My Beautiful Mistake: How I switched from the iPhone 5 to HTC One… then went back 7 hours later

htc and iphone

On April 10th, 1912 the British passenger ocean liner RMS Titanic was launched on her maiden voyage from Southampton, UK, sailing for her destination port in New York City. It was a grand affair, and one that was touted to usher in a new age of megaships, particularly for her creator, shipping company White Star Line. Yeah well… that didn’t happen. We all know that just 4 days later the Titanic hit a nasty iceberg, sank into the depths of the Atlantic, took the lives of 1,502 passengers with her, and led to an incredibly successful and melodramatically annoying blockbuster film 85 years later. We’ll get back to this Titanic bit of stuff later on…

101 years since that maritime disaster I’ve been a happy Apple fanboy (more or less) who’s been enjoying my semi-regular iPhone updates since the launch of the first one back in 2007. The beautiful industrial design and production machinery of each successive iPhone has been better than the last, the iOS operating system has kept it super simple while making regular smart updates, and the entire ‘it just works’ ecosystem between my iPhone, MacBook, iTunes (despite some animosity), and my iPad kept my Apple life a pretty happy one.

iphone 5

Despite my bliss, I’d occasionally wonder about all the Android fuss that claimed the loyalty of various friends and colleagues. While in the beginning I was in the strong majority of iPhone users, over the past few years I’d see more and more start to depart for Android pastures. Most would snap up Samsung offerings (particularly of the Galaxy S II, III, or now IV line) while a few would take up residence with other Android smartphone makers like LG, Acer, Asus, Motorola, and even… HTC.

By late 2012 I was still holding on to my iPhone fiercely– defending the higher cost for higher quality, the versatility of its App functions, widespread appeal and recognition, etc. etc… But my iPad started to lose the arguments game. I loved my 64 GB WiFi iPad 2, even holding onto it well into the release of 3 new iPad models. At some point, however, I realized I was just using it for eBooks, simple email, and occasional movie or Lakers game watching (via the Time Warner Cable SportsNet app). Was a 9″ screen really worth a $500 (or in this case $700 for the 64 GB model) price point? I decided to wade into the Android waters by selling my iPad 2 and snapping up (justifying it as a holiday gift to myself) a Google-branded Nexus 7 for just $199… Well technically just $179 since it was a brand new one via eBay. I thought about an Amazon Kindle Fire HD (similar to the non-HD version I bought my wife), but I wanted some iPad level functionality and customization the Kindle Fire HD just didn’t provide.

nexus 7

Anyway, It was a bit awkward at first, transitioning from an all Apple interface to an all Google one, but once you really embrace the fact that most of your core uses (email, calendar, file sharing, navigation) are really Google powered, then it wasn’t that bad. I came to love widgets, and the 7″ screen size wasn’t an issue, especially with such great physical and pixel quality built in. The size was even better for traveling, and wayyyyy better for reading eBooks than I thought possible with a 9″ iPad. The iPad mini came out a bit later, but at $330 it was just a tad more bang for way more buck. I soon didn’t miss my old iPad at all, and even today I love seeing the quick widget updates, playing with the different Android settings, and switching between my eBooks, Flipboard news, and YouTube video viewing super quickly with my Nexus 7 tablet.

macbook dual

And then there was the smartphone issue. My loyalty to Apple really solidified with the purchase of my first iPhone around 2007 or 2008… and I followed up with buying an all aluminum MacBook right after finishing up grad school (recently covering it up in all carbon black casing). Even thinking about transitioning to Android sounded like heresy! So I kept saying no thanks and would keep pointing out the limitations of the splintered Android  offerings smartphone-verse. This one’s too slow, that one’s too ugly, this doesn’t have sounds as good as the iPhone, that one has terrible battery life compared to the latest iPhone. Etc. etc. Samsung kept grabbing Android markets hare, but every model they spat out was just too crummy for my snobby iPhone mindset.

Then HTC decided to show up and create the non-iPhone, iPhone. After playing catch up for years to big brother Samsung, HTC was looking like it had to knock one out of the park if it wanted to avoid getting crushed in 2013. The company’s past phones were always short on one this or another, and it never made too much of a dent in the Android community beyond a very niche core. With Apple kicking ass, Microsoft off walking into a wall with it’s Windows phones (seriously Microsoft, just GIVE IT UP), and Samsung consolidating all of the Android lands, HTC and its president Peter Chou stuck its reputation, its life, and its future on a new flagship model– the HTC One.

HTC One dual

When I saw pre-release pictures of the HTC One I got super excited for it, as if THIS was the next iPhone. It had a larger screen, a smooth aluminum (or anodized black, my preference) roundish backing, dual FRONT speakers, IR output for controlling your TV, and a cool Flipboard-feature called BlinkFeed for news and updates junkies like myself. I would keep reminding myself, this was NOT an Apple smartphone, it was an Android phone. Would I be ready to make the jump? To say goodbye to iOS with the seemingly meaningless limitations and dive headfirst into the unknown of Google’s Android phones?

I wasn’t quite sure so I had to play with it at an AT&T (my carrier) store. So I went in and played with one for a few minutes… Then I went back a few days later… and again a few more… and did so for nearly 4 weeks. Always playing with more of the features, getting accustomed to the Android OS that was somewhat familiar but somewhat different than the iPhone world I’d been in for almost 6 years. I kept playing with them, kept getting intrigued, kept loving the feel and appeal. I even did the financial breakdown of what I could get for my iPhone 5 on eBay and what the HTC One would cost me. After working it out with AT&T over the phone they ditched any early upgrade costs and penalties, and I decided to order the black HTC One to replace my still great iPhone 5. The new device arrived just 2 days later, and I set about backing up my iPhone 5 to iTunes, activating the HTC One, and using the HTC Sync Manager to copy my contacts, settings, music, and photos over to the new Android smartphone I just got. I was super excited about what this frontier would be like. Having an Android tablet and smartphone, and just an Apple laptop left. Crazy but interesting to see how letting Google run the show would turn out…

droid-v-iphone

Then I started having a few quibbles… Then a few more. The settings wouldn’t work the same way I thought they would… Certain apps bugged me in how they ran, and the general interface interaction of Android (not just the HTC Sense skin) was a bit… unintuitive compared to iOS. The widgets I loved on my Nexus 7 tablet were more of a bother than a help on the HTC One, even with the larger 4.7″ screen (compared to the iPhone 5’s 4″ screen). The dual speakers with Beats By Dre BoomSound were great, but unless using the rest of the device was a joy I just didn’t care. I found making calls a hassle, and the Gmail app on iOS was WAYYYYY more sleek, simple, and beautiful than the one on an Android device. I couldn’t use the great Fantastical calendar app I had on my iPhone, and after an hour I stopped using BlinkFeed in favor of trusty Flipboard.

I was starting to worry that I had made a pretty big mistake, and one I might not be able to back out of. I kept trying to love the device, but other than its gorgeous physical look and feel there just wasn’t enough in the Android OS on a smartphone to keep me happy. I missed my iPhone and wanted it back, working (somewhat) as a phone and more! I got AT&T on the line, and within 20 minutes they assured me all was well, I could return the HTC One to them and they switch my iPhone 5 back on. PHEW! No extra fees, no charges, nada. In less than half an hour I went back to my iPhone world and it was as if that HTC One nightmare never happened.

nightmare

So what does the Titanic have to do with my foray into the Android world of the HTC One? Well for one thing, much like the Titanic, the HTC One is an incredible physical feat of beauty– all Apple copied but even more curvy and sexy in all the right ways. But when you get into the software guts of the device (and I assume most other Android phones) there is a lot left to be desired, and a bit of overconfidence is not a good thing. Android is a solid device for those who were born into it, but so far it is NOT an operating system for truly premium devices. Call iOS too simple or too limited or too anything else you want, but the fact is ‘it just works’ within the ecosystem it’s supposed to, and does so in such a way you can really say it’s a premium offering.

I looked over to my Nexus 7 and tried to figure out why I loved that but didn’t dig my even more gorgeous HTC One smartphone. After a while I think I figured it out; Android is a bit more of a challenge to get accustomed to, especially on smaller screens with more on-the-go communications needs. True, it syncs up to Google services like email and calendar well enough, but the lack of pleasing visual interfaces (compared to many apps in Apple’s store) makes using them on Android phones more of a hassle. On a tablet, though, you can sacrifice some of that for more simple uses; reading eBooks, looking at news, watching a YouTube video. But your smartphone is your digital world Swiss army knife, and you want it to be sleek AND a joy to use.

Titanic_sinking

HTC made some awesome industrial hardware with the One, but they put the wrong operating system on it. The recently released HTC First fell flat because the ultra lame Facebook Home skin was released to everyone at the same time and killed it’s ‘uniqueness’, plus no one wanted all Facebook all the time. The One is a beauty to use, but if the company really wants to kick ass (and hell, just survive) maybe they should reposition themselves as device manufacturers for Apple. The ongoing Foxconn dramas are making Apple look elsewhere, and an HTC One-like iPhone 6 would be a world class smartphone damn near everyone would love. If not, HTC will continue to act like they’re the Titantic; better than they are and running full steam into an iceberg called Samsung. Oh yeah, did you hear in the past week a large handful of top HTC brass have jumped ship? They can probably see the iceberg Peter Chou can’t. Ouch.

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7 comments

  1. Chanel Jibal

    This post is SPOT ON. I bought the Galaxy S4 and after a month I switched my number back to my iPhone 5 today. I miss the screen size….but not much else. Android is plain ugly. Currently writing a post on it too. Hopefully published later today.

  2. Chanel Jibal

    Not sure if my previous comment went through but I basically said I got the Galaxy S4 and 30 days later I’m back on my iPhone 5. Screen size was amazing and hard to give up but that’s it. Android OS is just ugly.

    • Shahin Ourian

      Hi Chanel! Thanks for your comments. I just have my settings set for me to moderate comments so I can filter out spam listings. But I always okay comments good or bad.

      I’m totally with you on Android OS. I really REALLY want to like it, but it just doesn’t have the same intuitiveness and sleekness as iOS. It’s not so bad on a tablet device (I love my Nexus 7!) but for the on-the-go smartphone experience Android is frustrating. This is pretty nuts considering Google makes MUCH better user apps (Maps, Gmail, etc.) than Apple does. Could you imagine if they went back to 2007 where they worked TOGETHER to make the best smartphone experience again? Apple: you do the hardware and OS, Google: you do the software apps and cloud services…. Sigh…. Business does seem to get in the way of users’ joy, doesn’t it?

  3. ernoid

    Same for me. Bought the HTC One 3 weeks ago and sold it im the second hand market today. For all the reasons discussed above. My life is finally back on track and I can focus on the real-life things that matter instead of needing to tinker with this and that just to do something simple like making a phone call or replying a message. The HTC One experience has made me a solidified iOS user.

    I will miss the screen size of the HTC One, but won’t miss it also. I didn’t believe it at first, but the iPhone width is really the perfect size for one-handed operation. I will no longer be brought to an unintended page because of using the phone with one hand and mistakenly touching another part of the screen. My thumb can also effortlessly reach to the top corners of the phone if need be – all with one hand.

    The pros for the HTC One was resolution, design & materials, blinkfeed, and the sounds. Not enough though to keep me on the android platform.

    Oh, and the android apps just don’t cut it.

  4. chris

    Once I saw the HTC one I feel in love, it was my time for a up grade and btw been a iPhone user since day one I ventured into the android world the first time in my life and got the black HTC one that being said 28 hours later went back to att and swaped it back for a iPhone5 which always does the job THEN I missed the screen size in the HTC and thought maybe I didn’t give a chance to HTC and android so once again went back to att and swaped it again for the HTC which in typing this comment with as we speak but once again tomorrow will go back again to att to get the iPhone5 YES I KNOW IM CRAZY but I can’t let go of ios for the simple fact its simple and does the job no if or buts for me the HTC one is a great phone but I’m going to stick with iosfromon now on hhopefully iPhone brings a bigger screen.

  5. Kevin Hintzman

    I have had almost every iOS device since the beginning. I had the original iphone, the 3g, 3gs, 4, 4s, ipad 2, and ipad 3. I still have the ipad and love ios on a tablet. However, I have had a very different experience than many of you with the HTC One. I LOVE it. I love blinkfeed. I love the screen size. Love, love, love the front speakers. Oh, and yeah, NFC is nice too.

    What iOS fans (remember, I AM one of you too) have forgotten how to do was your research. That’s something Apple’s made nearly unnecessary with ios because it’s so beautiful, fluid, and functional. With Android, when you don’t like something–you search and figure out how to make it something you like. I don’t personally like the look of the stock launcher–HTC Sense. So, I played around with other launchers and landed on Go’s 3D Next Launcher. It mops the floor with iOS. I didn’t like the SMS stock app so I added Go’s SMS Pro with a custom theme–which also works as well or better than iOS.

    What I have found that Android generally does far better than iOS is that its apps work much more nicely together. I don’t have to wait 3 years for a major Apple update just to send something to Facebook. I can send something from Facebook to StumbleUpon to Twitter to Plex (yeah you heard that right, Plex is my media app so it probably won’t work, but dammit I can try!) to Google Keep to Evernote to…. It’s really a better internet experience once you’ve customized the way you want. And don’t get me started on Chrome. After using and syncing with my desktop and my iPad, I have decided to make Chrome my default browser on all of these devices (oops, can’t with iPad).

    My only complaint is that there is one single gaping hole in the Google Play store and SOMEONE could make a **TON** of money if they would develop this–I need a mail app that looks nice and is loaded with functionality that will support multiple accounts (gmail, etc) AND Activesync. The only app I can find thus far is the stock Android mail app and it is ugly. I am learning to be okay with that but I’m a bit surprised no one has remedied this just yet. I will be patiently holding my breath until that time.

    My wife, she’s a different story. We upgraded at the same time and she is missing her iphone 4. After 2 weeks, I handed the 4 to her and told her to enjoy the screen. She was astounded at how small that screen was (and yes, I’ve seen the iphone 5’s and they also appear TINY (tiny in uppercase, lol). She is coming around too. We repurposed her old iphone as a kid’s ipod for our oldest son and it looks to be about the right size for his smaller hands.

    I stand firm behind the idea that if you love tech and to tinker with your tech, Android is the way for you to go. I also believe that until phone designer embraces a more clean, beautiful graphic interface right out of the box that people will continue to feel buyer’s remorse. I mean seriously, switching to a different launcher is a foreign concept to those coming from a device that doesn’t have that capability. Nothing wrong with loving Apple. What is wrong is that most people have stopped being curious about how to fix something themselves. Please don’t forget that what’s easier is not always what’s better.

  6. Ajay

    This is my story. I made the same mistake by switching to s4 and then returning it back next day. I miss the screen size of S4 but apart from that, i cant stand the touchwiz. Its not something you want in your smartphone. The things which are in built like (do not disturb), had to be done via third party app in S4. For every little task( which should be the part of OS) there was an app to download.

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