Switching from iPhone to Android is easy. It's the consequences that sting.

When I temporarily switched from an iPhone to an Android phone last week, I was preparing myself for a world of pain. I've only owned Apple phones since I bought the first-generation iPhone in 2007. And, like many, I've purchased other Apple products that go well together, including AirPods, an Apple Watch, and an iPad.

That kind of loyalty is the basis of an antitrust case against Apple brought by the Justice Department, which accused the company of using monopoly control over the iPhone to harm competitors and dissuade customers from switching to other phones. To test this theory, I decided to briefly part with my iPhone.

I was initially surprised by how easy it was to transfer my iPhone data to an Android smartphone made by Google. By simply installing an app created by Google to help people change on my iPhone, I was able to copy my contact list, photo album, and calendar to my Google account. So, quick: all that data appeared on Android.

I was almost done. After calling my carrier, Verizon, to port my phone number to my Android device, my mission was accomplished: I had become an Android convert.

At first I was happy with my choice: I had upgraded to a luxury Google Pixel phone. But by day six I was ready to go back.

A lot of annoyances have been added. While I could still use most of my Apple products, I started to miss my Apple Watch, which requires an iPhone to fully function. As for software, I was able to find Android alternatives for all my favorite apps, except Notes. While switching phones wasn't technically difficult, Apple's hooks were still in me.

How Apple keeps customers loyal to the iPhone — and whether its practices harm competition — is at the heart of the government's antitrust lawsuit against the Cupertino giant.

Apple and the Justice Department declined to comment.

In its 88-page complaint, the department said a number of Apple products protected the company's competitive advantage with the iPhone, including iMessage, Apple's Wallet app and the Apple Watch. How difficult are these benefits really to ditch your iPhone? Here's what I found.

For the most part, iPhone users and Android users can communicate with each other easily via email, phone calls, and apps like Slack, but when it comes to text messaging, there's still a glaring divide known as “green bubble vs. bubble blue”. disparity.

When iPhone users send messages to other iPhones, the messages appear in blue and can draw on exclusive benefits like a birthday confetti animation. But if an iPhone user sends a message to an Android user, the speech bubble turns green, many features break, and the quality of photos and videos degrades.

Before porting my phone number to the Pixel phone, I used my iPhone to send iMessages to my blue bubble buddies warning them that our conversations would soon turn green. “Ew!” a friend replied. But after many comments made in jest, no one protested and I continued to fight.

Next, I had to detach my phone number from iMessage on Apple's website to ensure my text messages stopped passing through Apple's servers and landed on my phone. Unless I did this, I wouldn't receive messages from other iPhones. Eventually, the conversations turned green. I prepared myself for humiliation.

But no one gave me a hard time or excluded me. I noticed, however, that many friends had suddenly stopped sending me photos, perhaps because they knew the images would no longer be as good.

For years, some of my closest friends messaged me only through Signal, the third-party messaging app with strong privacy protections and many of the same features as iMessage. Signal is also available on Android, preserving this tradition.

Apple announced that later this year it will improve messaging between iPhone and Android users by adopting advanced communications services, a standard that Google and others built into their messaging apps years ago. Texts sent between iPhone and Android will remain green, but images and videos will be higher quality.

For iPhones, the reference app for making mobile payments in stores is Apple Wallet and for Android users the equivalent app is Google Wallet. The experience of using each wallet app was identical: I loaded my credit cards and the Clipper card for Bay Area Rapid Transit.

The Justice Department's criticism of Apple Wallet centers on how Apple only gives its app access to the iPhone's payment chip, preventing competing wallet services from using that chip to make payments. But the way Apple designed its Wallet app had no impact on my ability to switch to Android.

For an iPhone owner, the main incentive to buy multiple Apple products is that they work seamlessly together. A Mac laptop, for example, uses many of the same messaging, note-taking and reminder apps as the iPhone, and data is synced between devices with Apple's iCloud. In theory, the more invested you are in the Apple ecosystem — and the more Apple limits its products to working with competing devices, the Justice Department says — the harder it is to switch from an iPhone.

After switching to an Android phone, my feelings about using other Apple products ranged from moderate annoyance to profound frustration:

  • The iPad worked independently of the iPhone, but I could no longer see my text messages on the tablet. This was minor because I don't write many messages on my iPad.

  • My AirPods Pro were fine: They quickly connected to the Pixel to play music. But the downside is that AirPods use adaptive EQ, a technology that adapts sound quality to the shape of your ear and only works with iPhone software. So the audio doesn't sound as good.

  • I couldn't use my Android phone to locate my AirTags, the little Apple trackers I use to find my wallet and keys, on a map. But when I had my AirTags in my pocket, the Android phone alerted me that an “unknown tracker” was moving with me, a security measure to combat stalkers.

  • The Apple Watch requires an iPhone to set up, but fitness tracking can work independently. Since I already had my watch set up, I was able to continue using it at the gym alongside my Android phone. But I could no longer see the detailed data of my training.

  • I ran into other annoyances not specifically mentioned in the lawsuit, and eventually reached peak frustration when trying to find a replacement for Apple's Notes, which I use regularly on my Mac, iPad, and phone for work and personal errands. I've used alternatives but didn't like them, and combined with the issues mentioned above, it was all too much.

My experience is not universal. Some people would care more than others about how certain Apple products would change if they changed phones. Younger people would probably be very concerned about the lack of iMessage in schools, where, according to education experts, a green bubble is an invitation to ridicule and exclusion. Parents who use AirTags to track their children would consider losing access to them a problem.

The upshot of this experiment is that while it's technically not difficult to switch to another phone, there are a lot of things that might make you regret it.

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