David Heinemeier Hansson

February 25, 2024

Switching to Android was easy

In addition to trying out Windows for a week, I also switched my main phone number to Android recently. And that turned out to be far easier. Dangerously easy, you might say, if you were in Apple’s shoes. But it’s all down to how deep you’re mired in the platform services soup.

I used to be all-in on the Apple software story. Apple Mail, Apple Calendar, Apple Notes, Apple Photos, iMessage, Apple Just-About-Everything. It’s really hard to switch from iPhone to Android when that’s the case. But it’s surprisingly easy to make that not the case, and then switching becomes trivial.

For me, HEY delivered two easy outs on the key apps I use on a phone: Email + Calendar. With the HEY combo now packing both, there was literally zero lock-in on that front hopping from an iPhone 15 Pro to a Samsung S24+. (No wonder Apple is so keen to infuse friction into this kind of mobility by forcing customers to be stuck through subscriptions bought via in-app payments that won’t easily transfer!).

After that, I had to transfer a few remaining iMessage conversations to WhatsApp and Signal. That turned out to be much easier than I thought too. Partly because most of the people I talk to on a regular basis are either international travelers or live in Europe, so WhatsApp is already their default. I had actually been the weirdo using iMessage with a bunch of people who preferred WhatsApp!

After that, I realized that all the major social apps and utilities I use simply have Android versions that are as good as the iOS counterparts. I kinda knew that, but living with the phone as my primary really hammered it home. It really doesn’t matter whether you run X or TikTok or Instagram or YouTube on iPhone or Android. You won’t be able to tell the difference in most cases.

I was pleasantly surprised by Android Auto as well. It’s actually nicer than CarPlay! I find that it connects to the cars I have quicker, the music starts playing sooner, the integration with Signal and WhatsApp is nicer, Spotify looks better, and Google understands my voice commands more often than Siri.

And of course there’s the added bonus that my Samsung will let me play Fortnite with the kids. You have to install the apk file directly from Epic’s web page, but compared to how it used to be, the scare warnings and hoops Google make you hop through have been reduced to almost nothing. And Fortnite runs amazing on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip.

The switch also made me cancel the Apple One bundle that I still had. The kids never really liked any of the games on offer with Apple Arcade, I never found any shows worth the time on Apple+, and I always did prefer Spotify’s playlists and UI to Apple Music (even though it’s annoying we still don’t have lossless in 2024!!).

Which has left me with the one Apple service that I’m finding it the hardest to quit: Apple Photos. And I’m thinking it’s really just because I have to jump to Google Photos. Export the 150GB of photos, import it over there, and get it done. Then find a different way to share photos with family still on iOS somehow. But I wish there was a non-Google version that was as good as either Apple Photos or Google Photos. Maybe I should also give Dropbox another look for photo management!

But that was it? All the old pet peeves I had about Android has been resolved: Scroll acceleration is now great. Font rendering is now very good (I wish Microsoft would poach some font people from Android or macOS!). And, finally, FINALLY, the Snapdragon chips have caught up enough that it just isn’t a meaningful difference (200+ on Speedometer 2.1 is Good Enough).

The Samsung hardware is also excellent. With the S24+, you get a 6.7” phone that weighs just 196g. That’s basically the same as the 6.1” iPhone 15 Pro, and a lot lighter than the bigger iPhone. It feels great in the hand. The screen gets significantly brighter than the iPhone outside (2600 vs 2000 nits). And these days, Samsung’s software is very unobtrusive. I didn’t even bother reaching for a custom launcher. It Was Fine!

What the whole thing has shown me more than anything is that computing freedom requires that you don't put all your eggs in one basket. That’s how you get stuck with a bunch of rotten eggs, if the basket suddenly falls apart. And Apple has been falling apart for me in terms of trustworthiness, stewardship, and just overall likability over the past few years.

Is Google some perfect alternative? Absolutely not! But I’m not switching from Apple to Google as much as I’m switching from Apple to a constellation of strong but distinct alternatives. Samsung, Meta, Google, Amazon. A little from here, a little from there.

Tech is better when power is distributed between multiple, competing companies. Living under the absolute rule of a single king is absolutely awful. Even if that king still does make very nice phones and very nice computers!

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.