Disclaimer: This is NOT an iPhone 5s review. For an excellent, exhaustive and technical review, head over to Anand Lal Shimpi’s review on AnandTech.
What this is – is the experience of a die-hard Android evangelist in owning and using the Apple iPhone 5s.
So what happened was comical. Sprint finally decided – after years of wait to build out LTE in my home area. At the time, I had the excellent (and rather long-named) Sprint EVO 4G LTE as my daily workhorse. And exactly 4 days after finally getting to enjoy the kind of data speeds that my friends at Verizon, ATT and even T-Mobile would boast about – its LTE radio died. Just died. The phone would connect on 3G but would shut itself off the moment I enabled LTE.
So, I decided to walk into the local Best Buy (since I had subscribed to their excellent mobile buy back program), sold my 20 month EVO back to them for 270 and on a whim, walked out with a silver iPhone 5s.
Having owned and used it for a few months, I have had very different feelings about the phone – and hence this post. If you are an Android user thinking about jumping ship or thinking of upgrading from iPhone 4 / 4s / 5 – may help you making your decision that goes beyond technical reviews and such.
So walking out of Best Buy, I was a little underwhelmed. Yes, I had read reviews that it was the best iPhone ever. Sure, but i read that everytime a new iPhone is released. The build quality was fantastic – but we’ve come to expect that from Apple now. The screen just seemed too small – coming from my HTC Evo. The websites I normally read – New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Engadget – they all seemed just too small, cramped, difficult to read. So yes, I remember, walking out of Best Buy debating to myself if I should come back and return it within the first 14 days and get another Android phone. (Problem was, there wasn’t any compelling Android device other than the HTC One – but it was a few months old already – and I wasn’t signing on a two year agreement with a 10 month old device).
As I started using the iPhone, some things just rankled. I missed SwiftKey – to me it is the best keyboard ever made. The iOS keyboard seemed juvenile in comparison. I missed the customizability. But then there were some things that I absolutely loved – the smooth UI, the lack of stutter, the speed of doing everything (thanks to the new and according to AnandTech, a pretty amazing A7 processor), not having to constantly manually closing apps to save memory. As I started downloading apps that I normally use, I couldn’t help but marvel at the level of polish of apps that I am used to – any.do, spotify. Even Google Maps.
The screen size started rankling less over time as my eyes adjusted. I started loving the “pocketability”. And the ability to use the phone with one hand – which on the EVO – which is not a very big phone by Android standards, I couldn’t. Did I miss the big screen sometimes – absolutely. Especially while reading busy websites- but then I realized that most websites I regularly visit are optimized for the iPhone’s screen size.
One of the things that’s really important for me on any smartphone – is it’s performance..well, as a phone. And as a speakerphone – for all the conference calls I take on it. And this is where the iPhone really shone – its radio performance was heads’ and shoulders above my HTC Evo. And its speakers are surprisingly powerful for a phone so compact. The call quality is stellar – both what I heard and what others heard when I spoke.
And then there is the ecosystem. iTunes radio is a big deal for me. Its free – and I can play customized channels. Google Play doesn’t offer that as a free service. The ability to download all the music I have purchased from the App Store over the years from the cloud. And the apps that I have on my iPad.
Some folks hate iOS 7. And maybe because I haven’t owned an iPhone for many years, I absolutely loved the clean look and feel. The bluish hue to everything. And unlike Android – how it was consistent across applications.
On the flip side, I missed not being able to pop in a micro-SD card. I missed not having a removable battery (though, truth be told, my EVO didn’t have either). But as someone who commutes 2 hours each way to work and is constantly streaming Sirius XM while reading news on the train during the commute – I haven’t had too many issues with the battery life as long as, and I repeat, as long as I have a charger at the office.
My feelings have definitely changed over the last 2 months. Can the iPhone 5s be better. Absolutely. Will I regret buying this when Apple releases its what seems inevitable – a new large screen iPhone next year. Probably.
But did I return the phone in the 14 days that I thought I may as I walked out of Best Buy. No. I love the experience. With reservations – but I still love it. And I think I will be able to live with it for the next 2 years.
And who knows, maybe it’s back to Android after that.