iOS vs Android – which is better?

I often get the question about Android vs iOS and which is better. The short answer is: “neither” or “both” depending on if you want the pessimistic or the optimistic version.

Here’s the breakdown of it:

I’ve been using iOS since the iPhone 1. Just before the iPhone 5 was released, I decided to give Android an honest attempt. I saw that Apple had lagged behind on a lot of features: I had replaced most of the core apps with third party apps – Chrome instead of Safari, Mailbox instead of Mail, Fantastical instead of Calendar – and don’t get me started on the Podcasts app which I seriously hope the whole team at Apple got fired for. Twice. But even though I could switch the core apps out, that didn’t help much as Apple doesn’t let me set those as default. So links from other apps still opened in Safari, though Chrome was my preferred browser. I still had to configure the Mail app with my Gmail account, even though I mostly used Mailbox or the Gmail app to read and write e-mails.

I went for a Samsung Galaxy S3. At first it was awkward, but I thought I could deal with it. Every time I encountered a glitch an Android fan would be “hey, you should download X, it fixes exactly that”. And so I spent hours on downloading apps and customizing the experience so that it would be less awkward.

Using Android instead of an iPhone  was like having driven a sports car on a smooth highway, and then driving a different sports car on a bumpy country road. I ended up going back to iOS.

This year, I decided to give Android another go as the HTC One got really good reviews. That experience was much better and I realized that I didn’t hate Android. I hate Samsung. The HTC One experience was so good that I left my iPhone 5 until recently. What drove me back wasn’t Android or iOS per se, but the fact that a majority of the quantified self devices that I’m trying out only work with iOS.

Here are the things I’ll miss with Android:

– Apps being able to interact with each other, without having to build in explicit support for every app, in each app. I can use Feedly, and from there share directly to Flipboard and Buffer without having to exit the app. On iOS, the support for sharing to Flipboard has to be coded into Feedly (which it isn’t). This means that a new great app on iOS also requires updates for apps I already use in order for them to be able to interact.

– A clean home screen. My iPhone 5 screen looks as if it’ll explode if you just add another app. It’s cluttered and it’s impossible to get the clean, minimalistic look I have on my HTC One. Which is ironic, considering Apple’s minimalistic designs.

I use the same background on both phones. Which looks cleaner and more minimalistic to you?

– Widgets. I loved not having to open the calendar to see my calendar, I just swiped to the screen left of my home screen. Evernote? Don’t have to open it either, the notes are right there on the third screen. To do? Second screen to the left had a full screen Remember the Milk widget with all my todos.

– Google Now. I know that this is available on iOS too, but the whole point becomes moot when you have to open an app to access it. The Google Now widget is a much better assistant than Siri because it’s proactive. I love how, when I switch on my HTC One in a new country, I immediately get the exchange rate of currency X to my own, or a couple useful phrases translated to the local language.

– Voice recognition. Google’s default voice recognition is so much better than Apple’s – especially for me who has an accent as I’m not a native English speaker. The voice control experience is so much better on Android, as it is better of recognizing context and intent. I don’t have to tell it to “search the web” or “google” – Google Now does that automatically when it needs to.

– HTC One specific (I think): being able to snap photos while filming. Great feature, but on the other hand iOS 7 and iPhone 5S will also have this.

– The notification system. Being able to tweak notifications much better than in iOS was very valuable. My phone shouldn’t run my life, it should assist me and make my life easier. The notification system is key here, and Android’s is simply much better. I can choose to have sounds or have the LED blink in different colors, or have the notifications turn up in the notification center – where they are actionable as opposed to iOS notifications that simply start the app in question.

– The universal back button. This is perhaps the single best feature in Android. Being able to go back to the previous app using that button is gold.

Things I won’t miss with Android:

– Pocket dialing. This is an HTC One specific issue, but this is the first smartphone I’ve ever had that has dialled people, move icons around on my home screen and even deleted apps from the tray while the phone has been in my pocket.

– Another HTC One specific issue is that the remote control on the headphones can’t control volume. Nor can it activate voice control. This effectively renders voice control as useless as iOS does Google Now.

– Charging time and battery life. both the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the HTC One charge a lot slower (with the original chargers) than the iPhone 5 does. You can see a comparison chart between the S3 and the iPhone here

– The constant tweaking. Having to download another launcher, a third party keyboard, a screen brightness manager and a bunch of other apps just to get the phone up to a minimum standard is simply not okay.

– Always being second or third. I felt that if someone said “The iOS app is out now, an Android app is coming soon” one more time, I’d go falling down on them. And then there’s issues like the Basis Monitor, who when releasing an Android app actually released a Samsung app.

– Stupid User Interfaces in apps. Android has got a lot of apps, and it’s got a lot of apps made by people who don’t really understand UX. They make apps for themselves, which is a very different thing. The frustration with some apps made me want to poke my finger through my eye, into my brain and swirl it around. Even apps that should be great (Evernote) aren’t. It’s not logical to have to tap a pen icon on a touch screen to edit a note. In Evernote on the iPhone it’s an intuitive tap in the note that allows you to edit it.

All in all: Android today is great. The problem isn’t Android, but clumsy third party vendors like Samsung that bloat it, or HTC that don’t think things through all the way. Had it not been for me trying out stuff like the Misfit Shine, W/Me, Heartmath HRV monitor and mostly any other Bluetooth enabled device, I’d have kept the HTC One as my main phone. Now the iPhone 5 is my primary phone and the Android is the secondary.

If you’re thinking about which phone to buy, and deciding between Android and iOS, I’d say that as long as you go for one of Google’s own smartphones like the Nexus 4 or Moto X you’ll most likely be just as happy as if you had gone for iOS. iOS constrain you more, but it also works better out of the box. Android allows you more freedom, but also requires you to tweak it more. And you’ll always be second when it comes to the great mainstream apps. But you won’t go wrong with Android.

(Unless it’s a Samsung.)

Why I just asked Memoto for a refund

I’ve just e-mailed Memoto and asked for a refund of my Kickstarter pledge. I still think it’s an exciting and interesting product, but I don’t believe enough people will be prepared to pay $108 (excluding taxes) per year to use it. It’s ironic, as I can see that one of the arguments for the high subscription fee is sustainability.

I’ve been excited about Memoto ever since I first heard about it at SSWC last August. I became a backer as soon as their Kickstarter campaign launched and I think the team is a bunch of brilliant people. But their recent announcement to charge $108, excluding any taxes, annually to use their cloud service is a step down the wrong path. I know that Memoto didn’t arbitrarily choose a price, that they have been crunching numbers and landed on $108 to build a sustainable company. I think that it’s a huge gamble on enough people being interested in logging all of their lives through the Memoto service, a gamble that I wouldn’t bet on.

People are prepared to pay for storage, software and other services in the cloud. Google, Evernote, Flickr, Dropbox are just a few. And you can combine hardware with a service. Look at Bodymedia users (an activity and sleep tracker for losing weight), who pay over $100 for the device and then $83 per year to use it.

I also know that there is a direct correleation between how useful a service is and how much you’re prepared to pay. To pay $25 per year for Flickr Pro is reasonable. Even $50 a year is reasonable, considering you get 1 TB of data. Paying Google $60 for 200 GB of data for your Gmail, Google Drive and Picasa accounts is reasonable. Paying $135 (which it will amount to in Sweden, as 25% VAT is applied) to store your photos in Memoto’s cloud? The discrepancy between “useful” and “price” is too big for casual users. Especially since you can only store Memoto photos there, nothing else.

There is an option not to pay for the service from year 2. In that case you can download the images from the camera to your own storage. You lose Memoto’s “momentification”, the service that puts all photos that belong to a separate moment together, so you don’t have to browse through the 1440 photos the camera takes during a 12 hour day. But you also lose any GPS data, as that is not stored in the EXIF data of the images. Without processing the images on Memoto’s servers, your images won’t be geotagged. This is the deal breaker for me.

Add to that that there’s big competition on the market. Autographer, a lifelogging device that works a bit differently is starting to ship July 30 (they might beat Memoto to market). It’s still unclear if they will charge you for uncrippled use of their product (I’ve asked them and will update with their answer) Autographer will cost more than the Memoto, £399, but will not require any subscription.  Google+ has a light version of momentification: if you upload a time lapse series of photos, Google+ will put them together into an animation.

Another reason I don’t think that Memoto will reach a sustainable subscription rate at the announced price has to do with function. I got to beta test an early version for a couple days, and I realized that what happens in front of me isn’t as interesting as what happens where I’m looking. The value of the logged data is higher if I find a way of mounting the Memoto on a baseball cap, rather than wearing it on the collar of my sweater. Another challenge that Memoto faces is the angle: when you wear it on your collar or on your chest pocket there is no way of fixating the angle of the camera. A lot of the photos I took during the day, especially while walking was at an angle similar to the image below:

The angle of Memoto when worn on the collar of the shirt

One solution is wearing it as a necklace, another is to wear it further down (requires a shirt or something similar). Or a wide angle lens for the camera. A fear I have is that many Memoto users might be disappointed by this, considering the amount of images of Memoto worn exactly like this there are out there. That disappointment will impact the readiness to pay the subscription fee.

So what do I think Memoto should do? After all, storage does cost. And if you use the camera for 12 hours a day it’s 1440 photos per day. Assume each photo being 500 k and you have over 700 mb of data per day. In a year that’s a whopping 250 gb. So year two you’d be pushing half a terabyte of data. Google would charge you at least $120 per year, Dropbox would take $499. Memoto’s subscription fee for lifeloggers who save all their data is more than fair.

While hardcore lifeloggers are an important target group, there is another one: the casual loggers. This group won’t care for the 8 hours of sitting at the office or the commute to work every day. They will want automatic capture of moments out of the ordinary: travels, dinners with friends, conferences. For this group, Memoto’s subscription fee is outrageously high.

I’d introduce two plans: one flat rate storage plan like the current. $108 excluding taxes is a great price. Let’s call this plan “Lifelogger”. And then I’d have the “Casual memorizer” plan, with limited amount of storage for $30 a year. Once you hit the storage limit, you can either delete (or move!) some of your images, or increase the plan at a premium rate. I believe there to be a lot more “Casual Memorizers” than “Lifeloggers” out there, while Memoto are putting their moey on that there are enough hardcore lifeloggers out there who will buy the camera and pay the annual fee.

I’m not ready to wage my money on it, and therefore I asked for a refund. I still believe in the product, I still believe in the team and if they change their subscription plans to accomodate casual lifeloggers, I’ll gladly come back as a customer.

UPDATE: I just spoke to the team behind Memoto, and they said that they’re still talking internally about different subscription models. Since there’s a chance they’ll go for a lower end, I decided to stay as a backer.

The drawing of the humans comes from Peter Kiselkov’s tutorial of how to draw a human body.

Meet Fogg, the mobile data liberator

Imagine if you could go abroad and turn on data roaming without worrying what it will cost you. The new service Fogg is a first step towards that world.

The phone app on my HTC One is far from being on the top 10 most used apps list. I use my smartphone (and my iPad) mostly for data. Google Maps for addresses and directions. Mail, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to stay connected with friends and colleagues. Instagram and Vine to document stuff. Flipboard for news. Hangouts to text my boyfriend who lives in Denmark. Why pay SMS charges when Hangouts is free and available across platforms?

Connected as I am, I’m no longer the lone “early adopter”. The iPhone changed the game and today you don’t have to be a tech geek to feel disconnected and crippled without data connection. Your smartphone without a connection feels more like a brick than an extension of our brain. The problem became so mainstream that the EU Commission decided to regulate the market. No wonder, when data charges could be 500-1000 times (!) higher when roaming than on your home network.

Still, even with regulation the mobile operators are making crazy money from roaming. I used to be a customer of Telenor Sweden and when I was in Paris last February, I paid 79 kronor (~$12) per day for 100 mb data. When I went to Denmark in May, they had secretly doubled the price – now you got 50 mb data for the same cost. Ironically, I was roaming on Telenor Denmark.

As I’ll be spending more time in Denmark, I decided to switch to mobile operator 3, who gives me local costs for calls, texts and data in both Sweden and Denmark (except when I text a Danish number from Sweden and vice versa, hence my use of Hangouts to communicate with boyfriend). I even got an additional SIM so I can use my iPad mini in Denmark too.

Still, 3 cannot guarantee local costs for (data) roaming in Denmark. In order to use data I have to enable data roaming. Should 3’s network be down, or in case I walk into a place with bad cell coverage – something that happens a lot in Stockholm, as 3’s network has the worst coverage – I would switch over to another network (perhaps Telenor DK?) and end up paying the insane data roaming charges.

This is why I was so thrilled to hear about Fogg. Their idea is simple: flat rate international data roaming at a reasonable price. And it works. It works so well, that I thought “this must be expensive”. It’s not: 10 GB data costs 149 kronor (~$23) per month. That’s right – for less than what 2 days and 100 mb would cost me with Telenor, I get 10 GB with Fogg. And once they reach enough users on a market they can make it into a freemium market where 1GB of data is free. The icing on the cake: no contracts or plans. I can jump between the plans as I need them.

 

Fogg Mobile red SIM card tray
The red SIM card tray is a nice touch – now I know at a glance which card I have in my iPad

 

The service works well in both Denmark and Sweden. It’s seamless, once you’re on and have allowed data roaming you don’t have to worry about it. The mobile app (available both for iOS and Android) allows you to keep track of your data usage.

 

Fogg's app shows how much data is available
Fogg’s app (here on my HTC One) shows how much data you have available

 

There are some reservations: It’s only data, no calls or texts. Fogg is currently available in Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom, Norway
and Austria (countries in bold are freemium markets). It will soon be available in Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, Turkey, Poland, Åland, Finland and Belgium. There’s even talk about the US, but earliest in 2014.

 

Fogg's app shows which countries Fogg is available in

 

 

What I like most about Fogg is not the service, great as it is. What I like most is that Fogg will force mobile operators to charge reasonable prices. No longer will Telenor and 3 be able to say “but Telenor Denmark is another company so we have to charge roaming even if you’re a Telenor Sweden customer”. Frankly, as a customer I don’t give a unicorn fart about how you structured your company – it just seems to me that you structured in in a way to squeeze as much money out of me as possible. In the long run, made up fees like “connection fee” will disappear. Text messages will have to drop sharply in price, because of iMessage, Hangouts, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger (that rely on data).

 

The current price plan for Fogg Mobile

 

You can get your own Fogg card by registering. They have a fixed amount of cards that are sent out each day. If you register right now you’ll get your card in the beginning of July (you can get bumped for helping them market their service by sharing on Facebook).

(Full disclosure: I got a Fogg card to test the service, and was asked to review it on my blog. This post is neither sponsored nor paid for in any other way.)