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Android vs. iPhone: What’s Best for Security?

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Certain brands have achieved that rare golden ring of customer loyalty–some would say blind loyalty–to the point that people are so attached to their phone brand they remain in denial about the growing dysfunction in their relationship (hello R-Patz and K-Stew) and they stay together because they feel it has become part of their identity.

The cult of personality

iPhone fans have been known to be a bit cult-like. An article in Vice points out “when Jobs first attached his personality to a tech company in the early days of Apple, it was an entirely novel approach. That choice made computers seem intimate rather than impersonal and contributed to Apple becoming one of the richest corporations on the planet—and when Jobs died in 2011, millions of people worldwide mourned.” 

But here’s the kicker:

In addition to Apple and Jobs being a brand customers were excited about, Apple additionally has achieved a near-monopoly with its ecosystem of devices, that compel you to continue to buy within the iPhone family so your tablet will be compatible with your phone, which will be compatible with your computer–not to mention the thousands of songs in your iTunes library. So in many ways, if you’ve gone down the road and been an Apple customer for five or ten years, switching over to Android can be a nightmare.

According to the Pew Research Center, 81% of Americans have a smartphone, and the average user reportedly (obsessively??) checks his or her phone more than 50 times a day. We use apps, pay bills, and do more banking online than ever before.

So what does this all mean?

We’re basically trying to maintain our privacy while carrying around devices connected to the internet that can always pinpoint where we are. And now that most of us have tons of personal data on our phones both Android and iPhone know it’s imperative to be highly competitive to get (or keep) a security edge in the world of cellular devices.

When it comes to deciding which is more secure–Android or iPhone–these are some factors to consider:

Who are you, and what do you need?

There are all different kinds of customers, each with unique security needs, from diplomats, presidents, high-level executives on down to parents, teens, children, celebrities, social media stars, and yes, your grandmother.
In a viral Jimmy Fallon video, President Obama talks about how he thought he was pretty special with his Blackberry–belt clip and all–and then Secret Service lets him know he’s getting an upgraded phone (which turned out to be a major downgrade.) “I get the thing, and they’re all like, ‘Well, Mr. President, for security reasons … it doesn’t take pictures, you can’t text, the phone doesn’t work, … you can’t play your music on it…Basically, it’s like, does your three-year-old have one of those play phones?”

Parents worried about their kids now having access to the internet on their phones should absolutely take extra precautions. They can download apps such as kidzsearch for iOS devices or Android devices. Parents can explore internet filtering software, which can also be activated on smartphones.

According to Statista.com, Smartphones running the Android operating system held an 87 percent share of the global market in 2019. The mobile operating system developed by Apple (iOS) has a 13 percent share of the market. Virus writers, hackers, and cybercriminals, therefore, tend to focus on targeting Android to have the biggest impact. 

Hardware, Software

The major difference in looking at the phone security comparison is that Apple’s software is exclusive to its hardware, whereas Android phones are open source–anyone can make a phone based on android operating system, and customers have a choice of providers and apps. 

Apple’s operating system is a closed system. According to an article on Norton.com, Apple does not release its source code to app developers, and people who purchase iPhones and iPads cannot modify the code on their phones. 

SO what does this mean?

Hackers find it extremely challenging to find vulnerabilities on iOS-powered devices.

Android devices are different in that they rely on open-source code. If you own one of these devices you can actually tinker with the operating system on your tablet and phone. This kind of tinkering opens owners up to weakening their phone’s security. 

Then there are manufacturers themselves. If a phone maker markets a new device with a modification to the Android operating system and there’s a vulnerability in that code, it is then compromised.

A recent article in the New York Times highlights the escalating battle between the justice department and Apple on the subject of personal privacy vs. public safety. When known terrorists have shared information on their iPhones and the FBI and the Justice Department can’t access the information, it’s so well-encrypted it is basically bullet-proof. This is great for customers and bad for a pissed-off attorney general. Apple services like FaceTime, iMessage, and iCloud use considerable encryption to protect data traveling to and from your phone and data stored on Apple’s servers.

Sneak Attack Apps

Apps are some of the biggest culprits creating a security breach on your phone, and Androids are far more susceptible to this than iPhone because the process of vetting the apps is far more stringent at Apple. Apple reviews all apps submitted to the App Store before they’re published so completely that very few apps with malware have ever actually made it to the App Store. 

Google’s process of publishing apps is far less stringent. You can submit an app to Google Play and have it available to users in a couple of hours, so the level of vetting is very limited. According to Computer World, the best way to keep malware off your Android gadget is to only get apps from the Google Play store; even so, Google reports that 0.16% of all apps contain malware.

The same goes for iOS. It’s best to go to the Apple App Store to avoid inadvertently downloading an infected app. 

What you should (and shouldn’t be) doing:

Jailbreaking

“Jailbreaking” your iPhone or rooting your Android has a number of appealing benefits, like allowing you to customize your phone, improve battery life, or download unapproved apps. But think twice before you do it. “Jailbreaking your phone can cause it to become more open to hackers, too, which could really be devastating,” security analyst Robert Siciliano said in an article in Business Insider.

Steps you can take

It’s critical, no matter what type of phone you use to do everything that you can do on your end to protect your security. Apps like Burner and Firewall protect against hackers, unwanted callers, and annoying salespeople from having access to your phone. 

Update your ios!

OK, those notices can be annoying but if you want to help keep your devices safe, always upgrade your mobile devices to the latest version of the Android OS or Apple iOS. These updates contain the latest protection against security threats on your phone. The best practice is to turn on automatic updating on your mobile device so it’s one less thing you need to worry about.  

What’s the bottom line?

Well, for all the above reasons, the winner is: iPhone! Which will make all of you in the Apple cult feel very proud of yourselves. 

As for the 87% of the world using Android phones, most will go about their day satisfied with the old, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” assurance. Security breaches can happen on any kind of device, but by and large, the average Android user is happy to stay in the Android family, so that vote of confidence says the satisfaction rate all around is pretty high. Switching over to one camp or the other at this point is a pretty extreme move, usually motivated by a big vote of thumbs-down on the service, otherwise, it’s business as usual with the competition continuing for these cutthroat competitors to stay on top of their game and come up with innovations to see who might blow the other one out of the water in the years to come.

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