This is an old debate. Well I guess it is not that old. The first iPhone was released in 2007 and soon thereafter the first Android phone. Since then there has been an on-going debate about which phone is better. There have been debates about cameras, apps, hardware speed, screen pixel density, speaker placement, accessories, and everything else that you can think of. Most people rely on the opinions of experts giving their opinions on YouTube or talking to a sales person at their cellular provider to make an informed decision.
I have had to carry an iPhone for work and a Samsung phone for personal use for the past three and a half years. In addition I travel about 50% of the time so I have the personal experience of using each phone in every major market in the US. My work phone is on AT&T and my personal phone is on Verizon. This article is not about the actual cellular carrier, so I am not going to compare network dependent services. In this article I am going to contrast my experience using each phone in practical everyday use in an effort to provide some direction about which phone that you may choose based on things that you will do every day. I have decided to concentrate in three areas: customization, navigation, and camera, and battery life.
This is a major differentiator between Android (Samsung’s operating system) and iOS (iPhone’s operating system). One of the things that I like about Android is that you can customize everything about your phone’s appearance. Apple’s iPhone has long lagged in this area. I know that in the newer iPhone 10 that there are some additional customization options, but this is being written for the average consumer.
For those of you who are newer to what I am talking about let me explain it like this. If you pick up five iPhones, you will have to really pay attention to the apps that are on the phone so that you can tell the difference. You can customize your screen’s background with a photo, but aside from that your apps are all loaded onto your screen in equally sized icons. IPhone enjoys a huge accessory market and most people choose to protect and customize their phone with the case that they put on their phone. My iPhone has three screens with various apps that are automatically loaded when they are downloaded.
Android on the other hand allows you to use apps and widgets. A widget is an app that provides information without having to open it. For example on my Android phone I have five screens. My home screen has the apps that I use the most, but I have a widget on my home screen that shows the date, time, and weather. My second screen has my American Airlines and Netflix widgets. Again without opening the app I can see the status of my latest flight on the American Airlines widget, and I can see recent movies on my Netflix app. My third screen has 15 apps that I have arranged in three rows of five separated by empty rows for symmetry. My fourth screen three music widgets: Spotify, Google Music, and Sonos. Each widget has the most recent song that I played on the face of the widget along with the album art from each song. Finally my fifth screen is filled with a month view of my calendar. Without opening the app I can see each day and the events scheduled for that day. Samsung also allows me to use themes and right now I am using a dark theme. It is pleasing to both my eyes and my battery (more on that later). For this category the winner is easy.
In this section I am going to contract my experience using Google Maps on the iPhone and Android. I have chosen not to discuss Apple Maps because my experience has been subpar and you cannot use Apple Maps on Android.
My usual routine when I get to a new city is always the same. I get off the plane, I walk to the baggage area and look for the car rental shuttle. In smaller airports like Dayton, OH I can simply walk across the street to the car rental center. Most of the time there is a short bus ride to the car rental center. I locate my car, throw my luggage in the back of the car, and once inside the car the first thing that I do is connect my phone to the car’s Bluetooth.
My first annoyance with iPhone is when I touch the address in my calendar, it automatically launches Apple Maps. I don’t want to use Apple Maps, but the iPhone does not provide the option to set another navigation app. So I have to copy the address with a long press, and copy it into Google Maps. Once I am in Google Maps on my iPhone, I find that once I am driving that Google Maps alerts me to my upcoming turns a few seconds late. This is especially frustrating when driving on an expressway in an unfamiliar city. That one to three second delay can cause me to miss my turn and then have to reroute. Now my trip has taken a little more time, and my frustration level is heightened. That is not what I want after a several hour flight.
Using my Android phone is a delight. Again I go to my calendar, I long press the address and a menu pops up with an option to open Google Maps. Android recognizes that I have long pressed an address and automatically gives me the option to send that information to Google Maps. You cannot use Apple Maps on an Android phone, but you can set another navigation app as your default. Google Maps on my Android phone never gives me directions too slowly. In fact I have observed that the Google Maps experience on my Android phone gives me too many instructions. Overkill is the word that comes to mind. This is not a complaint. Again I am in an unfamiliar city and I prefer to be given too many instructions than too few. Another clear winner.
I take a lot of pictures. I was recently in Baltimore and I had some downtime until my next flight. I Googled interesting things nearby, and I saw the burial location of Edgar Allen Poe. I immediately thought to myself, “Quoth the raven…” Also my daughter is an English major in college and is an avid consumer of poetry. I texted my daughter of my find and she asked me to send her a picture.
So I loaded up the direction to the location using Google Maps (see above) and within a few minutes I was at the location. Remember that I have two phone at my disposal, my iPhone and my Samsung. Now this comparison is based specifically on the Samsung Galaxy S10+. When I arrived at my destination there was no decision on which phone I was going to use.
I took several pictures of the burial site at a local church in the downtown area of Baltimore. The S10+ has three camera that allows you to take a 16 mega-pixel ultra-wide angle picture, a 12 mega-pixel normal picture, and a 12 mega-pixel telephoto picture. The photos that Samsung provides are always excellent. While you have the option of recording up to 4K video at 30 FPS, I usually opt for 1080 at 60 FPS. The image stabilization on the video is superb.
Compared to my experience with Samsung’s camera, I find taking pictures with the iPhone boring. It is just a camera. The pictures aren’t bad, but the experience is very ordinary. As an aside that is what the iPhone does best. They provide a very consistent experience. Kind of like going to McDonald’s. I don’t eat there, but you can go to a McDonald’s anywhere and the experience is always the same. That consistency has created an empire for both McDonald’s and Apple. That said I stopped eating McDonald’s years ago when my palate had outgrown and could no longer tolerate the same experience that children who lack sophistication long for.
If your phone’s battery is dead then nothing else that we have discussed here is going to matter. You can’t navigate to your destination with a dead phone. You can’t take pictures with a dead phone. So battery life is pretty important. Based on everything that you have read up to this point it is pretty obvious that I use my Samsung phone more than my iPhone. Often times I use my iPhone to check and send email, check my work calendar, and occasionally for the hotspot.
And even though I use my iPhone less than my personal phone, I find that at the end of my day that my work and personal phones still have battery life left in them. Usually my personal phone around 25% and my work phone around 40%. The iPhone does have a better standby time. If I go to bed with both phones at 100%, when I wake up my iPhone will be at 99% and my Samsung will be at 92%. I have far fewer app downloaded on my iPhone, so there is less going on in the background to drain the battery. However, given that I use my Samsung orders of magnitude more than my iPhone, that my Samsung still have a quarter of the battery life left at the end of the day is a winner in my book.
So the winner in this very unscientific three year experiment: Android. Samsung using the Android operating system is the winner for me. It is important that I give a disclaimer here (given the arguments that endue around this subject). I am not saying which phone’s OS is better. In fact iOS and Android are more or less at parity today. If you are someone who was an early adopter of the iPhone, and have hugely invested in iTunes and Apple TV, if you have an iWatch then the iPhone is an obvious choice to complete your ecosystem investment. In 2020 many of the services that we use are agnostic: Hue smart lights, Sonos speakers, Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon Prime Video. Given this reality smartphones are soon going to be commodities. I struggle with this reality as the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is right around the corner. Most people are not going to be able to invest in my three year experiment to find which OS works best for them. I have found the services that Android provides to compliment my lifestyle and I dare say enhance it. Your mileage may vary.