Can Android ever replace iOS

Android vs. iOS: The OS giants in comparison

Jamal Fischer

The eternal competition between Google and Apple is more heated than ever: Android 10 Q and iOS 13 are about to be released and are once again scoring points with unique features. Here you can read about the differences and similarities between the two operating systems and which OS suits you better.

Are you looking for a new smartphone? Then you need to make the most important purchase decision first: Android or iOS. Both operating systems ("OS") are special in their own way, score with numerous features and offer millions of apps for download in the respective store. But while the differences between Android and iOS increase with each new version, it also seems that many areas of the operating systems are more similar than ever. So which features can you expect in every mobile phone, or what are the respective strengths and weaknesses? In order to compare the operating systems with one another, we have to start at the very beginning of the respective OS history and look at today's versions in great detail.

One thing is certain, however: both operating systems are excellent choices in their own right. With numerous functions of their own, great designs and years of further development, both Apple and Google have done a great job and have great systems on offer. Nevertheless, the market share of Android smartphones in May 2019 was around 75 percent, while only around 23 percent of smartphones run on the iOS system.

Android was almost insolvent at the start

The Android operating system saw the light of day in 2003. Originally, however, the system was not designed for smartphones, but for digital cameras. The system's founders, including Andy Rubin, did not have an easy time of it at the start: The money was running out and not even enough to finance their own office space. In the summer of 2005, the US giant Google took over the company and invested a lot of money and two years of development into the system. In November 2007, Google announced that it would develop the system further as a smartphone OS until the system found its way onto the world's first Android smartphone in October 2008.

In fact, the first Android cell phone comes from a manufacturer that is no longer doing well in the smartphone segment: HTC has the “Dream” model (CHIP report from 2008) under the name “T-Mobile G1” in the USA Google's mobile OS implemented for the first time. Even then, Google issued regulations to the manufacturer: A GPS sensor and acceleration sensors had to be installed back then. Since 2015, Google has provided monthly security updates for all Android smartphones.

Steve Jobs was idolized for first iOS device

"An iPod, a phone and an internet comunicator" were the words Steve Jobs used to introduce the first iPhone (test report from 2007) and thus also the first smartphone in the form we know it today. It was the competition at the time - Among other things, the Moto Q, the Palm Treo, the Nokia E62 - miles ahead with the first multi-touch display. The operating system on this device was called iPhone OS 1, which looks very similar in design to the current iOS 13 - a big point of criticism from many users.

The first reviews at the time were bursting with enthusiasm for the first iPhone and the new operating system. However, many could not or did not want to start the technology revolution, since the first generation iPhone with a starting price of 499 dollars was anything but cheap for the conditions at the time. For comparison: the first Android smartphone went over the counter for just $ 179.

Despite the market share of just 23 percent compared to around 75 percent for the competition from Google, Apple still holds the record for the best-selling smartphone with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus: a total of 220 million people bought the device , while the Android smartphone with the highest sales figures is the Samsung Galaxy S4 and just 80 million devices sold.

Android and iOS weren't always the only ones in the running

While Apple and Google now share almost the entire market share of smartphone operating systems, the world of mobile phone software looked quite different 10 years ago: The very new Android still had to deal with very low user numbers and a rather low one in 2009 Satisfy popularity. iOS had already built up a larger group of fans, but only ended up in second place. By far the most widespread operating system on smartphones at that time was Symbian OS, which was used on Nokia smartphones, among other things.

Over the years, other manufacturers with their own operating systems in the smartphone segment have also tried to play at the top: BlackBerry smartphones ran with their own BlackBerry OS operating system and Microsoft also tried Windows phones and the Windows Mobile platform. But over time, all of these operating systems perished bit by bit: Symbian OS has not been used on any device for many years, and BlackBerry and Microsoft also had to realize that their own smartphone OS had no future.

Today, almost exclusively Google and Apple are fighting for the crown for the best, fastest and most beautiful operating system - at least for now: Huawei has had difficulties with the availability of Android over and over again in recent months. Since then, the Chinese company has been focusing more on developing its own OS. It remains to be seen whether and when the system will be used on smartphones, how it will fare against Android and iOS and whether it will perish as much as Windows Mobile and Co. For some time now, Google has also been working intensively on a new system called Fuchsia OS. The Android operating system may soon be in for a major revolution.

Android can be expensive, iOS always is

In typical tests of smartphones, the subject of price and availability is usually only mentioned at the end of the article. However, it makes sense to talk about this right at the beginning of the comparison, as this plays an important role in the decision between iOS and Android.

The high market share of Android is probably due, among other things, to the variety of models that the Google OS brings with it. The Apple system iOS is reserved for the in-house iPhones. These are increased once a year and are always in the expensive range in terms of price. The current iPhone XS Max in the maximum configuration is even more expensive than almost any Android device at a price of almost 1,650 euros. The cheapest current iPhone is the XR, which is only available from 850 euros. So if you don't want to spend a lot of money on a smartphone, you inevitably have to rely on Android.

Android is used on smartphones of all price ranges. Devices can be found on the market for just around 100 euros, while the price ranges here as well up to well over 1,000 euros. All major cell phone manufacturers, including Samsung, Huawei, Google, OnePlus, LG, Sony, Motorola and Nokia, use Android as their operating system. Thus, the OS can be found on all kinds of devices, all of which can score with their own highlights: Great cameras are built into the current Huawei P30 Pro and Google Pixel 3 (XL), while the OnePlus 7 Pro relies on the fastest possible performance. The brand new Samsung Galaxy Note 10 shows the competition new standards in terms of display, and Motorola builds devices with a great price-performance ratio. And all devices rely on Android.

Sure: iPhones are lightning fast, have good cameras and also score points with a great screen, but a single smartphone cannot deliver the best in all categories, not even an iPhone.

Android is not the same as Android

In contrast to Apple's iOS, the Android operating system does not always look the same: Manufacturers are changing the design of the OS, sometimes massively, and adding features that other Android devices do not have. The manufacturers package these innovations in a so-called overlay: the OS itself is still Android at its core, but in a completely new guise and with its own name. Samsung baptizes its own work on the operating system “One UI”, Huawei relies on “EMUI” and OnePlus users use “Oxygen OS”.

Cheaper devices, including many Motorola and Nokia smartphones, usually run what is known as stock Android, ie a version of the system that has hardly been changed by the manufacturer. These devices usually lack the features that are available in smartphones with overlay, but the system performance benefits from them, which is clearly an advantage for cheaper devices with weaker hardware.

These devices in particular often run on an Android One or Android Go version.

  • Android One is an unchanged Android version. If the is installed on a smartphone, the buyer is guaranteed to receive two years of system updates and three years of security updates. So Google wants to counteract its update problem a little.

  • Android Go is a very stripped-down version of the classic Android. It doesn't have as many functions, but it uses significantly less memory and hardly needs any system resources to run smoothly. This Android version also comes with pre-installed Go versions of some apps. So Gmail has been replaced by Gmail Go, Google Maps by Maps Go, and so on. These apps also require less storage space, but do not have all of the functions of the original app.

Fewer and fewer differences in reliability

Not so long ago Android had to contend with the prejudice that the system was very unstable and would crash all the time. And indeed: In previous versions, the Google OS often had to deal with app crashes and system crashes. Accordingly, users often saw messages such as “App has been paused”. iOS did not have these problems: Then as now, the system is stable in the vast majority of cases and there are virtually no app crashes.

To date, however, a lot has happened in this area: a long development period and many adjustments to the system have massively improved system performance over time. App crashes have become a rarity on Android, and Android users hardly experience any system crashes any more.

Nevertheless: The Google OS doesn't seem to have reached the end of the flagpole and Apple will still run a little more reliably. This is particularly clear when it comes to system updates: Android smartphones have not exactly smeared themselves with fame in recent years when it comes to keeping smartphones up to date with the latest software. One to a maximum of three system updates can be expected from a new Android smartphone from release. Apple is clearly more professional here: The iPhone 5s was shipped with iOS 7 and received its last update with iOS 12. Thus, the Apple flagship from 2013 received five system updates and is therefore still up to date with iOS.

In terms of performance, both operating systems make a great impression: Animations run smoothly and the general performance leaves nothing to be desired. Android has also gotten rid of this vice from the past over the years.

The mobile phone as a personalized one-off

Once the smartphone has been put into operation and the most important settings have been made, the next step is personalization: a new background image, placing widgets and changing the font is the order of the day. But with which system is there actually more?

Since the iPhone OS 1, iPhones have offered a visually almost identical user experience: the lock screen shows the time in the center of the upper part of the screen. After the unlocking process, app icons dominate the content of the screen, which can be moved, but only placed in a row. The background image can be changed and a widget overview is presented on the far left of the screen, the order of which can be individually adjusted.

Android offers more options for customization here. The lock screen is structured differently from manufacturer to manufacturer: With Stock Android, the time is also centered in the upper area of ​​the screen, while with Samsung it can be found at the top left and with Huawei at the bottom left. There are also different numbers of icons, symbols or links. App icons can be placed anywhere on the home screen, as can widgets, the size of which can often be adjusted. A much more individual homescreen can be put together in this way.

If the overall impression of the home screen is no longer pleasing, so-called launchers can even be installed. Launcher are alternative home screens that replace the standard home screen and are often even more customizable: the number of maximum app icons, transitions, effects and designs can sometimes be adjusted down to the smallest detail. Such possibilities are lacking with iOS.

Battle of the App Markets: App Store versus Play Store

Ready-to-use apps are of course required, which can be downloaded from the respective store of the operating system. The Apple App Store is available to iPhone users, and the Google Play Store is preinstalled on Android phones. First of all: Popular apps, including WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and of course our CHIP app, can be easily downloaded in both stores. However, there are some differences between the stores.

The Google Play Store with 3.5 million available apps offers a whole corner more downloads than the Apple App Store with 2.5 million applications. But the selection of apps is by no means everything. The Play Store shines in a more colorful design and with more content on one screen, while the App Store looks rather simpler and tidier. Purchased apps can be refunded at Apple for 14 days if they are not to your liking. Android users have to act here within two days if they want to see their money again. For this, Android offers a larger proportion of free apps, while Apple offers more paid apps in proportion.

Noticeable: Apps from the App Store are often updated by manufacturers more quickly than apps from the Play Store. Accordingly, Apple users often receive new features more quickly. The general quality of the apps is also higher at Apple: Apple gives its developers stricter guidelines for regularly updating new apps, while the Play Store sometimes has apps with a design from many years ago.

The app selection for Android is not limited to the Google Play Store: With so-called APK files, users can download and install a gigantic number of other apps from the Internet or from alternative sources such as the Amazon Market Place, which are stored in the Play Store cannot be found. But be careful: Google cannot guarantee that apps outside the Play Store are free from viruses or malware. You should therefore avoid untrustworthy sources.

Gesture control is cult

For many years, Android and iOS have relied on their own navigation system on mobile phones: Android users will be familiar with the classic three-button design. There are three buttons for "Back", "Home" and "Recently used apps" in the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen. For a long time, Apple was known for the “holy” button below the screen: It was responsible for “Home”, “Recently used apps”, Siri voice control, input help and fingerprint reading - all at the same time.

Since the iPhone X, Apple has installed gesture navigation in iOS for the first time, since the screen has taken the place of the button ever since. With various swipe movements on the white bar at the bottom of the screen, all the necessary functions can now be carried out. Android has also jumped on this bandwagon after half-hearted gesture control in version 9 Pie and has integrated an almost identically functioning gesture control. Here, too, all the necessary operations can now be carried out with the aid of wiping movements.

How both systems manage hundreds of messages a day

Emails, WhatsApp messages and the calendar also have their say: Numerous notifications every day are no longer uncommon for many users in everyday life. The two operating systems manage all of these messages in slightly different ways.

Up to the eleventh version of iOS, each individual notification was displayed in a large field. Since iOS 12, the system has been stacking several notifications from an app, which can be extended if desired. You can also reply to incoming text messages within the notification.

Android also collects several notifications from an app in a field that can be expanded if desired. The system also sorts messages according to priority. Android also implements an answer function like the one on iOS, with Google increasingly incorporating smart answer suggestions that can be sent with a single click.As an additional feature, Android offers the function of "snoozing" individual notifications, ie fading them out for the time being and displaying them again as a new message after a certain period of time.

The shady side as a bright spot of battery power

Current cell phones are often criticized for their short battery life. Both Android and iOS want to counteract this with a clever software trick. High-end smartphones in particular have mostly installed OLED screens. If individual pixels display a black color, then they are completely switched off, which among other things uses less energy and allows longer battery life.

Both smartphone operating systems integrate a dark mode in their current version, which is supposed to ensure a lot of black on the screen and correspondingly many pixels that are switched off. This dark mode changes as many white areas as possible to black areas in system apps - including phone, settings and calculator. These modes not only give the respective smartphones a new look, but should also save a lot of electricity and therefore lead to a better runtime.

Own services for popular apps

In addition to programs such as settings, camera and telephone, there are also some additional services preinstalled on both systems, which can also be manually deleted or downloaded again if necessary. However, the pre-installed services are often used, so they should not be missing in a comparison of the two operating systems.

Both manufacturers offer map apps in-house. Both Apple Maps and Google Maps do a good job in the basic functions, but Google Maps shows strengths in additional functions that Apple Maps cannot quite keep up with: A live speed camera warning or a natural disaster warning can only be found on Google.

Google and Apple also offer their own pre-installed music streaming service: Apple Music and YouTube Music or Google Play Music are the same price and both offer a large selection of songs. Everyone has to decide for themselves which streaming service offers the better benefits for them personally.

Both operating systems also offer payment services preinstalled: Apple Pay and Google Pay are particularly popular in the USA, but are also becoming more and more fashionable in Germany. A payment method must be stored for both apps, which the respective service can then use in the event of a payment. However, Google Pay is a bit more flexible here: For example, a PayPal account can also be linked to the Google payment service. Apple Pay does not yet allow this.

"Okay Google, what do you think of Siri?"

Both iOS and Android have their own digital assistant: Siri on the iPhone and the Google Assistant on Android devices. Basic tasks, including entering reminders and displaying the weather forecast, can be mastered by both voice commands without any problems. In more complicated situations, however, the Google Assistant has the edge, as it can fall back on many Google services and a gigantic database.

Both assistants are also available in separate smart home speakers, whereby the Apple Home Pod can only be set up with an Apple device, while Google Home speakers can also be operated on an iOS device with the help of the Google Home app can.

Android and iOS aren't just on smartphones

Both Android and iOS can be found in a modified situation on other devices. Watch OS from Apple compete against Wear OS from Google on smartwatches. The Apple Watch has a clear lead here, as it can have more functions and a higher number of users than watches with Wear OS. However, the same applies here: Watch OS only runs on the expensive Apple Watch, while Wear OS can be found on a wide variety of watches at different prices. The two technology giants have also found their way into the car (Android Auto and Apple Car Play) and on the television (Android TV and Apple TV). In addition, both manufacturers offer their own cloud service: With iCloud, Apple competes against Google Drive.

Android also brings these functions with it

Android brings with it many other functions that cannot be found on iPhones. This includes a split-screen mode, with the help of which two apps can be used in parallel. A picture-in-picture mode also enables videos to be played within a small window while other apps are being used. On Google Photos, users can also save an unlimited number of high quality images free of charge so that they can be deleted from the device and storage space freed up.

IOS also brings these functions with it

Of course, iOS also comes with functions that are not implemented in Android. Probably the biggest argument for not using WhatsApp is the use of iMessage. This news service from Apple, which is especially popular in the USA, only works with iOS and offers a good alternative to the services of Facebook and Co. For lovers of animated characters, Apple has so-called Animojis: Enlarged emoji creatures precisely imitate the movements of the face and thus you transform yourself into a virtual monkey, bear or other creature. If you don't want to visualize yourself as an emoji, but as an animated person, it works identically with memojis. It is also possible to save videos, photos and documents via the iCloud. Finally, iPhones offer better value retention: If you want to sell your smartphone after a few years of use, you will turn out a significantly higher profit with a well-preserved iOS device than with an Android device.

Conclusion: more different than ever and yet so the same

Whether iOS or Android is the better operating system cannot be said across the board: Personal preferences and personal experiences are at least as much included in the evaluation as the pure facts and data. One thing is certain: the battle for the crown of the smartphone operating system is far from over. Who knows whether Android or iOS will ever be allowed to carry this award, or whether a new, previously unknown operating system will not completely shake up the market.