- There were 3.2 billion global smartphone users in 2019. That number is expected to become nearly 4 billion in 2021.
- Since 2012, Android has had a consistent lead in market share versus Apple, according to Statista.
- As of last September, 51.8% of American smartphone owners had an Android device, while 47.4% owned an Apple device. Just 0.2% still had a Blackberry.
Since 2007, Apple and Google have been in a constant struggle to get in your pocket. Since the introduction of the smartphone operating systems Android and iOS, both companies have tried to leverage their international multi-billion-dollar brands to not only sell more devices but also to be the one that helps people organize their professional and personal lives.
More than a decade of competition may have brought about similarities between the two platforms, but enough differences still exist to leave business consumers asking one question: "Which is better for my small business: Android or iOS?"
While it's impossible to empirically determine which operating system is better, given the highly subjective nature of brand loyalties and other extenuating factors, we're going to break down some of the security, hardware, cost, and software differences that can help you decide for yourself what you need in a new mobile business companion.
Android vs. IOS = PC vs. Mac
When comparing iOS and Android devices, it's easy to liken the decision points to another, much longer comparison between owning a PC or a Mac. Both decisions depend on a wide range of factors, and unless you're dead set on performing a certain kind of task, it can be hard to decide on one over the other. And while it may seem like that's where the similarities between the two comparisons end, that would be wrong.
One of the main reasons why people choose between iOS and Android often stems from their relationship to one of the operating system's "ecosystem," meaning if they've already established their online presence either with Apple's iCloud or Google's suite of programs. Since iOS and Android are branches of Apple and Google, respectively, if you have a Gmail account, sync your calendars on Google Calendar, and rely on Google Play Music to get your tunes, you're more than likely going to go with an Android device. Similarly, if you store all your images on the iCloud and have an Apple Watch, you should probably just get an iPhone.
How you intend to use your smartphone also factors into which style of device to get. If you're a freelance videographer who purchased a high-end iMac to render videos, you're likely to get an iPhone, since its cameras are usually better than its Android counterparts. Likewise, if you need an affordable, yet highly customizable device that facilitates your constant multitasking, you're likely going to own a PC and will likely be interested in getting an Android phone.
If you're someone who bases purchases on the popularity of the item you're purchasing, nearly 52% of American smartphone owners had an Android device compared to the 47% that use an iOS device on a regular basis. Android dominates the market with 87% of the global market share, while Apple's iOS operating system controls 13%.
When Apple and Google first started putting out phones, the hardware designs were just as different as their companies were, with iPhones looking as sleek as possible, and the HTC G1 sporting a more functionality-driven look.
These days, however, most smartphones look nearly identical to each other, barring some major differences and flashy outliers. Gone are the days where small smartphones were king. Today, most smartphones have screens that land within the 6-inch range. That's not to say that there aren't small screens available, but modern trends have phones sporting larger, high-definition screens.
While you may have had to decide between having a large screen or decent battery life, recent advancements in batteries have allowed for plus-sized phones to last a whole day between charges, thanks to batteries that sport 2,000 milliamp hours (mAh) and up.
If you want a flagship device that comes with all the bells and whistles, you'll want the new Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max, released last September. Sporting 4GB of RAM, a 3,500-mAh battery, 6.5-inch OLED screen, and three 12-megapixel rear cameras, this phone runs on the latest version of iOS 13.
Over in the Android camp, it's a little harder to pick out a flagship, since the Android OS is used by so many companies. If you want to go with Google's top device, that would be the Pixel 4 XL. The Pixel 4 XL runs Android 10 on a 6.3-inch OLED screen. The Pixel 4 has 6GB of RAM, two rear cameras at 12.2 and 16 megapixels, and a 3,700-mAh battery.
One thing that Android phones have over their iPhone counterparts is the potential to expand storage. While many new devices come with hard drives that start at 64GB, some Android smartphones allow users to increase the phone's storage through the addition of micro SD cards. While not a hugely predominant feature, it's still a noteworthy option in 2020.
Thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones and the fact that parts have gotten cheaper over time, even midlevel phones can handle today's games. With Snapdragon 855 CPUs in the Google's Pixel line and the A13 Bionic chip in the iPhone 11, those devices represent the top of the line when it comes to sheer processing power.
Strong security is crucial for keeping your work phone locked down. So which platform is more secure: Android or iOS? The answer isn't so clear cut.
There are two main advantages to iOS security. Apple tightly controls the entire ecosystem, from hardware to firmware to software. That means the company closely screens every app that appears in its app store, which greatly reduces the danger of downloading buggy or malicious apps.
Also, iOS devices have very good legacy support, meaning older iPhones continue to get firmware and security updates years after their release. That means that your device is guaranteed to run the latest software with the newest security fixes.
In contrast, the Android platform suffers from device fragmentation – there are dozens upon dozens of devices from many different manufacturers on the market. Each device ships with a specific version of Android – and it's usually not the latest, greatest version. Many flagship devices will get upgraded to the newest version of Android eventually, but even that can be months after the software upgrade is officially launched. And it can vary depending on the carrier.
There are some theoretical downsides to this model, the biggest being that security patches must be dispatched across a much wider range of hardware and software. That could leave greater potential for security holes to go unchecked. On the other hand, the open-source nature of the Android platform means that security holes are generally discovered and patched very rapidly. Google has recently tried to fix this issue with Android 10, offering an OS-level option for encryption in some devices.
Over the years, Google has taken steps to make its app store more secure. Apps now only ask for individual permissions – say, to access your phone's internal or camera – when those functions are needed, meaning you won't have to approve a slew of permissions before you install the app. And apps have been able to automatically update in the background since Android N.
For daily security options, you'll find fingerprint readers on all modern iPhone models and most Android phones. A fingerprint reader is a nice perk for workers who want to keep their smartphone locked down without having to fuss with a password or PIN every time they power on their devices. Again, you'll have to check to make sure that the Android phone you choose has one.
Android and iOS take very different approaches to security, so which is better? The answer is that both platforms offer strong security most of the time. Occasionally, security vulnerabilities are discovered in one or the other, making that platform a bit less secure until the problem is fixed. Overall, though, business users should feel comfortable using either one.
There was a time when iOS had this category in the bag. The Apple App Store had been around longer, and iPhones had a larger market share than Android phones did – at least in the United States. These days, however, the Google Play Store has come a long way to have an equally robust app selection, with nearly every major app available on both platforms.
While both sides may be close to equal in terms of apps, iOS devices still tend to see apps come out there first. The main reason being that since there are fewer models of smartphones that use iOS, app developers can easily tailor their apps for those devices. Android app development, however, has to take a wide range of screen resolutions and technical specifications into account, since the platform is available to any manufacturer.
There was also a long time where the Google Play Store was more akin to the Wild West, with any app developer getting easy access to upload their apps to the marketplace. That often leads to subpar or potentially dangerous apps making their way onto phones. Bad actors found it easier to install malware on Android phones than on iPhones, thanks to the latter company's constant curation of which apps land on the App Store. In recent years, Google has worked to fix this issue by checking apps for malware before approval, but bad and poorly developed apps still exist.
Most importantly for small business owners, most of the major productivity applications – such as Microsoft's excellent OneNote notes apps, Word, Excel and PowerPoint – are good on either platform.
If the user interface is something that matters to you when deciding whether Android or iOS is right for you, you'll be pleased to know that both systems are extremely user-friendly. Previous iterations of iOS may have eked out a slight lead against Android, but recent iterations of Google's operating system brought it on par with Apple's offering.
In most cases, depending on which device you choose, your phone will be snappy in response to your gestures and taps on the screen. One thing that remains the same, however, is the rule of thumb that if you want a simpler and consistent experience across multiple devices, you're going to want to use iOS. If you want a more customizable experience aimed at "power users," Android is more your speed.
To that last point, Android users can customize nearly everything about their user experience. They have access to widgets that display a huge range of information, as well as the capability to completely alter the operating system's look with different launchers. You can also choose new default apps for certain functions, which is something Apple and its suite of programs don't allow.
Both platforms have useful voice-activated personal assistants baked in. Siri on iOS lets you save notes and reminders, draft emails, and fetch driving directions without ever lifting a finger, among dozens of other tasks. Google Assistant (previously known as Google Now on older versions of Android) offers a similar feature set.
Ultimately, which platform is best for you comes down to personal preference, and there are far too many features to run through.
Price tag blues
Which brings us to one of the biggest factors in choosing whether you want to go with an Android phone or an iPhone – the price.
With Android phones, you have myriad choices and options that come with varying price tags. Google's flagship phone costs $899, which is admittedly a large fee. Compared to the iPhone 11 Pro Max's $1,099 cost, however, it looks significantly better. The lower-end iPhone 11 costs $699, while the original Pixel 4 costs $799. Luckily, the prior generations are still serviceable and usually cost several hundred dollars less.
Remember that Android also has a massive range of smartphones available from a wide swathe of manufacturers. As such, prices vary wildly, while in Apple's strictly controlled ecosystem, it is the only manufacturer, so there isn't any competition on device prices.
Make your choice
At the end of the day, you want to know what kind of device you should buy. We ultimately can't tell you exactly what phone to get, since your needs vary greatly from ours. That being said, you should always make your decision based on how the phone makes you feel and how helpful it will be in your small business.
The iOS-powered iPhone is a good pick for Apple fans who use Mac computers, since the devices can integrate seamlessly. Plus, iPhones are extremely polished and easy-to-use devices with strong security and handy features such as Siri.
Android, on the other hand, is a good pick for users who want more options. Android phones come in more shapes and sizes than iPhones, so you can purchase just the device you need. Plus, budget-priced Android phones are more affordable than any iOS-powered device on the market.
Additional reporting by Brett Nuckles.