6 things you'll miss if you switch from iOS to Android

From iCloud photo sharing to the cursor's tiny magnifying glass, some of iOS's smallest touches are easy to overlook until they're gone.

6 things you'll miss if you switch from iOS to Android
Credit: Ben Patterson

So I finally did it—I made the switch from iOS to Android, and I’m gleefully doing things that were never possible on my iPhone, from pinning contacts to the home screen and swiping notifications any which way, to picking a new SMS app and unlocking my phone with my face. All in all, I’m a happy camper.

But I’d be lying if I said there was nothing I missed about iOS. Indeed, there are a bunch of tiny touches on my old iPhone that I never appreciated until they were gone, like Safari’s easy-on-the-eyes Reader Mode and being able to scoot the top of the tall screen down within reach. Some of these features you can replace if you make the switch; others, though, you’ll have to do without.

Reader Mode in Safari

If you’re browsing a webpage on your iPhone or iPad that’s designed for desktop or otherwise cluttered with junk, Safari offers a clever trick: Reader Mode, which strips away everything but headlines, text and pictures—in other words, the bare essentials of the page. You can even change the font or switch to a dark mode for nighttime reading.

Reader Mode in Safari Ben Patterson

Chrome for Android still lacks Safari’s on-demand Reader mode.

Chrome for Android, however, lacks an on-demand reader mode. Instead, Chrome occasionally offers to reformat desktop webpages for easier mobile viewing, but there’s no way to turn on the mode manually (or at least, not without a little hacking on your part) and even if it does come on, you can’t change the font or background color.

The solution: Using Android’s Share button, you can send a webpage to an offline reader app like Instapaper or Pocket, both of which can reformat dense web articles and even let you flip pages like an ebook. If that sounds too clunky, you could always switch to a browser like Firefox, which has an on-demand reader mode complete with adjustable fonts and a dark mode.

iOS’s Reachability feature

When Apple first announced its new jumbo-size iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, it came up with an elegant solution to the problem of screens that are too tall for the average finger: Reachability, a feature that makes the top of the iOS interface sink to about the middle of the screen whenever you give the Home key a light double-tap.

iOS’s Reachability feature Ben Patterson

Until we all grow longer fingers, Android could really do with its own version of iOS’s Reachability feature.

I used to curse Reachability whenever I triggered it by accident. Now that I’ve switched to Android, though, I’m ruefully aware of how much I miss Reachability, especially whenever my thumb can’t quite reach a button at the top of my Nexus 5X’s towering display.

The solution: If you’ve got one, I’m all ears.

Super-smooth scrolling

I’ve used and reviewed a lot of Android phones in my time—some cheap, some top-of-the-line, some powerful, and some not so much. One thing I’ve noticed about all of them, however, is that the scrolling, particularly on webpages, isn’t quite right.

Super-smooth scrolling Ben Patterson

Scrolling on Android menus and webpages might not feel as silky-smooth to former iOS users. 

Perhaps the big brains at Apple really managed to nail the sensation of scrolling on the iPhone, or maybe Android’s scrolling animations only seem odd to me because I’m so used to iOS.

Either way, long-time iPhone users who switch to Android may feel like the webpages they’re flicking are stuck in the mud, sailing away too quickly, or otherwise defying the laws of physics—or at least, physics as iOS has trained us to expect it. Personally, I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but for now, Android scrolling still feels distractingly clunky.

The solution: Patience and time, I’m guessing.

The cursor’s magnifying glass

Few of Apple’s latest iOS features have impressed me in the way that, say, Nougat’s multitasking tricks have, but one of the iPhone’s original text-entry tools was positively ingenious: the little magnifying glass that appears when you tap and hold the cursor.

The cursor’s magnifying glass Ben Patterson

I never realized how much I’d miss the cursor’s magnifying glass in iOS until it was gone.

By zooming in on a particular area of text, the tiny magnifying glass lets you see exactly where you’re placing the cursor, and it also solves the problem of your fingertip blocking the view.

On Android, you must do your best to grab the little handle just below the cursor, and dragging the cursor with the handle is a herky-jerky experience, at best.

The solution: Again, practice makes perfect. While there’s no substitute for iOS’s magnifying glass, Android takes the cake with its far more precise text-selection tool, which puts iOS’s infuriatingly unpredictable text selector to shame.

Tapping a date in an email to add a calendar event

I actually used to enjoy scheduling meetings, delivery windows, and other appointments on my iPhone because it was so easy. Just tap a date and time in the body of an email, and iOS will create a new calendar appointment with the date and time already filled in. (iOS used to auto-complete the name of the event using the subject line of the message, but that feature mysteriously disappeared in an update.)

Tapping a date in an email to add a calendar event Ben Patterson

You can’t create calendar events in Android by tapping a date in an email, but there is at least one clever alternative.

But while Android can be pretty smart when it comes to scanning your email—the Inbox app, for example, will automatically track any flights you’ve scheduled, or let you know when your Amazon order has shipped—tapping a date in a message to put it in the calendar gets you nowhere.

The solution: Happily, I’ve got one for you. Tap and hold the Home button, and Android’s Now on Tap feature will scan an email message (or anything on the screen) for names it can look up, numbers to dial, and—wait for it—events it can schedule in the calendar. Problem solved.

iCloud Photo Sharing

I’m not a huge fan of the revamped Photos app for iOS (just when I was getting used to Moments, here come Memories), but I’m an avid user of iCloud photo sharing, a feature that lets you create shared photo albums that friends and family can contribute to, “like,” or comment on.

iCloud Photo Sharing Ben Patterson

Turn your back on iOS and you’ll be left in the cold when it comes to shared iCloud photo albums.

For example, we have a years-old album stuffed with photos of our four-year-old, perfect for quickly sharing snapshots of our growing girl with her far-flung grandma. Whenever we post new pictures or add comments, every member of our “Big-Girl Claire” group gets an iOS notification.

If you switch to Android, however, you’ll be banished from iCloud photo sharing, save for a few severely limited options (or using the Photos app on a Mac). And while the Google Photos app has its own version of shared albums, good luck getting grandma to make the switch.

The solution: You can publish a shared iCloud photo album on the web by opening the album on your iPhone or iPad, tapping the People tab at the bottom of the screen, and then toggling on the Public Website option. Once that’s done, all you need is the link to view the shared iCloud album using Chrome or another Android browser, but you won’t be able to comment or upload snapshots of your own, nor is there an easy way to get an alert whenever new photos are added.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Related:
Shop Tech Products at Amazon
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.