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Flirting with Android: iOS and the Apple Hook

First Emily embarked on a trial separation from her iPhone. And I decided to chime in with my own tale of temptation and loyalty to my smartphone. Since she’s actually playing the field, Emily’s story might be a bit juicier than my boring nuclear family life: She had a few first dates with an Android-powered Moto Atrix 4G before running into some communication problems involving Visual Voicemail without iOS.  Where will her tryst lead next?

But back to me. In Part One I explained why iPhone and iOS do it for me in ways that no other smartphone platform, Android or anything else, can quite achieve. The on-phone experience, personal as it is, is huge. And for me, right now at least, simpler is better, less is more, and skin-deep beauty actually goes a long way. But then there’s the ecosystem.

For better or worse, I’m well into the Apple ecosystem these days. This ecosystem of hardware, software and (to a small extent, in my case) content and services is perhaps a deeper hook into the smartphone fidelity-making part of my psyche than any impact of using the phone by itself. To go back to our flirting and cheating metaphor, it’s like remembering to think about your spouse and kids when faced with a sexy stranger smiling at you across a hotel bar: It’s not just about betraying the phone in my hand, it’s also about the impact cheating will have on the ecosystem faithfully waiting for me to return home.

Long before the first iPhone came out I was an Apple user. It probably started because my elementary school had two Apple IIes in the library, but when I was older and interested in digital video editing, Apple-based systems were the way to go. The consulting company I worked for out of college had a Mac-based Media 100 video editing system. The first home-based option within range of my credit card max was a Power Mac G4 tower (the first machine with Firewire) paired to a Sony miniDV camcorder. Yes, there are plenty of good PC-based video editing solutions available nowadays, but I still prefer Apple’s offerings.

So I’ve got a few Macs at home and in the office. Doesn’t mean I couldn’t sync an Android phone to them. But syncing an iPhone is easier. And then there’s the Apple TV in the living room. That’s become a really handy way to serve music to the stereo and display photos and videos on the big TV. And the newest Apple TV has a nice Netflix app, too. We watch a lot of Netflix in my house. Apple’s “Remote” app for iPhone is a handy way to remote control all of the media on the device and poke around Netflix for interesting stuff to watch Instantly.

Again, there are plenty of ways to control Apple TV without an iPhone (it comes with its own remote, after all), and plenty of ways to get media to the living room without an Apple product. Heck, there are even Android apps that control Apple TVs. But I’ve already got my house setup, and whatever limitations Apple imposes on file formats and such via iTunes, they’ve also made it very easy to convert media to work on OS X/iOS/Apple TV, and to wirelessly sync and share that media across our home network.

At the risk of saying “again” again, I know there are plenty of non-Apple solutions to the same problem, though the elegance of some of them is questionable, to say the least. But Apple hooked me with Firewire-based video editing and the current generation of iMovie and the Final Cut line has me hooked still. Add to that the fact that iPhone hooked me on an all-touch smartphone experience and has kept me hooked with iPhone 4’s stellar HD video capture and easy to use FaceTime video calling, and well, here I am: Interested in flirting with the other platforms, but too deeply invested in iOS to break up my happy home without really, reallygood reason.

I actually rarely buy anything from the iTunes store. I generally get my music from my existing library, from online services like Mog and Rdio, and from websites like Wolfgang’s Vault and YouTube/Vevo. When I do buy music it’s sometimes from iTunes but more often from eMusic when they offer their absurd “Please come back to us!” deals, which prompt me to sign up for a month, download a whole bunch of tracks for less than fifty cents each, and then re-cancel my membership.

Video? I already pay too much each month to Comcast and Netflix, so there’s no way I’m about to spend more on online video. And I’m not really all that into apps.

My use case is different from most Apple/iOS/iTunes fiends, I know. I actually use Apple hardware with non-Apple content, for the most part. Yes, I could easily shift over to non-Apple hardware that would make my ecosystem “freer,” giving me fewer DRM and file format restrictions and theoretical access to more online stuff I don’t have to pay for. But honestly, I’m fine with the level of access I currently have.

And I really think the Apple stuff is nicer to look at and easier to use than its competitors. I tried Google TV. I thought it was a disaster. I think it’s already gotten better and will continue to improve and may well be a compelling platform before the end of this year. But right now I don’t really want to surf the Web while watching TV on the same screen. Apple TV makes it easy enough to watch Netflix or YouTube in the living room or bedroom, and the iOS Remote app lets me search for uTube vids with a virtual QWERTY board from my phone. Good enough, and it works pretty well.

The ecosystem runs deep. And it works for me, at least for now. Maybe down the road a compelling reason to change smartphone platforms or laptop platforms or media streaming platforms will arise. And then we’ll have an Apple garage sale to fund the purchase of webOS or Android or WP7 compatible gear. Until then I’ll keep flirting with those platforms, and coming home to iOS and the ecosystem it’s woven across my home and office lives.


Noah Kravitz

Noah Kravitz mourned the day that Star Castle was replaced in the pizza parlour he frequented as a kid. The sadness ended when he saw an older kid...

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