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Is Android or iPhone the Better Smartphone?

When it comes to buying one of the best smartphones, the first choice can be the hardest: iPhone or Android. It’s not simple; both offer a lot of great features and they may seem basically the same other than brand and price.
However, a closer look shows that there are some key differences. Read on for a closer at look at some of these differences to help you decide whether an iPhone or Android smartphone is right for you.
Want to know what Apple has planned for future iPhone models? Get the latest info in our round-up of iPhone rumors.
Hardware: Choice vs. Polish
An image of the Apple iPhone 8 series in rose gold.
image credit: Apple Inc.
Hardware is the first place where the differences between the iPhone and Android become clear.
Only Apple makes iPhones, so it has extremely tight control over how the software and hardware work together. On the other hand, Google offers the Android software to many phone makers, including Samsung, HTC, LG, and Motorola. Because of that, Android phones vary widely in size, weight, features, and quality.
Premium-priced Android phones tend to be as good as the iPhone in terms of hardware quality, but cheaper Android options are more prone to problems. Of course iPhones can have hardware issues, too, but they’re generally higher quality.
If you’re buying an iPhone, you just need to pick a model. Because many companies make Android devices, you have to pick both a brand and a model, which can be a bit confusing.
Some may prefer the greater choice Android offers, but others appreciate Apple’s simplicity and quality.
Winner: Tie
OS Compatibility: A Waiting Game
iOS 11
image credit: Apple Inc.
To make sure you always have the latest and greatest version of your smartphone operating system, you have to get an iPhone.
That’s because some Android makers are slow at updating their phones to the latest version of the Android OS version, and sometimes don’t update their phones at all.
While it’s to be expected that older phones will eventually lose support for the latest OS, Apple’s support for older phones is generally better than Android’s.
Take iOS 11 as an example. It includes full support for the iPhone 5S, which was released in 2013. Thanks to support for such an old device, and full availability ​for all other models, iOS 11 was installed on about 66% of compatible models within 6 weeks of its release.
On the other hand, Android 8, codenamed Oreo, was ​running on just 0.2% of Android devices more than 8 weeks after its release.​ Even its predecessor, Android 7, was only running on about 18% of devices more than a year after its release. The makers of the phones — not users — control when the OS is released for their phones and, as stats shows, most companies are very slow to update.
So, if you want the latest and greatest as soon as it’s ready, you need an iPhone.
Winner: iPhone
Apps: Selection vs. Control
google play and app store badges
Google Inc. and Apple Inc.
The Apple App Store offers fewer apps than Google Play (around 2.1 million vs. 3.5 million, as of April 2018), but overall selection isn’t the most important factor.
Apple is famously strict (some would say too strict) about what apps it allows, while Google’s standards for Android are lax. While Apple’s control may seem too tight, it also prevents situations like the one where a fake version of WhatsApp was published on Google Play and downloaded by 1 million people before it was removed. That’s a major potential security threat.
Beyond that, some developers have complained about the difficulty of developing for so many different phones. Fragmentation — the large numbers of devices and OS versions to support — makes developing for Android expensive. For example, the developers of Temple Run reported that early in their Android experience ​nearly all of their support emails had to do with unsupported devices even though they support over 700 Android phones.
Combine development costs with the emphasis on free apps for Android, and it reduces the likelihood that developers can cover their costs. Key apps also almost always debut first on iOS, with Android versions coming later, if they come at all.
Winner: iPhone
Gaming: A Mobile Powerhouse
mobile games on iphone
AleksandarNakic/E+/Getty Images
There was a time when mobile video gaming was dominated by Nintendo’s 3DS and Sony’s Playstation Vita. The iPhone changed that.
Apple’s devices like the iPhone and iPod touch, are perhaps the dominant players in the mobile video game market, with tens of thousands of great games and tens of millions of players. The growth of the iPhone as a gaming platform, in fact, has led some observers to forecast that Apple will eclipse Nintendo and Sony as the leading mobile game platform (Nintendo has even started releasing games for the iPhone, like Super Mario Run).
The tight integration of Apple’s hardware and software mentioned above has led it to be able to create powerful gaming technologies using hardware and software that make its phones as fast as some laptops.
The general expectation that Android apps should be free has led game developers interested in making money to develop for iPhone first and Android second. In fact, due to problems with developing for Android, some game companies have stopped creating games for it all together.
While Android has its share of hit games, the iPhone has the clear advantage.
Winner: iPhone
Integration with Other Devices: Continuity Guaranteed
Handoff in iOS 8
Apple, Inc.
Most people use a tablet, computer, or wearable in addition to their smartphone. For those people, Apple offers a more consistent and integrated experience.
Because Apple makes computers, tablets, and watches along with the iPhone, it offers things that Android (which mostly runs on smartphones, though there are tablets and wearables that use it) can’t.
Apple’s Continuity features let you unlock your Mac using an Apple Watch, start writing an email on your iPhone while you’re walking and finish it on your Mac at home, or have all of your devices receive any call coming into your iPhone.
Google’s services like Gmail, Maps, Google Now, etc., work across all Android devices, ​which is very useful. But unless your watch, tablet, phone, and computer are all made by the same company — and there aren’t too many companies other than Samsung that make products in all of those categories — there’s no unified experience.
Winner: iPhone
Support: The Unmatched Apple Store
Make Genius Bar Appointment
Artur Debat/Moment Mobile ED/Getty Images
Both smartphone platforms generally work pretty well and, for day-to-day use, don’t usually malfunction. However, everything breaks down once in awhile, and when that happens, how you get support matters.
With Apple, you can simply take your device to your closest Apple Store, where a trained specialist can help solve your problem. (They’re busy, though, so it pays to make an appointment ahead of time.)
There’s no equivalent on the Android side. Sure, you can get support for Android devices from the phone company you bought your phone from, the manufacturer, or maybe even the retail store where you bought it, but which should you pick and can you be sure the people there are well trained?
Having a single source for expert support gives Apple the upper hand in this category.
Winner: iPhone
Intelligent Assistant: Google Assistant Beats Siri
Artificial Intelligence
PASIEKA/Science Photo Library/Getty Images
The next frontier of smartphone features and functionality will be driven by artificial intelligence and voice interfaces. On this front, Android has a clear lead.
Google Assistant, the most prominent artificial intelligence/intelligent assistant on Android, is extremely powerful. It uses everything Google knows about you and the world to make life easier for you. For instance, if your Google Calendar knows that you’re meeting someone at 5:30 and that traffic is terrible, Google Assistant can send you a notification telling you to leave early.
Siri is Apple’s answer to Google Assistant for artificial intelligence. It’s improving all the time with each new iOS release. That said, it’s still limited to fairly simple tasks and doesn’t offer the advanced smarts of Google Assistant (Google Assistant is also ​available for the iPhone).
Winner: Android
Wondering whether Siri runs on Android or Google Assistant on iPhone? Check out How to Get Siri for Android or Windows Phones.
Battery Life: Consistent Improvement
plugging in low battery phone
iStock
Early iPhones needed to recharge their batteries every da​y. More recent models can go days without a charge, though new versions of the operating system tend to cut battery life until they’re optimized in later releases.​
The battery situation is more complex with Android, due to the large variety of hardware options. Some Android models have 7-inch screens and other features which burn through much more battery life.
But, thanks to the wide variety of Android models, there are also some that offer ultra-high capacity batteries. If you don’t mind the extra bulk, and really need a long-lasting battery, Android can deliver a device that works much longer than an iPhone on a single charge.
Winner: Android
User Experience: Elegance vs. Customization
how to unlock iphone
With an unlocked iPhone, you’ll feel this free. Cultura RM/Matt Dutile/Getty Images
People who want the complete control to customize their phones will prefer Android thanks to its greater openness.
One downside of this openness is that each company that makes Android phones can customize them, sometimes replacing default Android apps with inferior tools developed by that company
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