iosVSAndroidIt’s among the greatest brand battles of our time. Coke versus Pepsi, tastes great, less filling, and Android versus iOS. For a while it’s been a battle fought on different battlefields, with Apple’s iOS winning on design, usability and apps, while Google’s Android dominated in sheer market size (with over 80% of the smartphone market).

But recent updates by both mobile operating systems have brought Android and iOS much closer in capabilities and usability. Without a doubt, these are both pretty great mobile operating systems at this point. However, there are still some significant differences that could prove the deciding factor for that small number of users who are still up for grabs in the mobile operating wars.

In this Tech Pro Essentials breakdown, Editorial Director Jim Rapoza and Aberdeen Research Analyst Sean Butler take a look at some key areas of the mobile operating systems and compare Android 5.0 Lollipop to iOS 8. Which is the better operating system? Let’s find out.

Interface Design

Apple’s iOS saw its big change in interface in iOS 7, which brought a flatter and cleaner design to the operating system. For Android, Lollipop goes in a similar direction, with the new Material Design interface also bringing a flatter, cleaner design as well as increased feedback in the form of animations and touch responses. At this point, both interfaces look great and have high usability and choice boils down to a matter of individual taste. However, when it comes to specific functionality, there are some key areas of difference in how iOS 8 and Android Lollipop operate. The new graphics in Lollipop bring the Android operating system to life and provide an entirely new feeling to the device, and many new app updates are adding interface improvements even for users of Android KitKat. The downside of this is if you’re an Android user who is updating apps but is still on KitKat, you get to experience the look and feel of the new operating system in some of your Google apps, but then go back to the old interface for the rest of your apps.


For a while Android has been a leader in notifications, giving users quick updates on events both important (like new calls, txts and emails) and minor (apps needing updates). However, with iOS 8, Apple has caught up a great deal, and maybe even exceeded Android, with a cleaner and less cluttered approach. Both iOS and Android provide an improved experience for their end-users, with less in-app interruptions than before. Smaller drop down messages allow users to avoid the smartphone ADD that occurs today when the latest selfie is posted on Instagram. But Android Lollipop has brought new management capabilities to its notifications, giving users lots of power to make sure they are seeing the important notifications that they really want. Another important area of notifications is what’s seen in the lock screen. Again, both operating systems have made similar moves, such as offering information on calls and txts and also letting users access the camera with a single touch. Android also improved its lock screen notifications so users will have the ability to find out more about an incoming notification than just the application it is coming from. Android Lollipop does remove lock screen widgets, which may be a negative for those users who relied on them.

Being a Phone

Yes, it’s true, even though we call them smartphones, making and receiving calls is becoming less and less of a key feature of these devices. But you still need to do it sometimes and there are some big differences between iOS 8 and Lollipop in these areas. For iOS 8, there’s really nothing wrong with this functionality. It’s a clean interface, easy to make calls and it shows recent calls clearly. But Android Lollipop goes much further, with detailed images, important contacts highlighted and lots of contextual information about who’s calling or being called.

Battery Life:

Fortunately for everyone both operating systems work hard to make batteries more efficient. By providing developers with tools to optimize battery usage and trying to make the operating system itself less of a power suck, both companies are taking steps towards a future where we will all be able to stop carrying phone chargers around with us everywhere we go. Apple made their big investment into improving battery life by adding a new processor in the latest iPhones, Android on the other hand launched Project Volta, which is trying to help developers optimize software to use battery life more discreetly, as they have inherently less control over the device itself. Both new operating systems do a good job, but we all await a future when a battery lasts multiple days.


Apple’s iOS 8 has made some key moves, giving users more opportunities to customize the interface, apps and notifications to their specific tastes and wants. But it is still an environment where users take the interface and settings that Apple gives them and are happy with it (which the vast majority of iPhone and iPad users are). With its origins as an open platform, Android has always been more customizable and this remains true with Lollipop. Widgets, app grouping, multi-user capabilities, all of these make it possible to heavily customize an Android Lollipop system. However, one major caveat lies in who is providing the device. While some Android hardware providers leave lots of customization options open, others lock down and pre-configure the device heavily.


Here iOS 8 is a clear winner. Apple gives users pretty much exactly what they want from a messaging app, with a clean and easy to use interface that anyone can use instantly. Google on the other hand isn’t sure what to do with messaging. First there’s a Messaging app, then everything moves to Hangouts, then both, now with Android Lollipop Messaging is back as the primary. It’s no wonder there’s a vibrant market of third-party messaging apps for Android.

Camera and Photos

Speaking of things people do on their smartphones more than making calls, taking pictures is another key differentiator. The new iPhone 6’s come with excellent cameras and the camera app in iOS 8 is very good, making it simple to take either a quick snapshot or set-up a detailed, artistic photo. Android Lollipop has improved the camera app and overall it is good, but given the wide disparity of Android devices, camera quality can vary greatly, from very very good to pretty lousy.

In the end, there’s no clear winner in the battle between Android 5.0 Lollipop and iOS 8. For most people, it will break down to a matter of taste or to the specific hardware options. Actually, there is a winner, as no matter what choice we make, we’re probably using a very good mobile operating system on our increasingly vital devices.

For more on this topic, read the Aberdeen report Apple Impacts Future of Mobile with iPhone 6 and Apple Watch.