I use iOS. My husband Will uses Android. He says he will never pass.
When we met, Will had a Samsung Galaxy S3. It has stuck to Android phones ever since, except for a short time with the iPhone 6S Plus. When he got rid of that phone, a lot of his text messages disappeared because people were still trying to reach him via iMessage. This quick taste of the way Apple bogs down its users on its systems deepened his resolve (Apple has since addressed the problem).
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There are several reasons for my preference for the iPhone. The main one is that I can’t give up the group messages in iMessage.
In general, people are not that likely to switch from Android to iOS or vice versa. But we’re in the midst of smartphone season, the time of year when Samsung, Apple and Google unveil the latest models, so it might be worth considering. Besides, there are ways to coexist harmoniously in an Android and iOS household, which I’ll discuss below.
The anti-iPhone camp
I wanted to explore the gap between Android and iOS, so I asked Will and other Android loyalists: What do you like about your platform?
I took his Pixel 6a from my husband and started a voice recording. While we were talking, the app made a transcript of what we said in real time and with almost perfect accuracy. This is one of the features of Android’s artificial intelligence that I envy the most. The other is Hold for Me, a tool that does exactly what its name says while waiting for a customer service representative.
Will said he likes the swipe keyboard, a feature Android had long before the iPhone, as well as the file system access, which allows him to sync data between his computer and phone over Wi-Fi. “These are things I’ve enjoyed for a long time,” said Will, who works as an engineer at a medical software company. “It’s hard to change habits.”
The messaging interface of iPhone versus Android. Habits are hard to change / Photo: Shutterstock, Tada Images
Will doesn’t mind the green text bubbles his Android prompts on iPhones. First of all – he doesn’t see them – in the pixel everything appears the same way. Most of his family is in Europe, and they use Signal and other apps that look the same on all platforms.
Google tried to shame Apple into adopting the next-generation text messaging standard, known as Rich Communication Service, so that all messages would be more iMessage-like. For Apple, the implementation of this system could harm one of the reasons why people stick to the iPhone.
William Edmiston, who uses a Samsung Galaxy S9, chose Android because of Google’s innovation as well as because of Apple’s strong control over its closed system. “I’m a ‘never iPhone’ person, too,” said Edmiston, a Raleigh, North Carolina resident who works for an orthodontic technology company. “Android feels a little more innovative, the system of choice for true tech enthusiasts.”
Edmiston also liked the ability to treat the phone like a personal computer and install different operating systems and applications on it. He admitted that today he relies on Google’s applications.
Both Android and Apple offer detailed guides for those who want to make the jump to the rival platform. But switching an operating system is more than transferring contacts and photos. It’s about learning a whole new language of gestures and menus, and it can be frustrating.
“Honestly I don’t think one operating system is better than the other, but I think switching between operating systems is a huge headache,” my husband said.
iOS vs. Android
In the US, 55% of Americans use the iOS system. There are more Android users worldwide, and there Google’s platform has a 71% market share, according to the data company Statcounter.
Apple develops iOS only for the iPhone and iPad (in a variation called iPadOS). Google develops Android but gives it away for free as open source software. This means that any hardware manufacturer can use Android. The most popular include Samsung, Xiaomi and OnePlus. Google makes its own Pixel-branded phones, and even Microsoft has produced an Android device or two.
While the two companies constantly copy features from each other, they differ in several key ways:
hardware: iOS devices are manufactured only by Apple and you can choose between three or four new devices every year.
There are many more Android devices and designs to choose from, from the cheapest to the most extreme. At the low end, you can buy a basic model for less than $160 (the iPhone SE is Apple’s cheapest phone, at $429). At the high end, Samsung sells Android devices with flexible screens that can be folded.
iPhone SE. Apple’s cheapest model / Photo: Shutterstock, ALDECA studio
Work Environment: Apple designs both its hardware and software, a position the company says is an advantage, because its devices “just work” together. Wireless headphones that connect to the Mac automatically. A lost Apple Watch that can be read from the iPad.
Android devices are not so seamlessly integrated, although Google is working on it these days. Last year, the company launched features for Android users to locate phones or send text messages from a Chrome laptop. A feature similar to the Universal Notice Board – Apple’s copy-and-paste option across multiple devices – is coming soon to Android phones and tablets.
Samsung has its own universe of gadgets. Samsung Galaxy phones can stream videos to Samsung Smart TVs, and Galaxy Watches can remotely control Galaxy phones’ camera aperture, for example.
Updates: iPhones and iPads receive a feature-rich software update every fall, and it’s available for all existing models. Apple supports the phones for about five years.
Because the Android universe is fragmented, each manufacturer has a different update schedule and policy. Typically, Google’s Pixel models get the updates first, as was the case with Android 13 that launched earlier this month. Newer Pixel models get five years of support, and older models three years. Samsung devices receive software updates for three to four years, and an additional year of security updates.
Personal customization: Historically, iPhones have been less customizable than Android devices. But the iOS 16 update lets users customize the font on the lock screen and add small widgets, something Android users have been able to do for years.
Android is a better platform for people who like to tinker with technology. For example, you can set a third-party messaging app as the default. It is also possible to download software for Android other than through the Google app store – although this is something that users do knowing that it involves a certain risk.
Google has increased efforts to keep bad apps out of its store. Still, the platform is more open, like a traditional PC, so unwary users can make their devices vulnerable to malware and data leaks.
Yes, Android and iOS give a different feel, and there will always be things that one does better than the other. But if you choose the right apps, they can coexist peacefully.
Google is pretty good at this: Will and I rely on Google Maps to share locations, Google Photos to store photos, and Google Assistant to control smart home products. All of these Google services have iPhone apps, although the experience of using them is smoother on Android.
Any.do is a to-do list that works with both Siri and Google Assistant, and has great widgets for both platforms. We also like the Notion app for things like travel planning and household chores.
Any.do app, suitable for both Android and iPhone / Photo: Shutterstock, Piotr Swat
For home entertainment, we found Roku’s streaming services, many of which support both Google Cast and Apple’s AirPlay. So are Sonos speakers, which can be adapted to both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and also work with AirPlay.
Will and I won’t be on the same OS anytime soon. But manage to make it work. At least until I need a great voice recorder and steal his phone from him, again.