I’ve been an Android + Pixel/Nexus user for as long as I’ve owned a smartphone. I’m considering switching to iOS but I want to know what I might miss.
I know there are broad differences in design philosophy and a million different little differences. But I’m interested in learning of some of the concrete specific things missing when compared to Android.
On Android there are 3rd party clients available for most commercial/privacy invasive services. It looks like this may not be the case on iOS?
So my question to you all is, what do you feel is lacking on iOS in comparison to Android or just in general?
Some things I fear I would really miss if I make the switch:
- profiles / work profile
- Privacy friendly and ad free frontends for services (for instance Frost for Facebook, Newpipe).
- In general a much more vibrant/active and privacy conscious open source developer community
Absolutely the lack of multiple user profiles. Separate profiles in Safari on iOS 17 helps, but there are so many reasons to have isolated apps and storage on a phone, and it’s very annoying that iOS has no solution to this.
Otherwise I can’t complain, because nearly everything I do happens in a browser nowadays.
What’s missing is freedom.
By the way, iOS isn’t a privacy alternative, especially when they’re expanding their advertising business, which they neglected for a long time. But now they need to increase their shareholder value.
iOS is proprietary, closed down, locked down, and there is no freedom, to Apple you aren’t an owner of iPhone you’re a user of iPhone + Apple is known for its anti consumer practices.
The things I personally miss when switching from Android:
- Privacy alts (your #2 in your comment) like NewPipe, Xtra, etc.
- Customization options like launchers, icons, etc. No, Shortcuts doesn’t count.
- Retro game emulators (against ToS for App Store, not Play Store)
- fdroid for those things that even break ToS for Play Store (Kotatsu, ViMusic, etc.)
- Non-Webkit browsers (though that’s changing on iOS)
- iOS MIGHT be little more aggressive with closing background processes than Android. Obv this could be just a RAM issue, but on devices with the same amount of RAM, I run into these issues (music stopping when I open a website) on iOS but can’t duplicate it on Android
What is missing is freedom
This is the primary reason I’ve never preferred Apple products. But, I am already aware of the broad philosophical design differences. What I would like to consider in this post is specific practical differences.
By the way, iOS isn’t a privacy alternative
I disagree with this statement. It is too complex a topic, with too few good options, to make such broad black and white pronouncement.
I would probably agree with specific criticisms you have of Apple as a company or the design philosophy of the ecosystem they have built, but I don’t agree with the blanket statement.
In any case, I’d prefer not to derail the discussion in this direction. This conversation has been had a million times in the privacy community and doesn’t need to be rehashed here. I’d like to focus on specifics.
Another issue on iOS is it’s nearly impossible to use iOS without using an Apple account and/or going through Apple’s services. In fairness to Apple, this is the same situation on Android as nearly every Android device includes Google Play Services, but there are some advantages Android has:
- Select devices allow custom ROMs, many of which are de-Googled to varying degrees
- Android’s open APK system allows apps to be installed away from its centralized Google Play Store, meaning you can get away with obtaining apps without ever signing in to a Google account.
My digital minimalist appreciates needing one less account to just download applications, an option not available on iOS devices unless you’re planning on finding IPA files that you manually install via AltStore - though even installing AltStore requires an Apple Account, so yeah…
In addition to needing one less account to just use a phone, Custom ROMs give users the option to use a phone without Apple or Google services running in the background, where the user can opt to use the large number of Google Play Services alts (or none)
Maybe this is a kinda ideological reason but you have to trust a for-profit corporation with the privacy of your operating system on your phone. This isn’t the case with a lot of open source ROMs like GrapheneOS and CalyxOS (and even if they added tracking or what not a fork would pop up). Like for example if LineageOS made a terrible change that forced Google Play services to be installed you can just switch ROMs, you can’t really do that with an Apple device.
Although Apple devices are reasonably privacy friendly now, that could change in the next few years (or not), so you are putting a lot of trust in them to keep their operating system privacy friendly.
I think before anyone seriously considers iOS they must accept that that means Apple ID, using Apple devices without one is difficult now and will only get more difficult with time I imagine… This was enough cause for me to reject iOS for many years. That changed with the introduction of the Advanced Device Protection program. I still see many of the same downsides to Apple/iOS that I have always seen, however ADP and e2e encryption is a huge upside.
In my eyes the value proposition of ADP is easy to setup well integrated client side encrypted cloud services without nearly the same degree negative impact on usability, convenience, complexity as pieced together alternative using Android + Custom ROM + Proton or Skiff or Cryptomator or self hosted nextcloud.
I use both Android and iOS, for work, so I don’t “miss” much. Though, here’s a few things I noticed:
- Pack of open sourced software. On Android, F-Droid is full of decent apps, most of which is completely absent on iOS.
- Some software that does exist lacks some functionality. Take Obsidian, as an example. It’s a a great note taking app, and I self host my vault. On iOS the vault needs to either be local (on device), or on iCloud. I’ve worked around this, with ADP, and Syncthing, but it’s not perfect.
- I dislike the fact that there is no app drawer, and I like a clean (clear, so no apps) homescreen.
- I dislike the fact that Apple STILL uses Lightening (USB 2.0 standard), on their iPhones.
- I dislike the fact that Apple treats other operating systems, like second class. Some apps don’t exist on Windows, that are on OSX, and Linux… no support, at all.
- I dislike that browsers are forced to use WebKit.
- Notification functionality is horrible, compared to Android.
- Lacking Permission functionality. IOS has this feature, it does something’s better… but also somethings worse. I believe Android this is better.
- The App Store might show a Privacy Report, but some terms can be misleading, and not always accurate… relying on the publisher.
- IOS has a feature that lets you see trackers in your installed apps, but it lacks functionality to prevent them. Relying on a 3rd party solution to block it, such as a private DNS.
- Apple pings A LOT of their servers. Not all of it bad, but it’s undoubtedly giving more information than I’m comfortable with. Blocking them can cause issues.
Some things to note:
- A lot of services work as a PWA. So instead of Frost, you might be able to use FB, in PWA form.
- Apple might not like it, but there are App Store alternatives. An older one was TrollStore, but most folks now run AltStore. It allows the use of side loading apps… apps that might not be normally allowed. Think game emulators, YouTube front frontends, and so on. It’s not perfect, but it works.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot about this even though I was just annoyed by this problem yesterday. Honestly from an environmental or just a convenience perspective Lightning is unacceptable in 2023, and it’s the main reason I’m personally not upgrading until a USB-C iPhone is released. (Hopefully they do this before my iPhone is EOL or I guess I’ll be back to Android lol)
What web apps do you use? So curious. Trying to move to mostly (or as many as possible) web apps myself.
What essential apps aren’t available as web apps? Signal obviously is one I assume.
This question struck a chord with everyone, huh.
If you are a hacker/builder I don’t think IOS will be enough for you.
Though I want to play with iphone someday. + Its the best out of the box phone there is - on any front. Android is nice if you know your ways with tech.
I will be getting an iphone just for banking apps / work phone lol.
What is essential to you?
For me the things I most want/need Webapps for are the apps that I still rely on but don’t trust (proprietary apps, untrusted services, etc), or apps that don’t exist on the OSes I use.
So for me, I don’t really care so much about webapps for privacy centric services because I have greater trust in those services, I want functional webapps for services I don’t exactly like or trust or apps I can’t find any other way such as Spotify, Whatsapp, Google Maps, stuff like that.
+1 Just a note that Piped is a great web-based front end for YouTube that I use on iOS
- Also don’t forget the vast amount of frontends web-based frontends for sites at
Yeah, web based frontends definitely seem critical for iOS in a way that is not as necessary on Android.
I use piped & libredirect in the browser on desktop, and piped as a PWA on the old iphone I am playing around with right now.
I prefer the feel and responsiveness of a native app on a phone but Yattee (the only native youtube frontend i’m aware of for iOS has promise but is not there yet).
edit: I’d really like a Whatsapp webapp that works for mobile (I’d prefer to not have to use Whatsapp at all but that is not a realistic option for me at this point in time).