I am on iOS. My husband, Will, uses Android. He says that he will never change.
When we met, Will had a Samsung Galaxy S3. He’s stuck with Android phones ever since, except for a brief stint with the iPhone 6S Plus. When he got rid of that phone, a lot of his text messages were lost because they were still trying to reach him through iMessage. That Quick Apple Taste‘s
lockdown only deepened his resolve. (Apple has since addressed the issue.)
There are several reasons for my preference for the iPhone. The main one is that I can’t seem to leave my group iMessage chats.
In general, people are not likely to switch from Android to iOS or vice versa. But we’re in the middle of smartphone season, the time of year when Samsung, Apple and Google unveil their latest models, so maybe it’s worth considering. Also, there are ways to harmoniously coexist in an iOS-Android household, which I will discuss below.
I wanted to explore this gap between iOS and Android, so I asked Will and other Android loyalists: What do you like most about your platform?
I grabbed Will’s Pixel 6a and started a voice recording. As we talked, the app transcribed our conversation in real time with near-perfect accuracy. It’s one of the AI features of Android that I’m most jealous of. The second is Hold for Me, a tool that does just that when you’re waiting for a customer service representative.
Will said he likes the slide-out keyboard, which Android had long before iPhones, and the file system access, which allows him to sync data between his computer and phone over Wi-Fi. “Those 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 break habits.”
Will doesn’t mind those green bubble text messages that his Android phone triggers on iPhones. For one thing, he doesn’t see it, everything appears the same on the Pixel. His family lives mainly in Europe and they use Signal and other apps that look the same on all platforms.
Google has tried to shame Apple into adopting the next-generation text messaging standard, called Rich Communication Services, to make all text more like iMessage. For Apple, implementing it could remove a reason for people to stick with iPhones.
Samsung Galaxy S9 user William Edmiston chose Android for Google’s innovation Y Apple’s strict control and closed system. “I’m also a ‘never iPhone’ person,” said the Raleigh, NC, resident who works at an orthodontic technology company. “Android felt a bit more cutting edge, embraced by true tech enthusiasts.”
Mr. Edmiston also liked being able to treat the phone like a PC and install different operating systems and applications. He admitted that he is now entrenched in Google’s own apps.
Both Android and Apple offer useful guides for those who want to make the jump to the rival platform. But exchanging systems is more than just transferring contacts and photos. You’re learning a whole new language of gestures and menus, which can be frustrating.
“Frankly, I don’t think one OS is better than another, but I do think switching OSes is a huge headache,” my husband said.
iOS vs. Android
In the US, 55% of Americans use an iOS device. There are more Android users globally, where Google’s platform has a 71% market share, according to analytics firm Statcounter.
Apple develops iOS exclusively for iPhone and iPad (with the iPadOS variation). Google develops Android but provides it for free as open source software. That means 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 dabbled in Android.
And while the two constantly copy each other’s features, they differ in key ways:
• Hardware: iOS devices are only made by Apple, and you can choose between three or four new phones every year.
There are many more Android phones and designs to choose from, from the cheapest to the most extreme. At the low end, you can get a budget model for less than $160. (At $429, the iPhone SE is Apple’s budget offering.) At the high end, Samsung sells Android phones with flexible screens that can be flipped and folded.
• Ecosystem: Apple designs both its hardware and its software, a position the company touts as a benefit since its devices “just work” together. AirPods that automatically connect to your Mac. A missing Apple Watch that you can ping from your iPad.
Android devices don’t integrate as seamlessly, though Google is doing more now. Last year, the company rolled out features so Android users could locate their phones or send text messages from Chromebooks. A similar feature to the Universal Clipboard, Apple’s cross-device copy and paste functionality, is coming to Android phones and tablets.
Samsung has its own universe of gadgets. Samsung Galaxy phones can stream videos to Samsung smart TVs, while Galaxy watches can remotely control the camera shutter of Galaxy phones, for example.
• Updates: iPhone and iPad get a big, feature-rich software update every fall, available for all eligible models. Apple supports phones for about five years.
Because the Android universe is fragmented, each phone manufacturer has a different system update timeline and policy. Usually Google’s Pixel phones come first, like with Android 13, which was released earlier this month. Newer Pixel phones get five years of support, while older models get three. Samsung devices get three to four years of system updates, plus an additional year of security patches.
• Personalization: Historically, iPhones have been less customizable than Android devices. But the upcoming iOS 16 update allows users to style lock screen fonts and add small interactive widgets, something Android users have been able to do for a long time.
Android is a better platform for techies. For example, you can set a third-party messaging app as your default. You can also upload apps to Android by downloading them from outside the Google Play store, though you do so at your own risk.
Google has increased efforts to keep bad apps out of its Play store. Still, the platform is more open, like a traditional PC, so users who aren’t careful can make their devices susceptible to malware and data leaks.
So happy together
Yes, iOS and Android feel different, and there will always be things that one can do better than the other. But if you choose the right apps, you can live happily together.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
What are your reasons for sticking with Android or iOS? Join the conversation below.
Google is really good at this: Will and I rely on Google Maps for location sharing, Google Photos for photo storage, and Google Assistant for controlling smart home products. All of these Google services have iPhone apps, though the experience is more integrated into Android.
Any.do is a to-do list that works with Siri and Google Assistant, and has great widgets for both platforms. We also like the Notion app for things like travel planning and household stuff.
For home entertainment, we’ve found Roku’s streaming devices, many of which support Google Cast and Apple’s AirPlay, work well. So do Sonos speakers, which can be set up with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, and work with AirPlay.
Will and I won’t be on the same platforms anytime soon, but we make it work. At least until you need some excellent voice transcription and steal your phone. Again.
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Email Nicole Nguyen at [email protected]
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