Back to the iPhone again

Every time I think I’m out, they pull me back in!

I just started my new job, and on the first day they handed me my shiny new company phone: a Verizon iPhone 4. It’s preloaded with iOS 5.1, so I’ve been using it as my only phone for the week and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised.

The screen is as sharp as I remembered, and no adjustment at all coming from the 720p screen of the Galaxy Nexus. While I still like Roboto, I’d forgotten how charming and clean Helvetica Neue feels. The screen on the iPhone is almost comically small compared to the Galaxy Nexus side by side, but viewed by itself, it’s fine. And I definitely do notice how much easier the iPhone is to use one-handed. My thumb can actually reach across the screen!

Let’s talk software. The biggest change I’ve noticed in iOS 5.1 is the new notification system. I’m not sure how much I like it yet. It feels like a mashup of the Android 4 and webOS notifications, which is essentially what it is. Apple took the ideas that they liked from their competitors and bolted them together. I’d like more variety in widgets (I’m only using Weather), but I really do like the ability to swipe directly across a notification popup on the lock screen to go right to that event. I’d say it puts iOS on par with the competition, but not ahead.

The iOS multitasking system still feels a little primitive compared to the thumbnails you see on Android and webOS. But it is snappy, which Android’s thumbnails sometimes aren’t, even on Google’s flagship device.

Finding apps to do everything I did on Android hasn’t actually been difficult at all. Instead of Epistle on Android to edit markdown-formatted text files on my Dropbox, I use Elements (the two are so similar I’d be surprised if Elements weren’t the inspiration for Epistle). I use Pocket Casts for podcast listening on both platforms. Evernote is mostly the same on both platforms (see below). And on iOS, I have EgretList again to help me use Evernote as a GTD system. Rdio, Pandora, WordPress, Roku, Google+, Google Voice… all pretty much the same on both platforms.

Currently, I’m reading in the Kindle app, which is actually a bit more advanced than the Android version. It supports “personal documents”, so I can email whatever .mobi formatted books I want out of my Calibre library to my Kindle email address and download them as fully functional ebooks in the iOS Kindle app. I also have Stanza installed and attached to my Calibre library, so I could read that way too if so inclined.

While we’re talking about reading, Flipboard, where have you been all my life? While iOS has a perfectly functional Google Currents app and a plethora of Google Reader apps, I can understand why people tout Flipboard as one of the great exclusive features of iOS. The layout is slick and attractive while also being quick, minimalist and easy to use. And being able to read Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Instagram all in one app is… ahhhh. If only it supported Reddit (using AlienBlue until it does) and Google+, it’d be perfect. Of course, the latter will require Google to release the gorram APIs.

It’s not all unicorns and bunnies, though. iOS still doesn’t support widgets on the home screen, and this is turning out to be a bigger impediment than I would have thought. Particularly with Evernote, the inability to quickly create a new note or voice transcription is slowing me down.

So, am I on iOS for good? Regular readers know that’s a ridiculous question. I change platforms the way some people change underwear. But yeah, I think I’m going to keep using the iPhone as my daily driver for a while. Part of it is practicality: I have to carry the iPhone for work, and if I can do with it what I can do with the Galaxy Nexus, why carry both? But mostly it’s just that I’m really enjoying seeing what iOS can do these days.

I will keep using the Galaxy Nexus for reviews, and for testing so that when I explain a new trick here, I can tell you how to do it on iOS and Android.