My full retreat back to iPhone-land

My Pixel 3 as viewed from my iPhone 7 Plus

That’s it then.  My Pixel 3 is gathering dust already.  I gave it a try, but ultimately decided to return to my trusty old iPhone. The reason? I missed some key iPhone features, and I was frustrated with a few Pixel 3 quirks.

Pixel 3: “Turn left onto North Main Street.”

Me: “OK Google. Stop Navigation.”

Pixel 3: “Continue straight 1 mile.”

Me: “OK GOOGLE. STOP NAVIGATION”

Pixel 3: “Turn left onto…”

The dialog above is a recreation of a conversation that happened with my Pixel 3 multiple times.  Why won’t Google listen to me?  It listens when I tell it to start navigation, but I guess it really loves doing its job and just won’t quit.  Siri doesn’t do that.  She’ll happily navigate to where I want to go and stop navigating when I ask.  True, Google is much better at understanding destination names and at giving correct directions, but the rest of the experience has been frustrating.

And don’t get me started on the fact that the Pixel often doesn’t respond to my touch on certain areas of the screen…

More important to me than the Pixel 3 quirks was the lack of iPhone features that I’ve come to rely on:

  • iMessage: Sometimes you just want to “like” a comment without replying back.
  • Airdrop: When traveling, I find that almost everyone around me tends to have an iPhone.  This means that we can seamlessly share with each other via Airdrop.  Airdrop makes it super easy to share photos, videos, notes, etc. and you don’t even have to be connected to the internet to do so.
  • Share Wifi Password: When traveling around Germany and England with a group of 9, we used this feature frequently. One person would log into our Airbnb’s wifi by typing in the codes and then he or she simply shared the password with others nearby through some iPhone magic that I don’t understand.
  • Find Friends: My wife and I use this regularly.  Yes, we could have switched to a similar Google Maps feature, but we didn’t.
  • iPhone Charging Cables: I don’t particularly like Apple’s proprietary charging cables. But I definitely like being able to share charging cables with friends and family.

I did like some Android and Pixel features more than the iPhone, but none were so great that it was worth giving up my favorite iPhone features.  Yes, the Pixel 3 takes outstanding photos (especially group photos in my opinion), but the iPhone’s photos are plenty good enough for my needs.  Yes, the Pixel can take photos in the dark, but I have yet to encounter a good use for that feature. I guess peeping toms can use it to have memories that will last forever, but the rest of us?

How I switched back without voiding the deal

My iPhone 7 Plus as viewed from the Pixel 3

As a reminder, I bought the Pixel 3 phone during a ridiculously good less-than-one-day deal.  That deal required that I switch my Google Fi phone service to the Pixel phone and keep it active for either 60 days or 120 days depending upon how you interpret the rules of the promo.  Here were the rules:

  • To qualify for this promotion, a device must be activated within 15 days of device shipment and remain active for 60 consecutive days within 75 days of device shipment. The device must be activated within the same group plan that was used to purchase the device. Activation must be for full service (i.e., activation does not apply to a data-only SIM).
  • If Fi service is paused for more than 7 days or cancelled within 120 days of activation, the value of the gift card will be charged to your Google Payments account to match the purchased price of the device.

I plan to err on the side of caution and keep my Google Fi service attached to my Pixel 3 phone for the full 120 days.  Luckily, Google Fi has a feature that made it possible for me to return to my iPhone anyway.  Google Fi offers free data-only SIMs.  Here’s what I did:

  1. I inserted a free data-only SIM card into my iPhone 7 Plus.  This gave me data but not phone service.
  2. I installed the Google Hangouts app on my iPhone and configured it to accept incoming phone calls and messages for my phone number.
  3. I moved the regular phone icon out of the docking bar and replaced it with the Hangouts icon

The result of doing the above is:

  1. I can send and receive SMS text messages from Hangouts using my usual phone number (the same number that is still tied to my Pixel phone)
  2. I can send and receive iMessages based on my email address, but not based on my phone number.  In practice this means that I usually initiate iMessages and they work fine when people reply.
  3. I can initiate and accept phone calls via Hangouts using my usual phone number.  All calls then are conducted over my data connection (either wifi or Google Fi depending on what’s available).

There are several problems with this solution:

  1. I can’t tell Siri to call someone since she’ll try to initiate the call as a regular phone call (which Google Fi blocks since I’m using a data-only SIM)
  2. I can tell Siri to text or message someone as long as they’re on iMessage.  Otherwise it won’t go through.
  3. If I have a poor wifi and data connection, I can’t make a regular phone call.

Despite the above problems, 99% of the time the phone seems to work exactly as it did before I switched service to the Pixel phone.

What about my Samsung watch?  And my Moto?

Last week I wrote about my Samsung Gear S3 watch which works almost everywhere for mobile payments (See: 3X everywhere, on my wrist).  This watch can pair with my iPhone, but not if I want to continue using Samsung Pay.  So, for now, I’ve kept the watch paired with my Pixel 3.  When I’m away from the house and the Pixel 3, the watch still works as a time piece and it still works with Samsung Pay.  It just doesn’t do other smartwatch things like alerts, phone calls, etc.  I wasn’t using those features much anyway, so that hardly bothers me.  When I return home, the watch pairs again with the Pixel 3 and all of those features resume.

Once my 120 days with the Pixel 3 are over, I plan to sell that phone.  At that point, I’ll return to my Moto G6 as my home Android phone.  Long time readers may remember that I had bought the very inexpensive Moto G6 phone last year in order to try out Google Fi.  Google Fi was called Project Fi at that time, and they didn’t yet officially support iPhone use (now they do).  When I switch back to the Moto G6 I’ll have to setup Samsung Pay anew on this phone and re-add cards to my Samsung Pay wallet.  That’s inconvenient since sometimes it’s necessary to call the bank to verify cards as they’re added to Samsung Pay.  Still, I think it will be worth it to keep Samsung Pay working on my watch.

Supporting my watch won’t be the Moto phone’s only job.  It will also act as a wifi hotspot when we travel abroad.  I wrote about my previous experience doing so here: Google’s Project Fi abroad. 6 surprises: 3 good and 3 bad.

Conclusion

My experiment with switching from iPhone world to Android wasn’t a complete failure.  Overall, I actually like the Android user interface a little bit more than the iPhone interface.  But, for whatever reason, fate has decided that I run in an iPhone-centric crowd.  Almost everyone I see regularly has an iPhone.  As a result, I really missed the interactive iPhone features that were unavailable to me as an Android user.  Nick has told me that it’s the opposite for him: almost everyone around him is on Android.  I believe that that’s what makes all the difference.  The key isn’t the phone features or performance.  Both phone types are good enough for most purposes.  The key differentiator, for better or worse, is who you hang out with.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Ken
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Ken

Hey Greg: I’m doing the same thing. My Pixel3 is sitting on my bedside table, costing me ~$7/mo in Google fi charges. Still haven’t gotten an email from Google telling me to choose a gift card….

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

I was literally checking out when Google killed the Pixel deal, so I could only do the $200 BYOD on a S8+, no charges yet after two billings (referral credit).

$200 promo was waiting to see the final green check for Phone active 30 days under the special promo tab (desktop option not Fi app).

Just changed this AM.

While annoyed to have missed out on a Pixel 3 – Nonetheless I’ve still been curious about trying Fi versus T-mobile esp travelling and abroad.

We will out of the country for 3 weeks in March & April so it should be a good test.

S8+ on Fi and Note 9 on T-mo w/ $10 One Plus add-on (which is supposed to give me 2X speed Intl.

DW has an S9+ but w/o the One plus add. I also ordered a Data only sim after reading about Greg idea, so we may just keep Fi as our global hotspot when we travel (if its superior to the One plus plan). Depending our experience on this trip

Don’t understand people complaining about $7 a month, after getting basically getting a free Pixel 3, this was an amazing deal even if cost you $60-$120. Most bank bonus deals are not net 100% gain.

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

Just got the e-mail about my $200 credit.
” Hi there,
Congrats! You qualified for $200 Fi credit when you signed up for Google Fi on November 28 and met all the promotion terms.
Your credit has been added to your account in two parts:
The first $90 has already been added to your account and will appear on your future bills if you haven’t seen it already! You can find it on your billing tab (it’s labeled “Free Month of Fi”).
The remaining $110 was applied to your account this week, and you can find it in “Extras this Cycle” on your account page.”

Matthew
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Matthew

How are you only paying $7/month?

Dan
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Dan

I’ve had both. I never really liked the iPhone prices, but it did have some nice features. I didn’t like being hostage to paying do much for a phone. I suppose buying older models would fix the price issue. They also had annoying updates that always seemed to mess our phones up, less storage, and far less battery than my Moto G5 plus.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Dan
i agree but Ip is a safer phone so when my card ups to free phone Ins. i will get one .My doc’s daughter broke her Ip like $600 to get fixed..I’m not interest in cool just what works.Mean while my Samsung 7 works just fine ($225)
CHEERs

Robert
Guest
Robert

I just popped my Fi Sim Card into my iPhone and it worked fine. I don’t think that they care that you’re using a Pixel as much as they care that the Sim is remaining active.

Busted
Guest
Busted

Google is really good at tracking where the Fi SIM is. You’ll probably see “not eligible” message from their promotion page. Better pop it back soon before you lose it!

FreeIsGood
Guest
FreeIsGood

Yeah for $800-$1000, I would not risk moving that SIM. Especially before 60 days (though that should be over for most soon depending on how long the phone was backordered before it was shipped).

In fact, if someone moves their sim before 60 days, they kinda deserve to lose their gift card. Rules are pretty clear…

Igor
Guest
Igor

Greg,

Welcome home,

Apple

Nick
Guest
Nick

Not sure how much you looked into most of those options but alot of the things you said you like better on apple are available on android. First off i despise the iMessage “Like” options. I never use it and hate when others do. Thats just my opinion though. Google WiFi app shares wifi login information the way you mentioned. Google has a similar Find Friend option. And the small adapter for Lightning Cables is extremely cheap, not to mention micro usb connections is much more standard for most other devises. Speakers, head phones, battery pack, etc..

Gilbert Ott
Guest
Gilbert Ott

BOOOOOOO.
BOOOOOOOO.
BOOOOOOOOO.

With love, Gilbert.

susan rose
Guest
susan rose

apple phone screens are way too small. A woman with a purse is much better with android. Plus you can entertain your starting to get fussy grandchild with nice large youtubes of Mother goose. Apple folks are also often at a loss to connect to a projector. Other devices do not work well and their power points look wonky. This leads people to bring their laptop with no connection.. im waiting for s10 large size.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Can I get that for $225 like my unlocked S7 ??

B.T.
Guest
B.T.

Let me see if I have this correct. You can use Samsung Pay on the watch with a non-Samsung Android phone? If yes, then do you need a Samsung phone to initially set it up, or can you use Samsung Pay on the watch without ever having a Samsung phone?

Nick Reyes
Editor

As Greg notes, you can use Samsung Pay on the watch with any Android device. I don’t have a Samsung phone and I’ve been using it for months (with an LG phone, then recently paired it with my Pixel from this deal).

Ed C
Guest
Ed C

Curious … will Samsung Pay on a Samsung phone work if the phone only connects via WiFi? Use case: Pay-compatible Samsung phone connected via iPhone personal hotspot?

Frank
Guest
Frank

I have the Pixel 2 and bought my wife the Pixel 3 during the narrow window opportunity for the match for travel. My wife loves the Pixel 3 and on a very recent trip to Singapore it was so easy to use without purchasing a sim card or calling my provider for international service with high fees. The thing we love the most is the amazing camera. I always take my Nikon D750 DSLR for my photography and I did use it a lot but the Pixel phones allowed me to walk around sometimes without the Nikon. We put a high value on photography and my wife did not even take her small mirrorless camera and relied on the Pixel 3 and it performed wonderfully especially at night photographing the super trees and the light laser and water show from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. With the family plan we are charged a base of $20 for the first phone and $15 for the second plus $10 for each gigabite used with a cap. We barely used 3 gigs of data while in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand so we came out much cheaper than in years past during our international travels. One thing that did help was the “handy Phone” provided by our hotel in Singapore. They allow one to use the handy phone free of charge and you can take it with you when in Singapore and make calls, use the gps and text. My wife even called home with their handy phone at no charge. The FI would have been .20 cents per minute although text was free. We will keep the Fi service as long as it remains as is and I will probably upgrade to the pixel 4 when it comes out. As with all things there are some improvements I would like to see in the future pixel phones but we do like ours very much.

Kaushik
Guest
Kaushik

Hey Greg,
Same here. Can’t wait to get back to iPhone. My 60 days will be up in 3 days and I have the physical sim. So I am going simply move my sim to my iPhone. I have chatted with at least 2 agents to confirm that it is fine to switch the sim as long as it is more than 60 days. I Will Wait for 62 days just to be sure. I thought the travel gc would come after 120 days? Thanks

David
Guest
David

I’m willing to buy your Pixel 3 or work out a trade if you want an iPhone 8 Plus in exchange 🙂

Paul
Guest
Paul

Sorry to hear that. I signed up for Fi about the same time and love the service, especially internationally. But then I’m not an iPhone aficionado.

DW
Guest
DW

Greg, at least you tried. What service will you use for your iPhone when the Pixel is sold? Will you activate that on Fi or go back? I’m on Fi and most if the time it’s excellent. There’s a few connection issues in certain spots that Verizon didn’t have, but using Fi abroad is worth it.

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

Can’t you choose default phone app to be Hangouts, or Apple doesn’t allow this? I’ve never used Apple. Switched from Windows to Android some time ago.

TheMonkeyTech
Guest
TheMonkeyTech

Another thing to consider is security. As an IT manager in an enterprise corporate IT environment (20k+ end users), there’s a reason why we deploy iphones instead of android based samsungs in the environment. The apple store is more tightly controlled, the iphone has better security overall. The google play stores are commonly infected with Malware posing as legitimate apps. After an app has stolen data from tens of thousands of users, then they pull the app from the store after the fact. I am far from an Apple fanboy and I am pro-open source, but for security reasons we still choose to pay for iphones even though they cost 2-3x the price of samsungs through corporate channels. We tried BYOD – within a year we had android devices probing our file shares and spamming our domain controllers.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Yup .Just like I said Tech Man a better phone .. Maybe I’ll go back to eating Dog food so I can afford one.
Thanks
CHEERs

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

TheMonkeyTech
What VPN and Antivirus do u use on an Iphone ??
I have Firefox,Norton,ExpressVPN on my Samsung G 7.
Help the OLD and Useless..
CHEERs

stvr
Guest
stvr

Making so many nerds cry

Stefan Krasowski (Rapid Travel Chai)
Guest
Stefan Krasowski (Rapid Travel Chai)

Now I know what the ‘liked’ is when people text me (on my Android).

mrredskin
Guest
mrredskin

your imessage reasoning is why so many of us droid users hate iphones and ipeople. “ohhhh you’re one of those with green messages. it’s not blue like an iPhone. I like the blue messages. EVERY body I know has an iPhone. Why don’t you have one?” Well, because I pay for technology and not a lifestyle or marketing with a side of technology. and the “like” thing is just a way of saying “i’m too busy or don’t want to waste time actually responding to you”