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From iOS to Android

My iPod Touch is almost 4 and it’s growing old. I decided to swap it for a cheap Android phone. How did it go? Below are my impressions.

But first, what is an iPod Touch? Well, for all practical purposes, iPod Touch is just an iPhone without the phone. Mine was the first 4th generation device, the first one with retina display. I always thought that the price difference between iPhone and iPod Touch was just too big, it’s just not worth paying the extra bucks for the phone functionality. Plus, it was back in the US where cell phone plans are crazy expensive. Instead, I was always carrying a cheap, old simple phone and using a prepaid SIM card. You have to understand that I don’t use a cell phone too much, on average maybe ~5 times a month. Data plans? I’ve always had WiFi at home and at work.

The iPod Touch has been a great companion for all these years, so to speak.

  • It has a great build quality (metal case, Gorilla glass screen).
  • The retina display is perfect as the human eye cannot distinguish separate pixels. Everything looks crisp and smooth.
  • Obviously it has all the goodness you can expect from a mobile device of this class, including useful apps for e-mail, news, calendar, and much more.
  • Obviously there are lots of games for it, useful esp. in a waiting room.
  • I could take it everywhere. My notes, my calendar, always at hand.
  • I could watch Netflix in bed. And it doubled as an alarm clock.

On the down side:

  • I had to carry a separate phone device, for emergencies.
  • I sometimes missed the smartphone function, esp. when away from home and without WiFi access – e.g. I couldn’t read news or use maps. Also, it has no GPS.
  • It started showing age. It was the last iPod Touch with a single core CPU. So some apps are really slow on it, including the Web browser.
  • Only 2 days on a single charge under light use. I do have to give it credit though: after almost four years I still don’t see any battery deterioration.

Finally, my old simple phone’s battery started giving up and I got fed up with my current prepaid plan. When looking for a new cell phone plan, I’ve determined that you can actually get a new phone for free with it.

Now, let me tell you about one of the Europe vs. the US differences. In the US, cell phones really are a rip off. For example, the cheapest plans go for $40 a month. Maybe you can find a $30 one these days if you are lucky. But in Europe, you can really afford it and you don’t regret it. For example, my new plan is £5 a month and it comes with a free Android phone. It is a two-year contract, but hey, it’s only £5 a month! Free family and home calls – my most popular call destinations. Over the course of two years, I expect to pay the same amount I paid for the iPod Touch – and in this price I have a phone service with data, useful occasionally and in emergency situations.

So how does the Android phone stand up against the iPod Touch?

This is the LG D160, also marketed as LG L40.

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way:

  • It came free with the plan, so no wonder the build quality is relatively worse. It’s made of plastic, both the body and the screen. I don’t expect any good durability.
  • While the LG’s physical screen dimensions are the same as in the iPod Touch, the resolution is lower, so the pixels are visible and thus anti-aliasing artifacts etc.
  • It’s Android, so I don’t expect to get any updates. I picked the only phone which had the latest Android K (4.4 KitKat). The list of the phones sold notably included much more expensive phones which still have Android G (2.3 Gingerbread). In contrast, my iPod Touch has received two major version updates over the years until Apple gave up on it. I’m still waiting for an Android phone manufacturer to provide updates for a couple of years.

Now, after a few days of use and despite of the above drawbacks, I am actually pleasantly surprised and expecting having a good time with this device, which may successfully replace the four-year old iPod Touch.

  • It has a dual core CPU, which outruns the old iPod Touch’s CPU in most cases. For instance, the browser is much snappier. Apps start quicker.
  • I installed most, if not all the important apps I used on the iPod Touch. Either the same or equivalent apps are available on Android. Many of the apps synced data without any problems and delivered the same experience out of the box, like the Calendar app, which obviously works with Google Calendar on all kinds of devices. The migration to Android was pain-free.
  • Just by trying something new – I learned new stuff. For example, the Stocard app provides support for loyalty/rewards/gift cards, so no need to carry them in the wallet anymore. (This applies to iOS too, I just found it so useful that I thought it’s worth mentioning.)
  • While the build quality is poorer and the screen has the same size, this LG phone actually feels better in my hand than the iPod Touch. And even though it’s probably a few grams heavier. I’m not sure yet whether it’s because it’s thicker or shorter, but it is somehow better to hold.
  • I don’t know why iOS feels better put together. Maybe it’s because the LG’s screen is pixelated and generally worse, while the iPod Touch’s retina display was smooth and crisp? Maybe it’s something about graphics design and fonts? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting used to.
  • Maybe this goes back to the CPU speed, but the LG’s home screen scroll quality parallels that of iPod Touch’s. The scrolling on many Android phone’s I’ve seen in the past used to be choppy, but on this one it is smooth.
  • The drop down control center draggable from the top on Android is much better than equivalent functionality on iOS. For example turning data, WiFi, etc. on/off is super easy.
  • I miss notifications on the lock screen like on iOS, where I didn’t have to unlock the device to see the notifications.
  • The keyboard and typing were actually better on iOS. Keys were slightly bigger and clearer, the key indicator when pressing keys was better visible. Also switching between alpha/numeric/symbols is slower on Android. I could type faster on iOS. Aside from the fact that typing is something you want to avoid on pocket devices like these.
  • I haven’t used the built-in GPS much, but it seems to work. It may come handy one day. iPod Touch didn’t have it.
  • I don’t care too much about the quality of the built-in camera, because there is no way a cheap lens and sensor like this can parallel those of aDSLR. But a review wouldn’t be any good if it didn’t mention the camera. So below are the photos taken by the iPod Touch 4 and theLGD160. These photos were taken at the same time, so the lighting conditions were identical and the scene is the same as well. Judge it yourself.
    • iPod Touch 4:iPod Touch 4
    • LG D160:LG-D160

Although I am hoping I could replace it with a device of a better build quality at some point, I think I will get a good run out of the LG D160. I would certainly recommend it to a friend who had an old iPod Touch.

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