We all love a good rivalry. Everyone gets to pick a side and stick to it with almost dogmatic fervor. It seems like rivalries exist in every nook and cranny of the world; sports rivalries, sibling rivalries, college rivalries, celebrity rivalries. Even Springfield has Shelbyville. In the world of mobile phones, two giants stand in opposition: Apple and Google, iPhone vs Android. Around them exists the usual ecosystem of fanatics, pundits, and somewhat-ambivalent users.
Most posts you’ll see that weigh in on the iPhone vs Android debate are written by people who have spent some time on each side of the fence. So how could we, with little exposure to the Android platform, write an informative post that fairly weighs the two? One word: research. And lots of it.
We scoured all the online resources we could muster. We tried to stick to the information that we got from users on forums like Reddit and Quora. We care about how users on the ground feel about their mobile phones. And now we’ve distilled all the opinions down to this essential guide to the iPhone vs Android debate.
The iPhone and its iOS operating system are made by Apple. Like the chef at a fine-dining restaurant, Apple is pretty notorious for heavily controlling the quality of ingredients that go into their products. The result is a device that will cost you more upfront to buy new, but boasts a well thought out and consistent experience for iPhone users. (Hint: we suggest buying used).
In contrast, Android is an operating system produced by Google and used by smartphone manufacturers, like Samsung. Because Google only controls one aspect of your device, the quality of its other components, like the physical materials, can vary greatly. This kind of approach produces phones that are less expensive to buy new, but call for more time and expertise in order to optimize the best user experience for you.
The physical size of a phone is the first thing you notice when you use it, plus it is one of the features that sets iOS and Android phones apart. For a thorough size comparison across the most popular iPhone and Android models, check out this interactive phone size comparison.
iPhones come in three main models which vary in screen size from 4″ to 5.5″. The smaller iPhone is compact, easy to carry, and perfect for common tasks like texting, calling, and taking photos. The larger models are perfect for watching Netflix, surfing the web, filming and even editing videos.
Though size varies between each phone model, most of Android’s flagship models are over 5.5 inches tall. Their larger screen sizes make them useful for consuming entertainment, like gaming and watching movies. It’s actually getting harder to find smaller Android smartphones as the trend seems to be bigger is better.
Both iPhones and Androids boast a touch screen with similar operating gestures, like swiping, tapping and pinch-and-zoom. Each OS releases incremental updates, designed to improve your user experience. You can watch a thorough comparison on the two most recent iPhone and Android operating systems, iOS 9 and Android M.
iPhones have a very unified operating system that is heavily controlled by Apple. This makes for limited customizability, but iPhones offer a consistently fluid and simple user experience that anyone can quickly master.
Highly customizable OS features both apps and widgets, potentially creating a jumbled user experience. Perfect for people who know what a “custom ROM” is and care to devote their effort to making their device unique. Android allows users to customize nearly everything.
Most of the information out there focuses on how well Apple and Android phones hold their value over time, since most people upgrade their phones at the end of a 2-year carrier contract, regardless if their old phone is still functional or not. For the best data on how these phones depreciate over time, check out this article. However, we think there is more to a phone’s lifespan than just how much you can sell it for, like repair costs.
A well cared for iPhone will last you over 4 years. It will also hold its value well if you’re looking to resell or trade-in for a newer model. On the downside, iPhones have typically high repair costs if something goes wrong. Read about iPhone repairs here.
A well cared for Android can last you 2-3 years. Because Android is a platform that commonly runs on cheaper-model phones, you might find yourself running into issues with decreased performance and battery quicker than on iOS. Still, Android parts tend to be less expensive, easier to find and replace.
Data & Security
When it comes to data, privacy, and security, the fractured and vast selection of Android model phones makes it difficult to say whether iOS or Android is better. Current information suggests that it is this very lack of control over Android manufacturers that creates security issues for the platform. You can read a lengthy discussion of this issue here.
iPhone innovates on security with Touch ID and encryption, making it so that no one can hack your passcode to gain access to your phone. Activation Lock also allows you to restrict access to your device if it has been lost or stolen. iOS allows you to adjust the permissions on apps, restricting what data apps have access to and enabling a more private user experience. Lastly, the iPhone’s integrated operating system and hardware is optimized for the tightest security against data theft.
Android has a similar feature to iPhone’s Activation Lock called Device Protection. Android is also the less regulated smartphone operating system, meaning it is more likely to be the focus of malware attacks. Apps are isolated from the rest of the system’s resources, potentially making it less vulnerable to bugs. However, most apps require unnecessary permissions to access massive amounts of user data. What’s the concern over this? Well, granting permission to access your phone’s data can have tangible effects. For example, the most widespread malware on Android sends text messages to premium rate numbers or personal information to unauthorized third parties.
After thorough and objective user testing, it turns out that Androids and iPhones each have apps that are pretty similar in regard to usability and that neither platform is immune to bad apps.
What makes a huge difference in your experience with a phone is the hardware, i.e. the physical components. Although you can buy very high-quality Android phones, you can also buy very cheap, poorly designed phones. This is where Androids run into problems with usability. In contrast, iPhones consistently have well designed and good quality hardware, meaning you’re likely to get a better experience every time.
Overall, with the right hardware and operating system combination, both Androids and iPhones can shine. We think which you choose really should come down to what type of user you are and what preferences you have.
An iPhone is best for things like text, calls, YouTube videos, Facebook, e-mail, gaming, and so on. It’s also great if you’re an avid mobile photographer that would benefit from the iPhone’s camera. iPhones tend to cost more upfront and for repairs, but they offer the best user experience for those who don’t want to always be tinkering with customizations.
Androids are best for users who love to game or watch videos, thus justifying larger screens. Android boasts a high level of customizability, but this can prove problematic for users who don’t want to spend a lot of time ensuring that their OS meets their needs. If you demand control and are diligent about the state of your device, Android is for you.
You might have expected us to say that iPhone is better, that Android is a joke, and that outside opinions are wrong. But in reality, we realize that both Android and the iPhone have a place in the market because they each have things to offer. Whether you pick an iPhone vs Android really depends on your own personal needs.