5 minute read
The short of it: Modern flagship devices on both iOS and Android are incredibly fast. Most are overkill when stacked up against current app requirements. Differences in speed are mostly negligible and come down to your preference for navigation (quickness on Android vs fluidity on iPhones).
Whether you’re an iPhone or Android user, the utility of speed has never been more useful. Writing documents, composing emails, capturing life’s moments, and generally keeping the flow of life intact – phones have never been more useful. These days, most people are using their phones as pocket sized computers instead of solely relying on them as a means of communication.
And when you find yourself in the moment of crucial multitasking, there are few things as annoying as running into a brick wall of lag or stuttering. While the majority of high end phones have matured in terms of speed, it’s still worth looking into whether or not your next device is ultimately up to the task.
Which begs the question: are iPhones faster than Android?
The answer, like most involving technology, is mostly ambiguous. In some aspects, the hardware delivered by Apple is superior to that found in Android device, but ultimately, speed is often a factor independent of a device’s hardware.
Superior in a material sense
Both high end Android devices and iPhones use incredibly fast CPUs, but Apple’s efforts, driven by in house design, come out on top as far as raw benchmarks are concerned. They don’t tell the whole story, and real world usage often differs from benchmarking, but it’s a frame of reference regardless.
- Apple could start using in house chips for Macs as early as 2021
One example of this is when comparing the Geekbench scores for the iPhone 11 and OnePlus 8. The iPhone clearly edges out the OnePlus in terms of single core performance (1325 vs 865) and the two are quite close when it comes to multi core performance (3211 vs 3374).
Why such a disparity in single core performance?
As mentioned, Apple designs and creates their own chips for their iPhone lineup. The chip housed by the iPhone 11 is the A13 Bionic, and offers incredible performance both in terms of raw output and efficiency. In addition to the base iPhone 11, the chip also powers the new iPhone SE, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max.
Even at a budget or mid-range entry point, you’re still getting incredible performance not only in the present but years to come.
Qualcomm has recently announced the Snapdragon 865 Plus. It is said to offer a 10% performance increase over the base 865.
In contrast, flagship Android phones like the OnePlus 8 and Samsung Galaxy S20 are driven by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865. Although inferior to the A13 Bionic, it does come loaded with a 5G modem, something that won’t be available for iOS users until the launch of the iPhone 12 lineup.
Smoother, not faster, animations
One area where the iPhone falters in terms of speed is navigational UI. Apple leans heavily towards slowing down animations in an effort to make them play out smoothly and without any stuttering or hitching. This is especially apparent when comparing the scrolling between Android and iOS.
Navigating an iPhone is often slower than a comparable Android phone, but iOS scrolling physics and handling of animations makes for a smoother experience most of the time.
Most of the time, this means that iPhones will play out more elegantly in day to day usage. But this also results in an experience that is hamstrung by the OS. Android manufacturers like OnePlus are a prime example of function over form. Their version of Android is built lean and animations are near instantaneous as a result.
No matter the phone, Android users also have the ability to speed up animations by enabling developer options. This won’t literally speed a phone up, but will give the impression of performance gains.
A winning ecosystem
One of the reasons why iPhones are able to come out on top in some cases is because of Apple’s achievements of integration. For as limited as freedom and customization can be at times, iPhones are far and away more optimized in most cases.
Where Apple is developing for 3 iPhones each year, Android releases on dozens of phones. Fragmentation of OS versions is also a much bigger problem on Android.
The end result?
Even on top of the line Android devices, some apps can run into a greater degree of jank and lock up more often (but still not too frequently under normal circumstances).
Apple also has the benefit of a unified approach to stock apps and services (AirDrop, Siri, and iMessage are prominent examples).
Varying levels of optimization
While iOS has the upper hand in terms of its ecosystem, there still exists disparate levels of optimization between iPhone and Android.
Many apps like Snapchat and Instagram perform better on iPhone, but you’ll also find cases where an Android app is superior to its iOS counterpart.
One example where I’ve found this to be true was when comparing Today Weather on my OnePlus 6 to my girlfriend’s iPhone X. For some reason, the time to load was much longer on her phone.
What causes differences in app speeds?
This will mostly come down to the attention given to either platform and is why the speed difference between either platform is ambiguous.
Many apps are developed with iOS in mind, but there are still some that perform better on Android.
And then there are those, like Pokémon Go, which could use a greater level of optimization on both.
Grasping at straws
When it comes down to it, both flagship Android and iOS devices are specced far above the requirements of most modern apps. The last 5 years of mobile devices has brought maturation over advancement, and leaps in performance have slowed as a result.
There are differences in speed if you go looking for them, but much of the difference between the two platforms is a result of optimization and fluid animations. In either case, the iPhone usually bests Android devices.
iPhones also pull ahead in terms of long term support. Those using the overkill A13 Bionic today will be able to faithfully use iOS through 5 years of updates. Android devices usually top out at 3 years of OS updates in comparison.
Modern flagship devices offer performance well above what is required by today’s apps. What will be the next step to push mobile computing to its limits? If Apple’s interests are anything to go by, AR seems to be the likely driver of innovation.
In terms of aging performance, OnePlus, Pixel, and iPhone devices seem to do the best at maintaining fluidity and time to launch. The A13 Bionic is and will remain a beast of a chip for years to come, but the Snapdragon 865 is no slouch either. On the Android side, minimized “skinning” and a manufacturer’s promptness at squashing bugs lends itself to the lowest level of performance degradation.
It’s anyone’s guess whether resource intensive features like AR will create more noise in the global app market in the near term, but at this time siding based on performance is a matter of picking the strengths of either platform.