Everything You Needed to Know about iPhones

Few devices in the history of technology have earned the kind of admiration and derision that Apple Inc.’s iPhone can claim. Hardcore iPhone fans are legion, citing the series’ industry-leading product design, simplified user experience, seamless integration with other Apple devices and services, and the alleged reliability of both the iPhone’s hardware and software. Critics, on the other hand, point to the iPhone’s price tag, lack of customization options, and comparatively old technology compared the latest Android offers.

Of course, the truth is far more complicated than that. What is clear though, is that people who ultimately decide to go with an iPhone tend to report being satisfied. On the other hand, there is also an element of truth with regard to the many criticisms leveled against Apple with regards to its design and marketing philosophies as well as the actual features of their phones.

Before we can explore which one is “better” for you, it’s important to look at the context with which Apple’s iconic phones have been made and conceived.

History

Today, the iPhone is undoubtedly an important part of our culture. No one says “the Samsung” or “the Android” after all. This is a testament to Apple’s efforts in creating an incredibly unique and powerful brand.

However, there are many misconceptions about the iPhone and its role as a smartphone pioneer. For instance, contrary to what many might believe, the first iPhone was not the first smartphone. The distinction goes to IBM’s Simon Personal Communicator, which was released to the public in early April 1994, and was the first consumer device to combine a cellular phone with a handheld computer or PDA. The Simon had features one might consider to be central to any “smartphone”, including a touch screen, personal information management and computing capabilities, and most importantly, telephony. Several dozens of devices that could be called smartphones were in fact, available for purchase in the 13 years before the iPhone was first unveiled, many of them with internet capabilities.

The seeds of the iPhone’s success were sowed around 2003 when Apple CEO Steve Jobs expressed a belief to his designers that that current PDA’s and desktop computers were not good enough in terms of their fundamental layout and design, and their role as markets for Apple to invest in. Rather, Jobs instead held a belief that cell phones would play a more important role in the way people communicated in the future. Apple was notably a leader in the PDA market with their Newton MessagePad and was also investigating ways to improve touchscreens and was already on the way towards developing the device that would later become the iPad.

Steve Jobs immediately understood the implications an improved touchscreen and “humanized” layouts pioneered by Chief Design Officer Jonathan Ive would have for his envisioned smartphone and he had Apple engineers working on the iPad integrate the touchscreen technology in what would become the iPhone. This also had the effect of slightly delaying the iPad, which would also prove extremely influential in its own right.

After four years of difficult and much-hyped development, the first iPhone was unveiled in mid-2007, forever changing the landscape of both computing a communications technology forever. The iPhone’s features, including a groundbreaking easy-to-use touchscreen, industry-leading user interface, its decent (for the time) camera and integration with Apple’s iTunes caused shockwaves in the industry and forced other cellphone makers in the same market space to make essentially their own versions of the iPhone.

The template laid out by the iPhone was one that virtually every cellphone maker followed, at all price points. Even if you don’t own a genuine Apple iPhone today, chances are you still using a phone or some other piece of technology that was massively influenced by the effects of Steve Job’s design briefs to Apple engineers way back in 2003.

What makes Apple’s iPhones special?

Even Apple’s detractors have to admit that there is something quite different about iPhones compared to their competing products. Every phone released is sold as a premium product, which is quite different from how Android phones are typically sold.

As of writing, there have been 14 smartphones in Apple’s iPhone series, with five sold today. In order of release, they are the iPhone 6S (Plus), iPhone SE, iPhone 7 (Plus), iPhone 8 (Plus), iPhone X. At the time of the release of each model, each was deemed somewhat like Apple’s “top-of-the-line” for each generation. In a way, you can say that Apple only releases high-end phones, with their older phones becoming mid-tier only as technology marches forward.

This is in contrast to competitors with Android phones such as Samsung, Oppo, Vivo and others that typically release a release a range of markedly different products at different price points. They will usually cater to high-end customers, value-oriented customers, and those who just want something cheap that works. When Apple does attempt price variation, you are still essentially getting the same phone each time, but with slightly different terms on a contract, a slightly bigger screen, different amounts of memory, or other minor feature variations.

Thus you can make an argument that regardless of specs or actual performance, each iPhone is intended to be sold a premium, high-quality offer. The other brands, on the other hand, have a wide variety of offers that could be anywhere from bottom-of-the-barrel to premium, which in turn can easily dilute the brand’s prestige.

The iPhone lifestyle

Apple, of course, is the only company that designs and sells iPhones. But it definitely does not stop there. Apple’s marketing also doesn’t just offer a communications device. More than perhaps any other technology brand, it sells an exclusive lifestyle. Even their devices and iOS operating systems are exclusive, closed systems, with each update meticulously controlled to fit Apple’s own standards.

Android and other systems such as Windows, on the other hand, are incredibly open by contrast, creating an environment that’s conducive for app development and direct modifications to how the phone operates. This can create a more inclusive overall feel for non-iOS systems or a more free-wheeling environment users may like or dislike.

The perception of this so-called lifestyle and their closed systems can carry a lot of appeal for many users that simply want a nice device that works when they want it. It may, however, frustrate those who want something that offers a bit more than Apple’s closed systems permit them.

Basic specs

Specs can give you a good picture of a phone’s capabilities. While there are many limitations to what a simple specs comparison can tell you, they’re often enough to give you some idea of how a machine will run. In the following rundown, we’ll give you the main specs of all the currently sold iPhone models.

All the iPhones below are capable of running the latest versions of iOS. We decided not to include too many specific hardware specs and instead, we focused on the four major criteria most valued by iPhone users.

iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus

Display

The 6s Plus, the larger version of the oldest iPhone on this list features a 5.5 in (140 mm) Retina HD screen with an LED-backlit IPS LCD with a 1920 × 1080 pixel resolution (401 PPI), with Dual Ion Exchange strengthened glass and 3D Touch. The smaller 6S features 4.7 in (120 mm) and a 1334 × 750 pixel resolution (326 PPI) along with the same tech and features of its bigger counterpart.

3D touch is notable in that it allows the phone to sense differences in the pressure of a user’s touch. Compared to the similar Force Touch technology used previously on the Apple Watch, 3D touch offers more sensitivity. Apple’s Taptic Engine vibrator is mated to this system to provide responsive feedback.

Camera

The iPhone 6S’s main camera is a Sony Exmor RS IMX315 12 MP (1.22 μm). This camera features true-tone flash, autofocus, IR filter, burst mode, and a f/2.2 aperture. Both phones are capable of recording 4K video at 30 fps or 1080p at 30 or 60 fps. Other features include slow motion, timelapse with stabilization, panorama (up to 63 megapixels), digital image stabilization, and facial recognition. The 6S Plus also offers optical image stabilization.

The front camera is somewhat less exciting, but still full-featured, with a 5 MP resolution, burst mode, f/2.2 aperture. For those who’re really into selfies and vlogging, the front camera also features exposure control, face detection, auto-HDR, 1080p HD video recording, and Retina flash.

Battery

This is probably where the 6S falls flat, as the 2750 mAh Battery on the Plus and the 1715 mAh for the regular-sized model have both been the subject of much criticism for their short battery life and unexpected shutdowns. Since these issues became apparent, Apple has offered support for battery replacements and random shutdowns.

Security

While iPhones are typically known to have fewer issues than equivalent Android phones in general, there is a known bug with the iPhone 6S that allows access to your contacts and photos should an unwanted party gain physical control of your phone. The hacker could use Siri to easily bypass your lock screen or Touch ID and look through your contacts list as well as your photos. Overall though, the security suite and support for the phone are quite capable even today.

iPhone SE

Display

The next oldest iPhone on the list also has one of the smallest displays on the current lineup. It’s kind of a throwback to the older generations of iPhones that had Steve Jobs’ input, where the ability to effectively reach every part of the screen with your thumb was deemed more important than sheer screen real estate. The iPhone SE’s display is sized 4.0 in (100 mm) with a regular Retina Display, LED-backlit IPS LCD, and a 1136 × 640 pixel resolution (326 PPI).

Camera

The 12-megapixel rear-facing camera is a Sony Exmor RS 12 MP (1.22 μm), like the 6S. It has many of the same features, including a dual-tone LED flash, autofocus, IR filter, burst mode, f/2.2 aperture, 4K video recording.

The front camera has all of the same features as the older 6S, albeit with a lower resolution. The camera is rated at 1.2 MP, f/2.4 aperture and features an exposure control, face detection, auto-HDR, Retina Flash, as well as 720p video recording. While still pretty good, this is quite outdated compared to most cameras featured on mid-range to premium phones today.

Battery

Upon release, the iPhone SE has had rave reviews for its battery life. While the battery is a relatively modest 1560 mAh to 1624 mAh, it was a definite improvement over the past few generations of iPhones that were criticized for their longevity. It’s not the best battery life on the market, but it holds its own compared to many other premium smartphones even today.

Security

At the time of its release, the iPhone SE represented Apple’s commitment towards better security for its products. It features Touch ID to secure your phone or to secure your Notes app.

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus

Display

The iPhone 7 and iPhone Plus still has the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch display pioneered on the iPhone 6S. The iPhone 7 Plus has an identical screen size and resolution as the iPhone 6S — 5.5 in (140 mm) and 1920 × 1080 pixels. However, it’s able to display a much wider color gamut and has markedly more brightness. The iPhone 7 has a slightly smaller 4.7 in (120 mm) Retina HD: LED-backlit IPS LCD, a 1334×750 pixel resolution (326 PPI), and also features the wider color gamut of its bigger counterpart.

Camera

The cameras on both versions of the iPhone 7 represent a huge improvement over previous models. A newer version of the 12 MP Sony Exmor RS with f/1.8 aperture is on both the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, with the iPhone 7 getting a dual-lensed version. The biggest difference is the six-element lens and the quad-LED “True Tone” flash which together provide a noticeably superior performance to previous generations of iPhone cameras, with more lifelike colors and finer details. The camera also features an IR filter, Burst mode, 4K video recording at 30 fps and slow-motion video among others. The iPhone7 Plus also has a telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom and f/2.8 aperture, thanks to the space allowed by its larger size.

Vloggers and selfie hounds will appreciate the full-featured front camera. Both versions of the iPhone 7 have a 7 MP, f/2.2 aperture camera, featuring all the bells and whistles of the previous generations of front-facing iPhone cameras.

Battery

Both versions of the iPhone 7 were praised for their long battery life, compared to previous generations of iPhone as well as that of many Android competitors. The iPhone 7 Plus’s 2,900 -3,100 mAh battery was especially welcomed for it long life despite the device’s phablet size.

Security

The iPhone 7 continues Apple’s legacy of providing excellent security for its devices. No bugs have been reported to have caused any major security issues specific to the iPhone 7. The inclusion of Touch ID fingerprint identification also adds a tougher layer of security to the iPhone than was possible on previous generations of smartphones.

iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus

Display

The iPhone 8 also similarly comes in two sizes, and two correspondingly sized screens based off the technology on the iPhone 6S. The smaller iPhone 8 packs a 4.7 in (120 mm) display in Retina HD: LED-backlit IPS LCD with a 1334×750 pixel resolution (326 PPI), while its big brother the iPhone 8 Plus has the 5.5 in (140 mm) Retina HD: LED-backlit IPS LCD with a 1920×1080 pixel resolution (401 PPI) of the previous generation of iPhones. The pressure-sensitive 3D Touch technology is still integrated into these two phones, along with Apple’s dual-ion exchange-strengthened glass.

Camera

The front and back cameras of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are essentially the same as those featured on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, respectively — the 12 MP Sony Exmor RS with f/1.8 aperture, with a dual lens version on the bigger Plus models. The major difference is that the iPhone 8 Plus now has a wide angle lens that makes it able to “capture more” of a scene, so to speak. The 2x optical zoom telephoto lens of the iPhone 7 Plus is also retained on the iPhone 8 Plus.

Battery

The batteries on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are rated at 1821 mAh and 2691 mAh respectively, which is quite a bit less than the previous iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. However, thanks to updated battery management, users report similar lifespans. This means you will probably have a decent amount of charge left at the end of a working day, assuming you leave home on a full charge.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are also notable for being the first iPhones to have wireless charging. If you’ve never tried wireless charging before, it’s definitely something you will never want to be without in the future.

Security

Assuming you have the latest version of iOS, the iPhone 8 features the same level of security millions all over the world praise Apple for. It features Touch ID, Find My iPhone, two-factor authentication and a host of other features that make Apple a leader for smartphone security.

iPhone X

Display

The latest iPhone as of writing features a 5.8 in (150 mm) display with Super Retina HD: AMOLED with a 2436×1125 pixel resolution (458 PPI). The phone features the same True Tone technology that debuted on the iPad Pro that uses light sensors to dynamically adjust the screens white balance to ambient light, making for incredibly accurate colors and a more readable display. These displays, however, have a known issue related to “burn-in” where traces of an image stay on screen even when a different image is displayed.

This is notably the first iPhone with a near “bezel-less” design that a does away with the “chin” that houses the home button. A notch that houses the phone’s sensors at the top of the display is the only notable element intruding into the display.

Camera

The camera setup on the iPhone X is quite similar to the iPhone 8 Plus, with both featuring dual cameras, with one being the main 12-megapixel wide-angle camera with f/1.8 aperture and the other being a telephoto lens capable of 2x optical zoom. While the telephoto lens is reportedly slightly faster on the iPhone X, among many minor almost inconsequential differences, the main difference is that the iPhone X’s two front-facing cameras both feature optical image stabilization, where the iPhone 8 Plus only had this feature on the main camera. Depending on whom you ask, the iPhone X camera reportedly has better function in low light conditions.

Similar to all versions of the iPhone 7 and 8, a 7-megapixel f/2.2 aperture camera is mounted in the front, capable of taking videos in 1080p HD. A number of new portrait features for all the cameras make it possible to recreate many effects that you would expect to see on a full-sized SLR camera.

Battery

The iPhone X comes with a 2716 mAh battery, which while reportedly able to give a decent enough performance, has been consistently ranked below the iPhone 8 and iPhone 7 in terms of battery life. The wireless charging is a nice plus though, and it helps offset the annoyance of a mediocre battery lifespan.

Security

The iPhone X was the first to feature the much talked about Face ID, a biometric security feature which promises both convenience and higher levels of data protection. Quite remarkably, it even works in total darkness.

However, there are concerns that Face ID can be used to compromise the contents of your phone if assailants or law enforcement officials direct the phone at the owner’s face. At least one mask maker was reportedly able to penetrate Face ID’s security, albeit with a significant amount of difficulty. Face ID also has some difficulties distinguishing between identical twins, siblings with similar features, and children below 13 years of age.

However, you can also just use a passcode, though that also has its own problems. In any case, most of these problems are merely theoretical, given that Face ID and other similar facial recognition technology is still relatively new in this application.

 

Comparison to Android phones

Even though we still have a few current phones running on Linux or other operating systems here and there, it’s quite understandable that the conversation around smartphones revolves around Apple’s iPhone and iOS and their several Android-based competitors. Taken together, iOS and Android comprise around 99% of the mobile computing market, now that Windows has now bowed out of the game.

While the iPhone used to be the undisputed king of the luxury smartphone market, the current lineup of iPhones and the top-of-the-line Android devices from various manufacturers are now matched quite closely both price and spec-wise. Further complicating any attempt at comparison is the fact that both platforms are marketed towards a different set of users, even as they compete at the premium market.

Given this, any comparison has to be taken with a grain of salt and heavily contextualized, and there will be inevitable disagreements as to what platform does a certain thing better. Nevertheless, based on the general consensus, we compiled some advantages and disadvantages Apple’s current lineup of iPhones has over current premium Android offers.

 

Where do iPhones beat their premium Android equivalents?

Device integration

Apple is head and shoulders above their competition at providing a seamless experience across all their devices. Apple, of course, is the only company that makes iPhones, while a host of different companies such as Samsung, HTC, Oppo, Vivo, and many others make Android-based devices. Very few of these other companies also make computers, and of those that do, few of them have a strong enough emphasis on device integration, save perhaps Samsung, Sony, and Lenovo.

Apple by contrast, makes a full range of devices, including watches, tablets, and workstations that are highly integrated with each other. This integration is so slick, you sometimes don’t realize it’s there. Android devices on the other hand, are not always as easily integrated, especially when you’re using gear from different manufacturers. Even if you do have for example, a laptop, smart watch, and phone from one manufacturer, the experience of every other competitor’s product suite at this time simply does not showcase the seamlessness and attention to detail Apple products have in terms of integration.

Speed/ Responsiveness

While both are very recent releases, iOS 12 – which is still in Public Beta as of writing — continues to offer superior memory management to Android 9.0 Pie. Apple’s meticulous attention to user experience tends to offer a snappier experience for many users even if iPhones often lag behind their Android counterparts when it comes to raw specs. iPhones also don’t tend to have unwanted bloatware or ill-considered updates like their Android counterparts, which tends to keep them relatively zippy throughout their lifespan.

Customer support

Android devices are made by a large number of companies, and the service levels and qualifications of each can vary. This makes getting a phone serviced if something goes wrong somewhat of a gamble. Apple, on the other hand, has certified personnel who can help you with your device at every Apple store. This makes the customer service experience more consistent, though not necessarily better in other aspects. This, however, can mean a great deal for someone who finds themselves frequently on the move.

Resale value

iPhones of any given generation will, without a doubt, hold their value much better than an equivalent Android. The exceptional ability of a used iPhone to hold their value is somewhat unique in the electronics market and is a testament to Apple’s marketing prowess. While a comparable high-end Android device might lose half its resale value over the course of a year, an iPhone may only lose 20-30% of its value in most instances.

Security

Apple is not the only company to offer facial recognition or fingerprint identification as a means to prevent unwanted access to your devices. However, malware is an ever-present danger regardless of the platform you use. On the other hand, with Apple’s closed system and infamously strict guidelines for app developers, it’s quite rare that an iPhone will be subject to a malware attack, compared to their Android counterparts. Malware issues are so infrequent on iPhones that many people erroneously believe that this is in fact due to some inherent immunity on the devices.

This is, of course, untrue. There have been a number of isolated attacks on iOS devices, but the vast majority of malware is created for Android devices. This is simply because the openness of Android and the sheer number of users makes it far more conducive to these kinds of events.

Quality of apps

Android users today have access to around 3.8 million apps, with thousands added each day. Apple’s App Store, on the other hand, have access to around 2 million apps, with new apps being added at a slower, though still healthy pace after a small decline early in 2018. Apps available for iOS, however, tend to follow much stricter guidelines compared to Android. This results in far fewer apps on iOS being total duds or outright dangerous to your device compared to Android.

Basic user experience

iPhones have a reputation for being so simple to use, even your great-grandmother could use them. They are in fact, consistently the highest-rated smartphones among seniors. People who just want a nice phone that always works may appreciate the attention to basic user experience typical of iPhones. While Android phones may occasionally have a “simple mode” or apps that allow them to function in a similar fashion, few if any can deliver the headache-free out of the box experience nearly any iPhone can deliver.

Calls and messaging

Contact layouts are just so much more simplified on the iPhone. FaceTime also makes the iPhone just an all-around more delightful device for video calls compared to Google Hangouts and other equivalent Android apps.

Gaming

The same attention to quality that gives iOS users better apps also tends to result in more polished games being consistently available for iPhone users. The latest versions of iOS as of writing also arguably has better memory management compared to the latest versions of Android, which results in a snappier feel. While there are certainly quite a few very formidable Android gaming rigs out there, the general consensus is today’s iPhones tend to deliver a superior gaming experience.

Operating system support

iOS updates are almost invariably well-timed, consistent, and useful. Timely updates are critical for getting the newest fixes for bugs and most timely security updates. Apple also makes it so much easier to get the latest version of iOS, resulting in widespread adoption. According to Mixpanel, Close to 89.82% of all iPhones in current use run the newest available version of iOS, where only 0.5% of Android users run 8.1 Oreo, according to the official Android developer site. So few Android users run Android 9.0 Pie, it’s not even on the site as of writing.

Where do they fall short of their competition?

Screen size

If you want a bigger screen, you’ve got to go with a premium Android option. While the iPhone X Plus’s 5.5-inch screen is nothing to sneeze at, it’s dwarfed by the offers at the same price point from nearly every Android phone maker. If you find yourself needing to watch a lot of videos on your phone for some reason, an Android phone or phablet might be better suited for your needs.

AI assistants

Google has invested way more resources into artificial intelligence than Apple. As a result, Google Assistant features a much more capable AI than Apple’s Siri. By almost every metric for AI, Google Assistant blows Siri out of the water. If you’re an iPhone user, you can even check this out for yourself, as a version of Google Assistant for iOS is now available in the Apple App Store.

Cloud services

While iCloud is incredibly slick and seamless, Google Drive just does more and does it better.  It integrates with a massive number of services and applications and has the capability to replace virtually any standard work application such as those on MS Office. It also features a massive amount of storage, making it much more appealing for power users.

Sheer choice of apps

While Apple may edge out Android on the relative quality of available apps, Android is better able to serve a much wider range of niches. With almost twice more apps on Google Play Store than on Apple’s App Store and a superior app side-loading experience, you’re definitely spoiled for choice if you choose an Android device.

Battery life

One main complaint about iPhones is how much of a pain it is to swap out your batteries with a better rated one, due to the way they’re constructed. Many users often find that most iPhones struggle to get through a day of use, though models such as the iPhone SE and iPhone 7 are reputed to be able to last more than a day of reasonable use, provided the batteries are still fresh.

There are certainly plenty of power-hungry Android phones, including a few that similarly prevent the user from swapping out a battery. However, there remains a huge selection of Android phones that feature easily swappable, high-performance batteries.

Peripherals options

USB connectors are far more common than Apple’s proprietary Lightning connectors, being available in virtually every home. For instance, your television set probably has a USB port you can use charge an Android device, as do many modern power extension cords. Far more peripherals also use USB than Lightning, giving Android users a superior range of choices for peripherals to use with their devices. Peripherals that use a Lightning connector are far less common and tend to be more expensive for the same function as well.

Advanced user experience/ Customizability

If you’re in the habit of tweaking stuff to better suit your specific needs, you’ll probably enjoy owning an Android phone more than you would an iPhone. While it’s not impossible to have advanced customization for an iPhone, the platform simply isn’t built to make this easy, and results are often unsatisfying. Android, on the other hand, was made to be tinkered with from the get-go, making Android phones the ideal choice for mods and tweaks, if you so desire.

Maps

After an infamously rocky start, Apple Maps has now somewhat improved these days. It still does not offer the functionality and reliability of Google Maps, though this may change if Apple continues to make strides. One notable feature of Google Maps is its offline accessibility, which is critical for a map application in places with spotty internet connections.

Bang for buck

As we explained earlier, every iPhone is marketed as a premium product. For the sake of better contextualization, only high-end Androids in the same general price range will be compared with iPhones for the purposes of this article.

However, it’s notable that most luxury phone options that go beyond these general price ranges are in fact, Android phones. On the other hand, when comparing iPhones to Android phones within their own price ranges, the general consensus is that those Android phones offer a wider range of functionality and better specs, at least on paper. Android phones meant to compete head-to-head with iPhones also tend to be slightly cheaper, though this is now less true than it was a few years ago.

Where are they on par?

Hardware

iPhones are consistently made with industry-leading manufacturing techniques out of premium materials, which gave them an edge for many years when it came to general hardware quality. These days, however, that could only be said when comparing them to Android phones targeted at the lower and midrange market. Android phones meant to go head to head against Apple products will tend to feature similar attention to detail in their materials and construction and come with hardware comparable in quality to what’s featured in Apple’s latest offers.

Connectivity

Android phones used to boast better internet connectivity thanks to their early adoption of 4G. Now that iPhones have been capable of 4G connections for more than half a decade, there’s not much of a difference anymore. These days the main factor for internet speed comes largely down to your service provider.

Bottom Line

More than a decade onward, the iPhone continues to pack an impressive list of features, though most of these are not necessarily linked to the sheer capability of the bundled hardware. The comparative reliability, seamless integration with Apple’s own suite of innovative devices, and exquisitely curated overall experience that comes with owning an iPhone have earned Apple legions of die-hard fans.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you won’t be just as happy or happier owning an Android device. As a matter of fact, a good number of power users own both iOS and Android devices, just because they enjoy what each has to offer. In any case, the vast majority of people who choose iPhones over Android equivalents tend to be satisfied with their purchases. It’s easy to see why.