So you’ve been thinking about dabbling in that water for a while now. You’re wondering, “what’s life like on the other side?” Switching from iPhone to Android can be daunting, though, because you have so much more choice—how could you possibly choose from so many phones? We’re here to help.
If you’re a long-time iPhone user, you’ve gotten accustomed to a certain level of quality and support. Good for you! I like high standards. But you’ve also probably been scared away from Android by certain buzzwords like “fragmentation,” “crapware,” or “cheap”. These are understandable concerns.
Now, I’m not going to tell you those things don’t exist, because I’d be lying—and we’re basically friends at this point, so I wouldn’t lie to you. Nay, I’d rather keep you from falling into the pit that gave Android a bad name in the first place—help you avoid the manufacturers that may not hold up their end of the bargain.
First, let’s discuss what’s important to you. Everyone has one or two things that are the most important to them, and moving from one operating system to another shouldn’t change that.
If You Want All the Bells and Whistles: Samsung
Let’s say you take a lot of pictures—you’re going to want a phone with a great camera. Or what if you spend a lot of time watching movies on the go and don’t want to chew through data? Internal and expandable storage are going to be important details. If you’re into mobile gaming or like to read on the phone, maybe a large, vibrant display is what will seal the deal for you.
Regardless of what matters to you, research is going to be key—but I probably don’t have to tell you that, do I? In the end, it’s really pretty simple: if you’re looking for all bells and whistles, go with Samsung. The newer Galaxy phones (S7, S8) have a ton of cool features that aren’t really available elsewhere—like wireless charging, water resistance, and expandable storage. Plus they have excellent cameras and great build quality.
Unfortunately, there is a dark side here: updates. When it comes to making sure your handset is always up-to-date, it’s hard to rely on Samsung (or nearly anyone else, for that matter). Sure, they’ve gotten better over the last few years, but this is still a huge sticking point for many Android users.
Samsung also has a custom UI on top of Android, and while it’s gotten better in recent years, many prefer the untainted nature of pure, stock Android. This is personal preference, and trying both out will help you decide.
For Pure Android and Timely, Long-Term Updates: Pixel
With the iPhone, you don’t have to worry about software tampering. No one is making tweaked versions of iOS, and everyone gets updates at the same time (and for at least two years). With Android, things can get a little murky—hence the complaint of “fragmentation”, where multiple Android phones can be running completely different versions of the software.
Since Android is an open source platform, manufacturers like Samsung, LG, HTC, and the like are free to take it and do what they will with it, which is how they differentiate their stuff from everyone else. They may add extra features, apps, or UI elements, and they’ll usually take longer to release an update after Google does. Sometimes months.
I’ll keep this easy to understand: if updates are important to you, buy from Google. Just get a Pixel and be done with the whole damn thing—you’ll get quick updates for a couple of years, because the phone is supported by the mothership itself. You won’t have any extra apps or UI changes added by the manufacturer, because it’s pure stock Android. Plus, it’s one of the best—if not the best—Android phones on the market at the time or writing, both in hardware and software.
If you don’t mind waiting for updates, you could be gambling on who will send out which updates. Again, Samsung has gotten a lot better about updating handsets over the last few years, though there’s still work to be done there. And the lifespan of a Galaxy phone probably still won’t end up matching that of a Pixel when it comes to manufacturer support.
For everyone else, well, it’s a crapshoot. Maybe you’ll get the latest OS, maybe you won’t—either way, it won’t be quick. This is even more important to note if you plan on buying in the budget market.
For a Solid Budget Phone: Motorola
We get it—$700+ is a lot to spend on a phone! Maybe that’s why you’re leaving the iPhone in the first place. I feel you. Unfortunately, this presents a whole different set of concerns.
We’ve already talked about picking the things that are important to you, but all that changes when it comes to getting a budget phone—after all, there’s a reason why flagship phones are flagship, and I promise it’s not all hype or branding.
The good news is that we’ve covered the topic of cheap Android phones pretty extensively in the past, so you already have some other reading material to help you decide if a cheap Android phone is even worth buying in the first place. But here’s the gist: Most of the time, you have to sacrifice something when moving to a more affordable phone.
Often, it’s one of the things most people find most important in their phone: the camera. A good camera is part of that $700 price, and it’s one of the first things to go in a budget phone. Cameras in budget phones have come a long way over the last few years, thanks to better technologies trickling down to lower price points. And even if your phone’s camera isn’t that great, you can still do your part to make sure you’re taking the best pictures possible. So at least there’s that.
Otherwise, the rest of the hardware—while still good—will also be a place where sacrifices are made. Top tier processors are replaced with their budget counterparts, and displays typically aren’t as dense or high quality.
So before you buy a budget phone, think about how you use your phone. If you spend most of your time looking at Facebook or Pinterest, you don’t need a lot of horsepower, so that that budget processor will likely do just fine. If you’re not watching movies or reading, the lower-quality display (which will still probably look great to all but the pickiest of users anyway) won’t be a problem. You just have to be a little analytical about yourself, your requirements, and your expectations when it comes to your phone and you can likely land on a budget handset that will meet all of your needs.
Again, the other sacrifice is updates. Oftentimes, budget phones simply don’t get updated like their flagship counterparts, which is unfortunate. When it comes to pushing updates, however, the only brand I might take a closer look at is Motorola with the G series phones—these are budget workhorses that not only have some of the best cameras in the budget market, but also a little better support. They may still not be perfect or flagship-quality when it comes to either, but at least you’ll have a better chance of having a phone that will last a bit longer without breaking the bank.
An Important Note: When to Buy from Your Carrier
Since we’re done recommending phones here, there’s something else we have to talk about: carrier-branded phones. With the iPhone, you pretty much always get a “clean” experience, where there isn’t a bunch of pre-installed junk on your phone. The same can’t always be said for Android.
For example, if you walk into your carrier’s store right now and buy a brand new Galaxy S8, you’re going to get a handful of pre-installed bloatware pertaining to that particular carrier. It really just reduces the cleanliness of the system and is generally pretty annoying, neither of which are desired features from a high-end phone. Fortunately, you can remove most of this crap…it just takes time.
If possible, I always recommend buying an unlocked phone directly from the manufacturer. This is Google’s preferred way of selling the Pixel (don’t believe the “Only on Verizon” crap from the ads: you can use this phone on every major carrier), and there are generally unlocked international phones you can buy directly from Samsung, Motorola, and the others.
The only thing to consider if you decide to buy an international model is support for particular service. For example, I have an international unlocked Galaxy S7 Edge and have never been able to use Samsung Pay. Why? Because this phone doesn’t support Pay in the US. Thus, I had no choice but to buy an AT&T-branded Galaxy S8 to make sure I could actually use this service moving forward.
The key here is going to be research, research, research. Read a lot. Considering everything that’s important to you and read about those things. And if there’s any doubt, just buy the carrier-branded model—at least you’ll have access to all the services in your country.
There’s a lot to consider when changing phone platforms that go beyond just the phone itself—like how much money you’ve invested in apps for your current platform, for example. You can’t take iOS apps with you when you move to Android, so you’ll have to buy all your favorites again. That can be a huge expense in itself, so it’s something else to consider.
Also consider hardware accessories. If you have docks, clocks, or other iPhone-specific gadgets, they likely won’t work with Android. If you’ve been a long-time iPhone user, jumping from one platform to another can get really expensive really fast because of all these additional costs. If you’re committed to the idea, however, we’re right here with you. Godspeed.