While both Android and iOS offer comparable features, and -- at least in the high-end tier -- similar pricing, they offer different experiences.
So how do you know which one to buy?
In short, if you’re looking for a consistent, high-end experience -- and don’t mind paying for it -- an iPhone is a solid option for you.
However, if you’re on a tight budget or prefer to customize your phone, Android offers greater flexibility and a wider range of prices.
But the differences are a bit more complex than that…
If you’ve ever wondered if you might like a different phone better -- or don’t know where to start when choosing your next phone -- this guide will break down the pros and cons of both Android and iOS to help you determine what’s best for you.
The Pros and Cons of Android Phones
Tons of Choices
Nearly every major tech company has an Android phone on the market -- except Apple. So you’ll find a huge range of options from which to choose. Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to stay in touch, the ultimate mobile gaming experience, or a powerful camera, Android has you covered.
Since Android is open source, manufacturers can add their own skin on top to provide a unique -- and sometimes optimized -- look. You can also add a range of themes, keyboards, and other things through apps to change how your phone looks and how you access common features.
While it’s not guaranteed, most Android phones allow you to increase storage space using a microSD card. This makes storing extra apps, photos, or videos easy and affordable.
Most Android phones use with micro-USB or USB-C cables to charge so you probably already have a few cables lying around that will help you keep your phone’s battery topped off and ready to go.
With so many screen sizes, resolutions and hardware configurations out there, some apps won’t work on some Android smartphones. This also means that accessories compatible with one Android phone won’t always work with one another. This doesn’t account for the different versions of Android software.
Unless you’re buying an unlocked phone, you’ll probably find a bunch of extra apps, games, and services installed on your phone out of the box -- some of which you can’t install or disable. At best, they’re just taking up space. At worst, they could impact your phone's performance or send data about your usage to other companies. While manufacturers and carriers have scaled back bloatware in recent years the problem is still big enough to mention.
Lower App Quality Control
While the Google Play Store has more apps than the iTunes App Store, its developer requirements to get an app in the store are less strict than Apples. Google also doesn’t screen incoming apps as diligently as Apple. Still, if you’re sticking to well-known apps, there’s little to worry about.
The Pros and Cons of iPhones (iOS Phones)
Excellent Design and Quality
The overall experience is one of the biggest things that keep people coming back to iPhones. They’re some of the most well-designed phones on the market. You never have to worry about low-quality screens, flimsy cases, or slow performance. If you buy an iPhone -- even one a few generations old -- it will offer a solid experience.
If you already own other Apple products -- such as a MacBook, iMac, Apple TV, or iPad -- you’ll enjoy a level of integration with your iPhone not offered by Android phones. From file synching and notification mirroring to using your phone as a remote, all Apple products interconnect to simplify keeping your digital life organized.
While there might be new features and subtle tweaks from one version of iOS to the next, the core design remains largely the same. This means you won’t have to relearn how to use your phone each time you upgrade.
If you’re looking to take pictures with your phone, Apple’s iPhones have some of the most powerful cameras on the mobile market. They might not offer unique features you won’t find elsewhere but the overall quality of pictures taken on iPhones are some of the best around.
Cultivated App Store
Apple screens every app before allowing it onto the iTunes App Store. This means fewer worries about low-quality apps or malware. There are also some high-end apps on iOS you won’t find on Android -- including graphic design apps, games, and more.
Whether you’d prefer to call Apple Support or stop by a nearby Apple Store, you’ll find knowledgeable staff ready to help. This is harder to do with Android phones since there are so many options available.
Good Resale Value
If you’re the type to upgrade often, selling your used phone is an easy way to help fund your next purchase. While you can do this with any phone, you’ll often see the best returns on an iPhone since they hold their value longer.
If you have a tight budget, you’ll likely need to use phone financing to get the latest iPhone or look at an Android model instead. That said, buying a used iPhone from the past generation or two can provide you with a powerful phone at significant savings.
Fewer Customization Options
If you’re the type that loves to dig into settings and customize how your phone looks and operates, iOS might disappoint you.
Factors to Consider
Both iOS and Android share a range of features. But they take a different approach to things in many ways as well. So there is no way to say one is always better than the other.
If you’re not sure which OS sounds better to you, these considerations should help you figure things out quickly.
If you’re not worried about price, both options feature models that can hit four figures. And at that price range, you will get the best that either Android or iOS offers.
But if you’re looking at the most affordable options -- or a phone for the kids -- Android’s budget-friendly options offer prices much lower than the entry-level iPhone.
At the bottom of Android pricing, you need to be mindful of specs and build quality, but you can get a capable phone without a huge price tag.
The sweet spot for most is a solid mid-tier Android phone or one of the lower-end iPhones.
These provide most of the performance and quality you’d find in a high-end phone with a few acceptable compromises and a much lower price.
No, they’re not the absolute best available. But they’re more than good enough for most and you’ll probably want to upgrade again in a year or two whether you buy the top-end model or not.
2. Ease of Use
With some time to understand how both systems work, Android and iOS are equally easy to use.
However, the experience on iOS is more consistent from version to version. And, since Apple is the only manufacturer of iOS devices, you don’t have to worry about features moving around, appearance changes, or outdated software.
3. Customization Options
While iOS is the most consistent and easiest to use, this comes with drawbacks to customization.
If you’re looking for a phone that will let you change how the interface looks, customize loads of settings, and even replace the software on it entirely, Android is the choice for you.
While you can still customize basic personalization options -- such as colors, wallpapers, and notification settings, the options in iOS cannot compete with those of Android.
4. Build Quality and Reliability
Even the entry-level model iPhone of each generation easily competes with mid-tier Android phone options. But this reliability and quality come at a price.
Finding the same level of reliability with an Android phone requires more research. Quality can be a concern at the lowest prices, but most mid- and high-end options are comparable to iPhones in terms of build and materials.
Let’s face it, most smartphones look cool but aren’t designed to withstand abuse.
For general bumps and drops in life, both Android and iOS phones fare similarly.
You’ll need to be careful about smashed screens or cracked rear glass covers regardless of the option you choose.
Dunking any phone in water isn’t recommended -- the protections are there just in case.
In all situations, a good case can help to keep those drops and dings from breaking your phone.
But if you’re worried, phone insurance might help. And for insurance options, Apple’s AppleCare is a leading option -- giving iOS a slight edge here.
However, if you’re looking for a truly rugged phone you won’t need to worry about, Android is the best bet.
Manufacturers offer models made to endure crazy levels of abuse -- something the iPhone just can’t do.
Final Thoughts and Additional Resources
In the end, both Android and iOS have different aspects that make them better for different people.
One isn’t inherently better than the other.
With the sheer variety of options out there, it’s hard to recommend a single phone as the best for everyone.
If you’re more comfortable with technology, like to customize your phones, want more options, or are looking for lower prices, Android is likely a good choice.
If you value a consistent experience, a well-filtered app selection, premium designs, and don’t mind a higher price tag, Apple offers a polished experience on their iOS devices.
With your ideal operating system in mind, your next step is to find a phone that fits your needs. Our comparison tool makes it simple to see how the phones you want stack up. You can choose up to 5 phones and look at their specs side-by-side to see which works best for you.
Related Guide: Phone Buyer’s Guide
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