On moving from iOS to Android and finally owning a smartphone

For the past few years all my smart mobile activities happened on a 4th generation iPod Touch which is technically, not a smartphone. It has been a reliable companion and has served me well for 3 and a half years. And it chose the perfect moment to die, coinciding with the launch of a really good smartphone.

I had resisted buying a smartphone for quite some time because I didn’t trust myself with it. I am a compulsive consumer of information and spend, like many of you, most of my time plugged in to the internet. Often, I was absent from the moments that were passing me by and having another device to distract me was a scary thought. Now, I think I have become more mindful and more deliberate in the things I do and hopefully won’t repeat the bad habits of the past. Thus, I have recently purchased Xiaomi MI3 which looks like a great phone at an unbeatable price.

Our smartphones have more computation capacity than the computers that were used to send Apollo 11 to the moon, we might as well make good use of it. Here are some of the top apps I’ve been using on iOS and would recommend to you as well. Most of them are available on Android too. 

1. Reading
This has been my topmost activity on the iPod. Some of the apps that I use: Pocket, Readability, Next Draft (only on iOS). None of these require an internet connection once you sync the articles. I have also started using Audible to listen to audiobooks on my drive to work.

2. Music
A close second for the most popular use case of a smart device for me has been music. Apart from my own collection, I use 8tracks, Aupeo, Stereomood, Songza. But, all of these require an internet connection. If you are willing to pay 100 bucks a month, you can use Gaana to download almost unlimited music which can then work without an internet connection as well.

3. Finance
Excels and Google Spreadsheets aren’t fun and tracking monthly expenses can be difficult. Hence, I use Splitwise to split bills with roommates and friends. For tracking monthly expenses, I found Wally the best though it is only available on iOS.

4. Games
EA Sports’ FIFA has been my most played game. I enjoyed Infinity Blade 2 a lot though it is only available on iOS. Among car racing, Asphalt beats everyone else. Bad piggies is engaging and I find it more fun than Rovio’s other ubiquitous offering Angry Birds.

5. Messaging
You already are on top of this I believe. IMing is one of the most time consuming, distracting things on a smartphone. People have told me anecdotes of waking up in the middle of the night to check their WhatsApp. iPod doesn’t support WhatsApp so I used Kik and Messenger. But, now I am on WhatsApp and this is how one of my friends welcomed me: “You are fucked now”. I hope I am not.

6. To-Do Apps/Task Manager
Clear is simply the most beautiful to-do app out there. Its use of native iOS gestures is just brilliant. Sadly, it is not available on Android. Google keep is what I am going to use now. Evernote is another one that is my workhorse which I intend to continue using.

7. Fitness
Did you hear about the 7 minute workout thing that did the rounds of internet some time back? I found it pretty interesting and was using an app for it. If you run, using Runkeeper would be a good option though I’ve not used it personally.

8. Miscellaneous

Duolingo for learning languages. Dictionary: WordWeb and original edition of Webster’s. The breadth of Podcasts on iOS was amazing. HeyDay as an automatic journal. Guitar Tuner. 

Moving from iOS to Android is a big deal for any geek. The things that I am definitely going to miss is the experience. Apps made on iOS are simply better designed than their Android counterpart. I can quote you a bunch of examples - Uber, Pocket, Duolingo etc. These are apps which exist both on iOS and Android but the experience on iOS is way better. Then there are apps which exist solely on iOS and are incredibly designed leveraging full potential of the iOS platform.

Xiomi is known as the ‘Apple’ of China and I hope it lives up to its hype. The hardware is awesome albeit a 4.7 inch instead of a 5 inch screen would have been perfect for me. The software is a lot like Apple which is a very good thing. Overall, I am very pleased and don’t feel that it is my post-purchase rationalization. I’d recommend it. 

An Elegy To Storylane

This morning, I woke up to this email from Storylane’s CEO Jonathan Gheller which said:

Dear Mayank,

I am excited to inform you that the Storylane team will be joining forces with Facebook. You can read more about it in my story here.


First things first - What is Storylane?

Storylane is a place where you can share stories about your life that are more thoughtful and serious in tone. And of course it’s social to the core. Launched in October 2012, it falls in the same league of Tumblr, Blogger or even Quora. But, the difference is that Storylane focuses on more personal stories - it asks you questions like “What do you know now that you didn’t when you were 18?" and even casual writers share stories about their lives like this one or this. But, what really interested me was the fact that it is such a beautifully designed product. Every experience interacting with Storylane is so fresh yet comfortable. Everything, right from the beautiful animation while the page loads or the way an image moves  when you hover over a summary of the story is very well thought of. And their recently launched iOS app is also groundbreaking since it brings a very new interaction to reading apps. They truly delight their users with the experience.

What has happened?
Storylane is “now joining forces” with Facebook. What this means I do not know - but what I assume is that Storylane is acqui-hired to ramp up Facebook’s attempt to capture the longform writing market. So, it’s more about the team rather than the product. This has a weirdly same connotation to what happened with Posterous joining Twitter. The CEO had then mentioned that Posterous would continue running as an independent service but we all know how that turned out. I was a Posterous user back then but had a foresight to move to Tumblr. I have a bad feeling about Storylane too. Not that I am a heavy user but I do visit it quite often if only to check out the design and new stuff they’ve done. Heck, I have evangelised it to as many people as I could.

Why this rant?
It is because it hurts to see good products die. They add value to our lives and as someone really famous saidThey move the human race forward”. I don’t know what the future holds for Storylane (the product) but I just hope it’s not a bad one. We need good products in the system. Also, I am sure, there are many out there who have invested their time and energy into Storylane. Because of its serious nature, Storylane was never just a fad but an attempt from a lot of people to start sharing their feelings. Even at Musicfellas, we took inspiration from Storylane for some our features - most notably the bell icon and some other minute details. And always looked up to the Storylane team for doing such a great job.

Having said all this, I’d like to congratulate the Storylane team for joining Facebook and wish them luck. And here’s hoping (and requesting) that they keep the service up for many of us whose lives have been touched by them in some way or the other.