My iPhone 13 mini was the perfect size for me, most of the time. One hand to control everything, like how smartphones were meant to be after the initial iPhone debuted. I used her primarily when at work and at the gym (I would mostly waste my time at home on my iPad). However, due to restrictions at work, I could not access my photos if I needed to take some for work related purposes; I would have to email them to my work address, before processing and forwarding them. The screen size made watching videos okay when on the treadmill at the gym, but not enjoyable; videos in anamorphic (18:9) ratios were even tinier, which Youtube implemented so the notch didn’t cut into videos, but left thick black borders all around, and zooming in would cause that goddamn notch to show up. While I enjoyed having widgets, they were not interactive; I didn’t like seeing grids of apps that I couldn’t reorganize in the app drawer (er, “App Library” as Apple calls it 🙄) before pulling the screen down to access some apps; and the restriction with how I could organise my home screen got annoying at times (based on prior experiences with Android).
We had to implement masks again, and while I had my Watch and that software patch to negate the need to constantly type my password (because of facial recognition)—both worked only half the time, which would lead me typing in my password anyways…a pain in the ass when your password is alphanumeric and not just a 4- or 6-digit number.
I know I went through this song and dance last year. Let’s do it again…with a twist.
And as much as I have convinced myself that iPads are computers, they still lack a lot of basic features any other laptop can still do, even what super cheap Chromebooks can do for 1/10 the price of an iPad Pro! Basic things, like support for more than two windows; inspecting elements on webpages; browser extensions I could access from the browser itself, as opposed to having to go to deep somewhere in the device settings menu to alter; snoozing notifications; changing the volume within a Youtube video (instead I have to mess with the system volume on the iPad??), not to mention losing all the Youtube screen controls when in full-window mode; tabbing through fields when inputting something on webpages is a fucking mess; I can’t utilize FTP functions directly from the Files app; and the key combos are inconsistent from other operating systems, a pain when you use multiple OSes throughout the week. The fact that their “pointer” was a filled circle instead of a traditional arrow shape??
I got bored (again) of iOS and its restrictions; sure, these restrictions are meant to “protect” users from malware and “enhance” user experience, but simple common sense at the end of the day protects users, too. If I want to sideload apps because Apple won’t let them on there because they won’t use Apple’s payment system, I should be able to. If I want to install another operating system, that should be my choice. I bought the machine to own as I see fit, as I didn’t sign (or assume to follow) any EULA or NDA or whatever contract that restricts what I can do with my device. I should be able to set any and all apps as my default browser, calendar, phone, SMS apps; be able to install aftermarket ROMs if I don’t like Apple’s; like with “my body, my choice“, it’s my device, my choice.
Anyways, onto my journey…
It was about two weeks before WWDC that I finally gave in. I bought a cheap, refurbished Samsung s10e to start my journey down the rabbit hole. Being without Google services for a long time, I needed a new account—with no variation of my name available to set up on Gmail (one without numbers or creative expressions, as the one I had from last time, I cancelled that account after returning to iOS), I just created a forward specific to Google with my privately-hosted email, and signed up with that. While waiting for the s10e in the mail, I began the setup on my iPad. Signing up, downloading what Google had available for iOS, and beginning the conversion from iCloud to Google Drive.
I regretted getting that s10e. Despite wanting to set everything as default Google’s services, I had to either mess in developer settings or do something to try to disable Samsung’s stuff, but Samsung insisted at every turn that I use its services, or overlays, or background processes. Unable to load passwords from Google in text fields. When taking photos, it would NOT I couldn’t just click on the photo to review in Google’s gallery app; I went into Samsung’s! The inability to disable Facebook and some other apps I had no use for. The godforsaken Bixby button wouldn’t let me remap to Google Assistant, or at least turn off Bixby altogether. I mean, Samsung Pay was great to use at older credit card machines that didn’t accept tap-to-pay, but I rarely shop at stores without NFC payments anymore; that was the sole saving grace of that phone, but it is a feature I could live without.
My battery, despite being “fresh”, would be drained by lunch time, even with light to moderate usage, so the s10e was always tethered to a charger or my battery pack.
It took me an entire weekend to finish transferring everything from iCloud to Google’s ecosystem. Going through all my files and converting them from Pages and Numbers to something Google Docs and Sheets (document and spreadsheet programs, respectively), while making sure I triple-checked that every goddamn file transferred and was in its proper folder. Jotting down every password I had in Keychain and transferring it to another password manager, while having to reimplement multi-factor authentication for over a dozen services onto another app. Transferring all emails on iCloud to my privately-hosted email. Bookmarks had to be manually resaved in Chrome. Converting over a dozen services I had linked to my iCloud email to email forwards on my domain (which I should have done when I first signed up but was too lazy to do at those times). Recreating my playlists in YouTube Music, I found third-party service that eased the main transfer, but I did have to delete and resave some remixes I prefered. Downloading or transferring every app I had on iOS, signing in, customizing them. Going through the phone settings and tinkering with initially the s10e (a few days later the same for my Pixel 5a) to suit my flow. Turning off and making sure iMessage was turned off, so anyone else with an iPhone could still send me text messages. Subscribing (and turning off the bell) to my favorite Youtubers, all of whom I somewhat followed through Feedly till that time, to keep myself informed on their videos. Luckily I didn’t have a library full of purchased movies and tunes!
I ported my number and service over to Google Fi, to get the Pixel 5a for a damn good discount. New battery, rarely getting below 50% even with no charge by the end of my work shift. All of the default apps and processes are from Google, and not another OEM. Took me another evening after work to port everything from my s10e to the Pixel, but by the next morning she was ready and rearing to go with me. Sure, she doesn’t have “wireless charging”, but I am not complaining; there’s charge cables everywhere, so it’s not like I have to manage my battery greatly. Having a headphone jack allowed me to buy some decent wired headphones (one for my EDC, one for the gym), and not have to buy a few dongles or overpriced wireless headsets that I have constantly remember to keep charged to listen to music. No Bixby button; long-pressing the power button allows me to call up the Google Assistant when I need it. Stock Android; almost) no bloatware; day-one updates, just like with iPhones.
For shits and giggles, I was at my local Best Buy looking at Chromebooks. (I thought about at least keeping my iPad, but it doesn’t allow web apps the option for notifications, so it wouldn’t allow me to use Google Messages on the Web on it like iMessage.) There was an 11″ Acer Chromebook I was thinking of getting, that was $100, to help me get more into Google’s ecosystem on the cheap as I saved up to get something better. (I was deciding between a Chromebook or Android tablet, but kept to Chromebooks because they get regular upgrades directly from Google on day one, unlike tablets…) I found a 14.6″ Chromebook instead—the blue shirt said that there was some kind cosmetic defect with it, which is why a prior customer returned it. I was thinking, wtf you don’t turn down a deal like this. For $90, one tenth the price I paid to upgrade to the iPad Pro, I had a large touchscreen, decent keypad, trackpad, the ability to use web and native apps to all the services I could already run on iPadOS. She has a modest chipset from MediaTek, nothing powerful compared to Apple’s M1 chip, but she gets the job done reliably (though a bit laggy on more power-hungry sites like my blog’s dashboard). The screen quality isn’t anything to write home about, especially with a lower nit brightness level and somewhat washed out colors, but I can use her, work with her, view content on her without any issue. She doesn’t flip all the way around to use as a tablet, but I wasn’t using my iPad like one anymore, and she still had a touchscreen for those times I would want to go up and physically touch something on it. There’s a row of function keys, including the escape key. She has the ability to run Linux as well…but I am not that tech-savvy anymore, not something I want to play around with for the time being.
It’s weird unlearning Mac keyboard shortcuts and reacquainting myself with traditional PC ones (including some specific to ChromeOS), keyboard shortcuts every other operating system, from Windows to Linux and including Chrome OS, uses.
I changed out my Apple TV box for Chromecast. While the remote had dedicated buttons for Youtube and Netflix, I remapped the buttons, and used whiteout to cover up the labels, adding black dots with a sharpie to blend it in with the other buttons on the remote. It was nice having the volume buttons on the side, instead of accidentally always switching on Siri…and Siri would only work with iTunes/TV+, not the app I was currently in. It was nice to have a remote that I could totally use every button for an intended purpose!
And for all of Apple’s services, right now I am running free trials of Google’s equivalents. Youtube Premium allows me both ad-free videos and music, a service I long dismissed paying for, but will plan to pay for once my trial ends later this summer. (Don’t even think I am going to try gaming again with Stadia.)
I replaced my Apple Watch with a sixth-generation Fossil Watch. While Garmin has more fitness features, that’s not what I want a watch for. Samsung’s latest watch is so loaded with their own skin…I just argued above why I hate Samsung products (good hardware, bad software). The Fossil was right there at my local Best Buy, on sale, so I got it. I don’t have as many apps that co-install like I did on the Apple Watch, but I get all my app notifications, I can control my music from it (especially when in the car), it tells the time, and it does all the essentials, despite not getting an update yet to wearOS 3.
Now, for some of the elephants in the room:
- Do I miss AirDrop and Handoff? Nope. Everything on my Pixel gets backed up automatically to Drive, which I can instantly access on my Chromebook. Browser tabs I can instantly send from one device to the other. Chromecast is a built-in technology that automatically sends anything from either my Pixel or Chromebook to my … device that is also called a Chromecast, to display on my TV. And at work, I can hook up my Pixel as an external drive to transfer photos to my work PC to email coworkers, without having to mess around with iTunes or other complicated setups. (OMG I have to downgrade from something wireless to using wires, whatever will I do??)
- I don’t use Facetime; my extended family still uses Skype. No loss there.
- Now that I have an Android, I can use NFC to quickly share things with my family and coworkers, as they mostly use Android. (Why Apple won’t open up their NFC chips to do this, I don’t know.)
- Once Apple finally implements RCS, it’s not like I would be missing out on iMessage. Hell, most of the people I communicate with don’t seem to be that invested in how they communicate; text for work, Discord for gaming, Facebook/Instagram for online friends; despite what iSheep want to believe, iMessage is not as centralized among Apple users as they want others to believe, even in the US. We still primarily communicate by texts and emails. Again, no loss there.
- Having Google Fi, I can still make and receive texts and calls even on my Chromebook. So, that universal feature from the Apple walled garden (getting messages or calls from whatever device I’m on) has been copied.
- All the music, 2fa, and social media apps on my Pixel I have installed onto my Chromebook; no need to keep my Pixel next to me, no redundant notifications popping up.
- Most of my family is already using Gmail, so when sending pictures or documents, I can just send a link to view. (Now a complete replacement for iMessage, but damn good enough alternative.)
- I use the Gmail app to view my email; because I host my own email, I am not as tied down to any ecosystem. Email is still the main way we connect, sign up, and navigate throughout the Internet, so it gives me the freedom to choose which ecosystem to invest in, or even choose third-party alternatives for differing services (like one for calendar, another for documents, another for online storage). I chose to transfer all my services to Google as opposed to this-and-that, but that’s fine.
- It is really nice to have a webcam again at the top of my device, not on the side, when in landscape mode. Why Apple doesn’t do this—especially since they are tying to push iPad as an “alternative to laptops”—baffles, because when you’re videochatting, your face is looking to the side, not directly at whoever you’re chatting with.
- Basically, the “it’s just magic” and ease of use that supposedly keeps people trapped in Apple’s walled garden, I was able to replicate with all my new devices, even with them being from different OEMs.
No, I don’t have my Apple products lying around just in case I ended up not liking my new setup; they’re gone. (So is the s10e after my Pixel was set up.) My iCloud account, after checking to make sure I had all my subscriptions through iTunes cancelled, was deleted.
Why didn’t I go for a Windows computer again? I just need a device to connect me to the Internet, so it doesn’t matter what I used for my daily driver. (I have long since gave up on gaming.) But despite keeping a Microsoft account purely for Skype, I don’t want my services split between two platforms; even though Windows 11 can somewhat support Android apps, I can’t get them through the Play Store directly, and again that means maintaining apps and services between multiple platforms. For me, a Chromebook makes more sense because it keeps all my shit better synced through Google’s services.
Am I paranoid that Google collects all kinds of information on me to try and sell me ads? Nope—I have a vpn running in the background to block ads online, and the apps I use don’t generally serve me ads. I purposely went through my Google account settings to turn on everything to allow Google to collect information on me. That same data collection is allowing Google to improve their products to better suit me, from recommendations on where to eat in Maps, to apps I may need, to video recommendations on Youtube.
I am using my new ecosystem the same way I used my walled garden, I won’t lie. It just as a ton of benefits that I don’t get with Apple. One goddamn cable to charge everything, FINALLY!!!!! Headphone jacks everywhere. An open platform that allows me to choose what devices and services I want to integrate and still get treated equally as if they were first-party. Customization with both hardware and software.
Let’s see how long it’ll be again before I long for Apple’s poison once more. 🤣
I bought everything with my own goddamn money. None of the links provided above are affiliated. If you wish to buy anything yourself, I am not responsible if shit hits the fan for you.