As the final hours tick down until the latest Apple product launch and the faithful congregate on the venue in the US like disciples preparing to take and spread the holy flame, I find myself overwhelmed by an emotion that is unusual for gadget-obsessed types in the leadup to an Apple launch: apathy.
Don't get me wrong: I'm sure whatever Apple rolls out will be shiny, gorgeous, and irresistible. But it will no longer be relevant for me, as months ago I gave up on waiting for Apple to launch a large-screen iPhone to replace my venerable iPhone 4S. Like many, I made the shift to Samsung's Galaxy S5 – and I am happy enough with it that I will not feel like I've missed out when Apple rolls out its own large-screen phones.
This, of course, is because Android is no longer the compromise it used to be. It wasn't too long ago that decisions to buy an Android phone instead of an iPhone were based on either cost reasons, or a willingness to endure the endless depredations of incompatibility for the sake of sticking it to the man ('the man' in this sentence being Steve Jobs, of course).
Things have changed a fair bit, and the S5 has become both extremely popular and extremely capable. Android apps are almost universally delivered at the same time or even earlier than the iOS equivalents, often with additional functionality possible because Android isn't locked down tighter than, well, something that's really tight.
Sure, there's a learning curve – a friend who more recently made the switch was going through it too, as you do – but there comes a point when you come to grips with the way Android works and think “this really is better”.
For me, that point came early on, when the tight links between Android and Dropbox not only saw my own account boosted to 50GB, but saw all kinds of apps seamlessly accessing it. Now, I understand that iCloud does the same thing in the iOS world, and that there are many other apps improving integration with cloud services – but try accessing your iCloud content from an Android device and you'll see where that model falls down.
Indeed, throughout the course of using an Android device you steadily come to realise that it's the little things that make it a superior mobile experience: the much-improved keyboard, for example, which learns from your typing and predicts your next words with uncanny accuracy, or the amazingly useful widgets that make Apple's icons-R-Us interface seem positively archaic.
That Apple is now playing catchup on these and other points, confirms that even its own engineers realised they had remained too inflexible, for too long (this was confirmed in a leaked internal presentation showing they are getting caned in the market as many others defect to phones with larger screens).
Apple may offer these features and more in its big update, but the damage is already done: I, and the many other people that have made the same jump, am now locked into the S5 for the remainder of my two-year telco contract. That means there will be no iPhone 6 for me, nor even perhaps the iPhone 7 with its inevitable brain-control features or whatever
There are the inevitable quirks, to be fair: for example Samsung, for reasons I cannot even begin to comprehend, does not offer a way to take photos from the lock screen without unlocking the phone (this feature is easily restored using one of many alternative lock screens). The ability to control screen brightness has inexplicably disappeared from the swipe-down menu. Typing was strangely laggy until an over-the-air update resolved the issue. The inability to turn off the camera's shutter sound is an unfortunate blight on an otherwise excellent camera application.
Like many, I worried about how I could possibly bring over long-entrenched Apple things like my iTunes music or iPhoto library; simple dragging and dropping, or the use of any number of programs to automate the process, do away with that completely. Notes sync seamlessly between the S5 and my Mac computers using Google Keep, although Evernote or many other options are also popular.
On the whole, the S5 offers an iPhone alternative experience that has become comfortable and effective. More importantly, the gorgeous screen is large enough that I no longer feel like I'm trying to paint a triptych onto a grain of rice every time I squint at the iPhone's screen.
Apple may offer these features and more in its big update, but the damage is already done: I, and the many other people that have made the same jump, am now locked into the S5 for the remainder of my two-year telco contract. That means there will be no iPhone 6 for me, nor even perhaps the iPhone 7 with its inevitable brain-control features or whatever.
Not even Apple's iWatch, which I may view with a momentary pang of lust, will matter that much in the end: Android-supporting competitors like Motorola, LG and Samsung have finally gotten their acts together to the point where they are shipping high-quality things to stick on one's wrist. If I go down that path, I know there will be a variety of devices that will work quite nicely with my S5 – all except, I suspect, Apple's iWatch, or whatever it's called.
Not only is today's Apple launch the first one I will watch with detached curiosity more than wanton lust, but it is probably the first one in which Apple is blatantly playing catch-up with the rest of the industry. I'm sure it will be very successful, but the collateral damage from Apple's decision not to release a large-screen iPhone 5S will continue for years – until the contracts of those who defected to Samsung, HTC or other alternatives find themselves deciding whether it's worth going back to the Apple fold. For many, the answer will be 'no'.
What do you think? Has Apple reclaimed the innovation lead it risked losing? What do you think of its new products? Or have the Android vendors finally figured out how to keep their lead?