Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted something pretty interesting about smartphones: you can either get an iPhone, or you can get - wait for it - an Android.
Or a BlackBerry, or a Windows Phone, or even a not-so-smart feature phone. But on the whole, most smartphones you come across will fall into the first two categories.
And when you're buying a new mobile phone, picking between iPhone and Android is one of the biggest cellular decisions. So what's the difference - and which one should you choose?
Main advantages of iPhones
- They look cool
- Made by Apple, so they're perfectly integrated with Mac computers, iPads, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and so on
- Best for privacy and security
- Siri is pretty good, and available on every model
- Excellent hardware and easy-to-use interface
- Every iPhone works exactly the same
Main advantages of Androids
- More choice of handsets and manufacturers, from cheap models to high-tech flagships
- Far more customisable - you can completely change the look and feel of the interface
- More apps in the Google Play Store, and you can download unofficial apps without jailbreaking
- Platform is made by Google, so there's perfect integration with Gmail, Chrome, Maps, Calendar, and so on
- Easy to access your files
- Google Assistant is great, on the few phones that have it
If you want an iPhone, you're at the mercy of the small selection of phones that Apple currently offers. Shops, networks, and resellers often have deals on older models too, but you'll still only have around five to ten to choose from.
The range covers all iPhonular bases, thankfully. At the moment, you can get an ultra-modern up-to-date huge-screened iPhone 7 Plus; go back a generation for a lower-priced iPhone 6s; or go smaller and grab an iPhone SE. So there's not a lot of choice - but it's very easy to choose which one you want, and you know you're getting quality regardless.
For Android, meanwhile, you have absolutely loads of choice. There are literally dozens of manufacturers around the globe who all have their own collections of Android phones - ranging from top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxies, to mid-range Huaweis and Motorolas, to cheapo budget brands.
On the other hand, if you don't really know what specs you want - or just don't particularly care about how the Exynos 8895 chipset compares to the Snapdragon 820 - it's easy to find yourself paralysed by the sheer amount of choice.
iOS vs Android OS
The interfaces on both kinds of phone are fairly similar, really - if you're used to one, you can switch to the other with little issue.
iOS on iPhones has a lovely clean design, which is simple to navigate and easy for anyone to pick up and use. Updates are regular, and available across the board to every iPhone, so it's almost always as secure and up-to-date as it can be. The only issue is the lack of customisation. You can't change much about the way things look, and tech-savvy folk can't delve into the system files.
Android OS, meanwhile, is very customisable. Stock Android has a similarly clean design with lots of bold fonts and bright colours, but most phone companies like to overlay their own skin and install their own apps. So the exact interface you'll get on an Android phone can depend on the manufacturer… and some of those are a tad uglier than others.
On the plus side, it's also easier for you to personalise your phone. It's no problem to add widgets to your home screen, get extra features and functions, and even change the whole look and feel of your phone.
There isn't a huge difference between the apps on iPhone and Android these days. The vast majority of apps are available on either platform, and when a developer releases a new one, it's usually created for both very early on.
The main difference between the two is the app stores themselves. Apple is infamously strict about what apps it allows in the App Store, and unless you jailbreak your phone, you can't download ones from outside sources either. The Google Play Store is far less stringent, and even lets you side-load and install apps from anywhere. That means you can download indie games, experimental apps, and Amazon Underground.
So there's a lot more available on Android, and it's great if you want to use less mainstream programs… but it makes things less secure, and, let's be honest, there's a lot more rubbish in the Play Store as well.
Security and privacy
Generally, iPhones are considered more secure and private than Android phones. Very little malware is out there targeting iPhones, and if the old FBI vs Apple case is anything to go by, Apple's pretty concerned with keeping your privacy on lockdown.
On the other hand, Google is big on collecting your data - that's largely to make all your services more personalised and high quality, but it's bound to make some of us uneasy.
Security wise, there are hundreds of viruses and malware programs that target Androids. If your phone is kept up to date with the very latest version of Android, you're protected from them just fine… However, most models have to wait for the newest version - often several months, in fact - and that poses a security risk.
Still, you can install extra safety measures if you want them. There are super secure apps like Signal, extra authentication measures, virus protection apps, firewalls, and so on.
Android is the choice of a fair number of tech security experts, but for most of us, the iPhone is the most secure option.
Siri vs Google Now and Google Assistant
Tired of touching your phone with your fingers like a savage, and want to tell it what to do with your voice instead? You're in luck.
With an iPhone, you get the famous Siri. She's great at finding information, like the time difference between two places, and completing basic tasks, like ordering an Uber or playing some music.
Google Now isn't quite as accomplished. It's all integrated with your Google account for better personalisation, which is nice - it can proactively tell you about bad traffic on your route home, or tell you how your favourite sports teams are doing - but for most things it tends to just rely on web search.
The newer Google Assistant is far better, however. It's like a super-powered version of Google Now, and poses as a true rival to Siri. With all that Googley goodness it's got a bit of an edge: it can give you directions home via the nearest chippy, for instance, or it can show you all the pictures of your dog in your camera reel.
But sadly, Google Assistant isn't available on many Androids just yet. Sigh.
Oh, you weren't expecting an actual verdict, were you? You think we would dare take a side in the iPhone vs Android debate?
There's a good reason why said debate is still alive and well: both platforms have their own distinct advantages and features, and both are excellent. This really does come entirely down to which one you prefer, based on what you want from a smartphone.
The main things we reckon you should consider are:
- Which interface do you like best?
- Do you have lots of other Apple products, like a Mac or an iPad?
- What specs and features do you want from your phone?
- How much customisation is important?
…and go from there.