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iPhone vs Android comparison: does Android have the edge?

Authored by: Gary Marshall — 1 month ago

The smartphone market is an odd one: Android sells more phones, but Apple makes most of the money. The ongoing rivalry is good for fans of both platforms, but which one is better? We put them to the test in our iPhone vs Android comparison.

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Apple's phones are beautifully made, but Android firms are improving theirs dramatically. / © ANDROIDPIT

iPhone vs Android comparison: hardware

The iPhone has been around since 2007, but Apple’s iOS operating system doesn’t support the iPhone 4 or its predecessors: iOS only runs on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. That isn’t likely to change with the release of iOS 9 this fall.

Where Apple effectively offers five different iPhones, Android phones suffer from no such limitations: the latest version of Android, Lollipop, ships on smartphones from Samsung, Sony, HTC, LG, Motorola, Acer, ZTE, Huawei, OnePlus… you get the idea. What that means in practice is that you’re much more likely to find an Android device that fits your particular needs, because the choice is much greater.

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Apple doesn't offer the massive range of hardware options that Android delivers. / © Apple

iPhone vs Android comparison: software

The current version of iOS, iOS 8, is about to be replaced with iOS 9, but it's more of a maintenance release than a massive update. The emphasis is on performance and battery improvements for the iPhone. In many respects it appears to be playing catch-up with Android.

There’s a new Google Now-esque feature called Proactive, and the same kind of battery optimization that Google introduced in Lollipop. The traffic isn’t one way - for example, the imminent Android M has visual voicemail, a feature that Apple introduced nearly a decade ago - but it does mean that Android and iOS are more similar than they’ve ever been.

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There is hot competition between Apple and Google on the software front. / © ANDROIDPIT

The next Android, Android M, will also ship this fall. The biggest feature is Google Now on Tap, which extends Google Now into third-party apps, and there’s a massively improved permissions system to give you control over what data and features your apps can access. Under the hood there’s more optimization for power usage and a new feature, Doze, to improve standby time through the use of motion detectors - so your phone will know if you’re not using it and power down accordingly.

This, combined with the App Standby feature - which lowers apps' background activity when your phone's in standby mode - drastically improves battery life, according to early tests. There’s also USB-C support for much faster charging.

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Apple doesn't offer much in the way of customisation, while Android is almost infinitely customizable. / © ANDROIDPIT

iPhone vs Android comparison: apps

On paper, Android is ahead of the iPhone when it comes to apps: as of May 2015 there were 1.5 million apps available for Android and 1.4 million for the iPhone. However, as Android owners are all too aware, that figure includes an awful lot of very poor quality apps, shameless rip-offs and the odd bit of malware too.

You’ll find the big-name apps on both platforms, but there are some notable differences. For example iOS is much better served for music apps, and developers of paid-for apps tend to develop for iOS first. That’s for the simple reason that iPhone users are more likely to pay for apps than Android users are.

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Big-name apps are available for both platforms, but there are key differences between app stores. / © ANDROIDPIT

iPhone vs Android comparison: mobile payments

Despite Google entering the mobile payment market first, Android is playing catch-up with Apple. Apple Pay, which is only available on the Apple Watch and the iPhone 5S/6/6 Plus, is getting far more attention than Google Wallet ever did. Time for a relaunch, then: Google Wallet will soon be rebranded as Android Pay.

Like its predecessor, Android Pay will use NFC to let customers make mobile payments initially in 700,000 locations around the US (we think it's no coincidence that Apple said Apple Pay was available in 700,000 locations back in March). We’ve got a detailed Android Pay vs Apple Pay comparison right here.

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Mobile payments are quite exciting in the US, but Europeans are used to contactless bank cards. / © Apple

iPhone vs Android comparison: wearable computing and home automation

Apple has the Apple Watch, but Android has Android Wear - so as with phones, you have a choice of a few models of the same Apple product or an entire world of choice from Android firms. The Watch is probably nicer than many Android Wear devices, but it’s also a lot more expensive - and if we’re honest, neither platform has really become a must-have just yet.

Both the iPhone and Android are compatible with many other wearables, such as Pebble watches, fitness and health trackers and so on. They’re also increasingly connecting to home automation devices such as smart thermostats (Google bought Nest, the firm responsible for the best such device), security cameras and so on. In most cases you’ll find that such devices work with both platforms.

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Android Wear offers more choice, but Apple's Watch is probably prettier. / © Motorola

iPhone vs Android comparison: which is best?

We can’t answer that, because the answer depends entirely on what matters to you. Build quality? iPhone. Openness? Android. Ease of use? iPhone. Customization? Android. Apps? iPhone, mainly. Affordability? Android, mainly. You get the idea.

What’s interesting, though, is how similar the platforms are becoming. Android firms are doing a pretty good job of matching Apple’s design smarts, while Apple has clearly noticed how much people like Google Now. The platforms may be bitter rivals, but their battle is driving big improvements in both iPhones and Android devices - and that means everybody’s a winner.

What do you think? Are there areas where Apple is beaten soundly with an Android stick? Are there a few Apple tricks Google should nick? Let us know in the comments.

Former lion tamer, Girls Aloud backing dancer and habitual liar Gary Marshall has been writing about technology since Google was two guys in a garage. He's written for many fine magazines, newspapers and websites, written a range of how-to-books and a novel, co-written a BBC documentary series and dishes out weekly tech advice on BBC Radio Scotland.

19 comments

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  • Tabarak Altaee 1 month ago Link to comment

    i have iphone 5 in the past and i sold it because it's very complicated phone &i always have trouble with Bluetooth beside it has no new features whatever it develops its still the same! ....but when i bought lg g3 it was so comfortable to me and i ❤it...
    so I advise everyone to use Android👌

  • Oscar Rodriguez Murphy 1 month ago Link to comment

    Thy need to stop copying I phone features once n for all 👍

  • Elatia Grimshaw 1 month ago Link to comment

    What I don't like is how many Android phone makers are following Apple's path of non-removable batteries and no microSD expansion. Unless the phone has at LEAST 64 GB of storage, it should support a microSD card.

  • Cameron S. 1 month ago Link to comment

    iPhone wins in 'ease of use'... it's the default answer that no one ever challenges. My wife (who is fairly tech savvy) is always struggling to do simplest of things on her iPhone like get her email to work, sync calendar and contacts, change an app setting, send text messages (when iMessage gets in the way), etc, etc. When I pick up her iPhone and try to help, I'm baffled that a lot of things with Apple really seem to be more complicated than Android. Despite the frustrations with Apple, my wife would never switch. It's like she's scared of Android because 'it's just too complicated.' Is Apple really easier?

    • David D. 1 month ago Link to comment

      Apple is really easier. You don't have to choose between multiple browsers to open a link in, you don't have bloatware, etc. And the UI is pretty straightforward even if it's boring plus there's no need to dig into a launcher for an app... But all that comes at the cost of customization - a price which I simply can't pay so I'm stuck with Android.

      • Dejaun Wright 1 month ago Link to comment

        That is because Apple doesn't allow change/choice of default browser. And it is good that Android asks because maybe your site you are viewing is not compatible with the browser that comes with the phone.

    • Aljan Tablizo 1 month ago Link to comment

      Apple is easier to operate, its user friendly but people like tech savvy like me are more experienced with tech. thats why people that are new to smart phones, preferably choose the iPhone

      • Dejaun Wright 1 month ago Link to comment

        I've had people who are probably more tech savvy than you come left and right and tell me that their iPhone doesn't work with them and they don't understand how to use it. And they've had iPhones as their first ever phones and continue to still use it.

  • Abhinav 1 month ago Link to comment

    Android wins
    can we root apple device ?

  • Brent Walsh 1 month ago Link to comment

    I can't really understand how you give iPhone the win for build quality. I have personal experience of my wifes 6+ bending and the screen popped off on the corner after a week. And there were not just 9 phones either. She changed it for the higher quality build Note 4. Plus the new GS6 wipes the floor with iPhone for build quality. Affordability? You will pay more for some Android flagships than iPhone. So you could have given the win to Apple there. A bit of a smug "you must be rich to have an iPhone" syndrome there I think, even though just about anyone could afford a flagship phone on a carrier plan. Your problem is you are not comparing like for like. Reading between the lines I feel you are struggling to give any pluses to the iPhone.

    • Carmelo Rivera 1 month ago Link to comment

      I don't know what the hell is going on with these "writers" lately. The articles are getting weird. It's like they're getting personal, opinionated, biased and not taking in account the public in general. WTF

    • jamiro grantsaan 1 month ago Link to comment

      Paying 40 bucks per month for any phone is
      1. Amazingly weird, do some math.
      2. Not affordable at all.
      Just save, buy the phone you want and then get a sim-only plan.