07-20-2017, 10:49 PM
iPhone vs Android (or iOS vs Android, to be more precise) has been the biggest rivalry in tech for the best part of a decade, long ago eclipsing the desktop wars between Apple and Microsoft, and Apple and IBM. Both sides record some amazing sales numbers. Samsung, the leading manufacturer of Android handsets, sold a whopping 308.5 million units in 2016, while Huawei, Xiaomi and others will add many more to the pile; but Apple, in a comfortable second place at 215.5 million iPhones, made the lion's share of the profits: something close to 80 percent of worldwide smartphone profits.
But which of those two clans should you join? Is an iPhone or an Android smartphone your best bet for value for money, features, security, ease of use, app selection and more?
We'll be honest: here at Macworld we sit unashamedly in the iOS camp, and reckoniOS 10 is the best mobile operating system currently available. But we acknowledge that Android has many advantages of its own, and that for plenty of smartphone buyers, it will be the better choice.
In the following article we list the pros and cons of going for an iPhone or Android phone, as well as the significant differences between the two platforms, to help you pick a team. For an alternative view, take a look at PC Advisor's Android vs iPhone vs Windows Phone 8: what phone should I buy? And we'd love to hear your thoughts, too, so have your say in the comments.
iPhones are more secure
iOS is a more secure platform than Android. iOS isn't impregnable, and it's very dangerous for iPhone users to assume that it is (see how to remove iPhone viruses and iPhone security tips), but far more malware is written for Android - Pulse Secure's 2015 Mobile Threat Report put the figure at 97 percent of all mobile malware, while the US Department of Homeland Security estimated in 2013 [pdf] that just 0.7 percent of malware threats were aimed at iOS - and while this is partly because Android has more users, it's mainly because it's simply an easier target.
The 'closed' platforms - iOS, Windows Mobile and, if anyone out there is still using it, BlackBerry - have very little malware written for them. It's easier to break into Android, and malware writers will almost always go for the low-hanging fruit.
Part of the problem for Android is that so many of its users don't bother to update to the latest version: the DoHS report above found that 44 percent were still on 'Gingerbread', a version of Android which had been released two years earlier. (By contrast, after four months of availability iOS 9 was on 75 percent of active iPhones and iPads.) A family of trojan malware named Ghost Push is still infecting Android phones two years after first emerging because 57 percent of users are running the old version 5 of Android (Lollipop) that is vulnerable to it, even though versions 6 and 7 have come out since.
There are also small differences between the flavours of Android used by the different handset makers. This fragmentation makes it harder to push out adequate security patches on a timely basisAs we said, there are still dangers out there for iPhone users. In its 2015 Threat Report, F-Secure Labs reports on several instances of malware penetrating Apple's 'walled garden' App Store. Instead of using social engineering to persuade users to download malware directly, hackers have learned to target the app developers, who then use "compromised tools to unwittingly create apps with secretly malicious behaviour".
Multiple apps - anywhere from 30 to 300, and many of them from reputable companies - were removed from the App Store in September 2015 because they contained the XCodeGhost malware. Later that year similar situations arose with apps based on UnityGhost, a cloned and compromised version of the Unity development framework, and on the Youmi SDK.
Don't make the mistake, then, of assuming that the iOS platform and Apple's App Store are invulnerable to attack. They're not. But they are more secure than the Android equivalents. Despite its findings, F-Secure insists that Apple's App Store "remains a tougher nut to crack than the Android ecosystem".
You quite often hear the logically flaky reasoning that, because Apple's OS software products aren't perfectly secure, they're no better than rival products which also aren't perfectly secure. It's easy to explain why this is wrong. iOS (like macOS) is very secure indeed, albeit not completely secure. Android is pretty secure - it's not like Android users are getting their bank accounts emptied and their motherboards fried by Hollywood-style hacking attacks morning, noon and night - but quantifiably less secure than iOS.
By picking iPhone you give yourself a large security advantage.
iPhones are more private
There's two main strands backing up the above statement: the privacy measures built into Apple's smartphones (and particularly the most recent generations of iPhone), and the statements and actions that Apple has made in support of user privacy.
iPhone privacy measures
We're not just talking about passcodes and fingerprints, although these things can help to protect your data (one element being the way that the iPhone locks up for successively longer and longer periods the more times you get the passcode wrong, in order to prevent would-be hackers from 'brute-forcing' the passcode; get it wrong 10 times and the phone locks down forever). Nor are we talking about the end-to-end encryption Apple has added to iMessage. There's something better than all this, in the more recent generations of the iPhone.
As well as introducing Touch ID, the iPhone 5s was the first iPhone to feature a security measure that Apple calls the Secure Enclave, a sub-section of the processor chip that stores the fingerprints and other security-critical data. It is also a crucial part of the encryption setup.
"The Secure Enclave uses a secure boot system to ensure that the code it runs can't be modified," explains Mike Ash, an expert who has done his best to piece together the principles behind the closely guarded technology, "and uses encrypted memory to ensure that the rest of the system can't read or tamper with its data. This effectively forms a little computer within the computer that's difficult to attack."
The Secure Enclave means, in effect, that Apple itself cannot break into an iPhone if it's a 5s or later and has been protected with a passcode. This fact came to light near the end of 2015 when the FBI asked Apple to open up the iPhone 5c that belonged to one of the shooters in the San Bernardino attacks in America. If this had been one generation later, it simply wouldn't have been possible, Apple said - but because it was 'only' a 5c, the firm's engineers could in theory have created and installed a custom build of iOS without the security measures that ordinarily prevent brute-force bypassing of the passcode.
(Bear in mind, however, that very little is known about the Secure Enclave by anyone outside Apple, and some have argued that it isn't as secure as Apple makes out. It was claimed, early in 2016, that a police-contracted hacker had successfully broken into an iPhone 5s, Secure Enclave and all, in order to obtain information for a murder case. Although it is significant that the device in question was running iOS 7, an outdated OS with less comprehensive security measures.)
Apple refused the FBI's demand to open up the iPhone 5c, however. Which leads us to our next section.