iPhone 5S vs. Android: Two Fanboys Fight it Out

An Apple advocate and an Android enthusiast discuss the launch of Apple’s iPhone 5S, iOS 7 and the iPhone 5C

The iPhone 5S is official alongside iOS 7 and the not-so-cheap iPhone 5C. Apple’s mission for the rest of the year has been outlined. As always, opinion is divided on what the Cupertino-based company has come to the table with. 

In the wake of Apple’s big iPhone launch we decided to try something a bit different: get two tech-writers – one a thorough Fandroid, the other immersed in Apple’s iOS ecosystem – and get them to argue out the finer points of yesterday’s launch. 

Damien McFerran is a freelance technology journalist and regularly contributes to some of the world’s most foremost technology sites – including KYM. Michael Grothaus is a London-based technology journalist. He writes for Fast Company, The Guardian, and TUAW, amongst others.

KYM initiated things with an opening statement: 

“Not everybody seems all that impressed by what Apple came to the table with last night. Has the company lost its magic?” 

And the discussion began… 

Michael: “I think it's easy not to be impressed anymore – and that has little to do with Apple. There are so many leaks out of China nothing is a surprise anymore. Everyone saw the iPhone 5C days before it was announced. It takes the surprise and magic out of these events now. The same thing happened with the iPhone 5s and the same this will happen with the next iPads. With all the leaked parts you can practically assemble the next iOS devices before they're ever announced.”

Damien: “Leaks are one thing, but in the cold light of day I think the launch of the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C was something of a disappointment.

“For me, the iPhone family just looks confused. The 5S is clearly the premium choice and comes with decent specs and features. I personally think the fingerprint scanner will be copied by every Android smartphone from this point forward (even if it did appear on the Motorola Atrix ages ago). But the iPhone 5C is way too expensive for what it is.

“I'm not entirely sure who it is marketed at – surely anyone who can afford the 470 quid for that device would be better off putting a bit more cash towards the superior 5S? Claims of it being a ‘budget’ iPhone now seem laughable - it's like Apple is content to offer an ‘Expensive’ and ‘REALLY expensive’ option, rather than an entry-level handset which would easily destroy the lower end of the Android market.

“iOS 7 looks neat, and I personally like the colourful icons, but it's not all that new – we knew about it months ago. It doesn't seem to offer the massive strides that Android's OS has, but then again, Google has completely changed the way Android looks several times in the past, which is perhaps an admission that Android is a bad OS which is steadily getting better. 

“From my perspective, Apple has shown nothing which would make me want to ditch my Galaxy S4 and pick up an iPhone. What was shown yesterday feels very much like preaching to the converted: the 5S will be lapped up by the hardcore fans, while the 5C will appeal to those who like a bit of colour in their handset. Neither will tempt devoted Android lovers away from Google's teat, and I think Apple has missed an open goal by not pricing the 5C lower.” 

Michael: “What's funny is we actually disagree on a point I thought we would have agreed on – iOS 7's icons are horrible. They look like Apple gave a box of highlighters to a five year old and said, "Draw us something." That being said, the rest of the look and feel of iOS 7 is growing on me. 

“I agree with you about the cost of the iPhone 5C. It is still quite high. However, Apple never said they were building a low-cost iPhone – everyone else did. What Apple has done with the iPhone 5C is to make those that can't afford the latest and greatest iPhone stop feeling like second class citizens by selling them last year's model at a lower price. 

“From an engineering perspective, it's also quite a marvel. A unibody plastic body that actually feels good in the hand is something no other smartphone manufacturer has ever done. 

“As for the iPhone 5s, no Android fan is ever impressed by the incremental updates Apple pushes out (3G to 3GS, 4 to 4S, 5 to 5s). That's because the devices don't physically look different. However, the iPhone 5s is leaps and bounds ahead of any other iPhone or Android phone. It's what's inside that counts: the world's first 64-bit mobile processor (the A7), the worlds first motion co-processor (the M7) that will allow for a new generation of fitness apps, the new iSight camera with an f/2.2 and two LED True Tone flash. That's not even to mention the fingerprint scanner with Touch ID.

“Yes, other phones have had fingerprint scanners before, but the difference between those and the one on the iPhone is that the iPhone's one actually works – and will continue to. Every fingerprint scanner that has appeared on a smartphone to date has been a POS, made of cheap materials, poor scanning functions, and a very limited lifetime. Those scanners usually burn out after 500 scans! As usual, Apple waited to introduce the fingerprint scanner until their engineers could get it right, where it will last and work flawlessly every time.”

Damien: “Now you've explained it, I can sort of understand the positioning of the 5C now. I guess with the iPhone 5 there was always the stigma of having "last year's tech", but a new design solves that.

I'd disagree that the iPhone 5S is a significant improvement over rival phones - if you look at the raw power being put into some of the latest Android handsets, Apple continues to operate within its own little sphere; it compares the performance of its products to previous Apple products, rather than with competing devices. Not that it really matters, as comparing iOS to Android is a largely pointless exercise - one is locked down and smooth, while the other is more open but prone to performance issues - no matter how powerful the hardware is that it's running on. 

What irks me most about iOS right now is that Apple seems perfectly content to continue selling to their existing fanbase. Part of me actually wants them to produce a device which takes on Android directly, a more open platform which better customisation, a larger display, expandable storage and so on...I'm a big fan of Apple's build quality and will readily admit that there's no better constructed handset out there than the iPhone." 

Michael: “I think Apple doesn't usually do direct hardware comparisons to other smartphones because of the very point you mention. The iPhone is locked down and smooth – often times using much less raw processing power – than competing Android handsets. For example, there are some mobiles that have twice the RAM that the iPhone does, yet the iPhone runs much faster and smoother. Again, that's due to excellent software optimization. Apple can get more with less, but if they compared spec to spec, to the average consumer it would appear if the iPhone ran slower because it had less raw horsepower. 

“As I appreciate many of the features of Android, I hear and agree with those that wish Apple would make iOS more open. However, people like us are the exception in the billion-unit-plus smartphone market. Most consumers just want a smartphone that works and is easy to use. That's much easier to do in a closed, secure ecosystem.

iOS 7

“The reason Android is now winning as far as units sold goes is that it hits a note with something else that most consumers want: a cheap phone. There are tons of free or very low cost Android handsets that are more than good enough for your average user (their build quality is usually crap though). Apple still needs to figure out how to break into that low cost market, or else it will continue to lose ground to Android in a specific subset of smartphone buyers.” 

Damien: “I think you've hit the nail on the head, and that's my point - Apple had the chance with the 5C to enter the low-cost market, and it decided against it. I know that Apple never said explicitly that it was making a budget handset, but all the signs were there: cheaper body, last year's internals. Had they pitched this as a 400 pound (or less) device, then I'm sure many Android manufacturers would have been very uncomfortable. The cheap end of the market is the only area Apple hasn't conquered, although many will argue that the 4S is now capable of filling that space.

I guess from an Android perspective I'm always going to compare with what I know, and when you can pick up the Nexus 4 for less than 200 quid - a phone, which is technically superior to the iPhone 5 - I fail to see how the 5C makes sense. However, I'm sure it will sell well, especially if Apple's plans to expand into China come to fruition.”

And that’s it folks. Michael and Damien could have gone on all day, but we wanted to keep it in the context of yesterday’s launch. What are your opinions about yesterday’s announcement? 

Do you agree with Michael or Damien? 

Give your thoughts in the comments below. 

Disqus - noscript

Of course iOS appears faster on lower spec hardware, it's because it does a lot less! I imagine if I stripped everything out so my phone could do nothing but make phone calls and perform benchmarks it would be the fastest phone ever produced. Given the same spec hardware, raw benchmarks are always likely to come out with:

Phone > Feature Phone > iOS > Android

The article seems to imply that this is entirely down to Apple somehow developing much more efficient software that makes better use of the hardware. If that's the case we had better all abandon our smartphones and all that functionality they give us because a phone that does nothing but make phone calls will make much more efficient use of the hardware!

As for the 64 bit processor, they pretty much have three main benefits. Firstly, addressing more memory. Secondly, higher capacities. Thirdly, handling of larger arrays of data. The first two simply aren't necessary in phones yet, they haven't reached the limitations that require a 64 bit processor. This leaves the third, large data arrays. Presumably you run a database server on your phone or work with CAD packages on it?... Yes, other phone manufacturers will now jump on the 64 bit bandwagon, but not because it is necessary. No, it will be because of Apple's misleading advertising implying that 64 bit processors are superior for phones. They will be one day, but they aren't in current phones.

I just enjoyed how civil they were.

Non-Apple fingerprint sensor burning out after a certain number of uses? Where does he get that notion? The one on my tablet PC (Toshiba M400) is still working very well after 5 years, and thousands of finger scans. Yes, it's not a phone...

Given that no Android phone runs "the same spec hardware" as an iPhone, I'm not sure how you work that out. Which Android phone uses an A6 or A7?

Far, far too polite :)

I never said they run the same hardware, I said that an iOS would perform better given the same hardware due to the reduced functionality of the OS in comparison to Android. In general the iPhone processors are significantly less powerful in terms of raw processing power than their Android competitors.

If iOS had all the functionality Android does the phone would run significantly slower.

Let's start off with a fact. I'm an Apple fanboy. I'm interested whenever samsung releases a cutting edge phone like the s4, but im an apple gu y through and through. I've owned both apples and androids, so i guess im qualified to make the comparison. I think that when you look at the specs of androids, they outperform apple in many ways. I still prefer the apple because they make phones that have simplicity and elegance, rather than widgets plastering the front of everything. Apple makes their ios clean and simple. Sure, they could add a million megapixel camera and make the screen 50x50 inches and put a octuple-core processor that has 20GB of ram, but they don't need too. They put what people need, what people want, and what people prefer. Personally, I prefer the Apple.

That's a fair point. It's obviously such a hassle to customise the widgets on Android, so they should just remove the feature. It's much more convenient to click into an app, then into the section you want and then scroll to find the data you want than it is to look at a widget.

Seriously, though, you complain about having widgets and prefer simplicity and elegance? Why not just remove the widgets then? Want a more simple launcher? Why not install a more simple launcher then? The beauty of Android is that you can customise it to make it as simple or complex as you want it to be.

what are the two of them doing?? are they just selling us a bit DRAMA to sell the Flop Iphone 5S??? :) Just an observation on a different level.. :)

And then rip people off by charging more for something that does less. You don't get Android at all, do you.

Look, people keep making this point but i still dont get it, what can you do on an android that you cant do on an iphone, besides themes and stuff?

Open GL, NFC, full band LTE support, Bluetooth 4.0, use an app while in another app simultaneously, watch 720p and 1080p video, take a full 360 degree pic, not panorama, use more audio and video file types like flash, and wav, photo unlock, use faster browsers, play unreal engine 4 games, use it as a mouse and keyboard for PC, augmented reality glasses, smart watch OS, TV and PC OS, I am bored now. Also, android quad core phones with HD displays and jelly bean (Nexus 4) cost less than half of the 5C, hence rip off.

Makes sense. So many features for so little price point - Android. See, I've used both phones. Haven't touched the iPhone5, this time I went for S4. Reasons are the answers from many above - open features, flexible.

But I cant stop admitting that there definitely is something brilliant about the iPhone5, Eg. I actually miss using it (one hand operation). Its really strange but I'm already bored with my S4, just after 2 months of usage. iPhone 4 stayed with me, absolutely flawless, for 3 years. No kidding!

I really appreciate the pace Android and its partner units are going at. But I sincerely feel Apple plays a fair game, except that they need to exhibit the phone more widely to average, middle-class users. (I didn't say below-average, with all due respect to them of course).

- An iPhone Fan who uses Android tech (Say Wha??)

Well, personally, I don't think you are an true android user unless you try stock, personally, the S4 feels lifeless and cheap, and it is just gimmicky and stupid, Nexus 4 feels premium, easy one handed use, does not lag at all, looks good and has way better software.

You're talking out of your ass. The iPhone 5S comes with the latest Open GL ES 3.0, which is the new standard. The same applies for bluetooth (which has used 4.0 since two years ago) Why you would need to be using two apps at once on a phone at this point in time is beyond me. Are you Donald Trump? I have been able to take 360 degree photos for years also. Flash is unreliable and irrelevant. I have not come across any necessity for it on iOS for several years. All Apple products are highly optimised, which means their users can get far more out of them and push them without effecting efficiency. The benefits of creating hardware and software in house are undeniably advantageous. I could go on...

The point is, it's irrelevant what OS or manufacturer you prefer. We're all individuals, that's a good thing in my opinion. But to make unfounded and uneducated remarks about something you have no knowledge of is ridiculous. My view remains that people who take such an aggressive stance on apple, simply cannot afford their products and have some deep seated envy.

I don't know a single apple user that slates other people or their devices, or make judgements, because they are, in general quite comfortable with what they have and who they are.
Android is not the top platform because it's spectacular, it's far from it in fact. It's popular because the vast majority of handsets are so cheap. There's nothing wrong with that either. There's no denying that many people love it, it's not for me but hey ho.
People should grow up and stop bickering and hating. Find something more productive to do with your time, and stop wasting your energy! Peace.

You are being a hippocrate, "I don't know a single apple user that slates other people or their devices, or make judgements" then you go onto say this "My view remains that people who take such an aggressive stance on apple, simply cannot afford their products and have some deep seated envy". There a couple of things you need to know about me, I can afford Apple products, but being a nerd I choose the best of what is available on all fronts, and when I got my phone, it was stock Android, and the only phone with stock android at the time was a Nexus 4 or Galaxy Nexus, so I chose the Nexus 4. Secondly, I have alot of Apple fanboys as my friends and my family, and they constantly berate and annoy me about choosing the Nexus 4 over an iPhone 5, and thirdly and finally, I own a MacBook Air running OS X Mountain Lion and have a Hackintosh setup on my PC, which runs a beta of OS X Mavericks, as well as a Ubuntu and Windows 8 dualboot on another Hard Drive, proving that I do not hate on Apple. Back to the post in question, the iPhone 5S and 5C do not have a photosphere like function at all, so no 360 degree photo, just panorama, I am not sad as I did not google the features, they were off the top of my head and finally, Flash is relevant, maybe not for YOU, but for me, many of the websites that I go onto on my tablet are in desktop form, hence Flash animation, and is needed for me to view my content, Open GL 4.4 is the latest form of Open GL, and is not in an iOS device but is in some android devices, like the Nvidia Shield, and having the bare standard is not the best way to go, you want the latest for future compatibility, how many times have you wanted to answer a text, but not stop watching the video you are watching, hence multitasking, or answer a text without leaving the browser at all, still being able to read the website and view the content like on a PC, multitasking. And finally, my original rant was about getting value for money. If you put a HTC One and an iPhone 5S side by side, which are the best looking phones on the market today, but neither had any software installed at all, but would still cost the same, you would go for the HTC One, because it costs much more to make and you are getting more value for money, even if the money is £500. And regarding your point on people choosing Android over cost, The Galaxy S3 cost around the same as an iPhone 5, but they sold around the same, showing that price is not a factor.

Raw power does not matter to me. It's what's done with that power. iOS runs smooth but it feels extremely lacking. I'd rather have a slightly slower phone, at a reasonable price that can do a lot. The explanation of the 5C is stupid though. I'd rather have last year's model that looke exactly the sme as this year's save for the flash and home button than a cheap looking plastic phone. It's also not the first solidly built plastic phone, that goes to nokia. Their Asha 501(looks exactly like the 5C) feels great in the hand. It's nearly a unibody aswell. the only separate part is the back which was put for interchangable colors.
Unless Apple makes the 64-bit proc leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, it does not matter. I'm talking about real life performance. The new features in the iPhone does not matter to me. They didn't even make the phone HD but at a weird resolution. They even reduced the new graphics engine to the iPhone 5S when it should have been compatible with older phones such as Androids that got the 4.3 update.
I like the camera of the 5S though. It goes the middle road of HTC's ultra pixel and the other's ultra pixel count. The twotone flash is also good.

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