Android remains the most popular phone operating system. It has seen-off Blackberry, Nokia Symbian and Windows Phone. It’s polished and complete, yet many will tell you iOS offers a better experience.
The truth is that both iOS and Android are good. Each has its advantages. If you want more control over your phone choose Android. If you worry about your privacy and security choose iOS.
Fans of both swear their favourite is more productive or more fun. They both can be. And anyway, these things depend on your definition of productivity or fun and how you work.
Should you change?
Before we look closer at the differences, one other key point. If you’ve spent the last ten years using one or the other, you’ll need a good reason to switch.
Making a change is disruptive. You’ll need to learn new ways to do things and, if you see your phone as a work tool, chances are, you’ll spend a small fortune buying new apps. You may also need to budget for things like earbuds and any other peripherals.
Only Apple makes iOS devices. You can’t buy them from a third-party. It makes the hardware and it makes the software. This is important.
There are no jarring glitches where one company’s responsibility stops and another’s starts. Apple gets to control every step from the moment you open the product box.
The hardware and software knit together. The experience is seamless and integrated. It is not always clear where one stops and the other starts.
Apple hardware is often beautiful. The beauty isn’t skin deep; it goes all the way through.
Android can’t match Apple’s integration.
Take Samsung, the leading maker of Android phone hardware. It speaks volumes that Samsung hides Android behind its own software overlay. So do the other phone makers.
You can buy Google Pixel branded phones with vanilla Android versions. Nokia also makes a range of pure Android phones with no overlay.
These are better integrated. They are a smoother experience than the phones with overlays. Yet, even here, Android’s integration is not as tight as Apple’s.
There’s also an inconsistent user experience.
Move from any Apple iPad to an iPhone and things work much the same. This is not always ideal, but third-party apps are consistent across the iOS range. Controls are consistent. Things act in the same, predictable way wherever you are.
Someone who uses an older iPhone can move to the latest one with little difficulty.
Android is better than it was five or six years ago. Yet, it still lacks consistency. A user switching from one Android brand to another will have to make mental adjustments. It’s not huge. For the most part it is no longer jarring. But it’s there. It’s a barrier to productivity.
When Apple introduces a new version of iOS, most users upgrade in days. That’s less the case with Android. It is a fragmented market with different users on different Android versions. And that’s before you account for overlays.
Although matters have improved in recent years, there are times when an Android app may not run on every model and OS version. Fragmentation makes life harder for app developers. They tend to write code for the most popular options, not all options.
While there are iOS apps that don’t run on some iPhones, there’s no similar fragmentation in Apple’s world.
Sometimes free is too high a price
Apple’s business model is about selling hardware and services like Apple Music. iOS is made for that purpose.
Google’s business model is selling advertising. Android’s key commercial goal purpose is to collect data so Google can sell more ads. Google doesn’t even sell its software to phone makers. They get it free. This tells you everything.
You might be cool with that. You may think owning an Android phone means you’ll see better targeted advertising. And it is fair to say Apple collects data. But there’s a difference between data collection being a byproduct and being the goal.
The problem comes when Apple engineers make a choice about how something works. Their point of reference is how do we make this experience better?
Google engineers ask themselves the same question. But they’ll also think about opportunities to collect more data.
Android not all bad
Android is not a bad phone OS. It’s great.
Yet compared with iOS, it’s feels messy and disorganised. That’s not all negative. Some geeks like to tinker with their phones – that’s easier in the Android world. For some the freedom to tinker is more important than being productive or efficient. For others freedom is a path to productivity and efficiency.
Android has its charms. Apart from anything else, there wouldn’t be affordable phones without Google’s mobile operating system. Not everybody can afford to pay Apple’s premium prices. Not everybody wants to pay a premium. Android means you can get a decent phone for a few hundred dollars.
And let’s not forget Android allowed Samsung and others to get into the phone market. It made competition possible. For that Google deserves everyone’s thanks.