Android vs. iOS: Which OS Is Better?

A head-to-head battle of Apple vs. Android

Android has come a long way since it launched in 2008, and while it has had its fair share of issues, relating to security and usability, the OS still has some benefits over Apple's iOS.

The information below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Android vs iOS

Overall Findings

  • Fragmented, faster paced updates

  • Looser more developer friendly app ecosystem

  • Wide range of customization options

  • Rooting and custom ROMs are completely allowed

  • Highly controlled release schedule

  • Monitored app ecosystem with approval process

  • Only allows the customization included by Apple

  • Jailbreaking is not allowed or supported

There's a very clear pattern here, and it comes down to a question of overall philosophy. Google opened up the Android ecosystem, putting much more control in the hands of independent developers and companies. This is the very thing that allowed Android to explode globally and make it such a favorite among developers and tech enthusiasts. It's also the root of Android's dubious security record. In essence, Android puts both more security and more responsibility in your hands.

In contrast, Apple has implemented it's signature "walled garden" approach with iOS. The whole ecosystem surrounding your device is tightly controlled by Apple, and the apps you install have all been evaluated for security. That said, there's not much room for you to explore or customize. It's not easy to truly make an iOS device your own or do anything technical with it. With iOS, you're putting the responsibility for your device in Apple's hands and relinquishing some control in the process.

Updates: Android Is Fast and Chaotic, While iOS Moves at a Measured Pace

  • Frequent updates

  • New releases arrive first on Pixel devices

  • Manufacturers roll out updates at their own pace

  • Custom ROMs arrive whenever the community makes them

  • Apple releases a new major version with each new device

  • There are sometimes updates in-between

  • Apple makes and controls all devices and versions of iOS

  • Major updates are sometimes up to 2 years apart

To say the Android operating system is fragmented would be a vast understatement. Between the different hardware manufacturers, each of which offers a slightly modified Android experience, and the carrier's control over pushing out updates, this OS is messy.

Apple is historically way better about releasing updates than Android, though Google has gotten better when it comes to their Pixel flagship phones. Having control over the hardware and software is a huge advantage as Apple well knows.

Android's fragmentation complicates many things, such as when you need support, though Google's help articles are generally well-organized by the OS version. But if you don't have stock Android, it may take a few tries to find the right setting. 

Apps and Customization: Android Lets You Run Wild

  • Much less restricted app marketplace

  • Tons of built-in customization options

  • Apps provide additional customization, info, and widgets

  • Manufacturers and ROM developers often add more options

  • Apple tightly controls the App Store

  • Offers some built-in customization

  • Minimal (if any) customization from apps

  • Only one version (from Apple), so no different variants

On the app front, it's increasingly rare that a software company launches only an iPhone app. However, developers that design apps for Android don't have a universal user to reach, which results in many apps that are only available to newer devices.

Android's chaos, the opposite of Apple's buttoned-down approach, means that users can tweak the heck out of their phone and use it the way they want, not how Google or Samsung or others tells them they should. Android users can set default apps, install a third-party Android launcher, add widgets to the home screen, and customize the lock screen. There are very few limitations when it comes to what you can tweak and customize on an Android device, and if you run into one, you can always root, which opens up more possibilities, including the ability to upgrade your OS as soon as you want. While Apple has added some of these options over the years, it's not nearly as flexible.

Security and Stability: Android Security Needs to Improve

  • Multiple versions for multiple devices make it harder to secure

  • Less vetting on Play store, plus multiple alternative sources of apps

  • Manufacturers will discontinue updates for older devices, making them vulnerable

  • Only a few current versions

  • Apple keeps tight control of the App Store

  • Older devices are supported more regularly

Android security needs some work, though. Consistent updates are available for smartphones running newer OS versions, again leaving many users who have older phones vulnerable.

Compared to the closed system that is iOS, Android is significantly more susceptible to security threats. Apple's vetting process for getting an app into the App Store is quite rigorous. Google has given Android users some peace of mind with Google Play Protect, which regularly scans your phone, including all installed apps, for viruses. If it finds one, you get a warning, and instructions on how to remove it.

As an Android user, your best bet is to keep your OS up-to-date and check out our important security tips to make sure you're doing all you can do.

Final Verdict

It's impossible to say that one of these titans is better than the other. They're both great, and they continue to improve at a rapid pace. You won't necessarily go wrong either way.

It all comes down to what you want on your mobile device. Do you prefer control and customization? Would you rather be able to change whatever you like and have a huge toolbox of apps to do so? Android is absolutely the better choice in that situation.

If you'd prefer your phone to just work, and you don't necessarily want to be bothered with customizing, tweaking, or setting anything up, iOS is probably a better fit for you. It goes without saying that fans of Apple's other devices will also be more at home with an iOS device too.