The Android Golden Age – Why Now is the Time to Switch

Joey Mason

Apple. This name is the first to pop into most people’s minds when they think about modern phones. They are popular, fast, well programmed, well supported, and grossly expensive. iPhone users are perfectly happy to keep paying hefty prices because there simply isn’t anything else like IOS. It’s very simple to use, and works seamlessly with other Apple devices. Many of their users have been “sucked in” after using iTunes before any other notable music platform was available. Most people “back in the day” that had already converted from CD players to iTunes just bought iPhones because they were the only thing compatible. Apple has always made it near impossible to switch away from using their products, but now is the time to try.

For those such as myself who reject Apple’s devices in favor of something more versatile, open-ended and less expensive, our mobile options have always been shaky at best. HTC, LG and Samsung phones have been our best bet for the last three years. They showed off the best Andriod had to offer, but most were also physically enormous, full of manufacturer and carrier bloatware, and hard on the wallet.

Motorola emerged through these as the most promising company for providing a solid phone. I own their original Moto X from two years ago, and it counteracts almost all of these stereotypes. It’s the same size as an iPhone 5 (with a bigger screen), and never went for more than $400. However, it is still riddled with useless bloatware from Motorola and Sprint and Android KitKat (4.4) is nothing impressive.

Within the last six months, a myriad of new, impressive, and affordable Android phones have been released to the public. The Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6, Samsung’s latest creations, are large and powerful, but expensive. The LG G4 and HTC One M9 are even more promising, a tad smaller and cheaper. Motorola’s new Moto X Pure edition (called Moto X Style internationally for some reason) seems to meet these halfway, with all-around great features starting at $400. Motorola also released the Moto G, the best low budget Android around; going for just $180. However, the most exciting new releases are Google’s newest in their line of Nexus phones.

In the past, Google’s Nexus phones have not been up to par with other Android options. They were meant for developers; meant to show off the newest, most cutting-edge version of Android. However, Google skimped out on other features that were not necessary for that purpose. They attempted to change that when they released the LG made Nexus 5 and Motorola made Nexus 6 last year. Unfortunately, the promising features of these phones were covered up and bogged down by some devastating flaws. The Nexus 5 was a decent budget phone at the time, but the battery life and camera were very disappointing. The Nexus 6, on the other hand, was physically gargantuan, one of the largest mainstream smartphones ever made. Otherwise It boasted impressive features and specs, but was absurdly expensive.

Google has clearly learned from their mistakes, and it shows in the new Nexus 5X and 6P models released earlier this month. The Nexus 5X, made by LG, is impressive for its price, starting at just $379 for the 16 GB model. It presents an impressive 12 megapixel rear facing camera, and 5 megapixel front facing “selfie” camera. Inside is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, an Adreno 418 GPU and 2GB of RAM, and outside a 1920×1080 LCD display. The phone has a full plastic body and feels extremely light. It does have a few minor processing jitters and the battery is below average, but it’s a solid phone.

The Nexus 6P is Google’s true flagship phone for this year, and is considered by many to be the best Android device ever released. Made by Chinese manufacturer Huawei, it’s more expensive than the 5X but reasonably priced, starting at $499 for 32 GB of storage. It’s large, with a sprawling 5.7 inch display compared to the 5X’s 5.2. The screen is extremely sharp and vibrant; no surprise considering the Quad-HD AMOLED 2560×1440 display (compare to the iPhone 6S Plus’ 1920×1080 LCD display). It shares the 12 megapixel rear camera with the 5X, but for this phone Google bumped up the “selfie” camera to 8. The internal specs are also superior; with a more powerful Snapdragon 810 processor, Adreno 430 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. The battery life is also superior to that of the 5X.  

Despite being made by different manufacturers, the Nexus 5X and 6P share several main features. The first is a lightening fast fingerprint scanner. Unlike Apple, Google decided to place the scanner on the back of the phone. Since the scanner will unlock the phone from sleep mode, one can place their finger on the back while taking it out of their pocket, and by the time they are looking at the screen, the phone is on and unlocked. It’s convenient for that reason, but annoying when the phone is lying face-up on a table. Both phones also use the brand new USB Type-C charger. It’s reversible, charges extremely fast, and will be the standard for all phones in around two years. As of right now however, very few exist, meaning you won’t be able to use other people’s chargers if you forget yours. It’s recommended that everyone buy an extra with their Nexus phone until they are more common.

Lastly, the the new Nexus phones are the first to ship with Android Marshmallow (6.0), the newest and best Android system available. Marshmallow features many minor improvements to Google’s previous OS, but Google has really pushed for one big addition: Google Now On Tap. Now On Tap is a feature that will scan your screen when the home button is held down for about a second. Ideally, it will detect the subject of text on the screen and provide you with useful information. For example, if you were to activate Now On Tap while looking at Olive Garden’s web page, it would provide you with information such as their phone number, locations, social media and reviews. Unfortunately the feature seems like it was rushed out by Google too early; it’s surprisingly inconsistent. Despite its flaws, Android Marshmallow is hands down the best Android system the world has ever seen.

The new line of bloatware-free “pure Google” Nexus phones, combined with the power and smoothness of Android Marshmallow make right now the perfect time to switch from Apple to Android. For anyone who has been sucked in by iTunes as mentioned earlier, programs have begun springing up all over the web that allow you to move iTunes music to Google Play. Most are third party, but Google itself has released a program called Music Manager. Using this you can sign into a Google account and upload music files from your computer (including those in iTunes) right to Play Music. Switching will still be difficult, requiring you to manually reinstall apps and re-enter contacts. For this reason I suspect most Apple users aren’t about to give Android even a second glance. Regardless, I encourage everyone to look into what Google has to offer; and to my fellow Android fans: rejoice! The Golden Age is upon us (hopefully)!