Four months ago, I did what I previously thought was unthinkable. I gave up my iPhone.
I’d been using Apple products since I was eight and had been locked into iOS and the iPhone since a bespectacled Steve Jobs unveiled it in 2007.
The change came after much public deliberating, a few close calls, and a tip from my colleague on the tech desk, Antonio Villas-Boas, who called the $580 OnePlus 6T “the best smartphone you’ve never heard of.”
I bought the OnePlus and all of the sudden I was an Android user and … all my friends abandoned me.
Just kidding. I talked them all into downloading WhatsApp, which is admittedly still a subpar substitute for iMessage.
Immediately, there were aspects of Android I liked: The operating system’s app launcher (i.e., the home screen) is changeable into any configuration you choose, with the ability to drop in widgets for the weather or multiple time zones, as well as a Google search bar. Double-tapping the power button to open the camera app was a game-changer for me as a street photographer. Notifications felt more customizable and artificial-intelligence-powered — if you keep dismissing a notification, Google picks up on that and will give you the option to stop showing it.
After publishing my article about switching, however, I kept getting e-mails from Android users telling me I hadn’t even scratched the surface. I hadn’t yet experienced, they said, what having a truly “open” ecosystem means.
An oversimplified definition of what people mean they describe Android as “open” and iOS as “closed” would be that you can do almost whatever you want on an Android device.
Want to install an app not on the Google Play Store? Go for it. Want to change the default address-book, e-mail client, or web browser? You can do that, too. Want to plug your phone into your computer and look through your files like any other hard drive you own? You can do that on Android — but not iOS.
The limitations on iOS go beyond that. Apple does not allow apps in the App Store they consider controversial, which includes video game emulators — likely the reason I won’t ever go back to iOS.
While I’m by no means a video game junkie, I do love The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, and other classic game series. I more or less purchased a Nintendo Switch explicitly so I could play the lastest iteration of Zelda, Breath of the Wild. I had hoped that Nintendo would release all the previous installments of the series on the Nintendo Switch, but alas, that has yet to happen.
Then, a few months ago, I discovered that an Android device is actually the perfect retro gaming system. There are over a dozen emulators easily available for Android.
In order to do the same on an iPhone, you have to go through the arduous process of “jailbreaking” your phone (essentially breaking the iPhone out of its closed ecosystem) or “side-loading,” an equally annoying process.
For comparison, I was able to download an emulator on my Android phone and play one of my favorite games of all time with a few clicks. I liked it so much, I purchased a tiny Bluetooth controller by 8Bitdo to play it with.
I’m already through four dungeons and plotting what game I’ll load up when I finish.
After using an iPhone for a decade, the act of tweaking my phone to my needs felt revolutionary. And unless my family threatens to disown me over my lack of iMessage, I doubt I’ll be coming back anytime soon.
For now, I’m having too much fun crushing retro games on the numerous long plane, train, and bus rides I regularly take.
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