just no way I can start over again. I would have to re-purchase, or settle for free substandard copies of, the apps I have been stockpiling for years. I would have to get used to manual uploads/downloads of media content, which I have been pampered into disliking by easy iTunes integration. I would have to start purchasing music through another source, such as Amazon, and dragging it back and forth between my laptop and mobile, instead of having auto-download and sync transfer services. If I try to avoid that and use iTunes, I have to deal with partially or non-functional sync apps that cause more problems than they solve. Since I still have an iPad, I would have to maintain and sync two separate media libraries, or switch my tablet to Android, which just isn’t gonna happen. Rather than conveniently have iCloud sync my calendars, contacts, notes, and reminders, I would need to export and re-import all of that data to my GApps account, resolving any errors created during that process.
All of this leads to one conclusion. I can’t switch to any device outside of this ecosphere. I am no longer an Apple fan; rather I am slave to its services and convenience. The only thing left to do is accept it and move on, which I do willingly, knowing that my device will be supported with software updates and warranty for long after any of the Android devices I could own in its place. This is my story, this is my life. How about yours?