I bought an iPhone 5s, but I returned it the next day

I bought an iPhone 5s, but I returned it the next day

Summary: It's a beautiful device, but it loses out against cheaper Android devices with better usability.

TOPICS: Smartphones
Gold iPhone 5s -- Return to sender!
This thing is going back.

I've been using a Nexus 4 since January. Somewhere down the line I must have developed a deep attachment to it. I really dig that smartphone.

The iPhone 5s is beautiful. It's perfectly hewn from metal and glass. Everything about it feels carefully thought through and fantastically executed. I loved it, and I loved the gold colouring.

It also has all the apps that I need. Over the past year I've adopted quite a high number of day-to-day apps on Android. They're all supported on iOS. So if you looked at it from the perspective of could it do what I need it to do, it certainly could.

What I found though was that there were two major problems in the way that it did the things I needed it to do.

Firstly, the screen format is bizarre. The actual screen quality is fantastic -- it seems way better and brighter than the iPhone 4S I used for a good long while before changing to the Nexus 4. Another thing I liked was that the surface felt to have physically lower friction and the Nexus 4. Simply, it's more slidy, and that's nice.

But the screen has such a funny, illogical shape. It's smaller than I'd like, sure, but this weird "tower" arrangement makes no sense. You hold it in your hand and end up peering at the shape, rather than losing yourself in the content of the screen. To my mind, the screen on the iPhone is something Apple is really mucking up, which is weird if you consider that the iPad mini screen format is so perfect.

Going from another other device with a normal screen to the iPhone's weird screen is very off-putting. However, that's the sort of change that people get used to and I'm sure I could have got use to that. That wasn't the main reason why I returned it.

Never go back

I returned the iPhone to Apple because it didn't have a "back" button.

Post-PC encourages users to be lazy. I don't mean that in a bad way, it's just how these devices are supposed to be used. Post-PC devices like smartphones and tablets are designed to hang around in the background, and brought forward into the foreground to be used. These devices need to have very low "cognitive loading". Simply, they shouldn't ask you to think too much.

The problem that Android users going to iOS will have is that Android trains you to use the back button as a lazy way of getting around an app. You never have to look for the back option on Android -- it's always in the same place and does essentially the same things. It's become part of every Android app design.

iOS devices don't have back buttons. This means that wherever you are in an iOS app you have to think in order to reach back into the app -- for example, to go back to your inbox, or a list of folders. It's this thinking that makes iOS less easy to use than Android. That grates when you're trying to use the device quickly, or when you desire to do so with little effort -- e.g. when you're on the hoof, or when you're tired.

If you consider that an Android phone now more or less does everything an iPhone does, but in a slightly less classy way, you have to think about what you're gaining by going from Android to iOS. You're probably going to be losing hundreds of dollars. What do you get in return?

The Nexus 4 is a very cheap phone, even before it was discounted as we approach the Nexus 5. The iPhone 5s is not cheap. I always buy my smartphones SIM-free, so I spent nearly $900 (£549) on a bottom of the range device. And for what? The "joy" of learning how to deal with a funny screen, and for a user experience that was harder than on Android for doing the equivalent things.

Plus, the Nexus 4 is so cheap that if I dropped it, lost it, or broke it, I probably wouldn't care. Dropping, losing, or breaking the iPhone 5s would likely make me cry. That's something worth thinking about.


Talking about back buttons, there's a rumour that Windows Phone will soon lose its hardware back button. That now seems like a tremendously bad idea. It's worth considering that as we approach the 20 year anniversary of mainstream web browsing, we're probably quite used to the notion of "going back", which is why I think it's so natural to use on Android.

What I've learned over this week is that a back button on a smartphone is both very helpful, and a big deal. Smartphones are better with back buttons.

Interestingly though, tablets don't seem to suffer with the same problem. That might be because they generally are less often used in casual settings (waiting in line at the store, etc) compared to smartphones.

Turns out the cliché was wrong. It's not "never go back", it's supposed to be "always go back".

What do you think? Post a comment, or talk to me on Twitter: @mbrit.

Topic: Smartphones

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  • exactly

    exactly, iPhone is just an iNcapable toy, just facts, people deserve to be educated:

    1) no free copy file
    2) no default app selection
    3) just 20 years old icon concept
    4) no touchless, no nfc, IR remote, micro SD
    5) no voice recognition in many languages
    6) Apple censors your personal emails!!!! - “Apple censoring iCloud emails and attachments”
    7) "Apple played 'central role' in ebook price-fixing conspiracy"
    8) "Phones most vulnerable among smartphones"
    9) "Apple iOS Apps Leak More Personal Info Than Android" = security amateurs
    10) "Quarter of iPhones have a broken screen, poll says."
    11) "40% of iOS popular apps invade your privacy without any permission."
    12) "FBI files: STEVE JOBS was a lying, power hungry, mad man."
    13) "Steve Jobs: "We are shameless about stealing great ideas."
    14) "Italy fines Apple 1.2 million over AppleCare practices."
    15) "Belgian consumer group files complaint against Apple over AppleCare warranty practices."
    • Your rubbish troll bait

      is barely even worthy of this response.
      • Umm

        While his entire post isn't 100% relevant to the iPhone! his comments are actual headlines from the past 2 years.
        • dont worry, apple will catch up Android 2012 in 2020 :)

          less than 2 years but still actual :)
          dont worry, apple will catch up Android 2012 in 2020 :)
    • a lot of trouble to criticize

      You sure went through a lot of trouble to list negatives about... various Apple related things. Thanks for your selfless effort to educate us. However, I see similar negatives about Android or Windows Phone. If you don't like the company and its products, then go the the competition. It's easy these days. Somehow I don't think that your list of negatives will influence potential Apple buyers. My two cents.
      • Ya, way to many idiots here.

        It never ends. People seem to do their best to teach themselves how to absolutely loath a particular company, after that all that's needed is a little time to cook up a stew pot of reasons why their product is crap.

        There isn't a major IT company producing products that some bag full of weirdo's around here dosnt hate with a passion and thusly feels free to inform us just how awful their products are. And interestingly enough there are always those who will swear on their grandmothers grave the products are fine.

        You cant hardly get a well reasoned impartial opinion around here. Its almost impossible. As soon as the crazy haters come out to play the other side soon foresees the only way to counteract the haters criticism is to be impossibly positive about the products they hate.

        Its like watching a bunch of squirrels chasing a nut with legs.
        • Couldn't agree more.

          There is a lot of hate for the sake of hate. I own Apple devices, Android devices and Windows devices. There is much to love about each of them, and a few annoyances with each of them as well. Does everything need to be a contest to see who may the right purchase decision? Seriously.

          Ok, with that out of the way, I do believe there are some warning signs for Apple that they should actually recognize. I have no problem with their devices. APPLE MAKES GREAT PRODUCTS!

          Is history repeating itself? Apple had a great product with the early Macintosh and Laser Printers. But, their business model was all about "hording" the tech, making their own standards to keep others away. Eventually, the more open and standard PC dominated and Apple was relegated to a niche player.

          Apple has a strong hold of the market this time with Phones and Tablets, yet they seem intent to hang on to the same business model that put them in trouble the first time around. It may take a little longer, but it seems like the pressure from Android and even from Windows devices from multiple OEM's and adopting standards will make it difficult for Apple to hang on.

          For example:
          Miracast (standard) - Airplay (proprietary)
          Micro USB (standard) - Lightning Connector (proprietary)
          NFC (standard) - Airdrop (proprietary and not the same thing)
          Skype (not a standard, but multiplatform and ubiquitous) - Facetime (proprietary)
          Instant Messaging (a few standards and interoperability) - iMessage (proprietary)
          SkyDrive,DropBox (multiplatform) - iCloud (proprietary)
          Qi Wireless charging (standard) - nothing (proprietary)

          The list goes on and on. How long will Apple continue to snub standards and embrace proprietary mechanisms in the name of "We do it better" ?? Will it ultimately lead to an inability for them to swim against the current?

          It seems as though history is repeating itself.
          • The Oracle says: Sadly True

            This was predicted when the 3GS came out and repeated when the iPad2 launched.
            It is a sad "oh well" ...

            I use them all and heartily agree with your thoughts. Unfortunately, my use of Apple products tens to timeline their effective drive in the marketplace. The majority of my current use is Android followed by Windows.

            Will Apple ever wake up? One hopes but they do seem intent on replicating history.
          • Yes

            Apple needs to stop acting like the snobby rich kid who thinks he doesn't need anybody.
            This time around there might not be a Steve Jobs to rescue it and Microsoft might not make the same mistake twice of saving Apple from bankruptcy. Google it, Bill Gates in 1997 invested 200 million to save them from it.
            Apple needs to partner and adopt standards. They seem to be falling behind in Tech and trends. Samsung sells more already.
          • Alien Standards

            You know, there's so much wrong with your list, I felt I had to comment.

            Miracast - don't even know what it is. Who's it from?

            Micro USB - I think money changed has in the EU - I always found Micro USB the absolute worst connector out there. It's not well keyed, and I always stick it in the wrong way and ruin connectors. Lightning is ambidextrous and much better than the 30 pin connector which gets craps stuck in it.

            Should read:
            NFC - Wifi, not NFC - Airdrop. One is a radio transceiver, the other a protocol. That you couldn't name a protocol that runs on NFC is telling.

            Skype - Facetime. So use what you want.

            Instant Messaging (a few standards and interoperability) - iMessage (prprietary). Huh? They're all usable on the iPhone, just that iMessage is free and some of those others aren't. The messages app just automatically downshifts to iMessage if both ends are an iPhone (and uses data instead of SMS). What ... you work for a carrier?

            SkyDrive is Microsoft's proprietary save box (except they want to compete with Dropbox), Dropbox is subscription, and iCloud is Apple's data repository.

            Qi Wireless charging (standard) - nothing (proprietary)?

            Wireless charging is a standard? And nothing is proprietary?

            Obviously you've got an axe to grind and that last one shows how desperate you are to grind it. Apple licenses Airplay and wanted to make FaceTime a standard. iMessage was just a way to save its customers some money. Just cause you can't use it doesn't make it evil - it's plus offered for being an Apple customer. Doesn't your handset vendor offer anything just for the use of their customers?
          • Wow...

            Varase... You obviously don't get the point of the list gomigomijunk created. First off... if you don't know what miracast is.. you lose all credibility in the tech world. Even if you are a fanboy of Apple (which is obvious) you should no doubt know of technology being used in the sector. You say he has an axe to grind and then out yourself an an Apple fanboy. Outstanding.
        • Im not a hater of apple, I just want...chocolate

          I have never had or wanted a ianything. My personal impartial opinion of apple products is over priced and over rated, even going right back to the PC clone wars. I agree that iOS is awkward for me to use, it's like I haven't got full control of it, similar to using a PC without a mouse. And that iPhone 5/s screen is ridiculous I would and have compared it to holding and looking at a Mars bar when I could be holding a block of Cadbury's. A mars has all the extra layers etc. when I just want chocolate.
    • Also loses out againt new BlackBerry devices

      BlackBerry may not get as much press, but current BlackBerry 10 is a slick operating system with good functionality for messaging and productivity. Also, BlackBerry and Android both have microSD, which iPhone does not, which makes them more capable of expanding down the line.

      The Z10 is really an iPhone for grown ups and pending Z30 offers huge screen, HD display and really is an Android for small business owners, or just those who want an alternative to Samsung. While Z30 may not be a "game changer" it is on par with Samsung Galaxy, offers BBM and good messaging suite of software and BlackBerry already has Z10 which is actually faster and more efficient than iPhone and better for messaging, in smaller/iPhone size. BlackBerry and Samsung are really the only two manufacturers with a full line up of new phones. And BlackBerry Z10 is substantially cheaper than equivalent iPhone.
      • i agree on the BlackBerry z10

        If people gave it a shot they would see the OS is far more advanced vs. iOS.

        Love my Z10 and don't miss my iPhone. I have an ipad anyway.
        • Corporations ARE giving the Z10 a shot...

          and abandoning it as fast as they are able. My wife's corporate-issued Blackberry, only a few months old, is being recalled and the wife is being allowed to use her personal iPhone to replace it.

          No, the Z10 is enough of a failure that Blackberry as a brand is suffering greatly. It may not be long before we see the Blackberry logo on things totally unrelated to Blackberry the company--just as the Polaroid brand is now seen on many things unrelated to photography.
        • BB10 is sorta passable

          I watched, hoping, when BB10 and the Z10 came out. I waited impatiently until it came to ATT. I went and looked, I played a bit, I tried it out, and walked away.

          BB10 has potential. In the early stages the lack of apps and the on/off allowed use of Android apps was most annoying.
          Then there was the Z10. The ATT version was sad. It had last gen tech compared to the One and S4, the build looked nice but failed to hold up for even a day (the back attracted gunk and adopted a gooey feel).

          Then there is enterprise use. I cannot speak for other companies; at mine we are seeing little want or use of the Z10. Those BB die-hards are sticking to old models or the Q10 - they like having a physical keyboard. Adoption of Android and iOS has skyrocketed in comparison.

          IMHO, if the ATT Z10 had comparable specs to the S4 or One and allowed full use of Android apps till BB10 apps evolved, it would have had a much better chance.

          It didn't and is now on life support. I wish it well. Then again, maybe Google will buy it.
      • Really?

        "BlackBerry and Samsung are really the only two manufacturers with a full line up of new phones". Really? Ever hear of Nokia? Just sayin.
        • Do they actually make phones anymore?

          Cameras yes.... :)
        • ....

          Nokia makes crappy windows phones only and thats not something to brag about look at the sales numbers. They sell less windows nokia phones then people still using 5 year old android froyo phones. Nokia really is sad considering they have decent hardware but its killed by the horrible Windows software. If Microsoft would get in touch again with its consumers and produce software people actually wanted Nokia might have been able to escape its death it now faces.
          • Wow! Why so anti? Have you tried one?

            I did and I won't be going back to Apple or Android any time soon. My work supplied Apple or Android and I hated both with a passion.. I found them confusing and unintuitive. Work were then given a Windows phone 7 device.. I asked if I could give it a try.. I wasn't expecting much.. But I loved it! It just made sense and was so easy to use. Now I have a Lumia 920 and I still love it and my flatmates have all gone from Droid to Windows phone.. and several people at work.. and work has started rolling out Windows phones instead of Apple and Droid.. And I hear this happening a lot.. so do please get your facts correct..