Welcome back to the website, my name is Pete, and we are now 4 posts and 4 phones deep into this whole 'Lifelong iPhone User switches to Android' series.
To set the scene if this is the first time you've come across my blog - I've used an iPhone, and the whole Apple ecosystem pretty much since the iPhone was launched, and in fact, it was the iPhone that really got me into using a Mac, which led to me getting an iPad, then a watch, and now I basically have a problem...
But, something that has piqued my interest recently, is looking at joining the Android side, because, for the first time in a decade, I can't currently see any reason to upgrade my iPhone 11 Pro Max to the iPhone 12. Maybe not even the 13.
Therefore I wanted to take a look around to see what life was like on the other side of the fence! In this post, I'm going to be taking a look at the Pixel 5 and talking about all of my likes and dislikes. If you're thinking of making the switch too, hopefully, this will help you decide.
Let me know what phone you are currently using, and maybe if you switched from iPhone to Android, which phone did you go with and how have you found it? I am genuinely interested to know - otherwise, let us begin with all of the good stuff that I do actually like about the Google Pixel 5.
Firstly, and this is kind of a given coming from the Apple ecosystem, but I really liked the simple setup that takes you through enabling the always-on display, adding your accounts, and setting up some basic apps and the Work and Personal profiles. A good start to experiencing life post-Apple.
Next, and I said it before on my Pixel 4a review so I'll say it again with the Pixel 5. The size of this phone is incredibly compact, and that's definitely a good thing. It's really, really comfortable to use even with 1 hand, and going from the iPhone 11 Pro Max with a screen of 6.46 inches to the Pixel 5's 6-inch screen, I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything size-wise.
That's what she said. But the size is perfect and the aluminum case is plenty grippy enough to not really worry about dropping it, unlike the iPhone's much slippier surfaces. It really does make the iPhone 11 Pro Max feel like a phablet when picking it up again. Like, really giant.
That's what she said!
Next and in terms of general usage - It feels really snappy. Definitely an improvement on the 4a, which I don't have here to compare side by side, but I really do think that there's a combination here. Both the power, given that the 4a used a Snapdragon 730G chip and the Pixel 5 has a Snapdragon 765G, but I also feel that maybe they've sped up the animation speeds in a recent android update so it doesn't take so long to swipe into menus? Whatever they've done, it's a great result.
This is a feature that I think was missed from the Pixel 4a but has been really great to see on the Pixel 5 and is the same as the iPhone 11 Pro Max. However, it's a shame to see that like Apple, Google isn't willing to cover water damage under warranty, which if you ask me, is just ridiculous. Surely if it's certified to be waterproof, the warranty should cover that? Anyway...
Over to the pixel buds briefly, and as you may have seen in my last post - comparing these to both the Airpods and the Airpods pros, they are REALLY comfortable. I wish this was something that Apple would do. Something as simple as a rubber clip that sits in your ear just makes them both comfortable AND keeps them in your ear.
Out of interest, for anyone reading who has the Airpods - do they actually stay in your ears?
I don't know if it's just the shape of my ears, but the Airpod Pros just don't stay in. It doesn't matter which size ear tips I use they just need me to constantly push them in. So when I'm at the gym or on a phone or video call, I have to repeatedly push them back in again. With the pixel buds, I don't have to touch them even once. They stay exactly where they should.
[Perfectly balanced, as everything should be]
Battery life is good! No huge complaints. I manage to get through full days with enough gas in the tank, so to speak, but if you are a very heavy user then you might want to charge in the middle of the day.
Let's talk iMessage. This is one of the biggest complaints about switching to Android but I have good news!
Firstly, Apple recently introduced Facetime for Android, so that's pretty cool.
Secondly, I've been testing out a new App called Beeper. Invented by the guy who started Pebble, the first smartwatch. This app FINALLY seems to be the ONE app that I need for all of my messaging. It brings together everything from Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Signal, Twitter, Instagram, Slack, Discord, and, importantly, iMessage. It does need to be installed elsewhere, which is fine because I can have it running on my Mac Mini. But it means that I can properly get iMessage across any device, including Android.
It's a bit rough around the edges, and yeah, admittedly it's something that not everyone will have access to just yet as it's super limited in terms of sign-ups for the beeper. But it'll be coming soon to the general public. For me, iMessage is still very widely used amongst a lot of family and friends, so it's nice this time to not have to lose these chats whilst awkwardly getting people to use something else.
Finally the Camera - and I actually think that the Camera might possibly be better than the iPhone 11 Pro Max! This is weird to say because there's almost this subconscious thought now of bigger is better, especially with the 11 Pro Max being the size that it is. The same goes for the cameras I use to shoot my videos. So I was genuinely surprised at the image quality that came out from the really compact Google Pixel 5.
It's got similar cameras to the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Ultrawide, 1x and 2x.
Good stuff over and done with, now onto the negatives, because as with anything good, there's always some bad stuff.
If I have made any mistakes here, then please go easy on me, feel free to correct me in the comments, and tell me how I fix it - because this is genuinely me finding my way through a whole new operating system. There's plenty of you who have used Android for the last decade and know it inside out, and I've no doubt that you'll be able to roast me because I don't fully get it - I'm working on it ok!
THE BAD STUFF - SLOW
One of the first things I do when getting a new phone is install all of the apps that I need.
On the iPhone, it's as simple as restoring a backup from iCloud, but on Android, I'm yet to find a way to reliably back up and restore across handsets. I know that not all android phones are the same, but I kinda hoped there would be a way to backup from a Pixel 4a and restore to a OnePlus 9 and so forth.
Again, a bit of a niche issue for me as I'm swapping phones so often - but I guess as a brand new Android user switching from iPhone, the one you'll probably hit is when you fire up the App Store and go through the 'Not on this iPhone' section where you can just tap away to install everything.
The good news is that it's the same on the Pixel! But the bad thing is that Installing the Apps caused the phone to noticeably slow down. Whilst it was installing, the phone lagged whilst using it. That's, not really a good start. Though I will say that was the only time that I noticed it slow down, which is a big plus.
Back to another thing from the first setup, is that it had SO many updates to install out of the box. I had to reboot it far too many times to count whilst it downloaded both major and minor updates, but I just kept going into the settings menu to find yet another update was waiting to be installed.
When comparing this to my experience using an iPhone, that's a little frustrating. Phones typically come with the latest updates installed, and if not, it's normally a one-time update and you're done. However, even a 10MB update took an absolute age, mostly on 'Optimising Apps' which it did after every single update.
Touching on the Pixelbuds again, whilst they're really comfortable and really good - the range on the Pixel Buds is awful. More on that in my full review which will either be out now or coming soon. With my Airpods, I can pretty much walk around anywhere in my whole house and they'll work. With the Pixel Earbuds, as soon as I leave the room with the device that they're connected to, the audio starts dropping out. This really sucks, because actually I really, really love how comfortable these things are.
I would happily switch away from my AirPods to these things if they just had 2 features; the Range, and the transparency settings that the AirPods have, which I didn't really appreciate before until I started using the Pixel Buds.
Back to the Pixel 5 itself, and on to my favourite topic again - notifications. Question to the audience. On the home screen, underneath the bigger notifications, it just gives me a row of icons. Is there any way to group these together?
Sometimes I'll get say, 5 messages on slack, and all I'll have is a row of slack icons. When it would make more sense to just have one icon to let me know I have messages waiting for me on slack. Every time I look at my phone, I just have an endless row of notifications and constantly have to swipe them away. Really annoying!
IMAGES ON SOCIAL MEDIA
This is something that I didn't pick up on in my previous reviews. The image quality when using apps like Instagram is really, really potato. There's a whole load of information and threads online as to why, but in summary, and if I understand this right, when using the built-in camera to take a photo with the photo app, it works as we all think. The camera takes a high-quality photo, saves it locally - done.
However, when you are in any third-party app like Instagram, then take a photo, the software is actually taking a screenshot of the photo that's on your screen, rather than directly accessing the camera. This explains exactly why I'm seeing such poor quality and is a bit bizarre to me on how this doesn't 'just work'.
But on the other hand - I can understand it. Because Apple has to deal with just a tiny variation in phone hardware, which they control.
Google on the other hand, who makes the Android software, has to write something that works with all forms of hardware. Different cameras, different screen sizes, so it's nearly impossible for them to do this. This means it's also impossible for the App makers themselves to access the camera hardware directly when taking photos within the app.
Or at least that's my understanding from my research about how this all works.
Pretty poor overall honestly, so if you are big on social media, and specifically creating content within the apps like Instagram, TikTok, and such - then actually, an iPhone might be better for you. Legitimately, with a real technical and factual reason as to why instead of a personal preference...
Lastly, using the Google Pixel 5 for the last thing that anybody uses a phone for nowadays - phone calls.
The Pixel 5 has an under-screen speaker, which, doesn't sound as good as an actual normal speaker. I'm not sure exactly why they've done this, perhaps to save money, or keep it waterproof, but the iPhone is waterproof and still has the speaker grill.
I just found phone calls to be muffled, I couldn't really hear people clearly, and whilst it was usable, I didn't really enjoy taking a phone call unless I was using my earbuds.
Taking this on from just phone calls, I don't know if it's just me but does anyone else lie down and kinda prop the phone up on their chest to flick through social media? Because on the Pixel 5 most of the audio comes from the speakers at the bottom. This means when you rest the phone on something, it muffles all of the audio and makes it sound really quiet. That's something to be aware of if you aren't used to those types of issues with the iPhone.
With all of that said, would I recommend the Pixel 5?
I don't think I would. Given that the Pixel 4a is pretty much the same phone, and a fair bit cheaper. For those looking for a more budget phone that still has good performance, then I think I'd stick to the 4a for now.
I'm definitely not going to be switching to the Pixel 5. Why?
Because Google is rumoured to be announcing their Pixel 6 very soon, with rumours that they are going to bring a true flagship phone with features to compete against the like of the other flagships like Samsungs S21 and the OnePlus 9 Pro.
It will probably be more expensive than the current Pixel 5 but it does mean that perhaps the 5 will be due for a price drop.
I am really interested to see what a flagship Pixel phone will look like because the likes of the OnePlus 9 Pro and the S21 were really, really interesting phones to me.
In the meantime, I'm going to continue checking out other phones, so let me know in the comments which phones you'd like to see. I am struggling to get hold of quite a few of those most in demand. Xiaomi Mi11 Ultra and the Poco F3 are both coming soon so make sure you're subscribed to my YouTube channel to see reviews for those.
Otherwise, thank you for reading, and I'll see you on the next adventure!