iPhone vs. Android: Which is better for you?

Pixel 8 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max next to one another.
(Image credit: Future)

iPhone vs. Android — the most intense argument in the phone world. We don't play favorites here at TG though, so we want to instead explain some of the key differences between the two operating systems so you can best figure out which suits you best.

iOS 17 and Android 14 - the latest version of the two operating systems, both offer smooth and user-friendly experiences, and several similar or identical features. But there are still important differences to be aware of.

Pitting iPhone vs. Android, we take a look at the respective strengths of each mobile platform, so you can pick the right one for you the next time you buy a smartphone. If you want to see the current flagships for Android and iOS, be sure to check out our Pixel 8 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max for an overall impression of how these phones compare. And if you're convinced you want to leave your iPhone, read more about how to set up an Android phone to make the move over as easy as possible.

iPhone vs Android: Why iPhone is better 

how to log your mood in iOS 17 Health app on iPhone

(Image credit: Future)

You're invested in Apple's ecosystem. This might seem like a shallow reason, but Apple obviously makes a wide breadth of tech products, and if you already own a Mac, iPad or Apple Watch, getting an iPhone makes a lot of sense.

Apple has designed a multitude of continuity features that allow you to carry over work and data from one of its devices to another, and these features can certainly save you time. Take Handoff, for example, where calls on your iPhone and web pages in Safari can move seamlessly between iOS and macOS. Universal Clipboard makes text copied on one platform usable on the other. Another one of our favorites is Continuity Camera, which allows you to take pictures and scan documents using your iPhone's camera, and then view and edit them on your Mac. You can even complete purchases on your Mac by using biometric authentication features on your iPhone via Apple Pay.

Only a handful of Android phone makers have hardware ecosystems that approach Apple's, and even for some that come close, like Samsung, you won't get the depth of integration possible between the iPhone and other Apple-built devices. Microsoft is helping Google close the gap somewhat with its new Your Phone app for Windows, which allows Android users to respond to texts and notifications on their PCs, though the experience is a little clunky and there is still work to be done.

There are many other great examples of continuity across iOS, iPadOS, watchOS and macOS — and the iPhone is a critical component in that puzzle, especially now that iPhone apps can be seamlessly ported to macOS. Power users already immersed in Apple's ecosystem can stand to gain a lot by adding an iPhone to their repertoire. And that's to say nothing of friends and family members who prefer to use iMessage and FaceTime to keep in touch.

The third-party apps are just better. This one is definitely down to personal preference, but as someone who has jumped back and forth between iOS and Android, I've been consistently blown away by the quality of apps built by iOS developers, and mostly disappointed in their Android counterparts.

Don't get me wrong — there's great software and developers on Android, but they're harder to find, in my experience. One of our favorite Twitter apps, Tweetbot 5, is an iOS exclusive, for example; by contrast, one of the best third-party Twitter apps we've encountered on Android, Fenix 2, strongly pales in comparison. (RIP third-party Twitter clients.) One of our staff members, Henry T. Casey, loves using Bear to compose blog posts on his Mac and iPhone, but we've struggled to find a note-taking app on Android as comprehensive and slick. 

You may even find that apps from established companies, ranging from banks to airlines, are a bit smoother and cleaner on iOS than Android, with better integration with the phone's core services, like Wallet. 

There's a bigger selection of accessories. Walk into any Best Buy or Target, and you'll find aisles of cases for every iPhone that Apple makes — something that certainly cannot be said for the Android contingent outside of flagship devices from the biggest companies. Once you get past the semi-healthy selection of products made for the latest Galaxy S device, you're out of luck. Don't bother expecting a choice of accessories for your new Pixel or Motorola handset at any brick-and-mortar retailer. Sure, you could go online and snag a $4 case off of Amazon, but then you're guaranteed to get what you pay for.

The selection and availability of iPhone cases, screen protectors, car mounts and other goodies is simply far greater than you'll find for any other phone, and that's more important than most people realize. iPhone owners will never have the problem of not finding a case to their liking.

There are enhanced privacy controls with app tracking notifications. One of the biggest recent iOS releases introduced app tracking notifications, allowing you to opt out of apps tracking you across your phone. This was a major win for privacy advocates and a huge blow to many third-party companies, like Facebook.

Android simply doesn't have this feature and we doubt it ever will. Don't get stuck in the belief that iOS is inherently more private than Android, since Apple still collects a ton of data about you, but iOS still has a bit more resilience when it comes to third-parties. It's so satisfying to deny an app the ability to track you.

iPhone 15 Pro Max shown in hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There's no bloatware. No matter how you buy your iPhone, where you buy it from or what iPhone you buy, you won't see any bloatware preinstalled when you boot it up for the first time. That means it's clean from the very start, with no power- or data-siphoning apps you didn't ask for sabotaging things behind the scenes.

That's a relief if you've ever seen the way a new Android phone arrives out of the box — particularly one that you've bought through a carrier. Even spending $1,800 on a Galaxy Z Fold 5 doesn't spare AT&T customers from the affront of seeing software like CNN and DirecTV Now cluttering their app drawers. And it can be even worse if you buy a budget handset that has been heavily subsidized by a discount carrier. 

Android buyers who purchase one of the best unlocked phones without a service agreement will have better luck avoiding bloatware. It also depends on the company. For example, unlocked Pixel phones aren't mired down by any third-party apps; on the other hand, it's not totally unheard of for some unlocked handsets to come with the odd unwelcome sponsored software (or ads). OnePlus is a recent example of this, and Samsung's ads on its smartphones have become notoriously annoying.

You get quicker software updates. Android phones get fewer updates than iPhones, and when they do, they happen less frequently and are often delayed with the exception of Google's Pixels.

The number of updates an Android phone sees over the course of its lifetime depends largely on how expensive it is, what carrier you buy it from (or if it's even purchased from a carrier at all) and what the phone maker's software support policy is. Update policies from Android phone makers have been improving in recent years but Apple is still offering more. Take the iPhone XR, for example, which received iOS 17, even though it originally launched five years ago. 

What's more, when a new iOS version is released, it is available to everyone on the same day, at the same time, and can be installed on all models that support it instantaneously. By contrast, Android releases are rolled out in waves to individual phones, not just by model. 

It has better retail support. Let's say something goes horribly wrong with your iPhone, and you need to get it serviced. Or perhaps you want a screen protector installed on it, and you'd rather have it handled by a professional, who will slap that film on with nary a bubble or speck of dust. Whatever your issue is, it's nice to have a place to go — and what better place for iPhone users than the Apple Store. 

Owners of Android phones don't necessarily enjoy that luxury. If you need a new battery or a screen replacement and you didn't purchase a protection plan from the retailer you bought it from, you'll probably have to ship it back to the manufacturer. That's quite a time-consuming hassle, given how much we all depend on our phones day in and day out. Some reputable repair shops like uBreakiFix help bridge the gap a bit, like for Pixel phones.

iPhone vs Android: Why Android is better 

Google Pixel 8 Pro

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There are phones at every price. The vast majority of the world's smartphones run Android, and because so many companies build Android handsets, they're available at every price range. There are cheap phones under the $500 mark like the Pixel 7a, as well as some of the best small phones and best big phones, and phablets and foldables far exceeding $1,000. No matter how much you can spend, chances are you can find an Android device that fits your budget or offers exclusive features.

The same cannot be said for iPhones, which historically have been expensive at launch, only to come down in price after successive generations. The least-expensive iPhone that Apple offers is the iPhone SE (2022), which is a fantastic device with phenomenal performance for just $429, though its design is dated, and its screen will be too small for some.

It's more customizable. Though both iOS and Android have evolved over the years, Android has always had a reputation for being the platform for users who like to tinker and personalize their devices. That starts with the home screen launcher, which offers dynamic widgets and the ability to place apps anywhere on a page or in a drawer, out of sight — something the iPhone has only recently caught up to with iOS 14. You can even swap out your Android phone's launcher with an alternative downloaded from the Google Play store.

Android also lets you download third-party replacements for core services — like web browsers, keyboards and media players — and set them as the default versions if you prefer a third-party app to one that was preinstalled on your phone. iOS has improved in this regard over the years, though the implementation is still somewhat clunky.

Finally, we have to talk about manufacturer skins — bespoke user interfaces and Android system software that are customized by certain phone makers, offering extra features and, often, the ability to create themes for your experience from top to bottom. Some Android fans prefer Google's "stock" interpretation of Android. However, but lots of users like phone makers' custom software, like Samsung's One UI or OnePlus' OxygenOS, because of their extra capabilities, such as the ability to take scrolling screenshots and hide photos and videos in password-protected folders.

But Google changed things up with Android 12, which brings with it the new Material You design language. This direction builds upon the last several years of Android's look and feel, offering more personalization. There's a pseudo-theming system which adapts to the colors in your wallpapers and applies that shade system-wide. 

You can (sometimes) expand the storage. Although expandable storage is somewhat less popular these days, some Android phones still offer it. This allows you to use a microSD card to keep photos, apps and other media that won't fit on your device's internal memory.

That's an amazing benefit, given the exorbitant prices that Apple and other phone makers charge to double or quadruple storage when you buy your handset. Why tack on another $100 to $150 to the price of a new phone just for an extra 128GB or 256GB of storage (that you're not even sure you'll need) when you can just drop $70 on a 512GB card later?

Additionally, while it's certainly becoming more of a rarity on high-end phones these days, some Android devices still come with headphone jacks — a hotly requested feature Apple retired from its phones in 2016. That's a big deal to people who still love to use their trusty old wired headphones.

Pixel 8 Pro vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

USB-C is universal. Android phones largely rely on USB-C ports for charging and data transfer these days, which is super convenient if you're one of those people who really likes to pack light and carry only one cable. USB-C is also on many PCs these days, as well as on the Nintendo Switch. It's a beautiful thing.

Whereas Apple's Lightning cable is a relic of the days when every tech company felt compelled to develop its own proprietary connector, USB-C represents the ideal single-port solution the industry is working toward. It also opens doors to faster charging technologies.

The iPhone 15 series has now moved to USB-C, matching Apple's other mobile devices. But it's going to take a long time before every iPhone user has moved on from a device with a Lightning port.

There's an actual file system (with drag-and-drop support on PC). Most people don't need to get their hands dirty with their smartphone's file system. Still, it's good to know that Android gives you that option, if you desire it. Even better, when you plug an Android handset into a Windows PC, you can very easily drag and drop files into folders, as if the device were just another drive.

That means your media libraries and documents are a snap to carry over and store locally, and you don't have to subscribe to a monthly cloud service if you have an especially large library. iPhones obscure the file system from the user for everything except photos, which can be very frustrating for dealing with music, documents and other forms of media.

Some Android phones, like the Galaxy S24 series, even have special PC or display projection features, that let you use view and use your device in a desktop capacity. Samsung's DeX interface is one such example of this. With such versatility, a high-end Android phone could legitimately function as a replacement for one of the best Chromebooks or similarly ultraportable laptops.

Innovative features usually land on Android phones first. Sure, Apple's coffers are pretty stacked. However, it is just one company, with one philosophy. As a result, iOS can be slow — or at least slower than the Android community — to adapt to emerging technologies.

With so many companies building Android phones, it's little surprise that Android partners tend to beat Apple to the market with innovations in the mobile space. Wireless charging, fast charging, NFC, 4G LTE, 5G, OLED displays, in-screen fingerprint sensors, water resistance and multi-lens cameras all landed on Android devices before iPhones, as well as software breakthroughs like true multitasking, copy and paste and multiwindow support.

Of course, this isn't to say Apple hasn't delivered breakthroughs of its own. The iPhone X wasn't the first phone with face recognition, but it was the first with one that worked reliably and securely. However, far more Android phones are released from a variety of vendors every year, so it's just a matter of scale that hardware running Google's platform is swifter to adapt.

Which should you choose?

Pixel 8 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max next to one another.

(Image credit: Future)

So then, iPhone or Android: Which should you choose? Both platforms have pros and cons, and, as with many purchase decisions, your choice will depend on what you value most.

Owning an iPhone is a simpler, more convenient experience. There's less to think about, and because Apple's iPhone represents the single most popular brand of smartphone, there's an abundance of support everywhere you go — whether you need your battery replaced or you're just trying to pick up a new case. There's also the iMessage draw, at least in the U.S.

Android-device ownership is a bit harder in those respects. Yet it's simultaneously more freeing, because it offers more choice — choice of how much you want to spend, choice of hardware and software features, and choice in how you organize and personalize your experience. If you're extremely particular about the technology you use, you might find Android more liberating — dare I say, fun — though you'll also likely lament the relative lack of high-quality apps (e.g. Twitter) and accessories.

If you're wondering which particular device you should switch to, there's no better place to start than our lists of the best iPhones and best Android phones. Whichever device you pick, just make sure it fits with your operating system preferences.

Jordan Palmer
Phones Editor

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.

  • Jean Yus
    admin said:
    Our iPhone vs Android face-off will help you figure out which kind of phone is right for you.

    iPhone vs. Android: Which is better for you? : Read more
    Yeah you should probably live the Google Pixel + Chromebook + Wear OS + Google Home life for a while before doing a comparison like this. Just using an "Android" is not the same experience.. The Google Ecosystem; Assistant integration with Google apps on a Pixel +( a real) Chromebook & G.Home is NOT using a samsung with a clunky a$$ windows machine. Try a while and toss in Google Fi & you'll be throwing rocks at apples. You're welcome.




    (someone fix this ad infested lagfest of a site while you're at it)
    Reply
  • bluesun03
    I have been a top-tier programmer for 47 years, so I'm experienced on dozens of machines, O/S's & languages. The one platform I absolutely refuse to use is Apple's. Why?

    1. Steve Jobs started the policy of charging 100% markup on all Apple products (50% for an iPhone or iMac, 50% for profit). All profit goes to a tax haven in Ireland so Apple pays NO federal corporate taxes in the United States.

    2. In my 47 years working for banks & investment houses on Wall St.; digital video TV (I was part of the team that developed the original DVI digital video for PC's with Intel in the late '80s, early '90s, IPTV in mid 2000s (making fiber obsolete in much of the world), 1K HDTV, 4K & 8K UHDTV & other systems), hospitals like the Mayo Clinic (COVID sequencing), Mass General, & others; numerous AT&T/Bell Labs projects, & other corporate clients, I've seen just about every computer since the IBM/360 - yet the only computer I've NEVER seen used to develop professional commercial production systems is the MacIntosh (except sometimes in the art department). It was designed for people who wanted to use computers, but not have to understand how they worked.

    3. I went to school with Andy Hertzfeld, leader of the original Mac/Lisa desktop design team. He told me horror stories about Jobs and his contempt for just about everybody, including his own most enthusiastic customers, in '91 when our Intel DVI video beat the first Mac Laptop & first Word for Windows for Best In Show. For example, at a design meeting to discuss how many buttons to have on the mouse, there were 2 camps, the 2-button camp & the 3-button camp (like the Sun early computers). At one point, Jobs jumped up & slammed his fist on the table & angrily blurted out, "You don't understand who we are designing this computer for. They are the sort of people who will have trouble telling left from right - we go with 1 button."

    4. Jobs routinely lied about the capabilities of his products. Example, he claimed (truthfully) that the iPhone 4S had a full 1Ghz clock speed like its Android competitors. He also claimed (also truthfully) that the 4S got better battery life - like the older iPhone 4. He lied by omission by not telling customers that, before the phones left the factory, they were underclocked to run at 800 MHz. It's like paying more for an 8-cylinder pickup that claimed it got the same gas mileage as the 6-cylinder model, only to find out the manufacturer disconnected 2 cylinders at the factory.

    5. Google makes all of the Android O/S source public through the AOSP (Android Open Source Project) so programmers can take the code as a guide and write scores of custom Android operating systems, both simpler and far more complicated than the official versions. Apple keeps its code confidential & nobody can make their Apple far more powerful & versatile than a "rooted" Android with a custom version of Android, a custom kernel, & hundreds of custom programs that require administrative (SU or SuperUser) access to the kernel). Apple's can only be jailbroken, letting you run apps you don't get from the Apple Store (and they made that illegal until the courts struck it down).

    6. Rooting: Android phones are actually running on Linux kernels & you can "root" almost any Android phone to get superuser access to the kernel level, including the directory levels that are not accessible on any store-bought phone of any kind. You can run hundreds of powerful apps (go to Google Play & enter "rooted" to see lists of them). You can also delete or disable ANY application installed on the phone, including the spyware & bloatware all companies & SPs put on their phones. You can then recover that storage to fit more of your own apps. You can even bring up a Linux command box and (with all the Linux commands provided by the BusyBox rooted app) have access to command-line Linux, making your phone a Linux computer. You can back up not only your user apps/data, but also your system apps/data & the kernel - say to your PC so you can restore a bricked phone (try Titanium Pro). Another example is RCB (Root Call Blocker). When you block spam or scam numbers, both iPhone and Android blockers do a pickup/hangup process. This still lets the caller know this is a live, in-use line, which is the objective of maybe a third of all spam calls. Then they still put your number on "active number" lists to sell to third-parties as "verified" numbers. On my rooted phone, I use RCB, which is able to intercept the call before it gets to the phone circuitry and return the "out of service" signal of a dead line. This has cut my spam by at least 75%.

    7. If all you want is texting, a camera, email & access to social media (which harvests all of your personal information for advertisers & political interference), ANY phone is fine, including 15-year-old flip-phones which are coming back into demand by Gen Z'ers for their simplicity.

    8. Do you really need 20 megapixel cameras if all you are doing is posting to social media or sending .jpgs to friends? The sheer size of these files is vastly greater than 95% (make that 99%) want to deal with. They just eat up storage, take forever to upload & download to clouds & put a major strain on sms & email (most email clients limit the size of attachments anyway). Anything from 600x400 to 1K HD is perfectly adequate & far more practical.

    8. Jobs decided at the start to sell Macs via the evangelical methodology with Jobs (who couldn't write a single line of code if he had to) as the original evangelist, creating what my associates call the iCult. Long-time chief evangelist, Apple's Guy Kawasaki, was quoted as saying "Don't worry. Be Crappy. Revolutionary means you ship and then test ... Lots of things made the first Mac in 1984 a piece of crap - but it was a revolutionary piece of crap."

    Reply
  • Anirudh Amudhan
    Hello Jordan Palmer,

    I am a big tech enthusiast and I would like to share my views on Apple vs. Android with you.

    As I was reading through your magazine I would agree with you for many of your statements. The iPhone ecosystem is a big feature to consider when choosing software. The Apple ecosystem allows users to fluidly use Apple devices together with not many stated bugs. The ecosystem allows sending files to other Apple devices in full quality which I think is a big plus and removes the hassle of email. Also with the new IOS feature iPhone users can share contacts with a tap, which makes life so much easier. Another feature I admire about IOS is transitions between devices, when I am viewing media on one device I can easily transition to another device with a couple of clicks a most.

    On the other hand, Andriod OS is not something to ignore. Especially with the new Android 14 many Android phones have released AI to their software making many tasks for users much easier. With AI, users can translate calls in many languages, edit photos with ease and less experience, and tie in with the real world by using image search on unknown objects. Though iPhones focus on simplicity, android allows for customization and to show personality. In the Google world, many apps can replace the stock Android apps, and customization options such as personal icons, fonts, live wallpapers, and animations are just better than what Apple has to offer for its users.

    Thanks for reading.
    Reply