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iOS vs. Android: Full Comparison with Specs, History, and More

iOS vs Android: Comparing the Two Biggest Mobile Platforms

The smartphone operating system duopoly between Apple‘s iOS and Google‘s Android has dominated the mobile landscape for over a decade now. As of 2022, iOS and Android collectively power over 99% of smartphones worldwide, but the two platforms offer distinct philosophies, features, and user experiences. Whether you‘re a long-time mobile user looking to switch sides or shopping for your very first smartphone, understanding the key differences between iOS and Android is crucial for choosing the mobile operating system that best fits your needs and preferences.

A Tale of Two Mobile Histories

iOS and Android took very different paths to mobile dominance. iOS began as the operating system powering the original iPhone that launched in 2007. As a product of then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs‘ vision, iOS was designed from the ground up to provide a simple, intuitive user experience on the iPhone‘s multi-touch screen. Leveraging Apple‘s complete control over iPhone hardware and software, iOS quickly gained popularity for its responsive performance and sleek design.

Android, on the other hand, was originally envisioned as an operating system for digital cameras before shifting focus to smartphones. Acquired by Google in 2005, Android launched on smartphones in 2008 as an open source alternative to iOS. Google made Android freely available to third-party smartphone manufacturers, enabling a proliferation of Android devices at various price points. This opensource approach led Android to commanding over 70% global smartphone market share, albeit across a highly fragmented ecosystem of devices.

The Great Hardware Divide

Perhaps the starkest difference between iOS and Android is your range of hardware options. If you want to use iOS, you are limited to Apple‘s small selection of iPhones (and iPads). While the iPhone has expanded into multiple models to suit different screen sizes and budgets, the lineup pales in comparison to the hundreds of Android smartphones from dozens of manufacturers.

With Android, you can find a device tailored to virtually any preference – whether you prioritize a large, high resolution display, multi-day battery life, professional-grade cameras, 5G connectivity, foldable screens, a physical QWERTY keyboard, or a sub-$200 price tag. Samsung, Motorola, OnePlus, Google‘s own Pixel, and countless other Android devices cover the gamut of styles and specifications. This variety does come with a caveat – overall quality and performance can vary significantly across Android devices, so it‘s important to research any model you‘re considering.

The Software Experience

Your day-to-day experience and interface with iOS and Android have more in common than not. Both provide grid-based home screens to launch apps, notifications, and quick settings. However, iOS sticks to a static app icon grid, while Android allows you to configure widgets on your home screens for glanceable information like weather, calendar appointments, and news headlines.

Another notable software difference is your virtual assistant. Every iOS device includes Siri for voice commands, while Android primarily features Google Assistant with similar capabilities. Certain Android devices, like Samsung Galaxy smartphones, add their own virtual assistant alongside Google‘s. Overall, Google Assistant is widely considered more flexible and intelligent compared to Siri, but both allow you to send messages, set reminders, control smart home devices, and get answers to questions hands-free.

Messaging is another area of differentiation. iOS integrates Apple‘s iMessage for seamless messaging with other Apple devices, including more rich features than standard SMS texting provides. Android defaults to more basic SMS and MMS messaging, but supports the new Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard on newer devices for an iMessage-like experience between compatible Android phones.

App Stores and Third Party Software

Both iOS and Android offer robust app store experiences for discovering and installing third party apps and games. Apple‘s iOS App Store and the Google Play Store each house around 2 million apps spanning every popular app category. Many leading apps are now developed simultaneously for both platforms.

However, the two companies take different approaches to their app stores. Apple maintains tight control over iOS apps, requiring every app and update to undergo human review before being listed in the App Store. While this curation helps improve average app quality and security, it can result in slower updates and more restrictions around content. Select apps like game streaming services have had trouble getting listed in the App Store.

Android apps have an easier time getting into the Google Play Store thanks to a primarily automated review process, but Google has been ramping up human reviews and restrictions in recent years as well. However, Android also allows installing apps from outside the Google Play Store, such as the popular Fortnite game that‘s not available in Apple‘s App Store. Third-party Android app stores like Amazon‘s Appstore provide alternate venues for apps.

The Security Question

Security and privacy are paramount concerns in the smartphone age, and iOS and Android tackle these issues differently. Historically iOS has been considered the more secure mobile operating system due to Apple‘s tight control over hardware, software, and the App Store. Since Apple controls the entire stack and doesn‘t license iOS to other manufacturers, it‘s extremely difficult for attackers to find and exploit vulnerabilities across all iOS devices. The App Store review process also keeps most malware off the platform.

Android is more open by design, making it inherently more vulnerable to malware and exploits. However, Google has been steadily improving Android security and leveraging its control over Google Play Services to protect devices. Features like verified boot, runtime permissions, and Google Play Protect security scanning help keep most users safe. And since it‘s a bigger target for attackers, new vulnerabilities in Android tend to be found and fixed more rapidly than iOS these days. Android is now considered the hardest mobile OS to hack according to exploit broker Zerodium.

Privacy is another matter, and Apple has positioned itself as a privacy-focused company compared to data-collecting Google. Apple includes anti-tracking tech and App Store "nutrition labels" detailing what data apps collect. Google relies heavily on user data for its ad business, but Android does include similar privacy dashboards and controls. Still, iOS gets the edge for safeguarding user privacy.

Software Support and Longevity

Before buying a new smartphone, it‘s wise to consider how long the device will receive ongoing operating system and security updates. Apple famously supports iOS devices for longer than any Android phones. The latest iOS 15 release from 2021 supports iPhones all the way back to 2015‘s iPhone 6S. Most Android devices are lucky to get two years of major Android updates and security patches.

Google and Samsung have recently extended support for their own Pixel and Galaxy devices to match Apple‘s five-year commitment, but it‘s still far from the norm on Android. Slower updates also mean key features in new Android releases often don‘t arrive on third-party devices for months after Google makes them available on Pixel phones. Since Apple controls iOS hardware and software, every supported iPhone gets a new iOS release as soon as it‘s available.

Integrated Ecosystems and Ease of Use

Both iOS and Android have grown beyond basic smartphone functionality to encompass wearables, smart home gadgets, car infotainment systems, and more. Your choice of smartphone OS now influences an entire technology ecosystem.

iOS offers tight integration with other Apple products and services like the Apple Watch, Mac computers, Apple TV, AirPods, HomeKit smart devices, and iCloud. The cohesion enables slick features like answering phone calls on your Mac, universal clipboard between devices, and streaming video from your iPhone to an Apple TV. Android provides similar cross-device features, but the experience is more fragmented across various Android device manufacturers and not as reliable.

From a pure ease-of-use standpoint, iOS maintains an edge over Android. The iPhone setup process is smoother, the interface is more consistent, and there are fewer settings and options to worry about. Since Apple designs both the hardware and software, everything just tends to work more seamlessly on iOS devices compared to the greater variability among Android manufacturers. Android typically provides more customization features and integrations for power users, but average users tend to find iOS more approachable and streamlined.

Choosing Your Mobile Champion

So which smartphone operating system reigns supreme? The short answer is that there‘s no clear winner for everyone. Your individual needs and preferences will determine whether iOS or Android is the better choice.

Android‘s key advantages include:
-Greater hardware variety at more price points
-Higher customization and flexibility
-Integrations with Windows PCs and Google services
-Rapid innovation and new features

iOS‘s core strengths are:
-Simple, intuitive, and consistent interface
-High performance and build quality
-Long-term software support and updates
-Strong security and privacy protections
-Cohesive integration with Apple‘s ecosystem

Ultimately, both platforms now provide feature-rich, reliable, and secure experiences for most users‘ needs. iOS is the easier choice for those already invested in Apple‘s ecosystem, seeking the most foolproof experience, or holding onto a phone for many years. Android makes sense if you value hardware choice, customization, and integrating with Windows and Google services.

Of course, switching between iOS and Android is more realistic than ever as well. Most popular apps are available on both platforms, many services now sync data between iOS and Android, and moving your photos and contacts is relatively painless. Don‘t be afraid to try the other side if you‘re curious. Variety is the spice of mobile life.