iPhone vs. Android-- My take on the long debate

I have been using an Android phone through work for a year now, and
when it came time to replace my personal phone last week I got an
iPhone. I've been digging in to both, and I wanted to share my

First: I hate fanboy arguments. Android vs. iPhone is the new PC vs.
Mac, Gnome vs. KDE, Playstation vs. XBox, Mario vs. Sonic... I just
say, use what's right for you. There are always going to be differing
opinions-- I just don't understand the hatred for the other side.

At any rate, lets get down to business. I'm not going in-depth on any
of these, just hitting some high points. I hope to generate some
discussion where we can get into the nuts and bolts if desired.

Please note that, while some things have changed significantly in
Android with Ice Cream Sandwich, this is based on Gingerbread, the
most widely available version. More on that later.

The home screen

Both iOS and Android have major strengths and weaknesses here, but
it's all down to which design philosophy you prefer.

The Android home screen is highly customizable, and even replaceable.
I've been using LauncherPro for about a year now, and I love it. The
biggest draw of the Android home screen is the widgets. There's a
widget for many system tasks, and quite a few apps come with widgets
as well. If you haven't explicitly placed a shortcut on your home
screen, you can get your apps through the App Drawer, which is all
your apps in alphabetical order.

The iPhone home screen is very different. All your apps are on the
home screen, and you can arrange them into groups as you see fit. This
is better than the App Drawer since things can be found more quickly,
but you can't place them wherever you want on the screen, they
auto-arrange. There's a glaring omission here-- no widgets! This
seems to be such an obvious feature, and I hope it does show up later
on in iOS 6 or beyond. With Android, I just have to unlock my phone to
see the weather in 2 different places. Another swipe will let me
easily turn on/off wifi, bluetooth, etc. One simple button press lets
me Shazam a song. Widgets alone tempt me to jailbreak the phone.

With the exception of widgets and home screen organization, I *do*
seem to get around a bit faster on the iPhone. I could emulate the
properties of how the iPhone is set up on my Android, I just haven't.
The point here is that, out of the box, the iPhone seems to let me get
around more easily.


This is an easy win for Android. The OS was built on being heavily
customizable. There are many core system apps that you can (and some
that you *should*) change. It's hard to compare the iPhone and Android
phone/sms handlers, for example, because there are so many available
for Android.

Jailbreaking the iPhone will let you customize far more, obviously,
but it would be nice to have more control over your device without
voiding the warranty.

The point here is that, with an Android device, you feel like it's
*yours* to do with what you will.


The iPhone has a multitasking bar that you can access by
double-tapping the home button. This is very convenient for switching
between open apps. As far as I'm aware, nothing like this exists for
Android. On either device, with or without a multitasking bar, you can
tap home and then re-launch the app and be where you left off with no
problem, but the multitasking bar makes switching around very fast.

On the iPhone, there isn't an intuitive way to actually exit an
app. You have to long press it on the multitasking bar to get a close
button. I have yet to see an in-app way to exit. I know that, sitting
in the background, they probably aren't taking up many system
resources or battery life, but I hate just leaving things open I'm not
using. It may be entirely a knee-jerk reaction that is unfounded, but
it irks me.

Changing settings

I don't have much to say here. Both phones are very capable, but the
iPhone does seem to have things arranged a little more logically than
Android. Neither will have you scratching your head, though.

Getting new apps

Both stores are good, but Google Play wins this one. The web interface
that you can access from anywhere is the primary reason for this, but
Google Play on the phone itself is less cumbersome and better
organized than the App Store. When installing new apps on the iPhone,
you get kicked out to the home screen with each app install, which
won't be a problem soon enough, but when you're first setting up a
phone it can be annoying to have to relaunch the App Store every time
and lose your place if you were looking at a list.

The apps themselves...

Even though the number of new Android devices sold has passed the
number of new iPhones (last I checked), iPhone still seems to dominate
the market in terms of available apps, so you can be pretty sure if
you want an app you can get it. This is generally the case with
Android as well, but there are a few exceptions that you will come

Apple is far more restrictive than Google though. I use a Wi-fi
Analyzer app on my Android phone that was once available for iPhone,
but they removed it from the store for using an unpublished method of
accessing information. It's good that Apple checks these things
thoroughly, but they may be too heavy-handed in situations like these.


I know there are some competitors to Siri on Google Play, but none
quite as functional. Siri is phenomenal. Organizing a busy day is
painless, finding helpful info from Wolfram Alpha is snappy... this is
a phone seller.

Apparently Google has a competitor in the works for Jellybean that is
apparently better than Siri, but it may be years before many people
use it based on Android's update track record (again, more on that
later) and Siri is also getting a major overhaul in iOS 6, just around
the corner.


This is the major problem Google has, and they (and their phone
manufacturers) *really* need to get their act together. Ice Cream
Sandwich was released last October, yet still only 7-10% of new
devices are running it. Many smaller providers don't even have them as
an option, and the ones that do can't cut the price far enough down on
an already quite expensive device to really compete with the iPhone

Adding insult to injury, many phones that are perfectly capable of
running Ice Cream Sandwich will never get the update, because the
manufacturer has decided not to release the update. Rooting the phone
and upgrading via CyanogenMod is a viable way to get it, but consumers
shouldn't be expected to do all of that in order to get updated

Jellybean is already the Android talk of the town, but this is going
to be arriving on new devices before even 1/4 of the current Android
devices support Ice Cream Sandwich.

Compare that to Apple, who will release iOS 6 this fall to all iPhones
from 3G on. Years-old hardware still getting updates. Maybe the device
manufacturers are just hoping for more sales since you can't get the
updated OS any other way, but it's inherently bad for the consumer.

One major issue is that Google has all but abandoned Gingerbread with
*their own apps*. The new, shiny Google+ app and Chrome for Android
aren't available on a brand new Android phone, but are available on a
3-year-old iOS device. How does that make sense?

The devices

And *this* is where Google shines. Allowing Android to be used on
countless devices from countless manufacturers means you *can* find a
device to suit your needs, generally. The Sony Xperia Play, for
example, is a Playstation branded phone, with a full slide-out
gamepad. If you aren't going to use it heavily, trimmed-down devices
are available, but if you need a lot out of your phone, you can get
practically a mini-tablet with enough horsepower to compete with some


Now, for what we're all here for, right? Gaming on either device is a
treat. I have played many puzzle games, some pure reflex-based games,
a few rail shooters, and even some reworked classic shooters, and the
iPhone's touch screen seems to work a little better for
hightly-involved gaming, but if you're only interested in simple
gaming on the go, either will suffice. The iPhone's screen is very
crisp, but so are newer Android devices as well.

However, the exclusives on the iPhone make Apple the clear winner on
the gaming front. ID Software has released two rail shooters based on
RAGE and Doom 3 that are must-haves, and Square Enix has released some
amazing, full-featured RPGs that are worth your time. The re-release
of Scribblenauts is better than it was on the Nintendo DS. Infinity
Blade is amazing and well worth whatever you have to pay to get it.


So which one wins? I have no idea. I prefer Android, but only slightly
at this point. The iPhone has slightly better home screen organization
(but lacks widgets), a much better selection of games, a slightly
better selection of apps, a much clearer software upgrade path, and
Siri. Android has the ever-so-useful widgets, a cleaner store, far
better and easier customization, and a wide variety of devices from
different manufacturers to suit your needs.

If all you're looking for is gaming, go with the iPhone. Otherwise, it
all depends on which one works best for you. Definitely try them
before you buy. Either way, they are both amazing-- there is no bad

I don't claim any of my opinions to be the best or most suited to the
general population, so please share your own. If you got here from
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jdodson   Admin wrote on 07/07/2012 at 12:39am

Cool post. My thoughts:

Multitasking: This isn't documented well, but basically if you exit an iPhone app the OS gives it about 10 minutes to do its thing and quit. If it doesn't quit on its own, the OS kills it to preserve your battery. IF its a service it can request CPU time when the OS give it some, but its every so often to save battery life. Certain kids of apps can be backgrounded and still run, like audio apps to access to sound API etc.

I wish Apple had better web accessibility. Google does win over Apple in this way. Apple is very iTunesy, which is fine but not amazing in all cases.

I agree with you on upgradability, with Apple you know you get a few major revision of iOS on your gear. I have the 4S and know that I have about 3 more iOS versions before they cut me off, maybe more. I really wish my Android kin could get something similar without modding!

I agree that gaming is a bit better on the iPhone due to publishers. I wish that wasn't the case, but I did get the Rage and Doom 3 app for iPhone and they were fun to play. More and more though the apps you cant play on Android are really in the minority. Ive never like device exclusivity though, publishers need to love Android and iOS equally :)

I sort of crack wise with my Android kin but think both devices are fine, I prefer iPhone and don't plan on moving to Android any time soon. I agree id like a few more choices with the iPhone but its so good its not a huge problem.

David_Woods wrote on 07/07/2012 at 03:05am

Pretty much the same as my experience as well, although my only iOS experience is with an iPod touch. Couple of notes:

Ice Cream Sandwich is a GREAT update. It has the multitasking switcher you're wanting. For older versions though, you can usually hold down the 'home' key to see most recent apps, which is more or less the same thing.

Another thing to consider is the Nexus series. While it feels like you can just compare Android and iOS, what you're really forced to do is compare Android and iOS-on-the-iPhone/iPod/iPad devices. There's no other way to use it, which is why Apple is so readily updatable. (that, and the fact that they pretty much have the carriers by the balls and can make any demand they want) It's true that Android devices are painful to update, if you get to at all, EXCEPT for the Google-sanctioned devices. Then it's more like the Apple experience. Not as nice, still, but much closer.

Another negative I would have to give Apple is the app ecosystem. There is WAY too many its-free-but-not-really freemium style applications. My daughter gets hooked on an app, only to be told that she has to pay to continue to play it. Or use real money to buy tokens for a game. It feels like a scam almost. I can't trust anything that says 'free' in the app store. Android app experience feels ... maybe 'cleaner' is the word. I like to browse Google Play for new apps, and go in expecting to find something fun for free. In the App Store, I don't touch it unless I'm looking for something specific because it feels dirty.

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 07/07/2012 at 04:25am

Playing around with random games in Google Play, I've run into the same kind of free-but-not-really stuff. That's actually the one thing I do prefer about Apple's App Store-- if it says "Top in-app purchases" you know that you are getting led down the path of microtransactions, and you can check those out to see how crucial they are.

I do agree though that it feels quite scammy at times. There's a free Adobe photo editing product on the App store that looks fantastic until you realize that it's crippled until you buy at least $10 worth of add-ons.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 07/07/2012 at 05:55pm

Freemium games are mostly annoying. Occasionally a good one comes by, like Tiny Tower, but yeah the majority are un-awesome.

I recently played a game called Tiny Tower. Its a fun puzzle game and only give you a certain amount of turns per day. I wanted to buy it but I had to do some kind of in app transaction for like $4 to unlock unlimited turns. Yeah no. They could have just released a demo version and I would have happily paid $2 or something for the full game. Something about in app transactions I really don't like. Feel like someday I won't be able to get my stuff back or something.

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