From iOS to Android: Problems and Solutions

It feels like not long ago that I was counting down the days to the iPhone 5 launch. (Actually, it’s probably not as long ago as you’re thinking; the iPhone 5 launched on December 7, 2012 here in Korea.) But when I finally had it, even though I had passed on the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 just didn’t feel all that different. I never could shake that feeling of being left behind, technologically, and in March I got a Nexus 4, and with it, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.

Within days, I could already tell that I wasn’t going back to my iPhone. The Nexus 4, while certainly not perfect, is by far the best phone I’ve ever owned. iOS 7 and the next iPhone will have to make a huge break from their current trajectory to bring me back, and that doesn’t appear likely.

Coming from iOS, Android presented a few surprises at first, and the fresh-out-of-the-box experience is in some ways inferior to Apple’s. But now, a month into my Android experience, I’ve realized that it many ways, it is a superior platform. That phrase “there’s an app for that” is even more true with Android, often to a ridiculous extent. Like the day I pressed the home button and the system asked me which app I’d like to use to perform that action. Whoa! Or the time I was frustrated that the auto-brightness function wasn’t quite as good as my iPhone’s, but then discovered that there was indeed an app for that as well.

So I’ve written this post to detail some of the problems I had coming from iOS, and the apps and methods I used to solve them. Fellow iOS converts might find this post helpful. Veteran Android users, feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments.

Problem: Battery Life

The iPhone 5 has essentially the same battery as the iPhone 4 I upgraded from, but with a larger, brighter screen and faster internals, so I always felt like I had to watch my battery.

Now I realize that was nothing. The Nexus 4, despite having a 50% larger battery, can’t even dream of achieving iPhone-class battery life. It does have a larger screen, faster CPU/GPU and twice the RAM, but the real issue is just that Android has never been known for power efficiency. Apple wins that game easily.

Power saving tips in the iOS world usually take the form of disabling things like Bluetooth, GPS, notifications, but aren’t those the reasons you use a smartphone in the first place? And if you disable Wi-Fi, but forget to turn it back on later, you might drain your data plan without even realizing it.

Battery saving strategies on Android are similar, yet completely different thanks to powerful tools like Tasker, an app that allows you to automate common talks based on state changes. Examples include powering down Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when you’re not using them, re-enabling Wi-Fi when you’re at home (by checking which cell site you’re connected to… not further killing your battery with GPS!) and disabling data and background sync at night while you’re asleep. Of course, it can also handle non-power-related things, like setting your phone to silent mode when your calendar days you’re busy. I’ll talk about Tasker more in a future post.

In addition to Tasker, I also use Battery Widget Reborn to keep tabs on my battery. It’s pretty. (I use Tasker to make this app appear when I connect the charger.) It’s not free, and it is in no way essential, but it indulges my OCD tendencies.

There are also many unique situations that can significantly affect battery life. For example, because Android apps can actually run in the background (unlike most iOS apps), occasionally you’ll come across apps that actually have a close or quit button. In one case, my Korean online banking app came with an antivirus program that had to be running in the background during the entire online banking session. However, if you just hit the home button, the antivirus app won’t close. Eventually, I figured out that I had to use the banking app’s close button to shut down both apps together.

Problem: No Icon Badges

When you get new emails, or twitter mentions or any other countable notification, iOS adds a little number to the app’s icon, which Apple calls a badge. Android doesn’t have anything like this by default, and I struggled with this for a while.

With custom launchers, you can add badges for a few common apps, like Gmail. Nova Launcher is the app that led to the home button epiphany I alluded to earlier. It replaces the default Android home screen and app list with a similar, but much more customizable one. Mainly, it makes it easier to keep your apps organized and customize your home screen icons. Buy the Prime upgrade for even more customization, including icon badges.

However, the long term solution in this case is just to get used to the Android way of doing things, which is to make use of notifications. I realized that iOS icon badges are actually a carryover from a time before iOS had a centralized notification center. Back then, they were absolutely essential, but with a modern notification system, they are just visual clutter.

Problem: Brightness Not Adjusting Automatically

If your auto-brightness is no good, just get Lux. It costs a few bucks, but is completely worth it if you’ve been spoiled by iOS. It is a bit of a pain to set up if the default settings don’t work for you, but it’s not rocket science.

Problem: Korean Keyboard Sucks

Out of the box, Google’s Korean input software is pretty lame, but again, third party software came to the rescue. Swype’s Korean keyboard is fantastic, even better than Apple’s, as it allows rapid switching between Korean and English input (iOS cycles through all available keyboards, which sounds the same but is not).


Can’t play WAV files: This one is important for voicemail-to-email users like myself. Just download Remote Wave, problem solved.

Other Great Apps

Credit Karma: Free credit monitoring. A no-brainer.

AirDroid: Use your computer’s web browser to manage files, send texts, etc. on your phone.

Watchdog Lite and Wakelock Detector: For troubleshooting pesky battery life issues. These help you identify apps that are misbehaving or otherwise needlessly sapping your battery.

Unresolved Issues

iMessage: The biggest issue for switchers, and pretty much unfixable right now. Gotta make do with Facebook Messenger and KakaoTalk.

iTunes DRM’d music: Convert as much as possible to non-DRM formats and upload to Google Play Music. Which is about a billion times better than iTunes Match, by the way, wow! (I got a 32GB iPhone 5 just to make sure I’d never need to use iTunes in the Cloud, ever. It’s just that bad.)

Camera kinda stinks: Unfortunately, this seems to be a hardware limitation. Google’s camera hardware is two generations behind Apple’s. Quality is so-so, and it doesn’t focus quickly (or at all, sometimes). The software side can be finicky as well, but overall I like it. But in any case, if you make heavy use of the camera, you may want to steer clear of this phone.

Text selection can be tricky: Probably limited by Apple’s patent on the loupe thingy. Just gotta get used to it.

Power button not on the top right: Personal preference/muscle memory issue, I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to this right-side power button thing.

Simplenote: There’s no official Simplenote app for Android, and all the 3rd party apps suck. Ah well, I’m slowly moving to Evernote anyway.

Syncing with OS X: I still use OS X and that probably won’t be changing anytime soon. Windows 7 was pretty good, but Windows 8… let’s just say I’m not a fan. Also not ready to use Linux on the desktop, despite using it on servers for the past decade or so. In any case, although I have things half working, there’s still some manual upkeep involved, so I wouldn’t consider this resolved.

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