Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are operating systems used primarily in mobile technology, such as smartphones and tablets. Android, which is Linux-based and partly open source, is more PC-like than iOS, in that its interface and basic features are generally more customizable from top to bottom. However, iOS’ uniform design elements are sometimes seen as being more user-friendly.
You should choose your smartphone and tablet systems carefully, as switching from iOS to Android or vice versa will require you to buy apps again in the Google Play or Apple App Store. Android is now the world’s most commonly used smartphone platform and is used by many different phone manufacturers. iOS is only used on Apple devices, such as the iPhone.
iOS and Android both use touch interfaces that have a lot in common – swiping, tapping and pinch-and-zoom. Both operating systems boot to a homescreen, which is similar to a computer desktop. While an iOS home screen only contains rows of app icons, Android allows the use of widgets, which display auto-updating information such as weather and email. The iOS user interface features a dock where users can pin their most frequently used applications.
A status bar runs across the top on both iOS and Android, offering information such the time, WiFi or cell signal, and battery life; on Android the status bar also shows the number of newly received emails, messages and reminders.
A comparison of some of the features of the upcoming Android N (Nougat) and iOS 10 is here. Android N highlights include:
- split screen (even on phones that aren’t large)
- display size setting to not only zoom in but also zoom out to make the most of the screen real estate
- customize which buttons/settings are available in the quick settings launcher
- support for Google Daydream, a virtual reality platform
Android gets apps from Google Play, which currently has 600,000 apps available, most of which will run on tablets. However, some Android devices, such as the Kindle Fire, use separate app stores that have a smaller selection of apps available. Many originally iOS-only apps are now available for Android, including Instagram and Pinterest, and Google’s more open app-store means other exclusive apps are also available, including Adobe Flash Player and BitTorrent. Android also offers access to Google-based apps, such as Youtube and Google Docs.
The Apple app store currently offers 700,000 apps, 250,000 of which are available for the iPad. Most developers prefer to develop games for iOS before they develop for Android. Since a recent update, the Youtube app has become unavailable on iOS, but iOS still offers some exclusive apps, including the popular game Infinity Blade and Twitter client Tweetbot.
The bottomline when comparing Google and Apple’s app stores is that most popular apps are available for both platforms. But for tablets, there are more apps designed specifically for the iPad while Android tablet apps are often scaled up versions of Android smartphone apps. Developers at startups often focus on one platform (usually iOS) when they first launch their smartphone app because they do not have resources to serve multiple platforms from the get go. For example, the popular Instagram app started with iOS and their Android app came much later.
An iPhone 6s handily beat a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 in on speed test that involved opening several apps one by one, cycling through a set of apps twice. The same set of apps were used for both devices. The iPhone was able to complete two laps in 1m21s while it took the Galaxy Note 2m4s to finish the same task. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 boasts better hardware specs and is a much newer phone compared with the iPhone 6s.
However, it should be noted that the difference could be in how app publishers develop their apps for Android vs. iOS. Just because the same apps are on both platforms does not mean their internal workings are the same.
Although Google does update Android frequently, some users may find that they do not receive the updates on their phone, or even purchase phones with out-of-date software. Phone manufacturers decide whether and when to offer software upgrades. They may not offer an upgrade to the latest version of Android for all the phones and tablets in their product line. Even when an upgrade is offered, it is usually several months after the new version of Android has been released.
This is one area where iOS users have an advantage. iOS upgrades are generally available to all iOS devices. There could be exceptions for devices older than three years, or for certain features like Siri, which was available for iPhone 4S users but not for older versions of iPhone. Apple cites hardware capability as the reason some older devices may not receive all new features in an upgrade.
A wide variety of Android devices are available at many different price points, sizes and hardware capabilities.
iOS is only available on Apple devices: the iPhone as a phone, the iPad as a tablet, and the iPod Touch as an MP3 player. These tend to be more expensive than equivalent hardware using Android.
Android allows the user to send one of a number of self-composed texts as autoreplies when declining a call.
iOS’s phone app has many abilities, including the ability to reply to a phonecall with a canned text message instead of answering, or to set a callback reminder. It also has a Do Not Disturb mode.
Android allows users to log onto GTalk for instant messages. iOS does not offer a native way to chat to non-Apple users. Users can message over Apple users using iMessage or use apps from Google for GTalk and Microsoft for Skype.
Google Hangouts on Android can also be used for video chat, allowing users to chat over either 3G or Wi-Fi. iOS uses Facetime, which can place video calls over both 3G and WiFi. However, it only allows users to communicate with other Apple devices.
iOS uses Siri, a voice-based virtual assistant, to understand and respond to both dictation as well as spoken commands. Siri includes many features, such as reading sports scores and standings, making reservations at restaurants and finding movie times at the local theater. You can also dictate texts and emails, schedule calendar events, and interface with car audio and navigation.
Android offers a similar assistant, Google Now, which features the above abilities, plus can keep track of your calendar and give verbal reminders when it is time to leave. It allows for voice search and dictation.
Apps like Google Maps, Waze and Bing are available for both iOS and Android. When Google released its maps app for iOS in December 2012, the iOS version surpassed the version available for Android in terms of features, design and ease of use. The Android version is not expected to stay behind. Apple’s own mapping app, which is bundled with every iOS device, was widely panned when it was launched with iOS 6.