Google's Android and Apple's iOS are operating systems used primarily in mobile technology, such as smartphones and tablets. Android, which is Linux-based and partly open source, is more PC-like than iOS, in that its interface and basic features are generally more customizable from top to bottom. However, iOS' uniform design elements are sometimes seen as being more user-friendly.

You should choose your smartphone and tablet systems carefully, as switching from iOS to Android or vice versa will require you to buy apps again in the Google Play or Apple App Store. Android is now the world’s most commonly used smartphone platform and is used by many different phone manufacturers. iOS is only used on Apple devices, such as the iPhone.

Comparison chart

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Android

User Rating (1427):
  • current rating is 4.13/5
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iOS

User Rating (1312):
  • current rating is 3.84/5
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Developer Google Apple Inc.
Initial release September 23, 2008 July 29, 2007
Source model Open source Closed, with open source components.
Customizability A lot. Can change almost anything. Limited unless jailbroken
Easy media transfer depends on model with desktop application
Available on Many phones and tablets, including Kindle Fire(modified android), LG, HTC, Samsung, Sony, Motorola, Nexus, and others. Also, Google Glasses iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV (2nd and 3rd generation)
Messaging Google Hangouts iMessage
App store Google Play – 1,000,000+ apps. Other app stores like Amazon and Getjar also distribute Android apps. (unconfirmed ".APKs") Apple app store – 1,000,000+ apps
Video chat Google Hangouts Facetime
OS family Linux OS X, UNIX
Programmed in C, C++, Java C, C++, Objective-C
Dependent on a PC or a Mac No No
Open source Kernel, UI, and some standard apps The iOS kernel is not open source but is based on the open-source Darwin OS.
Widgets Yes No, except in NotificationCenter
Call features supported Auto-respond Auto-respond, call-back reminder, do not disturb mode
Internet browsing Google Chrome (or Android Browser on older versions; other browsers are available) Mobile Safari (Other browsers are available)
Interface Touch screen, Smartwatch Touch screen
Voice commands Google Now (on newer versions) Siri
Maps Google Maps Apple Maps
Market share 81.5% of smartphones globally (2014), 3.7% of tablets in North America (as of Jan'13) and 44.4% of tablets in Japan (as of Jan'13). In the United States in Q1 2013 - 52.3% phones, 47.7% tablets. 14.8% of smartphones globally (2014), 22.8% of tablets globally (2014), 87% of tablets in North America (as of Jan'13) and 40.1% of tablets in Japan (as of Jan'13)
Available language(s) 32 Languages 34 Languages
Latest stable release Android 5.0.1 (lollipop), (November 2014) 8.1 (March 10, 2015)
Device manufacturer Google, LG, Samsung, HTC, Sony, ASUS, Motorola, and many more Apple Inc
Upcoming releases/Release dates Unknown Unknown
Working state Current Current
Website android.com apple.com

edit Interface

iOS and Android both use touch interfaces that have a lot in common - swiping, tapping and pinch-and-zoom. Both operating systems boot to a homescreen, which is similar to a computer desktop. While an iOS home screen only contains rows of app icons, Android allows the use of widgets, which display auto-updating information such as weather and email. The iOS user interface features a dock where users can pin their most frequently used applications.

A status bar runs across the top on both iOS and Android, offering information such the time, WiFi or cell signal, and battery life; on Android the status bar also shows the number of newly received emails, messages and reminders.

To see how the latest version of Google's Android operating system, Lollipop, compares to Apple's iOS 8, watch the video below:

Many different manufacturers make Android phones and they often include some customization over the vanilla Android experience. e.g. HTC Sense or Samsung TouchWiz. Depending upon your device and carrier, there may be pre-installed apps that are bundled with your Android device.

edit User experience

Pfeiffer Report released in September 2013 rates iOS significantly better than Android on cognitive load and user friction.

The overall rating of user experience of mobile operating systems, Pfeiffer Report
The overall rating of user experience of mobile operating systems, Pfeiffer Report

edit Apps Available on iOS vs. Android

Android gets apps from Google Play, which currently has 600,000 apps available, most of which will run on tablets. However, some Android devices, such as the Kindle Fire, use separate app stores that have a smaller selection of apps available. Many originally iOS-only apps are now available for Android, including Instagram and Pinterest, and Google’s more open app-store means other exclusive apps are also available, including Adobe Flash Player and BitTorrent. Android also offers access to Google-based apps, such as Youtube and Google Docs.

The Apple app store currently offers 700,000 apps, 250,000 of which are available for the iPad. Most developers prefer to develop games for iOS before they develop for Android. Since a recent update, the Youtube app has become unavailable on iOS, but iOS still offers some exclusive apps, including the popular game Infinity Blade and Twitter client Tweetbot.

The bottomline when comparing Google and Apple's app stores is that most popular apps are available for both platforms. But for tablets, there are more apps designed specifically for the iPad while Android tablet apps are often scaled up versions of Android smartphone apps. Developers at startups often focus on one platform (usually iOS) when they first launch their smartphone app because they do not have resources to serve multiple platforms from the get go. For example, the popular Instagram app started with iOS and their Android app came much later.

edit Stability of Apps and the Operating System

The Crittercism Mobile Experience Report published in March 2014 ranked Android KitKat as more stable than iOS 7.1. Other findings from the report include:

edit Software upgrades

Although Google does update Android frequently, some users may find that they do not receive the updates on their phone, or even purchase phones with out-of-date software. Phone manufacturers decide whether and when to offer software upgrades. They may not offer an upgrade to the latest version of Android for all the phones and tablets in their product line. Even when an upgrade is offered, it is usually several months after the new version of Android has been released.

This is one area where iOS users have an advantage. iOS upgrades are generally available to all iOS devices. There could be exceptions for devices older than three years, or for certain features like Siri, which was available for iPhone 4S users but not for older versions of iPhone. Apple cites hardware capability as the reason some older devices may not receive all new features in an upgrade.

edit Device Selection

A wide variety of Android devices are available at many different price points, sizes and hardware capabilities.

iOS is only available on Apple devices: the iPhone as a phone, the iPad as a tablet, and the iPod Touch as an MP3 player. These tend to be more expensive than equivalent hardware using Android.

edit Call Features

Android allows the user to send one of a number of self-composed texts as autoreplies when declining a call.

iOS’s phone app has many abilities, including the ability to reply to a phonecall with a canned text message instead of answering, or to set a callback reminder. It also has a Do Not Disturb mode.

edit Messaging

Android allows users to log onto GTalk for instant messages. iOS does not offer a native way to chat to non-Apple users. Users can message over Apple users using iMessage or use apps from Google for GTalk and Microsoft for Skype.

edit Video Chat

Google Hangouts on Android can also be used for video chat, allowing users to chat over either 3G or Wi-Fi. iOS uses Facetime, which can place video calls over both 3G and WiFi. However, it only allows users to communicate with other Apple devices.

edit Voice Commands on Android vs. iOS

iOS uses Siri, a voice-based virtual assistant, to understand and respond to both dictation as well as spoken commands. Siri includes many features, such as reading sports scores and standings, making reservations at restaurants and finding movie times at the local theater. You can also dictate texts and emails, schedule calendar events, and interface with car audio and navigation.

Android offers a similar assistant, Google Now, which features the above abilities, plus can keep track of your calendar and give verbal reminders when it is time to leave. It allows for voice search and dictation.

The video below gives a quick demo of Google Now vs Siri:

edit Maps

Apps like Google Maps, Waze and Bing are available for both iOS and Android. When Google released its maps app for iOS in December 2012, the iOS version surpassed the version available for Android in terms of features, design and ease of use. The Android version is not expected to stay behind. Apple's own mapping app, which is bundled with every iOS device, was widely panned when it was launched with iOS 6.

edit Web Browsing

Android uses Google Chrome as its web-browser, while iOS uses Safari. Both Internet browsers are similar in quality and abilities and Google Chrome is also available for iOS. Safari is not available for Android.

Words With Friends app on Android (L) & iOS (R)
Words With Friends app on Android (L) & iOS (R)

edit Facebook integration

Android is integrated with Facebook, allowing users to update their statuses or upload pictures from many apps, and to pull contact data from their Facebook friends.

iOS is also fully integrated with Facebook, allowing users to update their status and upload images from various apps, sync their contacts with Facebook, and have their Facebook events automatically added to their iOS Calendar. iOS now offers much deeper integration with Facebook and Twitter because of how tightly it is weaved into core apps on iOS.

edit Mobile payments

Android uses Google Wallet, an app that allows for mobile payments. Some Android phones are equipped with an NFC chip (near-field communication) that is used for making wireless payments simply by tapping the phone at the checkout counter. This service integrates with Google Wallet but is not available on all Android phones or wireless carriers. Mobile payments are supported on devices that have an NFC chip (such as Samsung's Galaxy S4 and S5) as long as they are running a version of Android newer that 4.4 KitKat.

The iOS mobile payment system is called Apple Pay. While Apple Pay was launched over a year after tap-to-pay features on some Android phones, its integration with fingerprint identification arguably makes Apple Pay easier to use. Usage of Apple Pay has certainly been significantly higher. In fact, Apple Pay has kindled interest in mobile payments and prompted Android users to discover the feature on their phones, leading to an increase in use of Google Wallet over NFC.[1] iOS offers Passbook, an app that collects in one place tickets, reward cards, and credit/debit cards.

edit Security

Android’s applications are isolated from the rest of the system’s resources, unless a user specifically grants an application access to other features. This makes the system less vulnerable to bugs, but developer confusion means that many apps ask for unnecessary permissions. The most widespread malware on Android is one where text messages are sent to premium rate numbers without the knowledge of the user, and the sending of personal information to unauthorized third parties. As it is the more popular smartphone operating system, it is more likely to be the focus of attacks.

Malware writers are less likely to write apps for iOS, due to Apple's review of all the apps and verification of the identity of app publishers. However, if an iOS device is jailbroken and apps installed from outside Apple's store, it can be vulnerable to attacks and malware.

edit Privacy

Permissions requested by Pandora's Android app. An Android user cannot use Pandora's app without accepting all of these permission requests.
Permissions requested by Pandora's Android app. An Android user cannot use Pandora's app without accepting all of these permission requests.

When it comes to protecting users' private information, iOS wins. When installing apps on Android, the user is presented with all the permissions that the app is requesting. This is an all-or-nothing proposition. The user can choose to accept the app's request for permissions or not install the app at all. App developers take advantage of this "feature" and request a lot of user information. For example, Pandora's mobile app on Android requests permissions for your Google identity, contacts, calendar, photos, media, files and even call information.

Pandora's app on iOS gets no such permissions. After it is installed and opened by the user, an iOS app may request additional permissions like location and access to Contacts. But the user can reject these permission requests. Even after approving the permission requests, iOS users can quickly glance at which apps have access to their Contacts and location data, and turn off access for apps with which they no longer want to share this data.

In November 2014, Twitter announced that it is now tracking the list of apps its users have installed on their phones. Both iOS and Android are vulnerable — an app installed on either platform can get a list of other apps installed on the same device.

edit Building and Publishing Apps for iOS vs. Android

Android apps are programmed using C, C++ and Java. It is an "open" platform; anyone can download the Android source code and Android SDK for free. Anyone can create and distribute Android apps for free; users are free to download apps from outside the official Google Play store. There is, however, a one-time $25 registration fee for developers who want to publish their apps (whether free or paid apps) on the official Google Play store. Apps published on Google Play undergo a review by Google. The Android SDK is available for all platforms - Mac, PC and Linux.

iOS apps are programmed using Objective-C. Developers must pay $99 every year for access to the iOS SDK and the right to publish in Apple's app store. The iOS SDK is only available for the Mac platform.

Some app development platforms - such as Titanium Appcelerator and PhoneGap - offer a way to code once (say in Javascript and/or HTML) and have the platform convert it into "native" code for both Android and iOS platforms.

edit UI Design for Android vs. iOS 7

In Beyond Flat, SeatGeek founder Jack Groetzinger outlines a lot of the differences in how Android and iOS approach their design aesthetic and what it means for app developers. For example,

The article outlines several other differences and is a great read.

edit The Bottomline: Choosing between iOS and Android

To summarize the key pros and cons of Android and iOS:

edit iOS pros and cons

edit Android pros and cons

Several prominent people have shifted from iPhone to Android. Android's connection to the Google ecosystem of services is strong and arguably more useful compared with Apple's cloud services suite.

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