The debate between iOS and Android users has been going on for some time now, and I can’t really see it coming to an end soon. While both have their own advantages, which device comes on top when it comes to security and privacy? In this video, my friend Pete Matheson and I will walk you through a quick comparison of the two.
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Before we start, I want to acknowledge that I might be biased towards iPhone because I never really owned a quality Android phone before. But this is why I invited Pete Matheson, a fellow tech YouTuber, who has valuable experience on Android. I also want to give a shout out to the Shared Security Show Podcast who did a topic on this last month.
To properly compare the security and privacy of iOS and Android, we’re going to cover four specific areas of concern:
Operating System | Which is More Secure?
When it comes to your privacy and security, there’s one primary principle:
“The more links there are to a chain, the more opportunities there are to introduce a weak link.”
What does this mean? Let’s look at the operating systems of Apple and Android.
In 2007, Apple introduced an integration of hardware and software. This native integration, which most people refer to as a Walled Garden, allows for a lot more control. This tight control over the iOS and its security is in stark contrast to android phones.
Android phones have an operating system that are often three levels deep: the android base OS, manufacturer-specific design, and network-specific features. Each layer adds a bit of complexity and vulnerability to the operating system.
Another important thing to add is the unreliable security patches and updates in Android devices. In general, you would want updates to happen as soon as the device needs them to, but based on Pete’s Google Pixel experience, the monthly OS updates aren’t very reliable.
For instance, even though monthly updates have come out every single month, some are actually delayed. Meanwhile, in his iPhone 13 pro, he noticed that the operating system is a lot more on top of releasing both minor and major updates, as well as smaller bug fixes.
User Tracking on iOS vs Android
It’s quite ironic because the features that make modern smartphone so attractive are exactly the same ones that make their privacy and security more vulnerable. For example:
- alarmingly accurate GPS location
- an active camera
- an active microphone
- higher intelligence in storing your personal data
As far as third-party apps are concerned, Apple has what it calls an app sand box, which limits what kind of data apps can access.
As for Android, Pete shared that a privacy sand box is coming, but it might come out in two years’ time because of some of some conflict of interest.
By conflict of interest, he means that there’s a divide between the consumers who buy their phone and the advertisers who make up the bulk of Google’s revenue. It’s a difficult balancing act.
But I will add that Apple have that balancing act as well although for them, it’s more on the regulatory side. For instance, last year, it was quietly announced that apple would start scanning the images uploaded to iCloud to monitor for child sexual abuse material. However, this update was delayed because of the vocal backlash from privacy advocates.
In the end, whether you’re using an iOS or android, it’s best to assume that there is some form of tracking that is or will start happening soon. The best thing you can do is to only give permission for apps to use specific types of data or specific parts of your phone when they absolutely need it.
Messaging on Apple iOS vs Google’s Android
To start, you need to understand that the old school SMS message has never and will never be encrypted. Anything sent via SMS text message, even on a modern app or android device is not private. However, each service has its own closed off network that offer’s end to end encrypted messaging. For apple, that’s iMessage, while android also has encrypted messaging.
But if you’re sending anything sensitive and would feel safer to use an encrypted messaging service, I recommend you use Signal. It’s my preferred encrypted messaging service provider.
The Actual Mobile Hardware | Which is More Secure?
In terms of devices, Apple controls everything while Android does not. In this case, the advantage might lean towards Android. So, if you want cutting edge devices with the latest features, you definitely go with Android, because Apple usually takes their time in perfecting those features before they release it.
But here’s an important takeaway…
It doesn’t matter how secure or private the actual hardware of your phone is. Although yes, I think that Apple offers a few advantages over Android. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to how much of your personal data is stored into your mobile device.
Alternative to iOS and Android Operating Systems
If you don’t want to trust big tech companies like Apple and Google, I totally get that. Here are some alternative options you can use:
But remember, although you may gain privacy by using these alternative operating systems, you may also lose the ease of installation, app availability, and general use. There are thankfully a number of secure phone options that allow you to run these custom operating systems.
Overall, the debate between iPhone and Android devices is honestly hard to settle and it usually comes down to subjective preference. So whether you’re an iPhone or android user, the strength of your privacy and security ultimately comes down to how much of your personal data is stored in these devices.