Android vs. iOS
The number of mobile phone users, while not growing at an exponential rate any longer, continues a remarkable pace.
- According to Statista, in 2023, the number of smartphone users in the world is 92 billion. That would mean 86.11% of the world’s population owns a smartphone.
- In the U.S nearly 82% of the population, or approximately 270 million, own a smartphone.
Given the numerous devices available, it’s not hard to find a phone with the speed, memory, connectivity, screen size, or keyboard that’s right for you. The difficult part is often finding the software that will make the most out of your smartphone experience. The mobile operating system (OS) is the foundation for all mobile software.
Operating System Market Share - Then There Were Two
There are currently only two major players in the U.S. smartphone OS market: iOS (Apple) and Android (Google). Competing operating systems have been crowded out by this duopoly. While Apple has a sizeable lead in the U.S. with 57.4% of the market compared to Android’s 42.13%, things are vastly different globally.
- Statcounter shows Android with 70.79% percent of the world market.
- iOS has 28.44% of the world mobile operating system market.
The two operating systems utilize different business models.
- Apple controls both the iOS software and the smartphone hardware.
- iOS tends to have the market share lead in developed countries.
- Google's Android OS runs on devices produced by a variety of companies.
- Android tends to compete very well in developing countries.
After Steve Jobs died, competitor Nokia’s CEO said that Jobs will be remembered for his simple, elegant designs. Apple's trademark simple elegance certainly rings true for iOS. Given this and the fact that all iOS apps must conform to the iOS user interface (UI) standards, the ease of use of iOS’ UI is unsurpassed.
While Android’s UI might not be as elegant as iOS, Android does have its own advantages. Android’s UI is highly configurable. Take Android widgets, for example. To get interactive information out of an app in iOS, you have to load the app and view it. In Android, you may configure a widget and interact with that information in a dashboard like view. In fact, Android is often highly customized by both the phone manufacturers and by mobile carriers.
The average American checks their phone every 10 minutes, meaning at least 96 times per day. 66% of Americans check their phones 160 times every day. 90% of mobile time is spent on apps.
While the UI may be the foundation of the smartphone experience, most users will spend the bulk of their time using their favorite apps.
The availability of mobile applications across iOS and Android has exploded. The most popular smartphone apps in the U.S., in terms of number of downloads, looked like this in 2022.
Top Smartphone Apps
- Apple’s App Store has more than 1.6 million apps available in 2023.
- Apps for iOS generally must be downloaded through Apple’s App Store.
- Some smartphone users will “jailbreak” or “root” their phone to circumvent these restrictions
- This practice can carry consequences like voiding manufacturers' warranties and violating carrier service agreements.
- The Android app market Google Play had more than 3.5 million available in 2023.
- Android users may also download apps outside of the Android market, which increases the number of available apps.
The apps which a user may download can also be restricted by carriers, so be sure to check their policies before you assume the app you want will be available on your new smartphone.
For security and quality control, Apple’s App Store is the strictest, as all applications are manually reviewed for security, conformance with Apple’s standards for functionality, and adherence to the iOS user interface guidelines. In this way, Apple is able to maintain a secure, seamless, consistent user experience for iOS users. Of course, the flip side of this is that some iOS users complain about Apple’s censorship of apps which might compete with Apple’s products.
Google Play has an automatic review process which is more permissive than the App Store, which is one reason the growth in the number of Android applications is greater than for iOS. Many Android users enjoy the “freedom of choice” they have, but this comes with a flip side as well. Android applications have less consistency in terms of their user interfaces and are more prone to security risk. Google will, of course, remove any known malicious apps from the Google Play store and will also remotely remove them from user mobile devices. Android users may also choose from a broad range of mobile security apps to help mitigate security threats.
Some users are really looking for certain features and functionality in their smartphone. No one wants to take their shiny new smartphone out of the box for the first time, only to find out shortly thereafter it doesn’t do that one thing you really want it to do.
Below is a comparison of the iOS and Android platforms based on the latest stable release for each:
Security and Privacy
- Google is making its security measures more prominent throughout Android Oreo with Google Play Protect, which is available on all Android devices in addition to Oreo Users. The feature provides a heads-up when scans are happening and that apps are safe.
- While iOS does track phone usage and analyzes your e-mails to optimize Siri’s features, Apple emphasizes that the data it gathers is stored on your device, private and for your benefit. With iOS 11, Apple introduced an intelligent tracking prevention feature for the Safari browser to limit the way you are tracked through ads online.
Biometric User Identification
- Android has made significant advances in native fingerprint scanning by taking control of that feature away from the device manufacturers.
- iOS has had native fingerprint and face scanning for some time. Emergency SOS is an iOS feature that disables Touch ID and Face ID, preventing a would-be thief or other person with malicious intent from accessing your device. The feature allows quick and discreet placement of calls to emergency services.
Speed and Battery Life
- Android Oreo includes restrictions that keep certain apps from running down the battery and consuming memory. Overall, the Oreo update attempted to make the OS faster by creating a way to process complex tasks on the device, rather than in the cloud.
- Apple heard from some owners of older iPhones that their devices ran slower, in order to extend battery life, following iOS 11 installation. The company apologized and offered a discounted battery replacement to people with phones affected by the software. An iOS 11 update will inform users when iPhone is automatically reducing its performance due to the battery.
- Google Wallet allows users to send money through the app, in Gmail, on the web, or via text messages in the U.S. or U.K.
- Apple Pay can be used at stores and online to pay for goods and services. This is a peer-to-peer payment system used with iPhone that acts essentially as a bank account on your phone.
- It should be noted that only select Android phones and the iPhone 6 and later support NFC payments in accordance with the EMV (Europay, MasterCard, Visa) payment standard.
- Google Now adds intelligence based on what app is being used when conducting a voice search to provide context to your question.
- iOS is using improved algorithms to utilize data on your phone and in your e-mail to provide increased context to your Siri searches. Siri intelligence is also being used in more places to recommend stories in the News app, find related search queries in Safari and more.
Running on Desktop/Laptop
- Windows 11 supports running Android apps via the Windows Subsystem for Android.
- Apple supports running iOS apps on their ‘M’ series processor based Macs.
Connected Car Integration
- Both iOS and Android can connect to certain automotive infotainment systems via CarPlay and Android Auto. Not all vehicle systems are compatible with both.
- Some people may take this into consideration when buying their next mobile device to ensure that their phone can connect seamlessly to their vehicle.
Other User Experience Improvements
- Android Oreo has a feature which allows continuation of a video call, use of Google Maps navigation, or streaming a video from various supported apps with picture-in-picture mode. Google also now allows the Chrome auto-fill feature (for names, passwords, and other online form information) to be used with the Oreo OS.
- iOS updated the control center, unified the lock screen and notification center experience, introduced a 'Do Not Disturb' while driving feature, and updated the screenshots and screen capture video feature.
Under the Hood
For techies, selecting a mobile OS often goes beyond the user interface and available apps. They want to know what lies “under the hood”. Perhaps they want to write their own apps, modify, and extend the functionality of the OS, install the OS on a new device or emulate it in their development environment. The following tables contains a list of specifications for Android and iOS.
16.0 (September 2022)
13.0 (August 2022)
Unix-like (modified Linux kernel)
ARM, MIPS, Power, x86
C (core), C++, Java, Kotlin (UI), others
Free & Open Source
MacOS X via iOS SDK, iPadOS via Swift Playgrounds
Linux, MacOS X, Windows
The smartphone market has been growing, evolving rapidly, and shows no signs of stopping. Given the rapid change, choosing the right mobile OS may seem difficult, but after a bit of research most users can find the one which is right for them.
- If you’re new to smartphones or just looking for a simple, elegant user interface with numerous safe apps which integrate seamlessly with it, Apple’s iOS is probably for you.
- If you’re a power user or techie looking for maximum flexibility, possibly even the ability to experiment with the OS and the apps, Android is probably for you.
Every user’s needs are unique. Before purchasing a smartphone:
- Make a checklist of your most desired/required functionality and qualities.
- Research Google Play and Apple’s App Store.
- Check out your friends' and colleagues’ phones.
- See how the available options stack up against your requirements.