Why I use a Mac computer, but an Android phone

When people see my MacBook, they assume that I have an iPhone. With Apple’s ecosystem so tightly integrated, why wouldn’t they?

However, I have used an Android smartphone since the launch of the HTC Desire in 2010 – and a MacBook laptop as my work machine since 2011.

While iPhones and non-Mac laptops are fine devices, I will never go back to Windows or Linux on my work PC, or switch to iPhone.

That’s not to say it hasn’t been tempting, but there are many small things which when added up, keep me coming back to Mac and Android.

Unix-like environment

As a technical writer who likes to get my hands dirty and do some coding, the fact that MacOS is based on Unix is a drawcard.

Yes, you could use a flavour of Linux on cheaper hardware, but then you trade the great Mac graphical interface with the ones available to Linux.

You can fight me in the comments, but deep down you know I’m right.

MacOS comes with Bash, and many of the tools those familiar with Linux would expect to have by default in their favourite distribution, including basics like “whois”, which aren’t installed in Windows by default.

It also has a version of Python pre-installed, and a Command-line Developer Tools package with software like Git and Perl bundled.

Windows has the option of a built-in Ubuntu virtual machine, but it can’t make up for a native Unix-like shell.

MacOS also comes with handy services built in, like a dictionary and thesaurus which is available across apps installed on the system.

This can be accessed using the “look up & data detector” gesture on the trackpad.

On the topic of Mac touchpads, they are the best in the business by a Karoo mile. This is less of a concern if you work at a desk and have a mouse plugged in – but if you’re mobile, a great trackpad is essential.

Users can also configure text replacements and automatic spelling correction across the Mac system, and although I prefer to disable autocorrect, I use the text replacement service to create system-wide macros.

When I type “a_blank” in any app where substitutions are enabled, it creates the HTML code for a link with its target set to “_blank” (which means it opens in a new tab).

From a hardware perspective, MacBooks provide consistent performance. Unless I’m doing something system-intensive or let my browser tab situation get out of control, I know that I’ll get close to a full working day’s life out of my battery.

The global standardisation of MacBook models also means you can get support anywhere in the world where Apple has a presence, whether directly or through third parties.

Deep Google integration

Apple’s excellent integration of the iOS and macOS ecosystems makes it attractive to use an iPhone when you’re on a Mac, and vice versa.

I couldn’t afford an iPhone when the modern smartphone first became a thing in South Africa around 2010, however, and my first purchase was the Android-based HTC Desire.

Back then a big factor was that paid apps were not available in the South African version of the Android Marketplace or App Store. However, Android is an open ecosystem, allowing you to easily side-load any apps that might not be available locally.

Nowadays this isn’t a concern, and there is also better parity between the launch pricing of new iPhones and top-of-the-range Android smartphones.

Switching after you have become invested in an ecosystem – over 8 years – is no less difficult.

Besides the fact that I like how Android works, I am firmly entrenched in the Google Apps ecosystem – from email and calendars, to its on-demand music subscription service.

The biggest practical consideration for switching to an iPhone, however, is WhatsApp.

WhatsApp uses the respective platforms’ cloud services to back up your messages, pictures, and videos, making it easy to switch to a new device – provided you remain in the same ecosystem.

You may also make manual backups of your WhatsApp messages, but these are not portable across Android and iOS. If I switch to iPhone, I’ll have to make peace with losing all my WhatsApp texts.

Feature-to-price compromise

In short, MacBooks and Android smartphones provide the best feature-to-price compromise for my needs.

My MacBook Pro offers good performance with a predictable battery life, an excellent screen and keyboard, a global support net when I need it, and the best trackpad in the business.

Android offers an open platform where sufficiently high-end devices more than hold their own against the equivalent iPhone. The cost of switching to iPhone in terms of time, lost data, and the price of replacing apps is also a major factor.

So don’t be surprised when you see a techie with a MacBook and Android smartphone at work.

This is an opinion piece.

Now read: I upgraded my Samsung Galaxy S8 to Android 8.0 and it’s like a new phone

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Why I use a Mac computer, but an Android phone