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Tinker, Android, Why: Switching from iOS to Android, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my choice to switch from iOS to Android. In this post, I want to focus on the final reason for switching that I listed in that post:

I’m a geek and was lured by the customizability of Android. The great benefit of iOS is that it just works, and works pretty well. But Android has become a very attractive and stable platform in its own right, but adds to that the ability to customize nearly every aspect of the experience, down to swapping software keyboards and other core elements of the interface. It always frustrated me that I could use alternative apps on iOS, but could not reassign the default apps for many functions away from Apple’s apps. Android allows me to customize away—perhaps to a fault, as I’ve spent significant time just tinkering with the interface over the past few days.

After several weeks using Android, I still enjoy its customizability. I particular enjoy Android’s widgets, which are essentially mini-apps that bring information from apps to the phone’s home screen. You can access widgets at a glance, and usually open their full apps with a touch. You can see my current home screen in the image at the head of this post. When I wake my phone, I can immediately

  1. launch Google Now for a text or voice search (the bar at the top of the screen)
  2. check my phone’s battery power (the barcode)
  3. check the current local weather
  4. turn on the phone’s flash to use as a flashlight (the lighbulb)
  5. check the date and day of the week
  6. check the time
  7. change songs in Spotify
  8. launch my most used apps from the dock

By contrast, in iOS one can only rearrange app icons. I much prefer Android on this count.

However, the infinite customizability of Android can be a problem. I find that I spend more time than I should tinkering with my home screens. I know, of course, that any productivity gains I see from such tweaking aren’t likely to balance the time I spend fidgeting with the phone. Perhaps I’ll get bored of this constant tinkering soon and settle into a useable configuration. So I remain a bit unsure whether Android’s freedom is a boon or a liability.

If you’re an Android user, how do you manage the desire to constantly customize the phone’s interface? Tell us about your self-control tactics in the comments.

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