My wife and I have been long-time fans of Google’s products (until they discontinue them, of course!) and have used Android devices for as long as they’ve been available. When Google introduce the Nexus and Pixel phones, we moved to those to enjoy the first-party experience. It was no small decision to try out the new iPhone 14 Pro and Max devices to see how they compared. Working with a lot of Apple products already, it promised to give me a more integrated experience between work and personal devices. At the same time, Google updated both of our phones to Pixel 6a, giving us newer versions of those devices. One great thing about Google is definitely how inexpensive they make it to upgrade each year. This year, it was free to upgrade while last year it was just over $100 to step up to a newer model.
So now I have two different devices. You know what that means — comparisons!
There are numerous sites that show the differences between the Google camera and the iPhone camera if you want to judge for yourself. Both devices are incredibly impressive, but side-by-side we continued to be impressed with the quality, clarity, and crispness of the Pixel phones. Google’s cameras always do an impressive job of capturing high-quality images, proving that there’s more to consider than just raw megapixels.
Google also has one feature that is inexplicably missing from the iPhone — front camera (selfie) zoom. While the Pixel’s front camera has an adjustable zoom (up to 4x), Apple’s native camera app does not support digital zoom with selfies (although it can increase the field of view one level). The Apple Watch allows this to be more granular, but that’s not saying much. If this feature is important, then you’ll need a third-party solution (like Camera+).
The iPhone does have one major advantage. While the Pixel can take pristine photos and videos, we found that it frequently overheats after 3-7 minutes of continuous usage with the default settings. On a warm day, it can happen even faster. Once this occurs, the video features are disabled until the phone cools. In a handful of cases, taking lots of pictures caused the same issue, disabling the camera entirely. This seems to be a problem with all recent Pixel phones (including the new 7). By comparison, I was able to continuously shoot high-resolution video on the iPhone 14 Pro Max for more than 45 minutes without any issues.
No two ways about it — the iPhone rocks in this department! Even Google’s apps feel faster, lighter, and more fluid running on an iPhone. There’s no lag when running any app, and you can seamlessly move between apps without the apps restarting. With CarPlay, everything responds instantly to voice. Sadly, Android Auto has never been nearly that responsive (and in some cases, it freezes completely). It’s not a side-by-side measure-the-numbers difference. You feel the difference immediately.
This one was more interesting. I’ve grown used to using my fingerprint for authenticating, so I was not prepared for the more seamless experience that Face ID creates. Instead of having to tap to continue, I simply continue working on the current task. Unlike Android, external validation keys (such as Yubikey) seem to work seamlessly in all apps. Password management on the iPhone is well-integrated, enabling you to use your favorite tools seamlessly in apps and in the browser.
One area where Android is better with security is handling spam calls. At the API level, applications can programmatically determine whether or not to reject a call. This can include querying a remote system, analyzing details about the call, or numerous other approaches. Out of the box, Google has a top-notch filtering program baked into the dialer which helps to eliminate spam calls. I really miss that with the iPhone! There’s nothing baked into the device itself like this, and the APIs that are available require you to provide a pre-defined list of all numbers that should be blocked. As a result, there’s no way to create similar functionality. The phone vendors often provide a call filter app, but that’s not as helpful as it sounds. I had to uninstall the one Verizon provided because it was including all of my contacts in the blocked call list!
Let’s face it. If you own one Apple product, all of the others will play with it nicely. Android is definitely not that way. With each Apple product you purchase, you unlock new features and integrations. The iPad can become a second monitor. You can answer phone calls on any device. The watch can control the zoom on the camera and preview the shot. Given how rapidly Google creates and then cancels features and products, it’s not surprising that there’s no comparison here. Similarly, because the iPhones have consistency with some key hardware, it’s easier for third party vendors to integrate their products with the iPhone (especially in the music industry).
There are two areas where Android has an advantage. Nearly every device has adopted USB-C. I expect we see that from Apple next year, but until then the charging and USB device experiences are impressively better. There’s always a USB-C adapter nearby and it can connect to your computer, phone, tablet, trampoline, … or just about anything else. That may be the one area where Android “just works”.
The other area is messaging. While there are lots of things to like about Apple Message, the RCS standard used by Android means that nearly every non-Apple device can seamlessly communicate and send messages. Those messages can be integrated with apps, viewed/created in the browser, or authored between multiple vendors and devices. With Apple, the entire ecosystem is Apple-only. Without an Apple device, it’s vanilla text-messaging. Unfortunately, the closed environment on the iPhone means there’s not much of a way around this one. For some reason, Apple also doesn’t natively support scheduling text messages. With Android, I can long-press the send button and choose to send at a later time. With Apple, you have to script the action for each message … painful!
The experience setting up the iPhone is just like Android – beautifully authored. Both guide you through everything and have really well-constructed defaults. Migrating is a bit tougher, with Apple trying to migrate as much of the Android configuration as possible. On the surface, that sounds great. In practice, however, it can mean a lot of apps that you don’t want being half-setup on your iPhone. A placeholder is configured, but you have to approve and install each app individually (or individually delete each app). This migration process is the only supported way to transfer copies of your messages from one device to another, so it’s critical not to skip it if that content is important. Once the setup process finishes, you can no longer migrate data from Android without resetting the phone!
To that end, there were only two things that I wanted to copy over were my historical text messages and my WhatsApp data. These two items only support being moved as part of the migration. While there are lots of reports of this process failing, I was lucky enough to have the data move without issue. My wife, however, had a few struggles getting the content to move.
I definitely miss Android’s ability to archive the messages in the cloud. Being able to hide older messages has its benefits. It’s also great to be able to search those hidden messages with Android or in the browser. With Apple, it’s all or nothing. If you want the message in the cloud, it must be on your device. Delete it in one place, it is removed from the other.
Android owns this one. They allow you to install and use your choice of browser, although that choice is almost always Chrome. The iPhone allows you to install any browser as well. However, Apple requires those browsers to use Safari’s engine, which limits how much of that browser experience you’re actually getting. That doesn’t mean you don’t use those browsers. I’ve had more than a few times where pages only worked when using Chrome or Edge!
There’s a lot to like with both devices and each brings some unique strengths into the field. Ultimately, I think that the choice depends on the environment you’re predominantly working in. If you rely on Apple devices, the ecosystem is impressively integrated and there’s a real advantage to consistency. If you want an Apple Watch, then you absolutely need an iPhone if you want to use it to do more than tell time. In every other case, it’s really personal preference and whether the premium price for the Apple devices is worth it for how you’ll use them. For most people, an A-series Android device will be more than enough and will provide a great experience. They are great devices, much less expensive, and Google provides lots of opportunities to get low-cost upgrades each year. They are great all-purpose phones.
Unless you need to record more than 10 minutes of video on a sunny day, of course. 😄