While you can turn to a number of companies if you’re shopping for one of the best phones, no matter what you buy, it’s guaranteed to be running one of the two prominent mobile operating systems: iOS (if you pick an iPhone) or Android (if you opt for anything else).
Both platforms are quite mature at this stage, having existed for more than a decade. That means both have amassed comprehensive feature sets, and there’s very little one can do that the other cannot. Still, however, each has its advantages, and there are reasons you might want to choose one over the other.
Pitting iPhone vs. Android, we take a look at the respective strengths of each mobile platform, so you can pick the right one for you the next time you buy a smartphone.
iPhone: Only a handful of Android phone makers have hardware ecosystems that approach Apple’s, and even for some that come close, like Samsung, you won’t get the depth of integration possible between the iPhone and other Apple-built devices. Microsoft is helping Google close the gap somewhat with its new Your Phone app for Windows, which allows Android users to respond to texts and notifications on their PCs, though the experience is a little clunky and there is still work to be done.
There are many other great examples of continuity across iOS, iPadOS, watchOS and macOS — and the iPhone is a critical component in that puzzle, especially now that iPhone apps can be seamlessly ported to macOS. Power users already immersed in Apple’s ecosystem can stand to gain a lot by adding an iPhone to their repertoire. And that’s to say nothing of friends and family members who prefer to use iMessage and FaceTime to keep in touch.
Additionally, Apple has added yet another opportunity for lock-in with the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro: MagSafe accessories. These magnet-based chargers, cases and products will work only with the latest iPhones, so if you invest in the platform, it’s going to cause some friction should you try to leave.
Android : There are phones at every price. The vast majority of the world’s smartphones run Android, and because so many companies build Android handsets, they’re available at every price range. There are cheap phones under the three-digit mark like the new Pixel 4a, as well as some of the best small phones and best big phones, and phablets and foldables far exceeding $1,000. No matter how much you can spend, chances are you can find an Android device that fits your budget or offers exclusive features.
The same cannot be said for iPhones, which historically have been expensive at launch, only to come down in price after successive generations. One of the most affordable Apple handsets is the iPhone 11, and that cost $700 when it launched. By contrast, the OnePlus 7T (which runs on Android) costs $100 less and has an OLED display, twice the RAM and internal storage, and a 2x telephoto lens. The least-expensive iPhone that Apple offers is the iPhone SE, which is a fantastic device with phenomenal performance for just $400, though its design is dated, and its screen will be too small for some.
It’s more customizable. Though both iOS and Android have evolved over the years, Android has always had a reputation for being the platform for users who like to tinker and personalize their devices. That starts with the home screen launcher, which offers dynamic widgets and the ability to place apps anywhere on a page or in a drawer, out of sight — something the iPhone is only catching up to now with iOS 14. You can even swap out your Android phone’s launcher with an alternative downloaded from the Google Play store.
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