Life with iPhone and Android

I've been using both an iPhone and an Android phone - a Samsung Galaxy S6, to be precise - for the last several days. This is because my employer has provided me with both an iPhone 6S and the Galaxy S6 for testing at work, and I've chosen to make the Galaxy my work phone, in large part because I already have a 64 GB iPhone 6S, and the 16 GB model that work gave me isn't going to enhance my experience.

Also, I've used Android in the past, and liked it (mostly) well enough; it seemed like a good opportunity to revisit what a premium Android phone is like these days, and keep myself up to date. I've had a few surprises.

The first surprise is that battery life isn't better. With the deserved reputation that the iPhone 6S has for being a bit short in the battery life department, I would have thought the Samsung would show it up. It doesn't. It's worse than the iPhone (score one for the iPhone, sort of). It's not terrible, but without topping it up throughout the day, it would die by dinnertime. Fortunately, the Samsung has Qi wireless charging built in, so I can use the Qi charger I got for my old HTC Windows Phone. Score one for the Samsung: I wish the iPhone supported wireless charging.

The second surprise is that battery woes aside, I find myself preferring the Samsung in daily use. Not out of the box, mind you—I can't stand TouchWiz and the crapware it comes with—but the beauty of Android is that you can fix all that. After disabling the crapware, installing a new theme (Material Design), an alternate launcher (Action 3) and a custom icon pack (Rondo), I've got it looking and acting the way I want. In fact, it's mine in a way that my iPhone will never—can never—be. And the larger screen (compared to my iPhone) is great.

What else? I like the Google bar on the home screen. I like Google Now. I like that I can remove an app from the home screen without deleting it entirely. The NewsBlur app for Android works much better than the iOS version. I love that I can designate my own default apps—Signal for SMS, for example. And LastPass form filling is much better on Android.

That's not to say everything's perfect. Have I mentioned battery life? Well, that. The iPhone still is the king of apps. I miss Siri, which is a bit better than Google Now when I'm driving. There's no CARROT Weather for Android, and the Peach app is nowhere to be found. I wish Cloak existed for Android. The fingerprint reader isn't quite as good as that on the iPhone. As for updates, I'll get Marshmallow if and when Samsung and AT&T deign to release it (this, more than anything else, is why I recommend Nexus phones to those who want to go Android). And—¦well, that's about it. Everything else I use is either on Android, or there's something equivalent or better.

This is where you're going to say, "Yeah, well, what about privacy? Huh? HUH? Answer me that, smart man." OK, I will. If that's your biggest concern, then you should probably go get an Ubuntu phone and really stick it to the Man. As for me, I'm just not that worried. I use cloud services, which means I need to trust Dropbox and Google and Microsoft and even Apple. I'm not aware of any cases where any of those companies have horribly misused anyone's data. If it's the government you're worried about (coughNSAcough), well, good luck with that. Also, and just for the record, I regard Google, Apple, and Microsoft as being approximately equal in terms of their claims to the moral high ground. They're all multinational, billion-dollar companies. I consider this a draw.

And that's really the lesson here. From what I've seen in the last several days, the iPhone and Android have pulled even. Some things are better on the iPhone, some things are better on Android, and which way you fall is going to depend on your own personal preferences, biases, and needs.And that's as it should be. If you believe competition makes everything better, you want to have truly competitive mobile phone platforms. I think we're at that point now.

That doesn't mean I'm switching completely. I still have a lovely new iPhone 6S that I'll be paying off over the next year and a half, so I'm still an iPhone user.

But I'm also an Android user. And frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way.