15 differences between iPhones and Android smartphones

People have been continuously arguing about which is better: the iPhone or the Android smartphone? The debate never ends, and most people choose to be fans of iOS or Android, no matter what. A year ago I started using an iPhone SE as my primary smartphone, and during this time I got to know Apple's iOS operating system better. I previously used a Motorola Nexus 6 smartphone running Android 7 Nougat. I also reviewed many smartphones with Android, for my work here at Digital Citizen. On the iPhone SE, I use iOS 12. Here are the main differences I noticed between iPhones and Android smartphones:

1. iPhone apps do not crash as often as their Android counterparts

For as long as I have used the iPhone SE, no app on it has crashed. Although the Nexus 6 I had before was a capable smartphone for its time, I have had so many issues with apps crashing on it that I felt it was normal. A positive difference is that apps are not crashing on the iPhone as often as on Android. However, there are times when some of them can lag for a second or two before responding to my taps.

2. The home screen on iOS is not as customizable as the one on Android

Coming from the Android ecosystem, I was used to being able to customize everything. The first big difference is the fact that the home screen on the iPhone is a lot more limited in personalization options than the one on Android.

The lock, notification, and home screens of an iPhone SE

On my iPhone, the only things I can change about the home screen are:

  • Choosing a different image for the wallpaper
  • Changing the order of the app icons
  • Creating folders in which I can place multiple app icons

That is not much compared to what you can do in Android. These are the features I miss most:

  • I cannot use widgets. The only place where you can have widgets in iOS is the Notifications Screen.
  • There is no apps drawer like in Android. All the apps are shown on the home screen, so you have to create app folders to get all the clutter organized.

3. The App Store feels better organized than the Play Store

The Play Store on Android has been significantly improved over the years, and it has become easy to navigate. My first encounter with Apple's App Store was even more favorable. It looks more straightforward, although it is also split into categories and top charts, just like the Play Store. Since I've had my iPhone, the App Store experience feels more polished and friendly. This is, however, a personal opinion, and other people might feel differently about the App Store versus the Play Store.

Apple's App Store

4. Some apps from the App Store are better than their Android counterparts

Apple is known for its high standards regarding the apps that make it through its App Store. That means that developers must create apps that pass specific usability and quality criteria that are established by Apple. As a direct consequence, some third-party apps are more polished than what you find in the Play Store for Android.

The YouTube app for iOS

5. There are more paid apps for iPhones than for Android, but there are also fewer ads

Although the essential apps everyone uses are free on both platforms, when you get out of this bubble, you find that more apps in the App Store are paid, compared to Android. That is probably because Apple's audience is considered to be more willing to spend money on apps than Google's audience. However, that also means that the apps for iOS are usually less filled with ads. On my iPhone, I had to adjust to paying some money for a few of the apps I was used to getting for free on Android.

6. The default iPhone apps that come with iOS are less advanced than the Google apps found on Android

I do not like some of the default apps that come with the iPhone. Safari, Apple Maps, Photos, and Mail, for instance, are not as good as Google Chrome, Google Maps, Google Photos, or Gmail. The default apps that Google offers on Android tend to be more advanced. This impression probably depends on how much you are entrenched in Apple's or Google's ecosystem, and I have to admit that I still am a heavy user of Google's services.

Safari, the default web browser on iPhones

7. Media files cannot be transferred to a Windows PC, as easily, when using an iPhone

If you are a Mac user, transferring your files is not an issue. However, if you are a Windows PC user, moving media files on and from an iPhone can be daunting at first. With an Android device, all you have to do is plug it into a USB port on your Windows computer. Things are different with iPhones. If you want to transfer music or video files, you must download and install iTunes and use this app instead of File Explorer. However, if you just want to copy some photos from your iPhone to your Windows 10 PC, you can use the import feature offered by the Microsoft Photos app, or simply copy them using File Explorer.

Using the Windows 10 Photos app to import the photos from an iPhone

8. There is no Back button on the iPhone

After a few weeks of using my first iPhone, I used to miss the Back button found on all Android devices. iPhones do not have it, and that was strange for someone who got used to using it. Sure, there are buttons inside apps and gestures that you can use on an iPhone to go back. However, the Back button from Android is a lot more comfortable. I could tap it repeatedly to get out of any app, and it was always there, in the same place, no matter what. Although the Back button is usually found at the top-left corner of the screen, the truth is that on iPhones, it can be anywhere the developers want it to be. That takes some getting used to, and it does not improve the user experience.

The Back button from Android

9. The iPhones have a hardware switch for the ring/silent sound profiles

Although Apple removed the headphone jack on its latest iPhones models, the ring/silent hardware switch is still present. It might seem odd to see it there on your brand new iPhone if you previously used an Android smartphone. Android smartphones usually tend to this need via a software implementation. Many people find the the hardware switch on the iPhone easier to like. After all, isn't it reassuring to feel and see that the switch is set to silent? You do not have to open your smartphone for that as you do on Android devices.

The ring/silent hardware switch found on an iPhone

10. iOS updates are a more regular, and better, than the ones you get on Android

Coming from the Android world, when I met the iPhones, I found myself baffled by the fact that some updates for the operating system actually do good in terms of performance. All my previous Android smartphones received system updates, don't get me wrong, but sometimes my smartphone started to run slower because of them. On my iPhone SE, some iOS updates made it faster, not just safer. Moreover, iPhones receive regular operating system updates directly from their manufacturer: Apple. On Android devices, you must wait and hope that your smartphone's manufacturer releases updates. Android device manufacturers do not have a similar approach in this regard, and some Android smartphones barely receive updates, or they receive updates for a much smaller time period than iPhones do.

iOS automatic software updates

11. iOS is a secure walled garden, while Android is an open mess

The apps that run on iPhones are more strictly controlled by Apple. After all, on an iPhone, you can download apps only from the App Store, while on Android smartphones you can get apps from anywhere you like. For example, companies like Epic Games decided to distribute their software outside of the Play Store. The popular game Fortnite is distributed for the iPhone using the App Store, while Fortnite for Android, you must get it directly from Epic Games.

Fortnite for Android

There are countless alternative stores that compete with Google's Play Store, and most of them are not what you would call secure. Not to mention the fact that Android lets you install apps from .apk files which can come from anywhere and can contain any form of malware. In Apple's ecosystem that is almost impossible.

12. iPhones are more privacy-oriented than Android smartphones

Apple is a company that is famous for its opinions about privacy. Although iPhones and Apple also collect data about you and your habits, they always ask you about it beforehand. Furthermore, if you read the news headlines about Apple and FBI from the last few years, then you know that Apple does not give up your data when the FBI comes calling.

Google, on the other hand, is a lot less interested in keeping your data private. It actually wants you not to want to keep it private :). Why? Because Google makes most of its money from your data, by selling advertisements tailored to you. Apple's primary revenue comes not from ads but from selling iPhones. Strange, right? A company that keeps everything closed-source, like Apple, can be more privacy-focused than a company like Google, which is a lot more friendly to open-source.

Privacy controls available on iPhones

13. iPhones do not offer expandable storage

Android smartphones are a lot more open when it comes to hardware options. It is only normal to be so, as there are many Android device manufacturers and countless Android devices with various hardware configurations. Most Android smartphones include a microSD card slot which you can use to expand their storage capacity. Unfortunately, iPhones do not have microSD card slots, and you cannot add more storage to them. You have to be careful and choose to buy an iPhone with enough storage right from the start, as you will be stuck with it later.

Storage information shown by an iPhone

14. The iPhone batteries tend to have a smaller capacity

The batteries used on iPhones are usually smaller than the ones you find on similar Android smartphones. Although Apple uses advanced hardware and software optimizations to enhance battery life, iPhones still lag behind Android devices in this regard. Even more, it looks like the last few generations of iPhones, after iPhone 6, have some issues with their batteries. After a year or so, they start failing rapidly and need to be replaced. My personal opinion is that Apple wanted to make thinner batteries so that the iPhones could be thinner, and during that process, it decided to use weaker batteries. Beautiful design but poor battery life. It looks like the newest iPhones are driven by the "live fast, die young, leave a nice body behind" saying.

Battery options and battery health information

15. iPhones keep their resale value longer

iPhones are better investments if you consider their value depreciation over time. The iPhones are generally more well built and have better hardware-software integration than Android smartphones, and also people tend to still like them more. That is why an iPhone does not lose as much of its initial value after one or two years of use, than any Android smartphone you could name.

Have you migrated from an Android smartphone to an iPhone? How was your experience?

If you migrated from Android to iOS, what were the things that you liked, and which were the ones that frustrated you? Are you happy with the switch, or would you go back to Android at any time? Do not hesitate to share your opinion in the comments section below and tell us about your experience.