Using an iOS companion device with an Android flagship

Discussion in 'Alternatives to iOS and iOS Devices' started by jsw, Oct 2, 2016.

  1. jsw Moderator emeritus


    Mar 16, 2004
    Andover, MA
    Alternate title: Using an iPhone SE as a Nexus 6P companion (and loving it)

    I'm putting this in this forum because, while it deals with an iPhone, it also deals with Android, and perhaps the comparisons might later help someone looking to move across the road one way or the other. I know many of you have both iOS and Android devices, but I've been off iOS for many years, so this was a revelation to me.


    Bought an iPhone SE off a neighbor for cheap, been using it, love it... as a companion device.


    I last used an iPhone in 2012 - a 4S on iOS 6 at the end. I then moved to a Nexus 4 (then 5, then 6, then 6P, along with a Fire Phone or two, the One Plus One, and some others). Having now spent four years on the Android side, equal to the four I spent on the iOS side (my first iPhone was a 3G in 2008), I wanted to see how iOS 10 compares to Nougat. My wife and daughter have remained on iPhones, so I had some idea, but not a lot - I barely touch their phones. So... I picked up an iPhone SE from a co-worker who was going to trade it in at Apple on an iPhone 7. I gave him the trade-in value, estimated at $160, and I got his 64GB iPhone SE in pristine condition. Hell of a deal, frankly.

    So, now I have the SE, and I've been using it for a few days alongside the 6P. I never expected to go back to iOS, and (spoiler alert) I'm not going to for my main driver. However, despite the fact that so many seem to find it impossible to understand how Android users could possibly not prefer iOS phones, and vice versa, I have to say I understand why each camp loves their side, but I don't understand why they hate the other. There are preferences we each have that dictate what we'd prefer, but there's really no call to bash the other side, because they're both getting so good. I'm going to be carrying the SE with me every day, and I'm going to be using the 6P as my main phone. Why? I love them both, for different reasons. And I think they compliment each other well. I suspect most of the other-platform-hate stems from ignorance.


    (1) The SE is an excellent little phone

    For the dyed-in-the-wool Android fan who can't fathom why people like iOS, try an SE if you can. Because it's so tiny, a doll phone compared to even the Fire Phone I've got, which is itself tiny compared to the Nexus 6P, you're not immediately thrown into this-vs-that mode and can appreciate it as a nice object before you have to start frothing at the mouth. At least that's how it worked for me - when I pick up my daughter's 6S or my wife's 6 Plus, I immediately notice the differences of iOS, including the ones that irk me. The SE is so different in form factor that, for whatever reason, I begin to appreciate what it offers before I feel the need to criticize.

    The SE is, I think, the single best $400 phone you can buy, bar none. The camera is stellar. The phone is very fast, it has good battery life, the screen, while not up to today's standards, is forgivable because it's small. Build quality is top-notch - as good outside as the best Apple could do a couple of years ago (which is fantastic) and as good inside as they could do last year (ditto). And the operating system, while not Android, is a great OS with little bloat.

    (2) A small form factor would be fantastic as an option in the Android world

    I thought the SE would be too small, and, since I use the 6P all the time (and used a 6 before), it is small. But... it's not too small for most things, and the fact it is so small means it goes unnoticed in a pocket that definitely is very aware of the 6P. Not a bad thing. One-handed operation - true one-handed operation - is a joy I'd forgotten. I would love to see a high-end Android phone in the small-form-factor space. A Pixel XS, as it were. I think it would sell well, especially with better screen resolution. I wouldn't have thought so until using the SE. There are things like media consumption that it's not ideal for, but it's just so nice to use for notifications, quick replies, etc.

    (3) The SE (or, frankly, a touch) compliments a flagship Android phone nicely.

    There's a lot of reasons why many of us prefer Android, but an iOS companion device is a nice sidekick. This SE is a better - but more expensive - option than an iPod touch, I think, because it's so much faster, has much better cameras, and so on, but... a touch would provide similar benefits for much less money, new. In any event, it's nice to have something with iOS for those things that aren't on Android or work better on iOS. Examples of mine: I use mSecure for password protection. Great app, available everywhere, but doesn't have fingerprint login on Android... but it does on iOS. Small thing, but immensely useful. Lytro app for my camera: exists on iOS, not on Android. Granted, it somewhat sucks for most uses, but... it is cool in some cases and does work for those cases vs not being on Android at all. Big example: Messages. I now don't need to be on my Mac to see messages from my wife and kids - and yes, they can use SMS/Hangouts/etc. But they (especially the kids) like the new iOS 10 features for messaging and (over)use them, and now I can participate. I now have both worlds available - all I love about Android with all I was missing from iOS (aside from force touch, which... whatever; I'll deal).

    (4) iOS 10 and Android 7.0 Nougat are closer than ever.

    Yes, absolutely, there are some major differences. But... going between Android and iOS really isn't a huge context switch. Most of the apps are on both (and, to be fair, most of them are more polished on iOS). The things you love on one are likely more or less there on the other. Not everything, but most things. Android still gives you more control, even in Nexus (soon to be Pixel) form, and iOS is still better looking with fewer options. They'll probably always be that way, but it matters less and less every year. So... you can use devices in each ecosystem without being utterly discombobulated for a bit when you switch back.

    Oh, and on a not-so-good note, the SE rebooted itself today for no good reason. So, just like Android, it ain't bulletproof. iOS used to be. Apparently it no longer is.

    (5) There are still things I can't stand about iOS.

    Main issue: I hate, hate, hate the fact there's no app drawer. I hate having every single app on a home screen by itself or in a folder somewhere. I know I can search for them, but there's no easy way to see all my apps, no way to put an app in multiple folders (maybe I want the Camera app in a "Photography" folder and a "Freq Used" one, say), no way to put the icons anywhere but next in line, top-to-bottom, left-to-right, on a given screen. No gaps allowed! This is quite honestly the single biggest reason I can't go back. I just... I can't stand it for long. It's so much more of a pain than an app drawer.

    I also can't stand being treated like a child and not being able to change things I take for granted in Android (which app opens something, launchers, etc.).

    I dislike the app settings being so disjoint from the apps... except when it's sometimes in the apps, and sometimes there and in the Settings panel. I dislike needing to open Settings to switch WiFi and other things I can more quickly get to on Android. I dislike having to click the Home button constantly.

    I miss having a back button that works uniformly well... and is always there.

    Fortunately, in a companion device, these are less of a big deal. But I'd go nuts if it were my only device.

    (6) There are still things I prefer about iOS.

    Apps look better. They just do. They typically run better. There is more selection in most areas. Not a lot more, and nothing crippling, and just as much junk, but... there's more higher quality stuff, by at least some margin. Most apps release first on iOS and maybe only on iOS. Oh, and the Camera app kicks the Nexus Camera app's ass. Hands down.

    And then there's Messages/FaceTime. It's everything Messenger, Hangouts, Allo, and Duo try to be, in half the number of apps. They're more refined and a joy to use. I say this as an Android fan: they're just plain better, period.

    (7) Some of what iOS does differently isn't so bad, just different.

    Example: widgets in iOS 10. I don't like that I can't put them anywhere I want, and I don't like that they're relatively primitive, but I do like that they're all in one place, easily scrollable. I'd like to see that in Android, but we won't... probably.

    Example: Siri vs OK Google. Siri isn't as good, really, but it does do some things in a nicely different way, and, unsurprisingly, it works a lot better than it did four years ago.

    (8) There are absolutely reasons I'll stick with Android as my primary device.

    I love some of what iOS offers. It's really, really nice. But... it's too constrained and hand-holdy for me. I want settings in the apps they set. I want control over what opens what. I want to put the damned icons where I want and not in order all the time. I want OK Google vs Siri because Siri is still not as good, at all. I want to be able to tinker. I like being able to write simple apps on the phone with AIDE. I like high-resolution devices. I love the fact that Google can update things without updating the entire OS (I got text-to-speech on text selections today, just because Google felt like adding that. I didn't need to wait a year for it). I like that my Nexus 6P doesn't need to work just like your Nexus 6P.


    People in this sub-forum tend to prefer Android. I know I do. But there's actually a lot to love about iOS as long as - in my opinion only - you don't need to use it in a primary device. Conversely, for those who prefer iOS, I'd argue there's a lot to love in Android that you could try on, say, a Nexus 5X without being forced to "defect". This isn't a novel idea, but I think it's one a lot of people prefer not to accept, because it's better to say that those who don't have your tastes must be ignorant or idiots. That's not the case, at least not usually.
  2. MRU Suspended


    Aug 23, 2005
    Great write up JSW. The SE really is a lovely little phone and given Apple's ever increasing prices on its other phones the SE represents great value for money.

    Re. iOS and Android, i actually find myself neither preferring either. For me there are elements of iOS that just work better in my work life such as the handoff and continuity features with my laptop and desktop.

    But I also have access to plenty of Androids and the myriad of variations with Android itself.

    I could live with either iOS or Android solely, but I wouldn't want to.

    I honestly don't know why people pigeon hole themselves. I realise money is a factor (not everyone can afford two phones or more) but the often irrational hatred that gets spat out towards either platform is something I'll never understand.

  3. jsw thread starter Moderator emeritus


    Mar 16, 2004
    Andover, MA
    It really, truly is a gem. Granted, it isn't really $399 (because 16GB just is not enough for most users for an OS upgrade when the time comes), but at $449 for 64GB and that camera... unbeatable. Rock-solid build, too.

    Have you tried Pushbullet? Works like a charm for me... although not with iOS. Works across Mac, PC, other Androids. Not saying Apple's solution isn't better, just saying there's one for Android that's reasonably close for free (or a pro subscription for very little money).

    Agreed. Of course, without getting too political, irrational hatred of anything different from one's own opinion isn't unique to phone platforms.... ;) Still, I think most haters would change their tune, at least a little, with some time with the latest and greatest the other side has.
  4. MRU Suspended


    Aug 23, 2005
    V. True. PRSI is a testament :D
  5. kasakka macrumors 68020

    Oct 25, 2008
    I would like to see that too. That said, I do find the SE, iPhone 4 and 5 too small nowadays. They are not as comfortable for browsing the web compared to just a bit larger phones. At the moment Sony is pretty much the only one that does a little bit smaller Android phones but they are no longer with flagship specs, which is a real shame. The absolute coolest small phone I've seen was many years back the Sharp Aquos XX Mini. I don't know how its battery life was but it was small and had a very high res display and a good design but was never sold outside Japan afaik.

    I really wish Android manufacturers would stop trying to cram as many similar phones to the 5.2-5.7" market and would stand out from the pack with something that has a 4.5-4.7" display in a small case.
  6. mi7chy macrumors 603


    Oct 24, 2014
    My last iPhone was also a 4S then went Note sized so it'll be tough going back to a restrictive 4" display. Phones are like computers so the smaller the display the less useful like netbooks vs laptops. For something that small they're usually relegated to duties that are not hampered by screen size like VOIP phones, remote for Chromecasts, Amazon Echo-like voice automation/assistant/lighting throughout the place, media/file server, light consumption, etc. Cheap good prepaid phones like the $25-40 Moto G1 have worked great for that purpose.

    As for apps, it depends on your workflow and what you run. As more of a true computer replacement Android has better app ecosystem with familiar workflow like using Solid Explorer file manager to move files wirelessly between phone and computer over WLAN, BubbleUPnP as ultra low power media server to serve movies/music/pictures to other devices, Wicap packet capture to troubleshoot connectivity issues, etc. Even basic consumption apps have better selection and quality like Relay reddit app, Chrome browser is solid and fast scrolling compared to Safari and Adguard works with all devices regardless if it's 32 or 64-bit unlike on iPhone. Continuity has been around longer and is better on Android with Google Voice/Hangouts being a true VOIP solution since it can receive calls to a standard 10-digit # over WIFI so the other end doesn't need an iPhone or a computer, add multiline capability to smartphone and can replace voice and fax landline with Obihai.

    At $160 I might consider a SE to tinker with iOS 10 but at $399 it would take a back seat to other things on my to-buy list like DJI Mavic Pro. The value and versatility just isn't there compared to other options.

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5 October 2, 2016