Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Big Switch

Like most people, I rely very heavily on my smartphone.  I use my phone for the obvious things, like phone calls and text messages and I ditched a landline in my house probably 7-8 years ago.  I use my phone for email, tracking food intake and exercise, news and sports updates, social media, work, and so much more.  I also use my phone for music, loading over 11,000 songs onto it so I have my entire collection at my fingertips at any given time (basically, every CD I have ever purchased is loaded onto iTunes, plus anything I have bought from iTunes or Amazon, and the vinyl albums that come with digital download codes, it works out to over 80GB of music), plus the dozen or so podcasts that I subscribe and listen to on a regular basis.  While I don't consider myself to be addicted to my phone, I can go hours at a time without messing with it and I am at peace in places where there isn't any cell coverage, a substantial part of my daily life is tied to my phone.  Clearly, choosing a quality phone is a priority when one will be using it so much.

My first smartphone many years ago was an HTC Evo Shift.  That was the one that had a full keyboard tucked into the back that you slid out.  I clearly remember "needing" to have that keyboard.  My previous phone prior the Evo Shift was a Kyocera that had that full keyboard and I wasn't ready yet to make the transition to the digital keyboard.  My wife also had the Evo, but she made the jump to the digital keyboard before me.  After a couple of years with the Evo Shift and the Android platform, I made the transition to the iPhone 4.  Over the past 6 years, I have gone from the iPhone 4, iPhone 5, and iPhone 6, thinking that I was going to be an iPhone guy for life.

Over the course of the past few months, I started considering switching over to the Google Pixel.  I had heard a lot of great things about it, plus since my life is so incredibly centered around Google apps, I figured it would make a lot of sense to use a device built by the same company whose products dictate my day to day business.  My hesitation came from my several years' relationship with Apple and the App Store, my iTunes account that is chock full of music (plus my apps, podcasts, videos, etc.), and my general familiarity and expertise in the iOS platform; learning the Android platform all over again did not sound too appealing.  Then the iPhone 8 and iPhone X came out, further twisting my thoughts further regarding a new phone.  Ultimately, my decision was to wait since my iPhone 6 was still in good shape and paid off.

Things change when capitalism takes over in late November.  Every company and corporation tries to lure people in to buy their stuff during the holiday season and cell phone companies are no different.  On Thanksgiving Day between the food and family, I perused the different stores deals on phones, finding that the Pixel 2 was going to be 50% off on Black Friday!  iPhones were also going to have deals, but more to the "buy it for full price, get an iPad for $99," which is still a great deal, but I wasn't interested in a $1000+ phone (I wanted at least the 128GB, if not the 256GB), plus dropping another $99 for the iPad, not to mention all of the accessories that you need to get when you buy a new device, such as car chargers, screen protectors, cases, and the like.  So it was back to the "what are the advantages and disadvantages of switching to the Pixel 2 and the Android platform?"  Ultimately, I decided that the pros outweighed the cons and the deal on the Pixel 2 was too good to let pass, so Friday afternoon, I sauntered into the Verizon store and made the switch from iPhone to Google.

My impression thus far is that I couldn't be happier!  There isn't anything about the iPhone that I am missing thus far, but there are many things regarding the Pixel 2 that I am loving in comparison to the iPhone.

I have to have my music! 
One of my biggest hangups was in regards to iTunes, something that is not available on the Android system.  I read several articles on how to transfer iTunes to Google Play, some of them sounding very easy, some of them sounding complicated.  When it was all said and done, I was able to download the Google Play Music Manager to my computer, let the manager search my computer, find everything in iTunes, and transfer it to Google Play.  As of this posting, the manager was still working on it.  I originally started the process on Saturday morning, leting it go for about 24 hours before a 12-hour stoppage on Sunday as I was traveling from Reno back home to Las Vegas. Overall, it's going to take about 3 full days before the process to be finished.  I expected it to take a long time, so I am not upset at all.  As Google Play is uploading from iTunes, the songs that have been uploaded are available on my phone.  On top of that, iTunes charged me $25 a year for iTunes match, essentially Apple's music cloud service for my library; Google Play is 100% free from what I have found thus far!  As for the Google Play app for podcasts, there are a lot of podcasts that I listen to that were not available on Google Play.  However, thanks to a suggestion by Ryan O'Donnell (another happy Pixel user), I downloaded Pocket Casts, a podcast manager that not only had everything that I listen to, but you can share podcasts easily with others, even up to a specific minute!  It did cost $3.99, but well worth the cost to not have to use the Google Play app, Stitcher, NPR One, or all of them.

Nice shot of the Wolf Pack rolling out the
Fremont Cannon after their 23-17 victory
over UNLV!
Photos and photo quality are alsor bright spspotsf the Pixel 2.  I used Google Photos on my iPhone, so every picture I took was backed up to Photos, but it was also in the Apple Photos app, taking up space on the phone's hard drive.  No such problem with the Pixel 2, as photos go directly to Google Photos and are not stored on the phone's hard drive.  On top of that, the photos that the Pixel 2 takes are stunning!  I always thought that the iPhone took great pictures, which it does, but the Pixel 2 takes phone photography to the next level!  Too often when taking photos in low light or taking action photos, the pictures come out blurry or in other ways not as good as what one would hope.  Every photo that I have taken with the Pixel 2 thus far has been crystal clear without any blur, even on the action shots.  I don't take a lot of photos, but with photos this good, I may start taking more!  And bonus features:  you can open the camera app with two clicks of the power button, switch to selfie mode by shaking the phone when the camera app is open, and because the photos go straight to Google Photos, that app will create some stylized, motion, and other cool pics on its own, or you can go into the app and create some amazing images yourself.

The beautiful Sierra Nevada while rolling down US 395, somewhere south of Mammoth Lakes

When I turned on the phone for the first time, I dreaded the thought of having to go through my old iPhone and find all of my apps in Google Play and download them individually.  Once again, I was blown away when all I had to do is plug my Pixel 2 into the iPhone, run a scan of it, and Google Play downloaded and installed the apps that I had on my iPhone as long as they were available in Google Play!  So far, out of well over 100 apps that my phone found, I have only had to download two apps that didn't make it through the scan.  Maybe it is because my iPhone was a couple of years old, but I find the apps to run more smoothly and download more quickly on the Pixel 2.  I also like that on my apps' notifications, you can perform actions a lot quicker without having to open the app.  Many apps like Twitter allow you to do so on the iPhone, but I don't recall seeing that option on Voxer, for example.  And then one of the greatest things I have discovered, and maybe it's available on iPhone and I didn't figure it out, but the split screen on the Pixel 2 that allows you to open two apps and VIEW THEM BOTH at the SAME TIME!  No more bouncing between apps when trying to work with multiple apps!

If you are considering a new phone, I cannot say enough good things about the Google Pixel 2.  I cannot knock iPhone, especially the iPhone 7, 8, X, and variations of each model; they are all high-quality devices.  But for the money, ease of use, and cool little tricks that the Pixel 2 can do, I am very happy with my decision to switch.

Until next time...