iOS vs Android: Who Has Better Privacy?

iOS vs Android

The age-old debate of Android (Google) vs iOS (Apple) seems like it’s never going to end. This statement is probably quite an accurate one, as any tech aficionado shall confirm. It is a true battle of the titans, the two most well-known and most used (by far) mobile operating systems in the world. No different than the age-old debates comparing BMW to Mercedes, Pepsi to Coca-Cola, or AMD vs Nvidia — whatever the case may be — there are always a couple of market leaders going at it, stirring public debate and affecting the tech economy. Of course, nothing stirs tech discussion quite like smartphones these days. As such, the debates concerning iOS vs Android are manyfold, ranging from; prices, design, features, and of course security and privacy. 

Now, iOS is famous for solid privacy measures and its entire brand system is built around how it treats user data, and how ‘fair’ and ‘transparent’ it is towards its customers. That is not to say that Android, which dominates the smartphone market, is not a secure or private mobile operating system. Android has another set of problems to deal with because of sheer business volume. The most purchased and used mobile operating system out there, as well as having a vast App Store, is Android. It is also owned by Google, the world’s largest digital marketing corporation. Billions of people use Androids, and such a vast array of Android devices means more opportunities for hackers and other shortfalls. Apple has used that opportunity cleverly in that they have marketed iOS and all of their devices as the more exclusive (more expensive) but more secure and more private operating system. They have even locked in their iOS systems so that modifying them in any way voids the warranty, and have encrypted their App Store too, but more on that later.

Alas, we’ve come here today to discuss iOS vs Android, and to answer your questions about who has better privacy measures by default. Read on to find out (and click the link at the top for an in-depth analysis). Now, we’ll take a look at what privacy is, followed by the iOS vs Android privacy debate.

What is Privacy?

“Privacy” is regarded as a company’s approach and responsibility towards how user data is processed, handled and stored. It also encompasses an operating system’s privacy features, in this case. Privacy has become quite the topic of hot debate over the past few years because people have become very aware of issues including surveillance, data theft, user consent, and also data collection. With smartphones being by far the most popular devices in the world  (90% of people globally access the internet via a smartphone), it is no surprise that market leaders are scrambling to not lose customers over privacy issues in their devices and operating systems. 

Privacy approaches include the following criteria;

  • What data is collected passively
  • What data is collected actively
  • A company’s privacy track record (any scandals?)
  • A company’s business model (advertising model)

Privacy features include the following;

  • App permissions
  • Location tracking
  • App tracking
  • How much each feature can be adjusted

Privacy: Android vs iOS

Now, when it comes to the two mobile OS giants, the approaches are radically different, and so are their track records. As was noted earlier, Android is owned by Google (technically parent company Alphabet), which owns several other mega-platforms and Google is the king of search and also analytics. Google does not have a great track record when it comes to user data and the privacy and security features of its operating systems and other software. Apple, on the other hand, constantly pushes its privacy and caution brand value at every large Apple event or press conference, as well as across its biggest platforms within iOS and macOS. As a result, there is always an air of ‘cleanness’ and ‘minimalism’ surrounding Apple. Also, Apple has not been subject to any serious scandals about privacy to date, and privacy experts also tend to side with Apple. 

As far as features go, device-wise, Android (and the several iterations of it) and iOS are not so different from one another. Both of these OSes have become sophisticated software ‘Swiss-watches’ over the years and now give the user the ability to disable several diagnostics, location, app tracking, and data collection if the user so wishes. Both operating systems also allow you to store your data on the device itself as opposed to storing it on a cloud server such as Google Drive (Android) or iCloud (Apple). Both also have hundreds of lines about how they protect user data in their Privacy Policies.

So, the issue is not so much the operating systems themselves, because they can be tweaked (Android especially, with a bit of work), but it comes down to user choice. If a user wishes to use Google’s or Facebook’s services, for instance, their data will no doubt be scanned at the very least and possibly sold to a third party. The same could potentially apply to storing personal and sensitive data on Apple’s iCloud. Again, all of this can be disabled in the menus of each OS. 

As far as who comes out on top, we need to look at who has privacy set up optimally by ‘default’ and privacy experts seem to agree that iOS is the winner here, albeit by a small margin. 

Let’s be honest, choosing between the latest Samsung (Android) or iPhone (iOS) has been the subject of massive debate. Each has its issues, and neither is cheap, at all. However, the privacy angle tells us that both systems are now pretty much up-to-scratch with their standards. With so much strict regulation about user privacy being instated right now, they have to comply, to stay afloat. What makes the difference here is what a user does with their smartphone and how sanitized their browsing habits are. A privacy-conscious user will know to immediately set up the privacy settings on their smartphone to their liking as soon as they have a new phone in their hands. This way, the operating system will behave the way a user wants it to and the Android vs iOS privacy debate becomes obsolete. A privacy-conscious user will also know that using anonymization software like a VPN does heaps for privacy.

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