Android and iOS. You may love them, you may hate them, but there is no question, these are the two juggernauts of the mobile operating system landscape. Being a long time iPhone user (I’ve owned every iPhone since the first generation, all the way to the iPhone 5), I have often been tempted by the feature set, and customizability of Android. My iPhone tragically slipped out of my jacket pocket one cold winter morning, and managed to land on one of the corners. So long iPhone 5 screen. I was now faced with a decision. Do I pay to replace the screen? Or do I jump ship and give one of the Nexus devices a shot? It has now been close to 6 months since I abandoned my trusty iPhone 5 in favor of the Nexus 5.
When comparing the Nexus 5 to the iPhone, the first thing you notice is the display. The Nexus display is just a hair under 5 inches, and happens to be at a resolution of 1920 x 1080. By contrast, the iPhone measures in at 4 inches and has a resolution of 1136 x 640. This equates to a pixel density of 445 ppi (pixel per inch) for the Nexus 5 versus 326 ppi for the iPhone 5. The Nexus 5 display is the clear winner here.
The next noticeable difference is in the materials used for each device. The iPhone feels premium with its aluminum build. While the Nexus doesn’t necessarily feel cheap, it’s not as nice as the iPhone. It has a rubbery matte finish, which unfortunately, is a magnet for fingerprints.
Neither device has much to offer in terms of replaceable batteries or expandable storage (though certain Android devices do offer expandability), which is a big con in my opinion. How well a battery holds its charge is inversely proportional to the amount of time one owns a phone, so as time progresses, your phone will lose its charge quicker than when it was originally purchased. In addition, each respective OS requires a chunk of the built in storage, so the amount that a user has left, will always be less than the advertised amount. But because there is no way to expand the storage, the iPhone has a slight edge in this category, as it has a capacity of up to 64gb, while the Nexus has a max capacity of 32gb.
Both devices have capable cameras, but when I need a solid picture, I lean on the iPhone 5 camera which tends to be a much faster snapper. The Nexus 5 camera was weak when it was initially released, but an OTA update improved the interface. However, it still lags behind the speed of the iPhone 5.
Hardware is only one part of the equation. One can have a beautifully designed device, but if the operating system isn’t intuitive or flexible to the individual users needs, calling it a flop isn’t outside the realm of possibility. To put it in context, the OS can be considered the heart of the device, and both Android and iOS bring their respective devices to life.
iOS is very intuitive. So much so, that a user who has never touched an iOS device, can pick it up and learn to get around within a few hours. With the latest major update, iOS 7, Apple has chosen to go with more vibrant colors and flatter icons. The combination can be a bit jarring to someone used to anything prior to iOS 7, but the added benefits such as control center, which gives the user access to quick setting toggles like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and camera, make it a welcomed, albeit late (android users had quick toggles long before iOS users) update.
Apps in iOS are uniform; they have the same shape and dimensions across the board. They can be organized into folders to tidy up the springboard, but that is all you will see. There are no widgets on iOS yet (iOS 8 will rectify that omission by adding widgets to the notification center), and customizability outside of changing your home screen picture, isn’t really an option here.
Android on the other hand, isn’t very intuitive, but is extremely flexible. If the stock keyboard isn’t appealing for instance, choosing a different keyboard would solve the problem. Widgets? They can be littered all over the home screen if one is so inclined. The Android device itself can be plugged into any computer, and it will be registered as a removable drive. This means files can be dragged and dropped onto the device for later viewing. This leads to arguably one of the biggest advantages Android has over iOS: a dedicated file system.
Going on a long trip? Plug the device in, drag and drop some movies into the movies folder, or music files into the music folder. There is zero syncing with a proprietary piece of software like iTunes. So regardless of the Android device, one isn’t tied to a single computer that MUST have iTunes for files, like on iOS.
Both Android’s strength and weakness lies in the deluge of devices that are offered, and that same customizability that is praised by many. Having so many devices on the market means that Android reaches many users, but with each device varying from manufacturer to manufacturer, fragmentation of the software is practically unavoidable. Some devices have a version of Android that is several months, even years old. Bugs are consistent regardless of platform, but they seem to be more prevalent on Android. I find that more apps, crash more frequently on my Nexus than on my iPhone. Android’s high customizability can also be considered a double edged sword. It’s great to have options, but when there are too many, the experience becomes diluted. Instead of enjoying the device, one is forced to hunt through layers of menus, which is counterintuitive to any user experience.
Of course, we can’t talk about mobile operating systems if we don’t mention the assistants. They both come in handy when you need to send someone a message hands free, or when you need to look up information quickly. Siri on iOS isn’t perfect, but the humorous responses, along with her growing functional capabilities more than make up for the shortcomings. Google Now on Android, is phenomenal at integrating all of the Google services you might use (for me it happens to be quite a few, and I suspect I’m not alone), but it too, is far from perfect. Something I noticed however, that might sway some users, is the fact that on Android you have tighter integration with all of Google’s services, Google Now, but you can’t have Siri. On iOS though, you can have Google services, Google Now, and Siri.
There was a point in time where this wasn’t even a contest. iOS would have dominated in terms of ecosystem a year or two ago. This is a credit to Google, who has vastly improved their playstore. However, Apple still maintains an edge in ecosystem, due primarily to the fact that it is home to many exclusive apps. Not to mention that a lot of the premium apps also debut on the app store many months before the playstore.
The quality of apps is higher on iOS. One of the reasons behind this is that the ecosystem is locked down on iOS. Apps have to go through a crucible of guidelines before being published on the app store. This limits a lot of the innovation and uniqueness that is found on Google’s playstore. Another reason is that developers are more willing to code for iOS, because the device is premium, and owners of premium devices are more willing to spend money on apps. Revenue makes the world go ‘round, friends.
Much can be said about both companies, both devices, and both operating systems. Technology is moving at such an exponential rate, it can be hard to keep up at times. Will I remain loyal to Android? With both the next version of the iPhone/iOS, and the next release of Android around the corner, only time will tell. Both platforms are evolving, and only getting better year after year. This longstanding debate over which platform is better is completely subjective. The best device for me won’t necessarily be the best device for you. And therein lies the beauty of the world we live in today, you have options.