When you splash out on a new mobile phone or tablet, your choice is usually split between two major platforms: Apple’s iOS devices (namely the iPhone and iPad), or one of the many, many devices running Google’s Android OS. So who’s winning when it comes to flagship phones, compact mobiles, affordable handsets and tablets? Here’s our full Android vs iOS hardware comparison.
These days you don’t just have to worry about a phone or tablet’s hardware when you splash out on a new device. Sure, the camera and the display and all the rest are still important factors. But you also have to choose which mobile ecosystem to embrace: Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android OS.
Both operating systems offer their own strengths and weaknesses, of course. Apple’s iPhones and iPads are generally quite easy to use, but also pleasingly secure thanks to the closed ecosystem. Meanwhile, Android devices are more flexible, with greater personalisation and the ability to tinker.
If you’re not sure about which is best for you, iOS or Android, then check out our handy Android vs iOS comparison. This takes a closer look at the software, apps and the rest, so you know what to expect.
Today we’re going to keep it simple however, and consider the hardware. With Google’s OS you get a huge number of phones and tablets to choose from, as loads of different manufacturers have crafted their very own Android devices. On the flip side, iOS locks you into Apple’s home-grown hardware, so you have to stick with iPhones and iPads.
So which hardware is best, depending on your own personal needs? Should you go Google, or stick to Apple phones and tablets? Here’s what we reckon.
Apple vs Android: Best premium phone
If you want the absolute best of the best, then Apple’s iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus are the iOS phones to check out. These supremely powerful handsets may not be a massive upgrade on the previous year’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, but they do offer a new water-resistant finish, bigger batteries and cameras that work better in low light. The 7 Plus even packs a dual-lens rear snapper, which has optical zoom for getting closer to your subject.
If money is something to be frittered away, your best choice for Android is the Google Pixel or Pixel XL, or Samsung’s Galaxy S7. The Pixel and Pixel XL are close matches for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, in terms of size and performance. However, while the Pixel handsets don’t have the iPhone’s water resistance, they do boast better cameras.
Check out our Google Pixel phone vs iPhone 7 comparison and Samsung Galaxy S7 vs iPhone 7 comparison for more info, but personally we’re swaying towards the Android blowers here. The S7 in particular offers solid value for money these days and much the same benefits of the iPhones.
You can pick up the iPhone 7 from O2, from £45 per month.
Apple vs Android: Best compact phone
The 4-inch iPhone SE gives you the same solid specs of the full-sized iPhone 6s, but in a really cute 4-inch form. This chunky monkey is nippy, packs some decent camera tech and slips into a pocket without any trouble, despite that rather thick frame. For £379, it’s hard to complain.
On the Android front you have the Xperia Z5 Compact, which sports a more colourful finish than the iPhone SE – if you opt for the brighter models, at least. This mini marvel is 4.7-inches and easy to use one-handed, with Sony’s solid optics for everyday snaps and expandable storage as standard. You can pick it up cheap on contract these days, while the Xperia X Compact costs a little more and ditches the water resistance – but also offers improved cameras.
Read next: Best mini phones reviewed
Our personal pick here would probably be the iPhone SE. It’s more compact than the Xperia phones and offers faster performance, for a very reasonable asking price.
You can pick up the iPhone SE from O2, from £25 per month.
Apple vs Android: Best big-screen phone
Anyone after a big screen for enjoying movies, games and other stuff on the go should look to Apple’s iPhone 6s Plus or iPhone 7 Plus. With a 5.5-inch display that’s pleasingly crisp and produces realistic visuals, you can’t go far wrong. Make sure you splash out on a model with plenty of storage if you want to carry around lots of films or games, however, as there’s no microSD memory card support.
On Android you have a huge choice of devices, some of which are seriously affordable. Check out our round-up of the best 5.5-inch phones for an idea of what you can get, but at the premium end we recommend the Google Pixel XL and Huawei Mate 9.
You can also grab some great-value Android phones boasting big, sharp screens. The OnePlus 3T is our pick right now, with its 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED panel that’s impressively punchy. Take a look at our OnePlus hub for full comparisons with those other Android phones.
Looks like another round to Android.
Apple vs Android: Best affordable phone
Apple doesn’t really do ‘affordable’, so your best bet here is to buy an older iPhone. The iPhone 6 is still a perfectly fine phone that can capture good-looking photos, with respectable everyday performance and a good-looking display. Best of all, you can pick it up from UK networks for around £20 per month, with a decent data allowance.
On Android, you have a ridiculously good selection of phones for an affordable asking price. Check out our best cheap phones feature for a round-up of our favourites.
Android is again the victor.
Apple vs Android: Best pro tablet
When it comes to professional tablets, Apple is the champion thanks to its excellent iPad Pro 9.7 and iPad Pro 12.9. These insanely powerful devices can be turned into laptop replacements with the keyboard cover, plus the Apple Pencil is perfect for creative users – although also crazy expensive.
Check out our iPad Pro 12.9 vs 9.7 comparison to see what the difference is between these two iOS tablets.
On the Android side, you don’t have anything that can match the iPad Pro right now. Check out Google’s Pixel C tablet if you’re determined to stick with Android OS, which offers slick performance, good battery life and some nicely designed hardware.
You can pick up the iPad Pro 9.7 from O2, for £36 per month on contract.
You can pick up the iPad Pro 12.9 from O2, for £49.50 per month on contract.
Apple vs Android: Best family tablet
Asus impressed us with its ZenPad 3s 10, a £300 Android tablet that’s great for the whole family. You get a gorgeous screen and decent performance for enjoying media and apps, while the built-in parental features are genuinely helpful.
If you’d rather go super-cheap and bag something for younger users, we recommend Amazon’s Fire tablets. They’re very reasonably priced and pack some solid specs, plus parental controls again. There’s even a kids version which comes with a rubber cover, to keep it from being smashed up in seconds.
Apple has the iPad Air 2, which is getting on a bit but still offers respectable performance and a crisp screen. It’ll certainly do the job for keeping the kids entertained on a long journey. Of course it’s not as affordable as those Kindle tabs and doesn’t boast the same brilliant parental controls, so Android is the final victor.
You can pick up the iPad Air 2 from O2, from £30 per month.