For most of my life, I’ve used Windows. My first phones were Androids. Now I prefer the reliability of Apple’s ecosystem.
The point of this post:
I’m currently writing a series of posts about the tools I use for online tutoring. Many of them are Apple products so sometimes I feel like I need to explain my preference.
Some people probably understand where I’m coming from. But I’m sure there are also some people who think my purchases are purely superficial. Either way, I thought it’d be best to make a separate post and link to it instead of randomly going on long spiels in the middle of my other posts.
I’m going to start with some backstory and then go into why I dove into Apple’s ecosystem.
I used to be pro-customization and anti-Apple
I was all about gaming on Windows and tinkering on Linux. My first experience with Linux was about installing Yellow Dog Linux on my PS3 in 2009. By 2012 I was geeking out with Ubuntu on my (self-built) gaming computer. That same year I bought a Nexus 4 when most people didn’t even know that Google had its own line of phones.
From 2014 to 2017 I was all Google. I was using a Chromebook and on my second Android (Nexus 5X). I was also one of the first Google Fi subscribers.
I remember having been some sort of a Google fan sometime after I was first learned about Googling in 3rd grade(?). I also remember that after my taste of Linux on a PS3, I got into Ubuntu, started using Open Source Software, became an Android fan, and then into a more hardended Google fan.
I often went through Google’s list of software products to try out different programs. I remember playing with Google SketchUp, editing on Picasa, creating a home with iGoogle, and messaging friends on Google Talk/GChat. I remember feeling like a proud fanboy and believing that Google was king and there couldn’t possibly exist any competitors.
I was playing with AOL before I learned about Google, and I also thought the same about them. I remember switching teams due to Gmail and its lack of spam.
I sort of went off-topic there but I hope it provides a better picture of how much time I liked to spend geeking out.
Tweaking my phone was my greatest pleasure
After I started using Ubuntu I developed an addiction for customizing.
Soon after I got each of my Nexus phones I would root them, and replace their stock operating systems with CyanogenMod. I’d spend days following guides on how to simultaneously maximize performance and increase battery life.
I’d spend days personalizing app launchers and installing icons just so I could show off the eye candy and make my phone truly personal.
Because I was constantly on the edge with the latest software releases I was also constantly resetting my phone and troubleshooting bugs. My phone looked pretty, but it wasn’t always usable.
I was a compulsive customizer. I wasn’t doing anything particularly practical but it brought me immense personal satisfaction. Looking back, I must have spent more time customizing my phone than actually using it.
I couldn’t imagine why anyone would ever want an iPhone when they could get an Android and do so much “more”.
I believed that the only people who were buying iPhones must have been sheeps- that they only cared about shiny objects and brand names.
And then I stopped tweaking
In the summer of 2016, I started my tutoring business. And at the same time, I lost all my patience for tinkering. I needed my computer and especially my phone to be functional at all times.
I couldn’t afford to miss texts or calls. And I couldn’t afford to waste days testing betas or troubleshooting bugs.
I went back to using stock software and tried to spend my time more productively sending emails, texts, and scheduling appointments. I also began to play video games less frequently.
I found comfort in reliability and stability. And at some level, I was better equipped to understand why a person might prefer a locked-down iPhone instead of a flexible Android.
My first dip into Apple’s Ecosystem
A few months later that fall I was trying to build a website. I was following YouTube tutorials and reading guides but I was having a hard time.
I noticed that most resources were made by Mac users. And as I was looking into various web development software I found that macOS was a first-class citizen despite its smaller userbase. Most video and blog publishers assumed that their readers were using macOS, or even some Linux distro, rather than Windows.
I was starting to think that Windows was holding me back.
Until then I was never a big believer in laptops. I didn’t quite understand their obvious convenience. And I thought they were overall a bad deal since you could always build a faster desktop for the same price of a laptop. But because I already had a desktop, I started looking at MacBooks.
I already knew that MacBooks were more expensive than most Windows laptops. But, in an effort to reassure my impulse, I was now factoring in their better build quality, battery life, and longevity.
I kept seeing reviews that claimed Apple products last longer than their counterparts. And so I started to view my eventual purchase as a longterm purchase.
In pursuit of maximum longevity, I was able to convince myself that one of their Pro models- with upgrades- would offer the best value since they would last longer.
Reflections on my superficial reasoning
In hindsight, some of my logic may have been superficial. Despite that, after I started using it I was learning much faster and had a much more enjoyable experience working on my projects.
Sidenote: I believe that premium products lend to premium experiences. And that premium experiences can in turn lead to more enjoyment and increased productivity.
I’ve been using my MacBook almost every day for 4 years. Most of the time I use it for writing and sometimes I use it for some web development. My tasks aren’t the most resource-intensive so I don’t think I’ll notice it getting old anytime soon.
I have no reason to use Windows and I don’t miss it
The only reason I was a Windows user was that I never really had a choice. My dad used Windows, and he was the one who first bought me computers, so I grew up as a Windows user. I was a Windows supporter simply because it was the most practical for video games. These days I don’t play video games nearly as often. If I ever feel like gaming again I’d rather play console games.
Just to illustrate a point: an ex-roommate left his PS4 behind in our living room. It’s connected to an 83 inch QLED behemoth of a TV. I haven’t played with it since he left.
There isn’t a single feature I miss from Windows. But if I ever need to use it for whatever reason I can always use Boot Camp.
I lost faith in Android due to texting
Around the end of 2016, I lost my Nexus 5X at some park in Queens. I had ordered an Uber, put my phone down on a bench, and walked away when the car came. I went home, looked at the location data, and called it a loss.
Part of me believed that I subconsciously tried to get rid of my phone because I was trying to justify an upgrade. And so in a panic of self-punishment, I ordered the cheapest smartphone I could find on Amazon. I used that for a week before I realized that a modern phone was critical for my tutoring business.
Texting on Android is a pathetic joke
At this point, I had been using Android for a couple of years, but I was unsure about the future of Android. Google had just announced Allo, yet another text messaging app. This created more redundancy and signaled that at least one of their other apps was about to be discontinued.
From my understanding, it still hasn’t gotten any better. Within two years of its release, Google discontinued Allo.
My biggest issue with Androids is that there is no unified messaging system. Google keeps flip-flopping with its support for a messaging app. They’ve had Allo, Hangouts for Fi, Messenger, Google Voice, Google Talk, and a bunch more. They were all official Google products but most of them have been discontinued, branched, or absorbed.
As I was writing this post, I found the following article to be quite illustrative.
They now seem to be rallying behind “Messages by Google” and RCS but it’s hard to predict how that will turn out.
Paranoia of missing messages
I’ve always been a little paranoid about not receiving texts and my texts not going through. It might be due to unresolved trust issues, but at the time Android “read receipts” was a foreign concept on Android.
I remember there were a bunch of times where I had to request security texts multiple times until they’d reach my phone. I couldn’t tell if it was a problem with Android or my carrier but at the time my carrier was Google Fi. Either way, it was disapointing as a Google fan. I was finally looking at my experiences critically and this was not acceptable.
After reflecting on all my grievances with texting I realized that I couldn’t rely on Androids. I started to wonder if I had lost potential business because of Android. Once I had that thought, my “paranoia” kicked in and I knew it was time to give up on Androids.
Blue bubbles and branding
I noticed that most of my clients had iPhones and I was afraid that my “green bubble” texts were affecting my credibility. The last thing I wanted was to seem like some fly-by-night operation. I wanted to seem reliable. I understood that every detail mattered which is why I was also making a website in the first place. Not to get new clients through Google, but to seem more legitimate.
My reasoning may have been superficial but studies have shown that iPhone users find “blue bubble” texts to be more credible than normal sms texts.
The final nail was the ecosystem factor
I already had a MacBook so I started considering the benefits of the fabled Apple ecosystem. I realized that the combo could only help with my reliability. And so, I finally defected from Google and bought myself a shiny new Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus.
iPad + Apple Pencil, most reliable tools for online tutoring
It was 2017, mid-June, Summer break was coming up, and I was trying to figure out how to tutor students while they were away on vacation. I was trying to come up with an optimal and reliable setup for online tutoring.
As a child, I was personally never a fan of online tutoring. It always sounded gimmicky and weird. However, I was the tutor now. And after a relatively successful year, my ego was at an all-time high. I was convinced that I could figure out a better solution.
I first considered traditional methods using webcams and/or screen-sharing and I quickly crosssed them out. The idea was that we’d have online sessions when students were were in unfamiliar locations with unpredictable internet. The traditional options were too dependent on fast internet and thus unreliable. So then I started looking at solutions that weren’t so dependent on fast internet.
From a purely technological view, I figured something like realtime collaborative drawing must have been in existence. After some googling, I found a couple “online whiteboards”. Together with something like FaceTime, I had the core part of online tutoring figured out. All I needed from there was a good way to draw on the boards and see how good the handwriting could be.
A reliable and presentable setup
My first instinct was to buy some USB drawing tablet and stylus from Amazon. I was looking for something super affordable so that it’d be easier to convince clients to do the same. But then I thought about the potential driver issues. The last thing I wanted to do was troubleshoot bugs in the middle of my sessions.
That same month a new iPad Pro was released which drew my attention to the Apple Pencil. I went to an Apple store and tried out the Pencil with an online whiteboard. It was exactly what I needed.
I have to admit that it seemed a bit silly, and a bit overkill to buy an iPad Pro and Pencil for the sole purpose of online tutoring. But I couldn’t think of a more reliable solution.
I figured that if I wanted to convince my clients and students to try online tutoring I would have to give them a demonstration. That meant that I needed to show them something reliable and easy to use.
My theory turned out to be correct. A shiny iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil were the perfect props for a presentation. All I had to do was let them draw in-person and test out real-time collaboration.
Any more purchases? You bet.
Early 2018: I bought a brand new iPhone SE (first gen) for $50 because I wanted a separate number tutoring. I also bought a 212 number for NYC style points.
December 2019: I bought an iPhone 11 Pro because of the dual-sim feature. Turned out that carrying two phones was a big inconvenience and a liability.
I bought Apple AirPods because wires were getting in the way of writing on an iPad with a Pencil in hand. It was hard to move around when my headphones were connected to my iPad. I tried a few different wireless headphones but AirPods were the most convenient at the time. I later bought a second pair after I lost the first ones. And then never again because they don’t age well.
There’s a bunch of things that I’ve only been able to appreciate after diving into Apple’s ecosystem
I now use a few Apple devices on a daily basis so it’s super neat that I can send texts from any of them. There have been a few times where I left my iPhone in a friend’s car or home. Thanks to iMessage on my other devices I never had to freak out. All I had to do was wait and deal with a slight inconvenience while carrying out business as usual.
I often go back to old texts to look up important information. Sometimes I have to go farther than a year back. When I was using Android my texts were in a bunch of different apps such as Voice, Hangouts, and even Gmail. I don’t have do deal with that problem anymore.
Apple products are first class citizens
App publishers regularly prioritize iPhones over Androids. Even Google’s own app developers prioritize iPhones over Google-branded phones. This is due to Androids fragmentation.
There are hundreds of Android devices with different internals and different screen sizes released every year. Because of this, it’s more profitable for them to focus on Apple devices first. This fact alone gives me a lot of assurance that the 3rd party apps I rely on will continue to be supported.
Apple products last longer
Apple releases updates for their devices far longer than any other manufacturer. Samsung guarantees updates for only 2 years, Google for 3, and Apple for 5+ years. That speaks volumes of how much these companies care about reliability.
Apple Care+ is a very important for me. It helps me sleep better.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m prone to misplacing my phones. It’s a personal flaw that I have to plan around.
I always get Apple Care+ when I buy an iPhone. It gives me peace of mind. I don’t get it for my larger devices because I’m more careful with them.
If I crack my iPhone’s screen I can walk into an Apple store and they’ll replace it within an hour for ~$30. I’ve actually gone to the 5th Ave Apple Store a few times after midnight for just that. No other store or brand offers that kind of support 24/7 in NYC and that’s kind of magical.
I like the fact that if I were to ever lose my iPhone, or have it stolen, or damaged, that I’d be fine. All I’d have to do is call their insurance number, pay a relatively small deductible (~$300) and get a brand new iPhone.
Just to be clear, I’m not fond of replacing iPhones. I just like knowing that when I eventually damage/lose my phone that my business won’t have to suffer too long until I get a replacement.
Thanks to iCloud backups setting up a new iPhone has always been easy.
As soon as I sign in with my Apple ID and restore a recent backup, I can find all my files, apps, and settings exactly where I left them.
This has come handy every single time I’ve had to replace an iPhone.
I still have to use some Google products
Google’s business offerings are reliable. G Suite is the gold standard.
Their consumer products? Not so much.
I use their webmaster tools for SEO and I have a G Suite subscription for Gmail. They are probably the best when it comes to reliable email for custom domains. I don’t have to worry about spam filters blocking the emails I send. And as with all my purchase abovve I will always pay a bit more for peace of mind.
It might seem like I’m hooked on Apple products, but that wouldn’t be accurate. Reliability and peace of mind are my addictions. Every single one of the purchases listed above was for the growth of my business. They have since paid for themselves- both in profit and in terms of my sanity.
As a tutor, my biggest expenses are software subscriptions and the devices I use. Sometimes I rent office space but I usually work remotely. Because of that, I depend on my devices more than most people. And so software and hardware reliability is important to me. Right now there isn’t a single company or brand that is more reliable than Apple. I think it’s factually impossible to argue otherwise.
From a business perspective, iMessage is absolutely critical. A Galaxy Note could replace my iPhone and my iPad, but not until it gets iMessage. And I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.
Thanks to iMessage I can’t get out of Apple’s ecosystem, but that’s a price I’m more than happy to pay.