We’re a month into the New Year, which is always a good time to take a look at the state of the mobile industry. Over the last couple years, we’ve watched Google and Apple march to the middle in addressing issues with the Android and iOS platforms respectively.
We’re not looking at a one off feature, on an obscure Samsung, that my cousin Tim thinks is a killer app. Instead here are five things we think Android as a whole still does better than iOS, and four areas where Google falls behind the competition. Let’s start with the good…
Any complaints about Android being difficult to use are mitigated by the fact that you can make Android do just about anything you want without having to be overly techie. From organizing home screens, using widgets and shortcuts, to replacing the launcher, you’re really only limited by your imagination. When helping a family member switch from iOS to Android, never underestimate the transitional power of replacing their homescreens with their app drawer…
2: App Integration
Apple has improved the way some apps can integrate with core services on the iPhone, but this still pales in comparison to the way Android provides every app on your phone as an available resource for communication, sharing content, or managing your personal data. It doesn’t matter what kind of file, or which service you prefer using, Android allows you to seamlessly interact with anything installed on your device.
3: Storage Options
Not only is storage cheaper on Android (and shame on you Apple for releasing a flagship phone in 2015 that starts users off with 16GB), but you have way more options for expanding storage or backing up your data. Many phones still include built in SD card readers, and for those that don’t, backup salvation is only a USB OTG cable or card reader away. The cloud still isn’t robust enough for UHD video and RAW photography on our limited data plans, but with your favorite flash drive and a $5 cable, saving content in the field is a snap.
4: File Management
Piggybacking on the two previous points, Android is still the better solution for file management. This might not sound very sexy, but users can organize files in exactly the way they want. Sure you can make the argument that if there’s a file on your phone, then there’s probably an app that uses that file, so you shouldn’t HAVE to manage your files manually. Using a proper file manager though provides great insight on how your storage is being used, and is a one stop shop for searching, organizing, and managing your content. This advantage extends to all cloud services and email, where you can easily upload or download any file you want with virtually no restrictions.
Lastly, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Android devices use MTP to connect to proper computers for those times you need to transfer files over a cable. On Windows PCs you don’t need to install any additional software to move files around. Of course Apple throw a wrench in that usage by not properly supporting MTP file transfers natively on Macs, but you still don’t have to use a custom interface like iTunes simply to drag and drop files between phone and computer.
5: Diversity and Specialization
There are only two flavors of iPhone currently (soon to be three), but if those phones don’t have the hardware or software features you want, there’s no other company you can buy an iOS device from. The Android ecosystem is crazy diverse, maybe to a fault where I wouldn’t blame someone for having decision fatigue over choosing which phone to buy, but this means you can focus specifically on the features you care about most.
Do you want a phone with a glass back, leather, plastic, metal? Do you want the thinnest build or a rugged device? Do you care more about screen clarity, audio reproduction, camera prowess, or battery life? The choices can be overwhelming, but in shopping Android you have an opportunity to tailor fit a phone to your exact specific needs.
Of course there’s always room for improvement!
Here are four areas where the iPhone has a clear advantage over Android devices.
1: Power Efficiency
Say what you will about battery benchmarks and an individual’s personal use, the iPhone still takes the cake for efficiency. Apple handily winning the “run time per mAh” battle. This is a difficult situation for Google to correct as it doesn’t have complete control over hardware and software integration, but we’re seeing progress. Google’s guidelines for Doze on Marshmallow are a step in the right direction, but we’ll need to see more influence over future hardware decisions before your average Android matches your average iPhone.
2: Software Support
The turnaround time on Android updates can be extremely frustrating. Apple dictates a direct pipeline to their customers for updating software, and very few Android devices can claim the same. It’s irritating for those of us who like to be on the cutting edge, but from a general consumer standpoint, it can be downright dangerous when security threats aren’t properly communicated and fixed in a timely fashion. It’s difficult to imagine that Apple would have left as many iPhones unpatched from an exploit like Stagefright as there are Androids which currently haven’t been updated.
Google’s taken steps to addressing this too, by forking off parts of the Android OS to receive updates from directly from Google Play, but that’s still a far cry from how iPhones and iPads are supported.
3: Support Network
Speaking of support, there’s more access to help thanks to Apple’s network of retail stores. Individual manufacturers like Samsung have taken to building kiosks in malls and Best Buy stores to get boots on the ground, but you’re as likely to see Android gear as you are Windows products and other consumer electronics and appliances. Google has virtually no direct hands on resource for helping customers with issues face to face.
Aside from warranty and official support channels, there’s also a higher likelihood of an iOS user getting help from a friend or family member. Admit it Android fans reading this post, you’ve probably played tech support for an iOS owner at some point in your life right? With the myriad number of different Android products out in the market, it’s not quite as common that a Galaxy owner will be tasked with supporting an LG, Moto, or Nexus. Which brings us to…
4: Platform Consistency and Familiarity
Yup. Android’s strength of diversity is also potentially its greatest weakness. The iPhone is a proven mass market consumer brand. I don’t believe any tech design is actually “intuitive”, in that I only believe there are varying degrees of familiarity. The iPhone employs a UI we’ve understood very well since the days of Xerox copiers and Palm Pilots. Apple makes a mass market all-rounder, and there are very few surprises served up to people upgrading new phones. Making the jump from an iPhone 4S to an iPhone 6S really won’t be much of a shock aside from the increased size. The same can’t be said of Android devices, where the jump from Galaxy S2 to Galaxy S6 would represent some pretty significant changes to the UI.
Google does offer the Now Launcher alongside stock camera and keyboard apps, which can help minimize transition angst when moving to a new phone, but there’s not a lot the company can do at this moment in time to reign in third party manufacturers custom skins and themes.
And we’ve only scratched the surface on the myriad differences between these two platforms. I’m sure there will be a number of comments below, helpfully informing me about the absolutely amazing killer service or feature which absolutely decimates the competition. Drop that comment and school me good folks! What keeps you using one manufacturer over another?