Five Things iOS Does Better For Me Than Android

…or what keeps me from jumping ship.

Hint: none of the things are Apple Pay

The first piece of technology I had to have was a cell phone. This was back in the days of the RAZR and rocking the BlackBerry + flip phone combo. Times have changed, but the lust for mobile phone tech certainly hasn’t. Every upgrade cycle thus begs the question of whether to jump ship from Apple to Android (with a small consideration given to BlackBerry & Windows Phone. A small one.) Despite the myriad of choices, I’ve come back to iPhone for each of the last few upgrade cycles.

Before I go any further, I will be the first to admit that there isn’t much of a quality difference between most Android builds and iOS. They’re both beautiful, functional operatings systems, and offer some pretty enticing features. Something just keeps me coming back to iOS, though, and I think I’ve got a pretty good idea why. Join me below to find out.

1) Keeping my data secure and encrypted

I’m a huge advocate for keeping personal information secure from those who might read it (even if I have nothing to hide.) Apple has access to an ungodly amount of highly sensitive user data, from iMessages, to credit card info through Apple Pay, to literal fingerprints of users. Not only that, but their user interface caters to those who might not understand technology as well as a huge phone nerd like me, which means that malicious apps can try and take advantage of a user’s lack of knowledge. Apple handles all of these issues very well, by storing all information in a local chip on the phone that only works with the processor it shipped with, and by using end-to-end encryption for iMessage. End-to-end encryption means that Apple simply serves as the relayer of the message, and couldn’t read the contents even if they wanted to. This is important because Android, using the default messaging application, can’t ensure end-to-end encryption. And even though Allo, one of Google’s many messaging options (more on that later) can utilize end-to-end encryption, it’s disabled by default.

Third-party apps like WhatsApp can ensure their own end-to-end, but on iOS it’s enabled on the stock messaging app by default.

Apple and Google both aggressively push to ensure users know what permissions apps need (like access to your camera) but Apple wants to make it clear users know exactly what allowing access means to users. Again, that’s huge for those who might not be as technologically savvy as you or I.

Granted, it’s not as if there’s this massive gap between what I’ve described and the security Android offers (and no, Google does not sell your data). But when it comes down to comparing the two, iOS wins, hands-down. Apple’s closed architecture ensures the mainstream win — it’s no secret as to why 97% of mobile malware is on Android. Not only that, but they’ve famously (and rightfully) resisted attempts from federal agencies to gain access to their software to decrypt a device. Bravo.

(It’s worth noting that neither come very close to the clear winner in the security battle, BlackBerry. But their meticulous (and storied) approach to security deserves its own article.)

2) Giving me access to a great ecosystem

This is partially a credit to Apple being in control of the entire holy hardware trinity of personal computer, smartphone, and tablet, but the seamless transition between not only different hardware but the same hardware is, for the most part, an industry leader in UX. And now with the addition of the Files app in iOS 11 (where I can access the filesystem of not just my phone, but my computer), hardware transitions are a smaller issue, because iOS does such a great job of extending its ecosystem beyond just the iPhone. Google has a fine alternative with their ecosystem, but the addition of a seamless transition between phone, tablet and PC means iOS gets a nod.

Using an iPhone is seamlessly translated across devices.

3) Ensure I’m always on the latest version of their software

When I had a Galaxy SII (I know, it’s ancient) I was excited to get the next version of Android, especially with a flagship device. Lo and behold, the newest version of Android got a release for the Samsung Galaxy SII, but not my SII, because mine was the SII Skyrocket, which was slightly different. My update was delayed for about six months because of it. It’s true that not all of this blame can fall on Google and Android, because they can’t force Samsung or HTC to update — that’s one of the advantages of open source software. But since they can really only ensure that Google phones get the update consistently and on-time, it’s a safer bet for me to go with iOS.

Guess what? All of these flagship phones will get the new version of Android at wildly different times.

4) Providing an integrated, secure, and unified messaging experience

I swear, this might be the biggest reason behind security for me as to why I stay with iOS. My iPhone, to me, is probably primarily a communication device, and iMessage is just…wonderful. One singular native messaging app that allows encrypted communication over WiFi with other iMessage users, and on desktop? Rather than dive too much into the details, let’s jump into the state of Android’s (and Google’s) messaging services:

  • Allo
  • Duo
  • Hangouts
  • Messenger
  • Stock messaging app (if not on an official Google phone)

If I’m following correctly, even if you grab a Pixel, Google’s own smartphone with the latest version of Android, you’re looking at using Allo (which can’t send regular text messages or make video calls), Duo (which can’t send any messages) and Messenger (which only allows you to text). It’s a well-documented mess. iMessage offers all of those apps as one singular app. In comparing the two experiences…it’s not even close.

Look at the little guys!

5) Forcing no uninstallable carrier bloatware upon me

Buying an Android phone on any of Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile means you’re getting a fair amount of apps you really don’t need and a fair amount of apps that the carrier got paid to place on the phone. Sometimes they might be trying to differentiate their phone from the competitiors (as Android is a very saturated market) but most of the time, the carrier is cutting costs for themselves or the consumer. It’s true that sometimes, unwanted pre-installed apps can be uninstalled, but the process is a ridiculously meticulous task, and can usually only be done one-by-one. Google has done good on removing a lot of their own apps users might not need, but sadly, that doesn’t prevent carriers from doing so. NFL Sunday Ticket and NASCAR are now, apparently, essential apps to place on phones. Stock iOS is stock iOS, and system apps like Newsstand and Watch (which may not be something you’d want) can be removed with ease.

Some apps might be useless on iOS, but at least I don’t have to deal with a pre-installed NASCAR app.

Those are the top five things for me (with an honorable mention to Apple’s customer support) but as you can see, there are tradeoffs. Ultimately, the great thing about Android is the lack of a centralized authority when it comes to the phone means a world of customization and features (SD card slot, standardized charging, rooting, themes, hardware choice, headphone jack), but as we’ve seen, it’s a double-edged sword. This is where Apple thrives by having such an iron-lock over their ecosystem and their platform — they can offer a fantastic, unified, secure experience that is truly the user experience they set out to make. Which is also, as we’ve seen, a double-edged sword. But for now, I’ll happily take my iMessage and rapid updates, while silently hoping someone jailbreaks iOS 11…and soon.

Work at Microsoft, writing about the intersection of technology & fashion.