iPhone vs. Android: Which Offers More Privacy?
What’s better, an iPhone or an Android smartphone? This debate will probably never be settled, and maybe that’s for the best. But things like security and privacy are not a matter of taste and opinion.
It is common knowledge that iPhones are generally more secure than Android-powered phones, but does that mean they are also more private? That’s a more complex question than you might initially think…
Just How Private Is Android?
The Android operating system is based on the Linux kernel. Since its unveiling in 2007, Android has gone through a number of iterations and countless changes, and is today the most widely used operating system in the world. Android is free and open source, but most smartphones are powered by a proprietary version developed by Google, and come with a slew of pre-installed Google apps (e.g. YouTube, Google Maps).
For these reasons, it would be unwise to make blanket statements about the privacy of the Android operating system as such. At its core, Android itself is neither sufficiently private, nor invading user privacy—it is what each individual user makes of it. But it should be noted that the vast majority of Android smartphone owners don’t tinker with the operating system, but rather just use the phone out of the box; powered by an operating system developed by Google. With that as your reference point, it becomes obvious why most Android phones have certain glaring privacy issues.
What would those issues be? For example, if you’ve ever owned an Android smartphone, you know how annoying it can be to deal with apps that came pre-installed. Pretty much all manufacturers install their own set of apps on their devices, and make it difficult to remove them without root access. Plus, more often than not, these apps are not exactly privacy-friendly.
Also, Google Play is not too strict when it comes to approving software, so the chances of stumbling upon an invasive app are far from zero. (Threat actors are aware of this too, which is one of the reasons they tend to target Android-powered mobile devices.)
Are iPhones Really Better for Privacy?
Apple, whose iPhones run on iOS, has always prided itself on protecting user privacy. But is this really true, or just a clever marketing trick? The reality is a bit more complicated than Apple would like you to believe, but also not as bleak as critics claim.
In recent years, Apple has made an effort to break into the software and services market, but it is still primarily a hardware company. This cannot be said for other tech giants, whose revenue models are largely based on data and advertisements. This is not to say that Apple doesn’t have an incentive to gather data, but data is not its bread and butter. And that’s good news if you care about privacy.
Then there’s also the myth that Apple almost never complies with law enforcement requests, which is likely a product of a few high-profile cases of Apple refusing to grant access to user accounts. However, according to data published by Apple itself on its official website, the company approves the vast majority of such requests.
While far from perfect, Apple is much better on privacy than other technological companies. But if it continues to move away from hardware towards software and services, that may change.
Android or iPhone: Weighing the Pros and Cons
If you want to protect your privacy, are you better off with an iPhone or an Android? The truth is, the average iPhone offers far more privacy than the average Android smartphone.
If you’re a casual user who has no interest in installing specialized software but still want to keep your privacy, stick with Apple. And if you prefer Android, consider privacy-oriented versions like GrapheneOS.