Sat. May 18th, 2024

I’m so deep in the Apple ecosystem that you can only see the top of my head, but the one Apple product I just can’t learn to love is its most popular—the iPhone.

I’m 99% Apple Now

Apple first got its claws into me with the second-generation iPad. It seemed like the perfect device for me, bringing together all the things I needed a computer to do together into one slim package with the bonus of all-day battery life. Since then, an iPad has been indispensable to my daily life, and for several years I didn’t bother owning a laptop at all, opting for a keyboard attachment instead. My M2 12.9-inch iPad Pro is my 7th iPad (unless I forgot one) and it’s better than ever. Honestly, it’s the one device I spend the most time on.

I bought my first Mac in 2019 thanks to a (very) short stint at 9to5Mac so that I could write about macOS. Then it turned out that macOS was so much more reliable as an operating system for serious work, that I stopped using Windows for anything serious at all. Today you’ll have to claw my M1 MacBook Air from my cold, dead fingers, and you can bet there are more Macs in my future.

Even the Apple TV has converted me. Tired of flaky Android TV boxes and unreliable smart TV apps, I used my iPad trade-in money to buy a third-generation Apple TV 4K on a whim. As with iPads and Macs, I think Apple might have a customer for life when it comes to streaming boxes.

Finally, while I have now finally decided that smartwatches are more trouble than they are worth on the whole, I can’t deny that Apple’s Watch product line is simply head and shoulders above anything else I’ve used. That’s after a string of Garmin, FitBit, and Samsung Galaxy watches, which all had one or another major flaw.

I’ve Tried the iPhone Twice

It’s that dalliance with Apple Watches that had me butting heads with iPhone. You see, while I was getting along more or less with my Galaxy Watch, my wife convinced me that I should try an Apple Watch, as she loves hers. That’s fine, but since Apple has decided that the Watch is strictly an iPhone accessory, I couldn’t use my iPad or Mac with it. She had an old iPhone 11 Pro lying around, so we could use that.

Unfortunately, it also turned out that you must have your SIM card in the actual iPhone to use it with the Apple Watch. So my idea of still using my Samsung S21 Ultra as my daily driver, while pairing my cellular Apple Watch with the iPhone, but using it in independent mode simply wouldn’t work.

Which meant I had to daily drive the 11 Pro until I could get my next phone upgrade. Suffice it to say that I absolutely hated that phone within a week of using it, but kept at it because I was in line to get an iPhone 14 Pro, which was surely going to solve the issues I had with the 11.

I picked up a 1TB iPhone 14 Pro, and sure enough, it was a much better phone, but Apple had addressed pretty much none of the things that made it impossible to get along with the device, and honestly, I don’t think they could, because most of it might be in the DNA of the iPhone itself.

My Phone Can’t Be This Locked Down

AI generated isometric pixel art representation of an apple iphone inside a walled garden
Sydney Louw Butler / How-To Geek / MidJourney

I need my iPad to be like a toaster or a TV. I don’t want to tinker with it, it just needs to work. My Mac is already just as open to software as a Windows or Linux machine. Though macOS might complain about software that’s not from the Mac App store or digitally signed, it will still begrudgingly let you install it.

Not so for the iPhone which, despite some legal moves to make it more open, is still the most walled of walled gardens. You can “jailbreak” your phone, of course, but that comes with its own set of headaches. It also didn’t help that (until recently) certain apps such as game emulators or torrent clients, which are totally legal, were not allowed in the app store.

This is perhaps the biggest reason I don’t vibe with iPhone—a lack of freedom. A phone doesn’t feel like an appliance to me, but closer to what I want from a personal computer, and right now the iPhone isn’t that.

The iPhone Form Factor Isn’t Great

Lock screen of the Apple iPhone 15
Corbin Davenport / How-To Geek

People often say that phones are all the same these days, but that’s far from the truth. Hold any two different phones in your hand and the exact shape, weight, materials, and balance will make them feel miles apart. It is this combination of factors that just sits wrong for me when it comes to the iPhone.

Honestly, even the latest iPhones feel almost archaic in their design. Despite aping the industrial language of the iPad Pros with the iPhone 14 and 15, it just doesn’t work for me. The absolutely flat screen, the prominent edges, and the awkward sizing for both the standard Max versions of these phones just don’t let you get comfortable. Despite being about as thick as any other comparable phone, subjectively, the iPhone feels too chunky to me. Compared to my favorite phones over the years—the Samsung S8, S21 Ultra, and S22 Ultra—the iPhone feels like it’s in the wrong decade.

I Just Don’t Like iPhone Photos (the Video Is Great)

For flagship phones in particular, photos matter. By all accounts, iPhones offer some of the best camera equipment and photos money can buy. However, smartphone photography is just as much about software post-processing as it is about the hardware, and I just can’t stand the look of iPhone photos. It’s quite hard to pin down why exactly, and this is clearly subjective, but iPhone photos feel a little soulless to me. Maybe the word is “overprocessed”, but I have no doubt that the photos from my S22 Ultra are no less processed, just differently.

Nonetheless, photos taken on iPhone do nothing for me. In particular I like taking macro photos as well as portrait photos, and while the macro camera mode on my iPhone 14 Pro was plenty capable, I just couldn’t get the same sorts of shots that my S21 Ultra or S22 Ultra can manage.

Why Is the Battery Life So Awful?

I can live with the esthetics and photos that aren’t to my taste, but going from having a day and a half of battery power on my S22 Ultra to a phone that barely ekes out a full day of normal use is not fun. I have zero battery anxiety with my Samsung phone, but felt it return with a vengeance with my last iPhone.

This is maddening to me, because in other categories such as tablets and laptops, Apple is on top of the pile for battery life without performance compromises, yet for some reason can’t achieve the same feat with the iPhone or, at least, don’t want to. Perhaps the average iPhone user isn’t bothered by having to charge their phone more than once a day if they actually decide to use it, but this is a major deal-breaker for me. Apple, just make the phone half a millimeter thicker and add some more battery! It already feels so chunky I doubt anyone will notice.

I’m Willing to Try Again

For the two-and-a-bit years I was a daily iPhone users I can say that there were glimmers of greatness. I definitely loved having all of my Apple devices seamlessly work together and there were use cases I had never considered before. I definitely miss that aspect of using the iPhone, which is a much better device as part of the Apple ecosystem than as a standalone phone.

So I’m not discounting that some future iteration of the iPhone won’t convert me, but Apple will have to go quite a bit off the safe script they’ve been following so far, and who knows if that will ever change?

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By John P.

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