Two women holding and comparing their cell phones.

What’s the Difference Between Apple and Android Phones?

On the Fence? Here's the Information You Need to Know

We see “Android vs Apple” wars across social media too often, with users vigorously defending the one they’ve chosen while putting down the other. Listening to either side might convince someone that one platform is utterly despicable and the other sent from heaven.

The truth though, is that both platforms are pretty similar, perform many of the exact same operations, and differentiate in a few small ways. However, these small differences may be key for some users.

This article will attempt to explain the many differences and similarities between Android and iOS operating systems, from an unbiased perspective, to help the consumer decide which is the better platform to use.

Breaking Down Android

Let’s begin with Android. Android is actually an open-source operating system, which means anyone can download the source code and modify it to create a forked version of the “vanilla” Android system. This is what many mobile companies do – Samsung, Huawei, Lenovo, Sony, and more are all running Android as their base platform – but they customize and tailor it to suit their brand and audience appeal.

Some companies like Samsung feel strongly about their version of Android, and make many attempts at locking down the user’s system-wide privileges. This is where “rooting” comes into play.

If you’ve ever heard an Android user say that Android can be rooted, whereas Apple phones cannot, they’re speaking of a type of hacking that can be performed on Android phones. Because companies like Samsung typically do not want users messing around with the device’s systems, they lock down various aspects of it, such as administrative privileges over certain aspects of the operating system.

By “rooting” an Android phone, you are basically unlocking the administrator privileges that the phone manufacturer didn’t want you to have.

This is an accepted practice in the Android community, because Android is an open-source operating system, which means that these users feel these companies should not be locking down certain administrative privileges within the devices.

For example, a Samsung phone that has not been rooted can typically only install fonts from the Samsung Theme Store. This is because companies like Samsung know that people generally want to customize their phone, so they force the user to download customizations through their theme store, and lock out the customization options that are already built into Android.

By rooting the Android device, a user can download and install any font they wish from the internet, or install apps that open customization options that were not previously available. They can also use a third-party keyboard with useful features and increased texting efficiency.

With Android, because the platform is forked by each device manufacturer, general updates are released slower. This is because when Google releases a security update intended for the Android source, the manufacturers must apply the updates to their different versions of Android. This means they have to make the security update compatible with the changes they’ve made to the Android source.

What Version of Android are You Talking About?

When we talk about the battle of Android vs Apple we should refer to vanilla Android, without any third-party manufacturer included. A pure Android experience would be found on Google phones, because Google develops Android, and Google phones always have the latest Android updates.

The point is that you can’t simply say “Android vs Apple” when each phone manufacturer is including a highly modified version of Android on their devices. We need to compare the pure, unadulterated Android to Apple operating systems.

Apple "Just Works"

With that in mind, iOS is not an open-source operating system. That’s why only Apple devices have the iOS platform. When you purchase an Apple phone, you don’t need to worry about Apple putting out an update to iOS, and then individual phone manufacturers adapting and applying the update to their versions.

That’s partially the main appeal of Apple to users: it just works. Yes there are various iPhone hacks you can use to "unlock" cool features on your device, the truth of the matter is that the iOS system is user-friendly and straightforward as the updates come directly from the source, rather than from a third-party like Samsung.

So Which Is Right for You?

Apple devices are really for people who want their devices to be as user-friendly as possible. Android, on the other hand, despite being used in so many devices, really achieves its full potential in the hands of an Android enthusiast.

Think of it like this: Apple is for people who want their device to work all the time, and the manufacturer to be responsible if something doesn’t work. Android is for people who want to modify, tinker, break the system, void the warranty, and fix it themselves.

Of course, many Android-based device manufacturers realize that the mainstream audience really just wants a platform that is as user-friendly as possible, which is why companies like Samsung lock down all of the administrative privileges. It could be argued that these companies are trying to make Android more like Apple. At the same time, most users really would break their Android devices if allowed to use the full system’s potential.

People can argue all day about whether Apple or Android is better, but it boils down to personal preference: if you want a device that is user-friendly at the expense of being able to modify the system, go with Apple. If you want a device that you can hack to your heart’s content and modify with all kinds of third-party themes and applications, go with Android.