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Physician perspective of switching from iPhone to Android, evaluating the hardware

Build Quality

Reading reviews of various android VS iPhone frequently comment on the poorer build quality of the various android manufacturers. While I can’t speak for other devices I’ve not tried, the Samsung Note 2 feels great, so please don’t let that turn you off.

Expandable Stuff

Many of the android options allow expandable memory through SD cards. Initially, I thought this meant I could pop in a 64gb card and go from the equivalent of a 16gb iPhone to an 80gb iPhone. Not quite. The cards aren’t, by default, used for storing apps etc. By a bit of tinkering that usually requires rooting the phone, (the equivalent of a jailbreak) you can effectively make it so, though I assume that the vast majority of readers here aren’t going to be heading down this path. In the default configuration you can store things like movies, pictures, music, books and the like to them.

You can also replace batteries in most of these devices. I’ve always managed to get through a day of work and iPhone use with at least 30% of the battery remaining. My phone would charge next to my bed with an alarm set for the morning. The Note 2 comes with a 3100mAh battery, and is a bit better in terms of battery life. For those that are on the road and can’t find a spare charger, this might be of use.

Personally, I can’t really think of any time that it has been an issue. Some of the current high end android phones don’t offer expansion slots or replaceable batteries, such as the Droid DNA and the Nexus 4.

The Downsides of the Size

This is quite a significant area, and one I hadn’t expected to matter so much. It’s been the single biggest detractor to the Note 2. The bulk of the reviews I read / watched made mention of this, though cited it as a relatively small factor in the pros and cons of this device. Having come from the iPhone, the Note 2 is unwieldy. I did not appreciate how often I would use the iPhone one handed. Playing music, changing podcasts on the way to work, and scrolling was now difficult, and required two hands.

Navigating apps while walking around in the ED and wards is again unwieldy, and often requires two hands. I know this sounds like a crazy notion, and will no doubt be outlawed in the future by workplace health and safety, but I often find myself carrying one thing in my right hand and reading my phone in the left. In all seriousness, I actually resorted to using my nose to select things on the screen quite often.

It’s difficult to describe how frustrated I was in my first few weeks of using the note 2 due to the screen size and the poor uptake of apps using the available real estate. The size is effectively a double edged sword, on one side it’s wonderful compared to the smaller options out there. However, it really can make it unwieldy in certain scenarios, and every time you load an app that isn’t making use of the sometimes clunky size, it amplifies the frustration.

What About the iPhone 5?

While reviewing the Note 2 I also managed to squeeze an iPhone 5 out of my poor credit card. I was having iOS withdrawals, not having some of my go-to apps available on Android (covered in the next article), and hoped that perhaps the slightly larger 5 screen would be the best of both worlds.

This was my first iOS experience without a jailbroken device for almost 3 years, and it’s not one I’m fond of. Again, I’ll cover this in more detail in the next post; however, suffice it to say that I found the experience stifling.

The larger screen size is minimal. I think that it would have been much more noticeable if they’d increased the horizontal dimensions as well as the vertical. Quite a few of the medical apps haven’t updated to be compatible, and you’re left with black boxes of dead space. Most noticeably for me was Epocrates.

I also found the relocation of the headphone jack puzzling. I could no longer use the iphone in my car holder. Holding it with the headphones in was clumsy, with the plug pushing into my palm. The new lightning dock also necessitates either buying new accessories, or converter plugs.

Although the phone is well made, after a week of use I didn’t think the upgrade was worth the $900 price tag, and went back to my still serviceable and jailbroken iPhone 4.

Concluding Points On Hardware

Firstly, there are significantly more android options with respect to hardware. Some of my frustrations with size of the note 2 would have been avoided with a slightly smaller option, such as the Nexus 4, Samsung Galaxy S3, or the Droid DNA. The size brings with it some significant benefits, as well as some negatives.

The iPhone 5 is really nice. All of the components are what you’d expect from a high end phone. It’s an incremental upgrade from the 4/4S, which is to be expected. For me, the upgrade wasn’t worth $900(AUD) from my old iPhone 4. However, I’m sure it would be for many people.

In the next article, I’ll try and go into detail on the software and ecosystem of both devices, which I feel is the single most important aspect of a smartphone in medical use. Please feel free to ask any questions you might have and if you want to know anything in particular.

In the meantime, I’ve curated a few good reviews and videos to demonstrate some of the possibilities.




iMedicalApps periodically features contributed articles from clinicians, researchers, and industry leaders with interesting perspectives to share.

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12 Responses to Physician perspective of switching from iPhone to Android, evaluating the hardware

  1. Pascal January 21, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    You briefly mention what I think this boils down to: size. If you don’t want to or can not afford a phone plus a (mini-)tablet, a phone with a ginormous screen is the best alternative you can get, but then you’re out of luck on the iOS platform.

    Just last week I experimentally switched to a Nexus 4, but even that phone is too big for me. I use my phone one-handed 95% of the time, but my medium-sized hands are too small for one-handed use of that phone without constantly switching the way I hold it. If I want to read or watch a movie I switch to my iPad anyway, so it’s not worth having such a huge phone as well. This actually made me appreciate the iPhone 5 even more, the screen is perfect for one-handed use and my kind of mobile usage, I am very glad they didn’t increase the width. Is reading on a 5.5″ screen better than on a 4″ screen? Yes, but it’s even better on an 9.7″ screen.

    What I’m saying is that if you can afford a 7-8″ tablet and a 4″ phone there is no need to fiddle with these huge phones. Call me elitist, that’s just my opinion. On the ward it’s no problem to carry the tablet, and when going sightseeing you don’t need a 5.5″ screen, just take your phone and leave the tablet.

    Looking forward to your OS comparison!

  2. palmdoc January 22, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    I agree with Pascal. I’d prefer a 4 inch phone and when the need for a bigger screen, a mid sized tablet like the iPad mini. No phablets for me!

  3. Wasim Alamgir January 22, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

    Also switched from an iphone 4S to galaxy note 2 and have gone back to iphone 5 because found the phone too big to handle with one hand on the ward. most important was the OS, once you have made a huge investment in ios ecosystem with the medical apps its difficult to go back and invest anew in android version of the same apps. Plus I use my phone and ipad to carry all my presentations on my phone and ipad and they are easily connected to the vga port of a projector to deliver presentations any where. Unfortunately this is still not possible on galaxy note 2

  4. Gabriel Zorron January 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    I loved your two posts. I have exactly the same question. I’m surely a tech addict but not necessarily an Apple or Android Maniac Lover. I’m the owner of a Samsung Galaxy Nexus (the one who was banned from selling in the U.S. for breaking apple patents) and I’m very pleased with it. But, as was previously mentioned by PalmDoc and Pascal and I’m very much in favor of ownig a 4” smartphone and a tablet (wichI prefer around 10”). So I’m looking for my tablet now.
    Thus I am in doubt, Ipad 4th Generation or Nexus 10?
      In fact, after studying a lot on the internet about both, got the final question: the Apple app store is really best for medical applications than Google Play? And that will continue in the future?

    • Iltifat Husain, MD January 26, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

      Correct, the Apple iOS store is better than Google Play at the moment for medical professionals. Our piece on the most innovative medical apps:
      shows how many of these apps are unavailable for Android. Right now the iOS store is preferential to developers because it’s preferential to medical professionals. I foresee this continuing for at least another year or so.

  5. BenT-RN January 26, 2013 at 7:30 am #

    while I am intrigued by your switch, fully encouraging you to choose the open source platform, I can’t argue with your assessments. I believe though it is a matter of development that needs fixing and not the actual realestate/size of the device.

    I have worked in a large hospital in eastern Washington (state) for the last 2 years and have carried a 7″ tablet for the majority of the time. I do realize this is slightly off topic, but it is roughly the same problem with a tablet as it is with a “gigantic” phone. Reading is wonderful with the whole page available, but one handed operation is out of the question. I believe more input to developers to place one handed (left or right) zones on the screen would go a long way to making these better. With a little pressure and patience, this is the way it will go as screen real estate increases (the note3 is said to have a 6.3″ screen in rumorville)(16cm for those across the big blue).

    The note2/3 is a fantastic piece of hardware and closer to what I am looking for, but the pen would have to work as well (or better) than on my old palm device (and paper) for me to make the final switch. The software will follow the hardware as the ipad really isn’t an “overgrown ipod touch” and the nexus 7 forced android developers to make their apps better.
    can’t wait to read the next installment.

  6. Dusty January 27, 2013 at 6:52 am #

    Like this article, I just switched from the iOS world back to the Android world. When I say back, I used to have a multiple Android devices and including a couple tablets in our family (which makes for cheap tablets for kids!). We have an iPad2 and also an ipod touch, so not unknown to the apple world. I tried the iPhone because of just that, iOS medical apps are usually superior to Android apps. This article nailed. It just wasn’t enough to stay over, I broke contract to switch over to the Note 2. Never had the note 2 until now but I was aware of all the possibilities of android. I love to have technology do what I want with it. I like the phone to be my scheduler, calendar, communication device, and reference guide. Kindle app works better on the note 2 and I have purchased many text books there. I love the switch specifically for the screen size. I spend 95% of phone time on the internet/reading books/looking up things/texting than calling. Something that I was surprised about iOS was if you wanted to load a file i.e. pdf on the phone you had to load it with a specific program through itunes so adobe and ibooks couldn’t open the same file. Or if someone sends an attachment presentation you can’t download it forever without going to your computer. There are thousands of other reasons, it’s really up to you but like this article states you can choose the type of phone you want with android. I agree with iPhone 5 all the extra accessories you have to buy alone would be annoying (with the new adapter). And the screen in longer not wider which is weird. I want to know what the Author ended up with and what he chose. He talked about going to his iPhone 4 again but did he get rid of the note? BTW kids love the stylus, another thing to keep them distracted!

  7. mick February 2, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    Hi guys and gals,

    Thanks for the comments, sorry for taking so long to get back. I’ve been stuck on flaky 3G tethered reception of late. Back on a decent connection now though.

    The size and minitablet issue is quite an interesting one. I’ve toyed with the ipad mini, and love the form factor. If they were able to squeeze a retina display and maintain battery life into it i’d have sold my ipad 3 straight away.

    As i’ve alluded to, i’ve got a “normal” sized ipad, as well as my phones. I also tend to prefer using my ipad for movies, large amounts of text reading etc as well. despite this, i’ve found myself using the note 2 a hell of a lot more, and the ipad a lot less. i think this comes down to having it on hand more often than the ipad. say in a hospital situation, i’ll have the note in my pocket, and the ipad in a locker / bag. whole lot of effort to go and get the ipad out versus the phone. in scenarios like this, i often appreciate the extra size.

    it’s big enough to be an ipad replacement in a pinch. the iphone, however, would be too small, and i’d go and begrudgingly get the larger sibling out.

    having an ipad mini would help negate some of this, as it’s somewhat pocketable, especially for you fancy americans with your swishing white coats.

    @ gabriel, regarding which tablet, i think answer is waaaaay easier. ipad. no question. hands down. without doubt. androids tablet optimised app availability is depressingly bad. horribly so. it’s similar to what the android phone app situation was like 2 years ago.

    it really is a great market to be looking for a new phone. so much choice these days. competition has really spoilt us for choice.

  8. Otto Umana, MD February 6, 2013 at 7:42 am #

    yes agree with you guys. I was due for an upgrade from my 1 phone so I bought the Galaxy note 2. It is a nightmare, all my iphone apps are like redundant, not to include my musical instruments. It crashed my PC when I tried to download softwares to be able to use the apps on the note 2. I dont think it is worth the trouble unless you have time for all the games. Will stick to the iphones and ipad.

  9. howie wine February 14, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    i love my note2. i love the size. i love carrying only one computer with me wherever i go. i love android openness and hate apple’s closed garden. i love choices without apple making them. every app i used on ios is available on android. i used to be an apple fanboy but they just dont come out with anything new…same old, same old. next big apple innovation will be a slightly different color white phone. great marketing but falling way behind in innovation.

  10. John April 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Agree with the post above regarding innovation. I’m super excited to see the new health / wellness lifestyle functionality Samsung is building into the new devices (S Health). Today I use a Fitbit pedometer and a iPhone > next month I am going to buy the new Galaxy S4 when available on Verizon. The new S4 device has a pedometer built in and will entirely replace the Fitbit I have to keep up with on a daily basis. This is compelling technology in my opinion and cant wait to see what else Samsung does with it’s new S Health platform with future devices and healthcare applications. Very intriguing Samsung…

  11. SleepyDoc June 19, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for this review!!!!!! I am an ER doc and thinking about switching from blackberry to Android. I actually always carry two devices with me, a blackberry and an iphone. Most recently I purchased a Blackberry Z10….and I am horrified by lack of medical apps, so much so that one month in I am switching to a Galaxy note 2. I can’t wait to get it. I am going to root it because, let us face it……medical apps are usually HUGE!!!!!! I cant seem to find a 32GB or 64GB samsung galaxy note 2. But I cant give up my iphone ecosystem as yet. But I am excited to try Android. So I am definitely enjoying your comparisons……especially the part about you carrying three devices… is FRUSTRATING trying to figure out which device best suits your needs.

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