Which one is better? The iPhone? Or the Samsung S21 Ultra?
Are you are currently using an iPhone and wondering if Android is better, or wondering if moving from iPhone to the Samsung S21 Ultra is an upgrade or a downgrade?
First up hi, my name is Pete Matheson and in my last video I actually picked up the Google Pixel 4a and compared it against my iPhone 11 Pro Max - where I came across some interesting things. Go watch this one if you're interested in that after you've subscribed of course ;)
The one thing I couldn't really touch in that whole video was hardware because you can't compare a flagship £1,500 iPhone to a circa £350 Android phone.
Well, now I've had my hands on the S21 Ultra - we can indeed, get more specific.
What we have is the Flagship, at least when it comes to Samsungs range of Android phones. This thing is the S21 Ultra 5G, but I didn't want to just test the S21 Ultra - no.
I wanted to try and commit, fully, to the Android world for as long as I could, to give this phone a real try. So - I also, bought a Samsung Galaxy Watch3 PLUS the Wireless Charger Trio.
I thought that I should have received some free earbuds when buying these, but apparently, I misread it, or maybe they pulled the offer between order and delivery?
I have literally, put my iPhone and Apple watch away for 4 weeks we're up to now - and I have plenty to say about this phone and android in general.
A bit of context first. I have been an iPhone user since the original iPhone. It has basically been a whole decade where I've used every apple device under the sun. Every iPhone, every watch, Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, Mac Mini, iMac, the lot!
But not the iPhone 12! Because there comes a time when you start to wonder - Is the grass any greener on the other side?
First off - let's start with the pros before we get into what I feel are the Cons, in my opinion (sorry apple fanboys and sorry android fanboys) - because there ARE some things that I absolutely LOVE and hate about this phone.
If you stick around until the end, I'll tell you if I'm going to be switching permanently, and also while you're reading, let us know what you think of the whole Apple vs Android debate, particularly if you're using, or considering the S21. What are your thoughts?
THE GALAXY WATCH
So - The good things!
First of all - starting off at the Galaxy Watch. I actually REALLY like this. I'm not sure why I hear quite a lot of bad things online about them.
It took minutes to set up, not HOURS like Apple. Have you ever tried to unpair and re-pair your watch on Apple? My God. It feels like a decade whilst you're waiting for it to do its thing.
You can also install watch updates without being forced to connect it to a charger, unlike the Apple Watch.
You can use music services like Spotify directly on the watch whilst you're out for a run, so you're not being forced to buy Apple Music. LOVE that.
A really simple and neat feature, when you pop either the watch or the phone down to charge - is that it will tell you how long it estimates until you are fully charged.
Simple things Apple. Simple things.
I also found the automatic workout system on this watch way better than the Apple Watch.
I was playing roller hockey outside with my son and the watch automatically recorded that as a workout, I've even been on outdoor walks where the watch has detected that I'm walking, and recorded that as a workout!
For me, that's quite a big feature - since here in the UK we have private health insurance called Vitality. If you work out regularly, it knocks money off your plan each year and gives you access to discounts.
With this watch, it's picked up more 'workouts' whereas on Apple I wouldn't really think me just having fun with my boy playing hockey would have counted. Though I have read a few articles which say the Apple watch is more accurate when it comes to tracking fitness once you have started a workout.
THE SAMSUNG GALAXY S21
Getting back to the phone now - something I do really love is that you can enable notification animations that light up the edge of the display, and you can customise these notifications massively. Right down to the colour and thickness of the lines as well as the animation.
I decided to go with using the colour of the app which was notifying - which is really neat as when you get say, a Whatsapp message - the edge of the phone lights up green, so you can glance over and just know it's probably a Whatsapp message.
Speaking of hardware with that screen, the hardware is really, really great.
It's a great size compared to the iPhone which now just feels too wide. It has good build quality, the screen is really, really great and with that always-on display too it just makes it so much better. I also found the cameras to be great and the zoom - just wow! Gets a little stalkery at times, but damn that's good.
Apps like YouTube can play a video, you can then leave the YouTube app whilst the video still plays, floating on top, and head into other apps. All whilst still being able to see, pause and control the video. You can also brush it away to the side of the screen whilst it's not visible - and here's a kicker, you don't need to pay for YouTube premium to do that. Even though I do actually have it right now because it came free with the phone.
With iPhone, you can get videos to play in the background BUT you must pay for premium, AND it plays in the background. You can't see the actual video.
Speaking of coming free with the phone, something unheard of in Apple world, but with Samsung specifically, when I ordered the phone it was already discounted, then if I bought a charger, that was discounted, watch too! Discounted earbuds? Err, meant to be free but I think just discounted?
There are so many good deals to be had with Android. Over on iPhone world? Deal? What deal? We gave you emojis! What more could you want?!
Android just wins the game when it comes to customisation.
You can customise the look and theme, the icons, and there is a tonne of widgets that you can use on your home screen, far more than Apple has. You can decide how many rows or columns to squeeze as many or as few icons onto your home screens as you like. Lots of this comes with different launchers, which is basically the skin that your phone runs. But interestingly enough, I've met quite a few android owners who have used Android for years, even in the IT space, who don't even know what a launcher is!
Google Pay was simple to set up - I actually got caught short sitting in a drive-through and realised I had no means of paying. But I was able to add Google Pay and get access to my cards really quickly, so I had no issues there. I finally did get a chance to play with using Google Home as the voice assistant - and errr, mixed results. But I also had those same mixed results with Siri.
Voice is obviously still developing and supposedly getting better with time. So far I've found the Amazon assistant, I won't speak her name or I'll just get a tonne of comments of 'you woke her up!', but the Amazon one whose name we shan't speak, seems to be in my experience the best and most accurate.
Enough of the good stuff Pete - Tell me about the bad, what makes this phone a pile of crap? Why wouldn't I buy an Android phone? (trigger warning) Android phones are awful! Nobody should buy one of these!
Let's roll a few of these off.
A minor annoyance for me was no quick and easy access to the torch, which I use daily when I'm hunting around the house at 1am after playing some call of duty, trying not to wake the wife or kids. You CAN 'fix' this, by installing an app that lets you customise the Bixby button BUT with one massive caveat. In that, the phone has to be unlocked for it to work.
So rather than my iPhone, which I just pick up, tap, and hold the torch button, and there we go, with the S21, unlock it, fumble around to then double press the button, and then if the phone locks, you can't switch it off unless you go through that process again.
Minor detail for some, but for a feature I use often - kinda annoying. Maybe there's a fix? Let me know if there is.
Speaking of which, the second one I struggled with was unlocking the phone. Face unlock didn't always work, and most of the time I found myself just resting my finger on the glass to make sure it always unlocked, but then I'd never get my finger in the right spot, which then again means fumbling around to get it to unlock. That will probably disappear over time though, as I'm well aware that I've had Apple world drilled into my head for the last decade.
I definitely miss a physical mute button to quickly flip it to silent, which makes it really easy to switch on for meetings or video calls.
I find the screenshots shortcut awkward to use - by pressing 2 buttons on the right of the screen because there are none on the left. Instead of with the iPhone you just basically grip the phone with 2 fingers and you can take a screenshot.
For the keyboard, there was an annoyance, when on iPhone you can just tap and hold the space to then get basically a mouse where you can scroll around the text freely. On Android, it scrolls forward or back 1 character at a time rather than being able to move anywhere. But you can probably fix that somehow.
I found the key link to my Tesla Model 3 really unreliable. The number of times I would have to get the phone of out my pocket and load up the Tesla app for it to wake up so then I could unlock my car - got really annoying. I never had a single issue with my iPhone. Just walk up to the car, phone in pocket, and it unlocks. Always.
This now brings me on to my final, biggest complaint about the S21... Notifications.
Notifications are fu...
I don't know whether it's me, or something I've done. I didn't have this on the cheaper Google Pixel and I've not found many reports of issues online, though I have found some - which range from tweaking a few settings, to factory resetting the phone.
I get a lot of notifications. My email and social media apps are crazy, every single day. I customise these to limit the number of notifications, so I know that when I do get a notification, it's something I might actually want to see.
Enter Android, or rather I guess, enter the S21. Out of the box, it wouldn't update the little badge icons to tell me when I had notifications or remove them when I had read them.
I went into all the settings, I've even applied a few updates to make sure it wasn't a bug in the OS. Nada. Exactly the same.
Then I thought I would try a new launcher! For those who don't know what a launcher is - it's basically a theme, or skin for your phone. It changes the look and feel. For example, I believe the Google Pixel runs stock android, whereas these Samsung phones run a Samsung version of Android.
First I went for Nova Launcher - which, from my android friends, is apparently the best and definitely one of the most popular launchers available.
BUT, that didn't properly work on the S21. For me on Nova launcher, I got no notifications at all, and I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that it's not officially compatible with the S21. So yeah, nope.
Eventually, I landed on, of all, things, using the Microsoft Launcher.
I chose this because actually, it mirrored some of the features I was used to with my iPhone. Things like swiping down to quickly get to the search bar and searching for whatever app I needed.
But even with the Microsoft launcher, I'll get notifications that won't clear after I've been into the app.
That drives me nuts because when I look at my phone and there are notifications, I'm the kind of guy who needs to clear them. Any little red number thing means I have something still to respond to.
That, for me - is pretty essential and can be really frustrating, because it means I'm picking up my phone to respond to something when I don't need to - again, personal opinion. But something as simple as notifications not working? Come on!
Again, this seemed to be kind of unique to me so take that one with a pinch of salt.
Also speaking of notifications, and I know this is kind of a self-inflicted pain because whilst I switched to Android for my phone and watch, I'm still using Mac OSX as my daily driver.
Being in the Apple ecosystem, If I swiped away a notification on my watch, it would disappear on my phone, which would disappear on my mac.
With Android and the S21, you of course don't get this. So each time I came to sit down at my desk, I still had a flood of notifications to sift through.
Then we come to the universal copy and paste discussions. I thought this would have been a big issue for me to get over, but in all honesty, It wasn't. Frustrating at times, yes - and I do use the copy and paste mostly for phone numbers. Copy a number on my Mac, paste it onto my phone. But it's easily worked around, and you can download specific apps to mimic this for Android, but they're not as seamless as Apple's ecosystem, because - of course, it's an ecosystem.
SO WHAT DO I THINK OF ANDROID?
Without dragging this post on - and for those of you interested in switching from iPhone to Android, do I think Android is great?
Do I think Android is bad?
Do I think iPhone is better?
Do I think Android is better?
I love so much about the S21 Ultra, and I am enjoying all of the freedom that Android gives you - so I guess the question is, would I switch from my iPhone 11 Pro Max, to the S21 Ultra?
No. Personally I wouldn't - and I know I'll get hammered in the comments for "Hey we all know this apple fanboy was never going to switch!"
But hear me out.
- The notifications are just, broken. For me, that's a deal-breaker
- The next iPhone is just around the corner and I still have around 6 months left of warranty on this phone.
Android, is and CAN BE really good.
I just need to find the right phone that doesn't have these glitchy issues with notifications. The rest of those issues that I discussed, will probably fade over time as I'm very self-aware of my deep conditioning of Apple over the last decade.
But I'm now at the perfect time to see what Apple brings out with their iPhone 12 S or 13, or whatever they bring out next, and see if this year really will be the year when I make the switch, permanently, from iPhone to Android.