Choosing your next smartphone might be a no-brainer if you’re a die-hard Samsung or Apple fan. But if you’ve been growing weary of constantly running out of iCloud storage for your iPhone or waiting so long to get the latest update for your Android phone, you might consider switching your operating system allegiance.
Since 99.6 percent of smartphones in the U.S. run on iOS or Android, we’ll focus on these two major operating systems. We’ll eschew hardware features such as cameras, which vary wildly. Instead, we’ll look at the software features that define each OS to help you decide which camp you should pick for your next smartphone.
We live in a golden era of smartphones when most major glitches have been ironed out, bar the odd exploding phone. Both iOS and Android have emerged as smooth, fast, intuitive operating systems. So, when it comes to ease of use, choosing an OS is about looking for that extra boost of convenience.
Swiping right on the Android home screen displays a Google-powered feed of links and updates based on your interests. That feed is based on your Gmail and Chrome history plus Google searches, and like all things Google, it’s a scarily good predictor of what you will indeed find clickable. Apple has a similar swipe right feature that you can configure with widgets to show content from apps so you can easily see the weather, news, commute time and upcoming appointments. However, this widget approach is not nearly as slick as the feed you’ll find on Android phones.
Verdict: For convenience, Android’s predictive feed of links, recipes, weather and traffic updates is unbeatable.
Watch out: If the thought of your search and browsing history being cobbled together gives you the privacy heebie-jeebies, you might prefer to turn off the feed on your Android phone (or never sign in to Chrome on desktop or mobile).
Apple’s iOS is indubitably incredibly easy to use. Download an app, and it appears on the home screen. That’s where it lives. You can drag it to another screen or, in a relatively recent evolution, you can put it into a folder for organization’s sake.
But as smartphones burst with ever larger numbers of apps, Android’s computer-like feature way of hiding away the bulk of apps you don’t use regularly under the alphabetically organized All Apps view becomes increasingly useful.
You’ll find scores of Android apps that let you customize the way your phone looks — different icons, wallpapers, the color of notification LEDs — along with folder features and far more live-updating home screen widgets than iOS offers. Or you could make the minimalist choice to not have any home screen icons at all.
Verdict: Android has always been the clear winner for anyone who wants to customize their phone.
Watch out: The Android toolbar can get very crowded, since apps by default are allowed to send you push notifications, from unrequested traffic updates to random app alerts. If you want a tidy toolbar, dig into Settings > Notifications and start customizing.