Jay Little
Hasta La Vista Android

08/04/2022 00:48:04

Well two and a half weeks ago I finally put on my big boy pants and took Annette down to the local Apple Store... and bought two iPhones. That decision came about because of years of accumulated frustration with Android, Google and Android OEMs.

If you want my overall opinion on the iPhone experience, here it is: It works like it should. Which is a back handed way of saying that the wide variety of Android phones I have used over the years haven't worked that way. At some point as a consistent Android user you get so used to endless quirks and buggy behavior that it almost becomes some sort of meta game in and of itself.

To put it bluntly: Android is garbage. It is a flaming dumpster fire of fail. As bad as the usability situation is on stock ROMs with Google's proprietary spyware layer (aka Google Play Services) loaded, it's even worse when you start using AOSP ROMs without Google Play Services loaded. That's because Google has spent literal years trying to roll back their decision to open source any part of Android and they have done that by pushing more and more of their "innovations" into the Play Services layer and leaving the AOSP base layer to die a slow death from bit rot.

For AOSP based ROMs like LineageOS, Google Play Services basically replaces a ton of the broken AOSP components with proprietary components that work at least somewhat better. If you chose not to load it, take it from me, your experience will be a lot worse. But the flip side of that choice is that you will also be free of Google's most invasive behaviors and data hoarding malfeasance.

Was it worth it? Is it worth it? For me, I still don't know the answer to those questions. I do however know that it was a journey that I absolutely had to experience firsthand. I spent the last six years using LineageOS without Google Play Services waiting for the day that the experience would finally become one that could at least rival the buggy experience Stock ROMs with Google Play Services offered end users. Sadly that is probably never going to happen. The best the community has been able to do is microG and that not only requires breaking core security mechanisms present within in AOSP so that it can function, but it has a variety of privacy and usability issues of it's own.

However it's not all kumbayas and campfires. While the transition to iOS has undoubtedly improved my day to day phone experience, it has also reduced my effective level of software freedom. I no longer "own" my hardware as I can't just load whatever operating system I want to on it. Though to be fair, unlocking the bootloader on your Android phone is generally a process riddled with hoops that you have to jump through or security holes you have to rely on dodgy third party exploits to take advantage of. That's assuming you can even do it on your particular phone.

Make no mistake: it bothers me that I can't load an actual alternative browser on my iPhone. Oh sure I installed Brave and configured it to sync my bookmarks via Brave Sync, but the engine underneath that and every other "alternative" browser on iOS is still Safari. That is my biggest annoyance as Safari isn't exactly the most standards compliant and up to date engine nowadays.

So let's talk money. I spent more on my iPhone 13 256gb ($899) than I spent on my last two phones, a One Plus 7 Pro I bought used from Swappa in 2020 ($400) and a new Essential Phone I got back in 2018 ($350). Between those two phones they had both basically stopped receiving Stock ROM and Firmware updates by the time I dumped them and the LineageOS' major update cadence was unpredictable at best in both cases (e.g. OP7Pro still hasn't gotten the latest major build of LineageOS). For $750 I got just under four years of total "support".

But that's the thing, Apple is going to support this phone for at least the next five years (the phone is technically already a year old since the 13 is last years model). They might support it even longer based on the latest data. iOS 16, which is due out in a matter of weeks, will finally drop support for the iPhone 6s (released in 2015) and iPhone 7 (released in 2016). That means if you were an iPhone 7 owner who bought it new on release day, you got six years of support. 6S owners did even better with seven years of support. That's unreal and literally nobody on the Android side, not even Google, can come close to competing with that.

And before you waylay me with predictions that I'll get new phone envy and upgrade prematurely, let me assure you that short of a massive hardware failure, that's not going to happen. I'm so utterly tired of the phone upgrade treadmill on the Android side of the fence, that I'm looking forward to the phone just kind of fading into the background and doing it's work without me having to worry about it so much.

Now I know that some of my readers are undoubtedly wondering, "Why didn't Jay get a Linux phone?" Well let me tell you all why. There are three Linux phones on the market and one is the Librem 5 made my Purism and I'm not going to spend a lot of time here telling you why that phone is a scam. I wrote a series of three blog posts explaining why this was the case back in 2019 and you can take the time to read them if you'd like. Needless to say almost three years after I wrote that series of posts, Purism still hasn't shipped Librem 5 phones that were pre-ordered in 2018 but is willing to send you one much sooner if you pay them three times as much. Fuck that noise.

Then you've got the PinePhone and the PinePhone Pro. Fun fact: I own a PinePhone that I have never taken out of the box. That's because it has yet to get to a point where it's worth me wasting any time on it. It still can't handle basic phone tasks reliably, much like the Librem 5, just not as bad and performs like unadulterated ass. The PinePhone Pro is much more powerful but introduces fresh new problems that make it even worse as an actual phone.

No thank you. The entire point of switching to the iPhone is that I'm tired of worrying about the stupid phone. I just need it to play podcasts and music in my car, take pictures, handle work communications via Teams and Outlook, handle my personal email, do phone calls and texts, provide GPS services while I'm driving and give me access to a functional web browser on the go. That's it. Linux phones in 2022 can't handle most of these things. Hence I just can't be bothered wasting my time mucking about with it.

Finally let me close by saying this: If you've been a frequent reader then you know that I have spent years trying to dump Windows and despite massive amounts of progress, I am still a frequent user / hostage of that operating system if only while I'm working. Nevertheless the transition to iPhone gives me hope because it marks a significant event in my tech life: I have totally dumped Android and I truly have no intention of going back.

Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out Android... because I'm more than a little tired of cleaning up after you.

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