I don’t know about you, but most people in my extended circle are iPhone users, including just about all of my family and many of my closest friends. Some of them are die-hard, Apple until they die, Steve Jobs walked on water types, but most of them have just chosen a phone and OS and stuck with it because it works.
That’s what most of us do because it’s easy and comfortable. I totally get that, and it’s a perfectly legitimate choice for anyone to make. But after reading a piece by Mike Sorrentino at CNET earlier this week about his experience switching mobile operating systems, I was reminded of an underlying angst I’ve felt ever since I started using Android phones as my primary devices. My Apple “family” just looks at me a little differently now. I don’t mean to say that they are outright rude or offensive, but there is definitely an air of superiority in their questions or comments about my daily carry choices.
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Unlike CNET’s Sorrentino, I come at this from a slightly different angle. Whereas he switched from Android to iOS, I came from iOS to Android. My colleague Michael Hicks has a great series of posts on his experience of more recently switching from iOS to Android. While he does a fantastic job of highlighting the fun new experiences that he’s uncovered, I have little doubt that he, too, has encountered the not-so-subtle eye-rolling and even outright disdain that many iPhone users have for Android fans. And you know what? It sucks. It’s unfair. And I’m sick of it.
Debunking common Android critiques by iOS users
No platform, service, or device is perfect, but based on what I’ve heard from iOS cheerleaders, both directly and indirectly, you’d think Android was and always has been a second-class citizen. That’s simply not the case.
Design and build quality
One of the first criticisms of Android that I remember hearing from friends and family was that Android phones were cheap and poorly constructed pieces of crap. That’s undoubtedly true of some Android phones, but in my experience, it doesn’t reflect the reality of the smartphone landscape.
Some of the best, most innovative designs and technologies come first, or exclusively, to Android phones.
Many (indeed most) of the highest-quality, most premium, most well-built smartphones are, in fact, Android phones. Technologies such as AMOLED screens, high refresh rates, biometric scanning, and even foldable screens have debuted or have long been exclusive to Android phones. And while there is no shortage of good, cheap Android phones, most of the best Android phones are as premium as any iPhone you’ll find.
And while the prevalence of repairable phones has decreased over the years, the simple fact is that tinkerers and those who want to prolong the useful lives of their phones have more options to do so in the Android ecosystem. In fact, some of the people and companies who are most active in these efforts are Android users.
Security and privacy
The next knock on Android that I’ve heard repeatedly is that it is not a secure platform and that if you really care about privacy, you should avoid it at all costs. But, as my colleague, Alex Dobie recently wrote, that’s a bunch of B.S..
Some of the most secure phones you can buy run Android, including Google’s Pixels and Samsung’s Galaxy devices. To be clear, security and privacy are not the same things, but if you’re worried about being hacked or having your data stolen, that’s just as likely to happen on an iPhone as it is an Android device. Most security leaks happen when an app or game developers or third-party hardware manufacturers themselves are compromised, not because of malicious code that suddenly appears on your phone.
Android users have more control over their personal data than ever, including having the ability to ditch Google completely.
Google’s apps and services indeed collect a ton of your personal data, but you also have a ton of control over what data gets retained through your Google account. For example, you can manually or automatically delete things like your search history or map travels from Google’s servers whenever you want. Google is also building even more privacy controls into Android 12, to help users better understand and manage which apps are trying to access their data.
And if that wasn’t enough, you can go the extra step and install an alternative Android-based OS on your phone like /e/OS, which doesn’t send any data to Google, and lets you know which apps are trying to collect what data, so you can decide whether the tradeoff is worth it to you or not.
Integrations, apps, and features
iOS adherents often like to reference how indispensable iMessage and Facetime are to their digital lives, and it’s not hard to understand why. Those apps are pre-loaded on every Apple device, and they interoperate beautifully. But as muddled as Google’s messaging app strategy has been, there are a ton of great messaging apps on Android that “just work,” too. Google Messages continues to improve, and now supports end to end encryption between Messages users (much like iOS), and you can use it in any web browser or Chromebook. I’ve even been fairly successful in convincing most of my friends and family to use an alternative messaging platform like Signal or Telegram, so that iMessage doesn’t lock me out of their circles.
Facetime is coming to Android (and Windows) with iOS 15, and even though it’s not necessarily the same experience as on an iPhone, it opens up new ways for Android and iOS users to connect, and that can only be good.
iPhones can integrate smoothly with Macs and iPads, but so can Android phones with Windows PCs and Chromebooks.
Finally, my Apple friends like to talk about how their iPhones work seamlessly with their Macs and iPads, but many of those same people don’t realize just how good the experience of using an Android phone with a Windows PC is. Even before the inclusion of Android apps in Windows 11, PC users could take advantage of robust services like Microsoft’s Your Phone app, or Samsung’s increasingly competent Dex setup. And the Phone Hub feature is something I use every day on my Chromebooks to deal with incoming notifications and messages from my Android devices.
Let’s learn to be together, not the same
As if it weren’t evident by my choice of career and my employer, I am a tech nerd. I love experimenting with all sorts of operating systems, platforms, and devices. I have no problem jumping back and forth between Android and iOS or between Chrome OS, macOS, or Windows, but I recognize that I’m in a unique position to do so. For reasons of inertia, preference, or privilege, most people tend to stick with what they’re familiar with and don’t venture to the other side of the digital fence. I don’t harbor any ill feelings toward those who chose the technology that is right for them and their needs. You do you.
If you’re an Apple fan, that’s great — so am I! Apple makes some of the absolute best tech in the world, and there’s a reason why it’s a leader in every category it enters. Both platforms regularly influence and push each other to get better, and sometimes they flat out copy each other’s best features. I just want my Apple-loving friends and family to realize that using Android (or Linux, or Windows, etc.) is a valid, legitimate, considered, and reasonable choice and that we’re not “settling” or misguided. We can do everything you do just as well, and in some cases, even better.
One of the things that I love most about Android is that it’s made up of a vibrant and diverse ecosystem of developers, device manufacturers, and users. So let’s celebrate that diversity in tech as we should in our everyday lives.
Have a great Sunday, and I’ll catch you next week.