We have heard the same arguments from the Android faithful for so long that they have become accepted wisdom. If you want a cheap phone, you need an Android. If you want to make a phone personally yours, you need Android. If you want the coolest new features, you need Android.
I question these pillars of the pro-Android argument. What if an iPhone actually costs less than an Android? What if customization is also possible on the iPhone? And what if all that Android hardware bragging is just hot air?
You can easily find a great phone on either side for $1,000, but what if you only have $300 to spend, or less? Common wisdom says buy an Android, and big brands like Samsung, Motorola, and LG offer fine phones in that range. At Apple, the cheapest new phone is a $399 iPhone SE.
But what if you expand your search to older phones? Now the balance changes considerably. On Swappa, a “Mint” iPhone 8 costs around $300, the same price as a new Samsung Galaxy A50. The iPhone 8 may be 3 years old, but it still feels like an expensive flagship phone.
With the iPhone, you’ll even be treated like a flagship customer. You’ll get the same software updates as the brand new phones, you’ll have access to Apple support and Apple Store Genii, and you’ll be treated to a universe of cases and accessories.
With an inexpensive Android like the Motorola Moto G Power, you’ll get a few unpredictable updates, phone support, and few cases are available. The bottom line? You’ll have a better experience if you buy Apple’s device.
Every iPhone is made by Apple. If you want an Android, however, you have an incredible variety to choose from. Android owners love to talk about the different hardware options. The long list of options supposedly means you can always find a phone for your needs.
Except that is no longer true.
Phones need to be water-resistant, which means a slim and sealed design with few ports or seams. Buyers want a big display, and stylistically prefer when the scant bezel is as black as an inactive screen. Thus, all phones are a black slab on the front, and if you’re wise, a case is blocking your view of the back.
For the first few years of Android, phones used to have more buttons, for making and ending calls, for opening menus and returning home. Those are all part of the software now. Phones used to have keyboards, and trackballs, and removable batteries. No more.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note series set a template for what Android phones should be, and everyone now emulates it. Even budget devices try their best to follow its lead, wrapping low-end hardware in surprisingly large, and glossy, exteriors.
The best evidence? Apple’s iPhone SE. Android doesn’t have a good alternative for people who want a small phone. It’s the iPhone, not Android, that offers the best range of display size and price to choose from.
Android users love customization, and it’s usually the first reason why they say iPhone owners should switch. On Android you can add widgets to your home screen, you can place app icons where you like, and you can tweak and adjust the look of the interface in myriad ways. You can even load an entirely new skin to completely change how your phone looks and behaves.
The problem is that customization adds more complexity than value, and not just for the user. Every manufacturer uses its own customized version of Android, which means that every software update needs to go through two or more levels of development. First at Google, then at Samsung, or Huawei, or Motorola.
With so much complexity, it’s more likely that a new user will screw up than it is they will create a Google Maps navigation shortcut. I know this is true because most advanced Android users I talk to don’t even know the navigation homepage shortcut exists.
And it’s not as if you can’t customize an iPhone. To most users, customization means two things: Changing the look and changing the function. While there are more limits to iPhone than to Android, the possibilities available are more than enough for most users — and they’re more likely to work properly.
Apple is even adding home screen widgets to the iPhone with iOS 14, though Apple’s widgets are far less ambitious than Google’s concept. Taking so long to teach the user base means less complexity and more customers.
The first iPhone did not include GPS or 3G networking, which was standard on all other flagship smartphones. That set a narrative that continues today. Android phones have a reputation for being more experimental, trying new designs and new features years before Apple takes notice.
Android phone makers also like to brag about hardware. Qualcomm throws a party when it launches a new mobile processor, a piece of hardware no consumer will ever see. Android makers beef up the RAM to laptop levels while Apple has never publicly revealed how much RAM is inside an iPhone. Ditto the battery, as others brag about how many mAh they achieve, while Apple stays quiet.
Apple’s silicon is so quick, in fact, that Apple will be transitioning Mac computers to it over the next several years.
When performance is measured, however, Apple’s iPhone often takes the lead. Apple creates its own mobile chip designs, and they perform flawlessly when paired with Apple’s software. Apple’s silicon is so quick, in fact, that Apple will be transitioning Mac computers to it over the next several years, abandoning its long-running partnership with Intel.
Apple owners also don’t complain about a lack of RAM. It’s an open secret that Apple uses less RAM in its phones, only 4GB in the premiere iPhone 11 Pro Max. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra has four times as much RAM, 16GB, but doesn’t feel any more responsive — which says more about Android’s problems than Android performance.
Asus makes a ROG phone just for its Republic Of Gaming faithful. Razer made a couple of slick gaming phones, but a third-generation looks doubtful. Budget gamers can buy Xiaomi’s Black Shark phone that is widely praised, and every top-performing Android phone will have the processing power and sharp screen to create an awesome gaming experience.
But then you have to play games on Android. There’s a solid library of games available, but no great games on Android that are not also on iPhone (usually first). Plus, Apple’s Arcade offers a plethora of unique games and a curated experience. The wild west nature of the Android app marketplace makes game shopping a pain, with so many spammy adware games, pay-to-play games, and plain uncooked meals being served to gamers.
Is Apple’s iPhone a gaming device? Like you wouldn’t believe. You can use your Xbox or Playstation controller with simple pairing. All iPhones are powerful enough to run games smoothly, and the screens are sharp and colorful. Best of all, older and cheaper iPhones get to run the same games as the newest phones, since Apple keeps them up-to-date on system software.
I can use the same cord for my Macbook Pro, my Nintendo Switch, my Galaxy Tab S5, and my Jabra Elite 75t headphones. All of those devices charge using USB-C, an industry standard that Apple has used since the beginning — just not on iPhones. The iPad Pro line finally got a USB C port, but the rest of the iPads, and even accessories like the Airpods and the Apple Mouse, use Lightning.
This is often brought up as a problem with the iPhone, but in practice, Lightning was born to be the easier, more compact port that USB wanted to be. By the time Android phones caught up to Lightning by adding USB-C, the Lightning accessory market was so mature that prices for cords and chargers had dropped to USB price levels.
USB charging standards are also inconsistent, a problem that USB-C hasn’t solved. The only real standard is Power Delivery, which basically means ‘don’t worry, your charger will do its best,’ but you may not receive the fastest charge possible.
On the other hand, all Lightning is Lightning. The newer iPhones can take advantage of a higher-watt charger, but all Lightning devices will charge to the full potential of the charger and the phone together.
If you don’t have much to spend (hello, everybody), and you’ve been avoiding iPhones because they cost too much, or the accessories are expensive, or you don’t think you get enough bang for your buck, it’s time to think again. You can find fun phones on both sides, but some of the assumptions that benefit Android the most are actually reasons to check out Apple.
- Apple iPad Mini 6: Everything you need to know
- Samsung Galaxy S21 5G buying guide: Everything you need to know
- How to track your sleep with your iPhone
- 6 months in, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is on target to be 2021’s best Android phone
- The best QR code scanning apps for Android or iOS