The iPhone is often targeted for its lack of features and functionality. When the bullet points are laid out side-by-side Android appears to have a hoard of extras that Apple’s device can’t match. This versatility is, to some, a clear indication of Android’s superiority.
I don’t buy this arguement, however, because it assumes all features are equally important and executed with equal grace. That’s not how things work in the real world. A rocket that promises to fly you to Mars may seem awesome, but isn’t of much use if it lacks a heater and doesn’t have enough oxygen for the return trip. Not all functionality is equally important, and while Android offers many slight tweaks, the iPhone excels where excellence matters.
Automatic OS Updates
Do you use an Android phone? Cool. Hey, why not update it to the latest version of the OS?
If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you simply can’t. While rumors of Android 5.0 circulate, over 38% of Android devices are still running version 2.3 (released in December of 2010) and a further 27.5% run version 4.0 (released in October of 2011). Only a tad more than a quarter use the latest edition of Android.
Of all the features that one would expect from a smartphone – or any consumer electronics device – this is the most basic. Microsoft figured it out years ago. Heck, even my Roku frequently receives updates. Yet most Android users (i.e. those who don’t buy a Nexus device) are simply out of luck.
Now you might say – but I can root my device! That’s true, but most people don’t, and for good reason. Rooting is often a difficult process that may void a phone’s warranty. And even if you do root, finding a reliable ROM can be difficult depending on your device. CyanogenMod, the most famous ROM, supports over 70 devices. But there are literally thousands of Android phones on the market. Even some common smartphones, like my old ThunderBolt, never receive support.
Rock-Solid Malware Protection
There was a time when I thought that iOS users were probably fooling themselves about security. Coincidentally, this was around the time I bought an Android phone. I loaded it up with one of the better anti-virus apps for Android and thought myself in far better shape than any iPhone user.
Yet as I researched the issue more (primarily while writing articles for MakeUseOf) I began to realize that the iPhone’s security isn’t phony. The locked-down operating system actually is effective against malware. That’s not to say malware is impossible, but I’ve yet to see a report of an iPhone that wasn’t jailbroken being infected in the wild (by “in the wild” I mean outside the hands of a security researcher).
Even if the iPhone’s security is breached, as has happened with lockscreen exploits in the past, users are just an OS update away from the solution. Android users, on the other hand, are often forced to live with a device that has known exploits because they don’t have access to an OS update that provides a fix.
Access To iCloud (And Other Apple Software)
When I brought home my iPhone I was a little skeptical. I knew that I’d want to use iTunes to sync my media, and the last time I’d used iTunes (way back in 2009) I hated it. Wresting lacklustre software just to sync hardware isn’t my idea of a good time.
To my surprise, I found that Apple’s supporting services and software were among the phone’s best features. With iCloud users can sync data like notes, contacts, music and applications across multiple devices with virtually no effort. This mean what I have on my iPhone is also on my iPad, and vice versa. Better still, iCloud acts as a backup service, which is handy when a new iPhone is purchased or replaced via warranty repair.
Even iTunes is a boon because it provides a more seamless sync experience than any Android app. Though an iPhone must be plugged in for charging, obviously, there’s otherwise no need to connect it to your Mac or PC at all after initial setup as all data can be sent to it via Wi-Fi. And there’s iMessage, FaceTime, Find My iPhone, and more. Some of these features have third-party Android equivalents, but Apple bundles all these services into one nicely integrated and intuitive ecosystem.
Apps Comes First To iPhone (And Work Better)
App support has always been one of iPhone’s greatest strengths, hence the famous line “There’s an app for that“. While Android has certainly made progress over the years, most developers still focus on iPhone, which means apps usually come out for the iPhone first and successive updates also tend to come to the iPhone first.
Also, because developers have fewer devices to design for on the iOS platform, apps tend to be more reliable. It is common to see warnings about apps and games not functioning on certain devices on Google Play, but this is a rarity that often depends on iOS version alone when it comes to the iPhone. The above text screenshot, for example, is taken straight from the Google Play store and it’s not from some fly-by-night game; it’s from FieldRunners HD, one of most popular apps on both Android and iOS.
Hearing Aid Support, VoiceOver, AssistiveTouch And Other Accessibility Features
Yet again, both the iPhone and Android provide numerous accessibility features. Those common to both (assuming you have the latest version of Android) include large text, speech-to-text/text-to-speech, and magnification.
But the iPhone offers so much more. Hearing aid support, AssistiveTouch support for added gestures or a stylus, inverted colors, the VoiceOver interface for visually impaired users; there’s an incredible wealth of accessibility baked straight into the device.
And because all of this a part of the operating system, it all works well and universally. These features combine to make the iPhone approachable to people who simply can’t use an Android device.
The iPhone has on-time OS updates, air-tight security, an excellent (and free) cloud data service, expansive language support and numerous accessibility options. These are important, meaningful features that Android can’t match. And yet the iPhone is said to lack functionality because – why? Because users can’t change the lock screen or use animated wallpaper?
I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and here’s the bottom line; features like tweaking wallpaper and icons are fluff. They’re nice to have, they’re fun, and they make you feel smarter. But objectively, what’s more important; an updated OS, or having a portrait of Boba Fett as your Contacts icon?
Am I right or what? Add your thoughts in the comments below!