I hope you like not-proofed long-form articles, but here is the TL;DR if you don’t: Google hasn’t fixed obvious and easily-solved issues with both Android's software and the Nexus hardware., but the company has worked on implementing new features faster than Apple has. But the problem is that while these newer features are certainly useful, the core of Android needs to be fixed to improve the overall everyday experience, which is more important. After all, new features can't be fully appreciated if the software they are based on is not fully optimized and well-developed. There do not seem to be good reasons why Google has not made progress on this. _________ There’s a growing sentiment that Apple has increasingly ignored the fundamental usability of its software and desktop/laptop hardware. This view has an overwhelming amount of evidence behind it—new iOS announcements focus on features that seem funny in the short term rather than those that fundamentally change the user experience (e.g. big smilies versus multi-touch gestures). Hardware for all Macs are one to three years old, and major advances, such as screens with high PPI, are rarely seen anymore. In fact, it seems that Apple isn’t even trying to keep up with the competition sometimes. And that’s why I switched to Android a month ago. When the Nexus 6P became one of the few redeeming sale items during the generally underwhelming Amazon Prime Day, I purchased it when Amazon gave me the assurance that there would be no restocking fee. (I saved the email as proof in case the rep was mistaken) When I opened the well-designed “green” (or so they say) box and held the 6P in my hand for the first time, I was extremely pleased that the build quality was excellent much like every iPhone I’ve had since the 4. I popped my iPhone’s Verizon SIM card into the Nexus and I was off to the races. My honeymoon phase lasted one day. I’m well-integrated with Google’s services. I use Gmail, Google Calendars, Google Apps for a work project, and I recently started a 3 month trial of Play Music. Google applications set a high bar on the iPhone—they are all well-designed, they run smoothly and without serious bugs, and most importantly, they have features that are new, ingenious, useful, and not found in Apple stock apps. Let me stress this point. Apple’s stock apps are close to my heart. At their core, they have an excellent balance of form and function, and their integration with the stock apps on OS X (or macOS, a naming scheme I’m a fan of) is unrivaled. But they are outdated in a lot of regards. Their cloud integration, and iCloud overall, isn’t great—Mail still doesn't push anything well compared to Gmail or any EAS (Exchange) services. And Mail don’t have snooze swiping, one of the best productivity features I’ve seen. None of the Apple apps have extensive proactive features like Google’s Inbox app has, despite Apple’s insistence that iOS 9 focused on proactivity. iCloud Drive’s integration and flexibility is absolutely crippled compared to Google Drive. I can go on, as I’m sure many other other users can too. CarPlay is less functional than Android Auto as well—Apple is still haunted by the loss of Google Maps here, and it doesn't allow for as many third party apps for no discernible reason (not having Spotify is a major negative). I’m not sure what the problem here is. Maybe it is the ongoing patent war, but Apple’s cash reserves should be able to get around those issues. As the old Chinese saying goes, if you can’t achieve something through effort, achieve it with cash. Or maybe that was a Harvard daddy’s boy who said that. But I digress. Apple needs to step up its game in this regard. Google has shown its ability to do so. For example, when the company couldn’t put a fingerprint scanner on the home button on the front of the phone, it ingeniously put it on the back of the phone where you hold the phone. And when Apple released the second generation of the scanners (the ones that were accurate enough to actually be useful), Google put one on its phone fast. Apple still has trouble quickly integrating features the competition introduces, even the extremely simple ones that don’t require Steve Job’s obsession with making them perfect before release. But Android, even on Google’s flagship phone, fails to achieve a simple task as well—refining the core, everyday features that make a phone a pleasure to use. This failure is what caused me to return my Nexus and to use my just-replaced iPhone, which I had yet to sell. What are these important core features? The first is smoothness. Google’s latest phone can’t operate the latest version of its own operating system at a smooth frame rate. This problem is frustrating—it interferes with every aspect of efficiency when I use the phone with my fast, but gigantic, fingers. I know that, compared to others my age and younger, have faster fingers than I do. A central example is the lag involved with camera use. Catching a “forever” moment with people or cats (destined for upvotes) are the most common kind of photos taken with phones. And they depend more on speed than a few extra nano-whatevers in the sensor or CPU. And the iPhone 6S truly excelled here. Next is the the difficulty of mirroring other incredibly useful OS features that the iPhone nails. Google touts Android’s ability to download apps to solve this issue, but the truth is it can only do this partially, and it can take a lot of time if you want more than that. For example, I can’t find an application that lets me swipe to go both back and forward in a reliable and fluid manner. This gesture is a central feature, and not having it significantly reduced my ability to use my phone efficiently. Basically, I want something that works out of the box. From my experience, you have to spend a lot of time augmenting Android well enough to even partially match many core features that make the iPhone such a joy to use. In many cases, even if you spend a week working on this, you won’t be able to get it right. I came to this conclusion because I tried to do it. I consider myself to be above average when it comes to technological proficiency, and my quintile and up are a priori smaller than the majority (see, I’m smart, I write in Latin!). Maybe I didn’t look hard enough for a good app, but I shouldn't have to. Maybe everything I ever dreamed of works well if I utilize developer mode, but I don’t want to spend my free time doing that. I would rather spend that time writing lengthy articles where I bitch about the Nexus 6P. But in all seriousness, this situation demonstrates another substantial weakness of Android. Does Android have an app store and OS that allows for software augmentation that beats iOS by a long shot? Yes, of course it does. Swipe Keyboard is an example of how good this feature can be compared to iOS. But can be is where Android’s greatest weakness lies. Many features can be great, but they aren’t, and I can’t come up with any good reasons why. So the weakness with the patent excuse goes both ways. Apple likes to sue even the small companies, and it didn’t take to court the makers of this app and many others that directly copy Apple’s patented features—despite them having hundreds of reviews on the Play Store, which probably represent a small minority of users of the app. Let’s move on to the final issue, which is hardware-related. You might be asking me how can criticize Android devices based on a single one! Well, I have a Tab S2 or something (I still can’t figure out Samsung’s convoluted naming scheme for its tablets), and I’m aware, as most of you are, of the limitations of third party Android devices compared to Google phones. The first limitation is the completely unnecessary OS wrapper, which restricts the Android’s stock apps and features, which are better designed and more capable. The next limitation of Android on third party devices is the failure to update in a timely manner. Taking a year (or more) to install OS updates with important security fixes and design upgrades means the device is always a year behind (cough Apple please update my Macbook Pro). Flexibility with hardware and up-to-date operating systems are not mutually exclusive benefits, as Microsoft has demonstrated. Yes, I know that the desktop market is different in many regards, but I don’t believe that is the case here. Surely two companies with combined assets the size of South Korea’s GNP (according to my hyperbole, but you get the point) could have figured this out. I have observed that these are widespread, if not universal, problems with Android devices. If there are some phones that do not have the problems of unnecessary and badly-designed wrappers and the failures to update promptly, I am doubtful they have mastered the basic, extremely good (but not perfect) design of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. Again, I can’t judge every single one of the many Android phones out there, but from what I’ve read in many reviews and from what phones I have tried in many stores, my comments apply to the vast majority of them. Let’s finally talk about the Nexus 6P. It is a beautiful phone that feels as expensive as the iPhones since number four, yet it somehow costs around $300 less than an unlocked iPhone of a similar calibre. But a lot of the hardware’s advantages are nothing more than tech spec boosters that you really won’t notice. No one can really notice the difference between the touted AMOLED screen and the iPhone’s LED-whatever screen. I’ll eat my hat if the differences between cameras stand up to a randomized controlled trial in which people are told the less advanced camera sensor is actually the better one. Please see the footnote about this paragraph before you write an angry comment about it. Then you can write one. Now, the 6P has some really great design features, like the aforementioned fingerprint scanner. But it also has some really serious flaws—the kind of flaws that should have not made it through the first litter of usability lab rats. There are a few, but for the sake of anyone who made it this far into this article, I’ll just note the biggest one—the physical buttons are placed next to where my hand places pressure on the phone when I use it. So I press them accidentally nearly every time I use it. Google has great engineers, judging by the competition at MIT to get hired by the company. How this was missed, I don't know. Apple makes engineering mistakes all of the time, and they are annoying. But this problem makes the phone really, really hard to use because it affects every second of use. I can’t disable to power button, and I need buttons to easily silence the phone or to adjust the volume of the ringer. This is an example of Google’s disregard for improvement of the everyday use environment. All of the issues with Android I discussed took Apple some time to resolve (or invent/plagiarize/buy), but how Google, the creator of Android, failed to fix them, is beyond me. Google closely worked with Huawei to make what was essentially its own phone that runs the latest version of Google’s own software. And it couldn't fix them. Reviewers identified many software and hardware flaws with Apple’s devices, and the company largely revised its designs in accordance with those criticisms—yet Google didn’t fix them. Google has the largest (sometimes) market cap in the United States, and it couldn't fix them. This is why I’m returning my 6P and going back to my 6S—at least until Android and its phones are no longer built on a dated, cracked foundation. To surpass the excellence of Apple’s time-tested phones and operating system, Google needs to fix the problems of the past while still pressing forward into the future.♢ _________ Footnote: I think one of the most valid criticisms of tech reviews is that they weigh this spec stuff too much in their reviews (hey, they have to cater to their audience of power users to get revenue like any other journalists). And that’s a reason I wrote this ridiculously long article, and I am truly impressed if you got this far into it. There are plenty of problems with Apple superfans—I’m one of them, so I would know—but a glaring problem with most Android device reviews is that they don't prioritize about what the vast majority of users care about. Those users care about price and they care about day-to-day usability. Yeah, Jony Ive does convince them that they care about those extra sensor nano-whatevers, but anyone who knows the industry’s history knows that marketing only goes so far when it comes to long-term success/profits—you have to get at what most consumers truly want. And yes, Apple has way too many of these too, hence the deserved ridiculing of Jony Ive using his accent to sound authoritative when he tells us that each iteration of the iPhone is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The incredible irony of this statement combined with the equally incredible marketing success of it is a core component of the thesis that humanity is not terribly intelligent, even when controls for income and education are in place.