Reflecting on the Apple and Google ecosystem.

A couple of weeks ago my Pixel 4 XL arrived and I was ‘umming’ and ‘arring’ about giving it a go given that I was pretty much entrenched into the Apple/iCloud ecosystem as a matter of choice rather than by necessity. My original plan was to sell it via TradeMe or pass it along to my mum whose phone is a bit on the old side (3 years old – keeping in mind it is a very low end phone, a Nokia 5) but I was enticed by a new gadget to see what it was like. As noted on my prior post I talked about all the positive points (keeping in mind that the blog post was written over several days) in terms of not only the phone (link) but also the software and the cloud services (link) but now it is time to talk about some of the negatives and why I am going back to using my iPhone and Apple TV (iPhone 11 Pro Max and Apple TV 4K).

Before going any further I have to prefix this by pointing out that yes, I could download a third party application but for me it is about the ‘out of the box experience’ rather than ‘can you fix up the shortcomings with third party apps’.

The first problem is YouTube Music – my music listening isn’t very advanced other than, “can I up the bass, does it play music and do the basics correctly” and if it does that then the app has done the job. In the case of the YouTube Music app the problem is that for large libraries it appears that the music is re-indexed every time resulting in having to wait for the music library to load where as on iOS you open the Music app and it appears instantaneously. The second problem is that if you have an album with more than 10 tracks then you end up with a situation of 1,10,11,12 etc rather than it being numerical order – the same issue appears whether one views ones music library by artist, album, genre etc. I’m unsure whether it impacts any other format supported but the music I have is encoded with AAC (some call m4a) which should be supported flawlessly out of the box given that it is the industry standard these days.

The third problem is that for some reason either the ‘Android File Transfer’ or Android doesn’t support long file names resulting in me having to rename all my files as to avoid ‘Android File Transfer’ throwing a wobbly when trying to copy files – I would have thought at the very least that Google would include the ability to truncate or substitute characters if it were incompatible with the MTP protocol or the file system on the Android device itself but whatever the case maybe it should be something that is handled transparently to the end user rather than facing a weird error message followed by the ‘Android File Transfer’ going belly up. Can it be done? Well, that is how Apple copied music from ones computer to ones iPod (the old classic variety) – in the process it would be renamed down to a file conforming to the 8.3 file formatting (8 character name followed by a three character extension).

Chrome is the default browser on Android but unlike the desktop version of their browser, which includes an extension framework with a vibrant third party ecosystem, Chrome for Android however doesn’t have that extension framework. For someone like me, I use content blocking which is particularly when viewing websites which can become laden with obnoxious ads along with autoplaying videos which end up using valuable mobile data and at times can slow down the page responsiveness.

Google Pay, although is very fast and reliable, I do find it rather concerning the fact that one can make a payment without unlocking the phone. When I presented my phone the first time I thought I might have accidentally unlocked it but the next time I made sure I left it unlocked – went through again. I then went online to see whether there is a way to opt in to ask for a PIN number but it appears that there isn’t an option. It is rather concerning that if one loses one phone that before one can cancel ones card that a lot of damage could be done in that window.

The lack of integration with macOS – sure, I can send or receive messages from within the web messages interface but there is the lack of answering/making phone calls which is one of major reasons one stays within the Apple ecosystem. Could Google provide an integrated experience? Sure, a web based WebRTC front end which works with a bundled version of Avahi or use the one bundled in with the operating system to locate an mini WebRTC server on the phone which integrates in with the phone application – the WebRTC in other words would act as the protocol between the computer and phone over the local network with the website being the front end which utilises the built in support for WebRTC which comes as part of the browser itself.

The move back to the Apple ecosystem wasn’t difficult in the end – updating all my online accounts back to my iCloud email address, doing a clean install of macOS 10.15.3 to remove any remnants of Chrome having been installed on the computer, Everything is all linked up together with iCloud at the centre. When it comes to the iPhone 11 Pro Max I’ll write up a report in the next week or two but so far I’m very happy with it – it is slightly thicker and heavier but at the same time it feels likes more of a premium device. The camera is awesome, iOS is rock solid with iOS installed right off the bat (I did a DFU restore which did a clean install of iOS 13.3.1) but details will follow in a future blog post.

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