We like a lot about iOS, but it’s not the best option for everyone. Good Android phones are available in many more shapes and sizes than iPhones, and although the best ones cost roughly what an iPhone does, you can buy good ones for under $200 and fantastic ones for less than $400. The Android platform has (and has always had) a problem with prompt, consistent software and security updates, but it’s also more versatile and customizable.
More hardware diversity: The biggest advantage for Android is actually in hardware, not software. Though our guide to the best Android phones recommends fast, well-rounded phones, Android is available on a huge variety of hardware, including options for people who want styluses and bigger screens, fantastic battery life, or even a physical keyboard. And if your preferred phone maker removes a feature you rely on—like a headphone jack or fingerprint sensor—from its newest phone, you can find what you need somewhere else. With iOS, Apple’s choices are your only choices.
Phones at every price: You’ve got more flexibility on price, too. A flagship iPhone costs over $1,000, and while the relatively affordable iPhone SE costs $400, you do lose out on the big screens and low-light camera improvements that are only in more expensive iPhones. A high-end Android phone from Google or Samsung is similarly expensive, but Google’s $350 Pixel 4a is an exceptional deal that doesn’t compromise on the camera, and other great budget Android phones—including a few that will actually get prompt software updates—are available for $200 or less.
More options for customization: If you like having the freedom to customize your computers, tablets, and phones to fit your needs, iOS may not be flexible enough for you. You can change an iPhone’s text size, reorganize your home-screen icons, install third-party keyboards, and add some basic widgets to the Notification Center, Control Center, and home screen. You can even customize the way your app icons look, with some effort. But all of Apple’s devices still look and work pretty much the same way. Android offers similar customizations, but it’s also possible to completely replace your device’s home screen with any number of flexible, customizable application launchers. Android also allows you to choose your own default apps for handling different tasks or types of files, much like a PC—iOS 14 added the ability to change the default web browser and email app, but the rest of the operating system is still locked down.
More storage options: Although you can’t expand the internal storage of an iPhone—what you buy is what you’re stuck with—many Android phones have a microSD card slot that lets you expand the amount of internal storage available for apps, photos, and movies, and you can use Google Drive space to store everything from photos to documents. Apple’s iCloud service can also be used to offload photos and videos, and iOS offers a few other tricks (like deleting rarely used apps and games without losing your saved data) to save space. But you still can’t add local storage to any iPhone after the fact, and Google’s free Google Drive tier gives you 15 GB of cloud storage for free compared with Apple’s 5 GB.
For the specific Android models we recommend, check out our guides to the best Android phones and the best budget Android phones. Most people should stay away from Android tablets, but if you need one, these are the least-bad ones.