If you’ve only ever used an Android or iPhone, how can you possibly know that you’ve made the right choice?
When it comes to buying one of the best smartphones, the first choice can be the hardest: iPhone or Android. It’s not simple; both offer a lot of great features and they may seem basically the same other than brand and price.
However, a closer look shows that there are some key differences. Read on for a closer at look at some of these differences to help you decide whether an iPhone or Android smartphone is right for you.
1. Hardware: Choice vs. Polish
Hardware is the first place where the differences between the iPhone and Androidbecome clear.
Only Apple makes iPhones, so it has extremely tight control over how the software and hardware work together. On the other hand, Google offers the Android software to many phone makers, including Samsung, HTC, LG, and Motorola. Because of that, Android phones vary widely in size, weight, features, and quality.
Premium-priced Android phones tend to be as good as the iPhone in terms of hardware quality, but cheaper Android options are more prone to problems. Of course iPhones can have hardware issues, too, but they’re generally higher quality.
If you’re buying an iPhone, you just need to pick a model. Because many companies make Android devices, you have to pick both a brand and a model, which can be a bit confusing.
Some may prefer the greater choice Android offers, but others appreciate Apple’s simplicity and quality.
2. OS Compatibility: A Waiting Game
To make sure you always have the latest and greatest version of your smartphone operating system, you have to get an iPhone.
That’s because some Android makers are slow at updating their phones to the latest version of the Android OS version, and sometimes don’t update their phones at all.
While it’s to be expected that older phones will eventually lose support for the latest OS, Apple’s support for older phones is generally better than Android’s.
Take iOS 11 as an example. It includes full support for the iPhone 5S, which was released in 2013. Thanks to support for such an old device, and full availability for all other models, iOS 11 was installed on about 66% of compatible models within 6 weeks of its release.
On the other hand, Android 8, codenamed Oreo, was running on just 0.2% of Android devices more than 8 weeks after its release. Even its predecessor, Android 7, was only running on about 18% of devices more than a year after its release. The makers of the phones – not users – control when the OS is released for their phones and, as stats shows, most companies are very slow to update.
So, if you want the latest and greatest as soon as it’s ready, you need an iPhone.
3. Apps: Selection vs. Control
The Apple App Store offers fewer apps than Google Play (around 2.1 million vs. 3.5 million, as of April 2018), but overall selection isn’t the most important factor.
Apple is famously strict (some would say too strict) about what apps it allows, while Google’s standards for Android are lax. While Apple’s control may seem too tight, it also prevents situations like the one where a fake version of WhatsApp was published on Google Play and downloaded by 1 million people before it was removed. That’s a major potential security threat.
Beyond that, some developers have complained about the difficulty of developing for so many different phones. Fragmentation – the large numbers of devices and OS versions to support – makes developing for Android expensive. For example, the developers of Temple Run reported that early in their Android experience nearly all of their support emails had to do with unsupported devices even though they support over 700 Android phones.
Combine development costs with the emphasis on free apps for Android, and it reduces the likelihood that developers can cover their costs. Key apps also almost always debut first on iOS, with Android versions coming later, if they come at all.
4. Integration with Other Devices: Continuity Guaranteed
ost people use a tablet, computer, or wearable in addition to their smartphone. For those people, Apple offers a more consistent and integrated experience.
Because Apple makes computers, tablets, and watches along with the iPhone, it offers things that Android (which mostly runs on smartphones, though there are tablets and wearables that use it) can’t.
Apple’s Continuity features let you unlock your Mac using an Apple Watch, start writing an email on your iPhone while you’re walking and finish it on your Mac at home, or have all of your devices receive any call coming into your iPhone.
Google’s services like Gmail, Maps, Google Now, etc., work across all Android devices, which is very useful. But unless your watch, tablet, phone, and computer are all made by the same company – and there aren’t too many companies other than Samsung that make products in all of those categories – there’s no unified experience.
5. Intelligent Assistant: Google Assistant Beats Siri
The next frontier of smartphone features and functionality will be driven by artificial intelligence and voice interfaces. On this front, Android has a clear lead.
Google Assistant, the most prominent artificial intelligence/intelligent assistant on Android, is extremely powerful. It uses everything Google knows about you and the world to make life easier for you. For instance, if your Google Calendar knows that you’re meeting someone at 5:30 and that traffic is terrible, Google Assistant can send you a notification telling you to leave early.
Siri is Apple’s answer to Google Assistant for artificial intelligence. It’s improving all the time with each new iOS release. That said, it’s still limited to fairly simple tasks and doesn’t offer the advanced smarts of Google Assistant (Google Assistant is also available for the iPhone).
6. Battery Life: Consistent Improvement
Early iPhones needed to recharge their batteries every day. More recent models can go days without a charge, though new versions of the operating system tend to cut battery life until they’re optimized in later releases.
The battery situation is more complex with Android, due to the large variety of hardware options. Some Android models have 7-inch screens and other features which burn through much more battery life.
But, thanks to the wide variety of Android models, there are also some that offer ultra-high capacity batteries. If you don’t mind the extra bulk, and really need a long-lasting battery, Android can deliver a device that works much longer than an iPhone on a single charge.
7. User Experience: Elegance vs. Customization
People who want the complete control to customize their phones will prefer Android thanks to its greater openness.
One downside of this openness is that each company that makes Android phones can customize them, sometimes replacing default Android apps with inferior tools developed by that company.
Apple, on the other hand, locks the iPhone down much more tightly. Customizations are more limited and you can’t change default apps. What you’re giving up in flexibility with an iPhone is balanced out by quality and attention to detail, a device that just looks and is well-integrated with other products.
If you want a phone that works well, delivers a high-quality experience, and is easy to use, Apple is the clear winner. On the other hand, if you value flexibility and choice enough to accept some potential issues, you’ll probably prefer Android.
8. User Maintenance: Storage and Battery
Apple emphasizes elegance and simplicity in the iPhone above all else. That’s a major reason that users can’t upgrade the storage or replace the batteries on their iPhones (it’s possible to get replacement iPhone batteries, but they have to be installed by a skilled repair person).
Android, on the other hand, lets users change the phone’s battery and expand its storage capacity.
The trade-off is that Android is a bit more complex and a bit less elegant, but that may be worth it compared to running out of memory or avoiding paying for an expensive battery replacement.
9. Peripheral Compatibility: USB Is Everywhere
Owning a smartphone usually means owning some accessories for it, such as speakers, battery cases, or simply extra charging cables.
Android phones offer the widest choice of accessories. That’s because Android uses USB ports to connect to other devices, and USB ports are available practically everywhere.
Apple, on the other hand, uses its proprietary Lightning port to connect to accessories. There are some advantages to Lightning, like that it gives Apple more control over the quality of the accessories that work with the iPhone, but it’s less widely compatible.
Plus, if you need to charge your phone right now, people are more likely to have a USB cable handy.
10. Security: No Question About It
If you care about the security of your smartphone, there’s only one choice: iPhone.
The reasons for this are myriad and too long to completely go into here. For the short version, consider these two facts:
- In one study, 97% of all malware, viruses, worms, etc., were for Android. In that study, 0% attacked the iPhone.
- Even the head of Google’s Android team admits that “We can not guarantee that Android is designed to be safe… If I had a company dedicated to malware, I should also be addressing my attacks on Android.”
That says it all. However, it’s important to note that these stats don’t mean iPhone is immune to malware. It is not. It’s just less likely to be targeted and Android-based phones.
11. GPS Navigation: Free Wins For Everyone
As long as you’ve got access to the internet and a smartphone, you never have to get lost again thanks to the built-in GPS and maps apps on both the iPhone and Android.
Both platforms support third-party GPS apps that can give drivers turn-by-turn directions. Apple Maps is exclusive to iOS, and while that app had some famous problems when it debuted, it’s getting steadily better all the time. It’s a strong alternative to Google Maps for many users.
Even if you don’t want to try Apple Maps, Google Maps is available on both platforms (generally pre-loaded on Android), so the experience is roughly identical.
12. Bottom Line
The decision of whether to buy an iPhone or Android phone isn’t as simple as tallying up the winners above and choosing the phone that won more categories (but for those counting, it’s 8-6 for the iPhone, plus 5 ties).
Different categories count for different amounts to different people. Some people will value hardware choice more, while others will care more about battery life or mobile gaming.
Both platforms offer are good choices for different people. You’ll need to decide what factors are most important to you and then choose the phone that best meets your needs.