iPhone 6 Plus

From iOS to Android and back again

Back in April I took my second voyage into the world of Android. This time, I was happy to stay for a while. The reason I made the move was because I was convinced I wanted a larger phone. In April, Apple's larger iPhones were still mere rumors. My only and best choice at the time was the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

I lived with the Note 3 comfortably for the last 5 months. All the while, in the back of my mind, I knew that if Apple created a larger similarly sized iPhone, I would head right back. While the Note 3 and Android afforded me things I could not get in iOS, I prefer the inherent elegance of iOS, notably since iOS 7. It does not hurt that I have years upon years of dollars spent in the iOS app store.

Google is working on that inherent elegance with Android L. It gets complicated after that because while HTC, Samsung, and others make hardware that is well designed and desirable, the absolute garbage software and bloatware that these companies decide to shoehorn into Android is terrible and it is holding the operating system back. Google knows this. I believe eventually something will be worked out, but there is a bit of myopia going on with the big picture.

One Handed

Contrary to opinions I have read, I can use this phone one handed. I can actually use this phone with one hand better than the Note 3 because of its narrower dimension. I also do no think I have large hands. One of the first settings I shut off? Reachability. It is not perfect, but I climb my hand up the back of the phone so I can reach most of its screen. This is an adaptive grip that I am sure many people develop who end up with larger phones.

Design

What is the iPhone 6 Plus? It is a beautifully designed larger iPhone and that is what so many people wanted. Anytime I showed my Note 3 to people, I would always get "This is the size phone I want". Previous to that, when I saw my sister's Note 2, I was the one saying such things.

The design of the new iPhone 6 Plus is very similar to that of the iPad Air, which I love. It makes absolute sense. It feels great in my hand but I have cased it for purposes of working with my iMagnet car holder. Just as I wonder how I ever was able to read text on a 3.5" screen, I also wonder why Apple ever deviated from the original iPhone shape, which makes its welcomed return here. The phone rides in my front left jeans and slacks pocket everyday. I did not get the feeling it would bend and it has not bent thus far.

From the perspective of a Note 3 user, this is not a big phone. This is a Note 3 sized iPhone, which is exactly what I wanted in April. Yet now knowing that this larger form factor is what I consider "perfect" for my hands, it is probably what I wanted all along. If the original iPhone had a 5.5" screen in 2007, my hands and eyes would have been grateful. Regardless, good things come to those who wait...on a long enough timeline.

Camera

This camera is very good. The more I use it, the more I like it and the more it surprises me. It absolutely can manage lower light shots better than any other phone camera I have used. The slow motion at 240FPS works very well. I noticed very little stutter or slowness when opening the camera from the home screen or the lock screen. 

iOS 8

iOS 8 speaks for itself as an evolutionary successor to iOS 7. Perhaps evolution came quicker for some as many apps have not been updated to look proper on the 6 Plus screen. The trickle of common sense features in iOS can feel revolutionary because we have waited so long for them such as 3rd party keyboards or the ability to reply to a text without leaving an app (This was possible on a jailbroken iPhone 3g around 2009). iOS 8 is beautiful and continues the uniform elegance we have come to expect from Apple. That elegance is one of the main aspects that sets the iPhone apart from its competition. It says something when an OS inspires a developer to redesign their app to mesh that much better with the overall aesthetic.

Battery

The battery seems fine, but until someone can manufacturer a phone battery that lasts a week under heavy usage, there will always be something to be desired here. When a company like Apple makes such a great phone, it makes people want to use it more, for everything. A blessing and a curse. In fact, I have been neglecting my iPad.

Like with previous iPhones and Android phones, in order for me to find the battery acceptable, I had to turn off several settings. In addition, I cannot use the phone at the brightness setting that works for my eyes best at all times which is around 75%. If I did, the battery would drain much faster. For now I am sticking with Auto Brightness.

Here are just some of the settings I tweaked for better battery performance:

General>Accessibility>Reduce Motion>On (Parallax Effects)

Mail, Contacts, Calendars> Fetch New Mail>Push>Off (This one kills me in this day and age, but I use an Exchange account which always seems to be extra taxing on batteries.)

Mail, Contacts, Calendars> Fetch New Mail>Everything set to Fetch/Manual

Spotlight Search>Uncheck All

Suggested Apps>Uncheck My Apps, Uncheck App Store

Privacy>Share My Location>Off

Privacy>Location Services>Make certain apps 'Never'

Privacy>Location Services>System Services>Uncheck Compass Calibration, Find My iPhone, Location-Based Alerts, Location-Based iAds, Share My Location, Diagnostics & Usage, Popular Near Me, Traffic

iCloud>Find My iPhone>Off

iCloud>Photos>Photostream>Off (I use Google Drive and IFTTT)

Verizon

On Verizon in my area, I noticed quickly that the iPhone 6 Plus does a much better job at handing off data from LTE to 3G to Wifi to 1X and back again. It was noticeably better at doing this than the Note 3 and the iPhone 5 for that matter. In areas where I would have one bar of LTE on the Note 3 or iPhone 5, the 6 Plus seemed to make an executive decision to switch and stay on 3g which had a better signal.

Software

I had specific unresolved bugs that would infuriate me on Android that I do not experience in iOS. An example of this would be the Rdio app which is my main source of music every day. In the Android version, the music would stop regularly seemingly due to network inconsistencies. In iOS, the app seems to stay up and streaming regardless of my signal. I imagine that this is a clear case of iOS apps getting more and first attention over Android versions.

VoLTE

A feature I did not realize I had access to was Voice over LTE or 'VoLTE' so I turned it on. I have not noticed increased call quality, but I am happy that I at least have access to the feature. I look forward to Verizon unlocking Wifi calling next year as well.

Wrap Up

If I could have had the power of a soothsayer I would have said long ago that this is the phone or mobile device I have wanted for a long time (of course with a super battery that does not exist yet). I have not felt that sentiment about any phone up until this point. Can something come along and change my mind? Anything is possible. I have no brand loyalty so I will jump to whatever platform produces what I consider the best. For the foreseeable future, I will be content with using the iPhone 6 Plus a ton. I will definitely get my money's worth. 

From an Apple iPhone 5 to a Samsung Galaxy Note 3: A real world account

19 months with the same phone is a new record for me since 2007. I previously got restless with the iPhone 4 and jumped to the Samsung Galaxy S3. That only lasted a couple of months. I cited not being able to see its screen in the sunlight and lack of timely OS updates as reasons to crawl back to Apple. My iPhone 5 had a pretty good run. It is and was a solid phone. I did not give it up because it became a poor performer, though the battery left a bit to be desired. I gave it up for some other reasons.

The first reason was that my step daughter had a phone with a cracked screen and needed a replacement. Second, the iPhone 5 screen, has just become too small for me. The quality of the screen is almost second to none and the text is crisp and clear, but I have a hard time typing on it as it cramps my hands up after a while. This is a real issue. Additionally, I found myself using it less and less for everyday things. I'm getting older. I have to zoom in on text on my 23" monitor sometimes so that I can read more easily. My wife still has an iPhone 4. It is hard to believe so many people made it through on such a tiny screen for so long. When I look at that screen now, it is that much harder for me to see text.

These days, I am the least loyal gadget geek there is. I do not care who makes it, I just care that it does what I want it to. I know the rumors are that Apple will release one or more larger screen iPhones this year. This makes a ton of sense. From now until then, presumably, is about 6 months of wait time and there are no guarantees. Being the impatient person I am, I needed to switch to something for those 6 months, possibly longer.

Enter the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. This marks my second shot at an Android device and I certainly am off to a better start than I was with the Galaxy S3. The first test was to walk outside of the Verizon store and check the screen's ability to display properly in direct sunlight. It passed this test. Though, I need to leave Auto Brightness on for it to be readable. It basically has to turn itself up to 100% brightness in sunlight, but I can at least see the screen which was not the case for the Galaxy S3.

The next test was to verify the battery could at least match the aged iPhone 5 battery I was using. I have had battery disappointment with my iPhone 5 from the beginning. Well, that is not entirely true. The first iPhone 5 I purchased in October of 2012 seemed fine. When I had to get multiple replacements, battery life was never as good as my original. Age and iOS updates furthered my disappointment with the battery. 

The Note 3 appears to have equal or slightly better battery performance than my iPhone 5. Being able to pop in and out a fresh battery at will also helps. There probably is not a smartphone that exists yet that can give me the battery performance I am looking for. As long as a battery can get me through a full day with fairly heavy use, I should be good and that has been the case with the Note 3 thus far. I do dream of the jump in science which will allow increased battery capacity say tenfold (Graphene?). 

With these tests passed, I needed to know more.

Design:

The front of the phone is a rectangular screen with one button. The trim is a metal looking plastic band. The back is a black plastic somewhat faux leather design. It will not win any design awards, but it also will not win any ugly awards. More and more phones design is defined by a screen with a button. The only thing that sets them apart are the degree of curves, choice of materials, and thickness. For the most part, I look at the front of my phones, which is the screen. If you take away the button, speaker grill, and any logos and only took a picture of the screens of competing phones, it would be tough to pick one out over another. 

The stitching is unnecessary, but you don't see it with a case on top of it.

The phone is thin enough for sure, even with a slim plastic case attached. The only complaint I have is I wished the headphone jack was at the bottom as I have grown accustomed to that. It is much less jarring than having it on top. Some people might be thrown off by the power button being on the right side as opposed to the top, but I have gotten used to that, mostly.

Pocket sized?:

The Note 3 still seems gargantuan to some people. I am 6 feet tall, so I'm a big guy. While I cannot speak for others, this phone fits in all of my pants pockets just fine without hinderance. Sure, it is a bit more noticeable to me than the iPhone 5 but it does not bother me a bit. It also does not stick out very much because it is fairly thin.

Camera:

I think the new HTC One M8 is gorgeous and I considered it, but its camera got terrible reviews. The camera on the Note 3 is fantastic. Pictures and videos are super crisp and I really like the default saturation.

An outside shot I took.

Motion/Gestures:

I do not use any gestures. Unfortunately, since taking a screenshot the standard way (power and volume button) does not appear to work on the Note 3, I did have to enable palm swipe for screenshot which caused me a bunch of unwanted screenshots on my S3. Hopefully that is not the case this time around.

S Pen:

I suppose I might be one of the few people who got the Note 3 with no real everyday need for the S Pen. I will say that drawing in an app like Autodesk Sketchbook is an entirely different and more accurate experience than using a finger or large headed stylus on any other device. There is something to be said for the its sharp tip and I believe I will make use of it more and more in the future.

 

CUSTOMIZING!

 

TouchWiz? No! Nova Launcher Prime:

I do not use Touchwiz. Touchwiz is useless. So the first thing I do is install and configure Nova Launcher Prime. This allows me to create a pleasurable and familiar layout for my phone. 

Keyboard:

The default Samsung keyboard is ugly.  Swiftkey is beautiful. The keyboard takes up half of your screen a lot of the time so I think it should look nice. Luckily Swiftkey also functions very well. 

System Font:

For me, the system font is important to the look and feel of the phone experience. As such, the fonts that come pre-installed with the Note 3 are not what I prefer. I was able to fix this by purchasing Helvetica Nue.

Notifications:

I actually like the way iOS notifications work on the lock screen in that the screen turns on and you see swipeable items. In order to get a very similar experience, I use Nils Notification Lock Screen and Floating Panel. What I dislike about iOS notifications are all of the other things you have to shut off for each app (badges, etc). In Android, it is simple to turn off notifications in one setting. I really appreciate the all or nothing sensibility.

Lock Screen:

I also grew accustomed to the camera swipe shortcut on the iPhone lockscreen. In order to achieve something similar and beyond, I turned to Widget Locker. With this app, I am able to set many different shortcuts on my lock screen, camera included. 

Custom Ringtones:

There are many ways to add custom ringtones to an Android device and it is arguably much easier to do than iOS. I chose an app called Ringtone Maker. I simply downloaded the .mp3 files I wanted to use from my OneDrive app and set the tones from within Ringtone Maker.

Exchange:

My work email is Microsoft Exchange based. The most modern looking app I found for this was Nine. This allows me to bypass the ugly default email app completely, using the Gmail app for my Gmail account.

SMS/MMS Messages:

In my previous foray into Android, I used GoSMSPro to replace the uninviting Messages app. Google Hangouts now offers to take control of SMS and MMS. I appreciate having a unified system for all messages. My only gripe is that distinguishing between Hangouts and SMS messages are marked by a very small 'SMS' tag. Being able to separate SMS messages into its own tab or something similar, would be very helpful.

Further Battery tweaking:

I noticed I was losing a bit more battery power than I should so I turned off location services for Google Now and turned off push for all email accounts. I am also mindful to open the task manager and clear memory every so often. These few things seemed to get back some valuable juice.

Car Integration/Audio:

A very important benefit of having an iPhone is its easy integration with many automobiles. I was able to plug a lightning cable from my phone to my car usb port and get power, audio, and even song information. My car only supports basic bluetooth audio functionality, not A2DP, but this worked fine side by side with my iPhone for phone calls.

With an Android device, I was not about to plug in a cable to the bottom for power and an audio cable to the top for audio with a mess of wires all over the place. Instead, I purchased this Bluetooth adapter to solve the issue. Now all audio plays through this bluetooth device and I only plug one cable into my phone for power only when necessary. It is not as convenient, but it gets the job done.

I had previously purchased the iMagnet car holder for my iPhone which worked amazingly. It works just as well for the Note 3. I highly recommend this product to everyone regardless of what phone you have.

Wrap Up

With these customizations, I am able to have an Android experience that is very functional, minimal, and pleasing to my eyes. I will admit that it took me a fair amount of time to put it all together and find the right apps and settings. Coming from an OS that is mostly dictated, I feel like an animal uncaged when moving to a platform that lets you do so much. 

 I am pleased with my home screen.

iOS absolutely has a coat of polish and uniform elegance that Android lacks out of the box, but with some effort, I find the Android experience can rank right up there and also be better in different areas because of the vast customization abilities it affords you.

Sure there are a few iOS exclusive apps I will miss like Tweetbot but the reality is I absolutely can get along without them. I will still enjoy those apps on my iPad as I feel the tablet experience on iOS is still unsurpassed. iPads also come in multiple screen sizes. I feel great about being able to make use of several different ecosystems: Windows on a PC, Mac OS on a laptop, Android on a phone, and iOS on a tablet.

I guess I like my technology the same way I like my food: All of it.