Android collects ten times as much data as iOS because it offers 10x as much usability

Galaxy Note 9 with microSD card
Galaxy Note 9 with microSD card (Image credit: Android Central)

Anyone who knows me on even a casual level knows how much I value my privacy. I think of my personal data as currency, and since tech companies build billion-dollar businesses from data it's not worth a trivial amount. I also know that there isn't any feasible way to stay completely anonymous if I want to go online, pay my bills, buy something at Target or even drive a car. User data collection a by-product of living in 2018 that nobody can get away from. With all this in mind, I think every byte of data collected from me should be used to provide something for me. And this is why I use Google's products and services almost exclusively.

I hate the amount of data Google collects from me. Full stop. I think it's insane what they harvest as well as how they harvest it. But I love what they do with it.

Recently a report from Dr. Douglas C. Schmidt, Professor of Computer Science at Vanderbilt University — who happens to be very well-versed in Android — stated, among other things, that Android makes 10 times more data requests via Chrome, while idle, than iOS does. As expected, stories were furiously typed to fill out what makes for a great headline. This isn't a bad thing, as they also offer a chance for some great commentary from writers, pundits, and users.

From iMore: Android sucks 10x more data than iPhone

I've read the report and think it's well written, impeccably sourced, and factually sound. In other words, what Dr. Schmidt (no relation to former Google exec Eric Schmidt) says is absolutely true in my opinion. And that's great news if you like what Google offers for Android and iOS.

I know you're waiting to hear my explanation so you can roast or applaud in the comments (please, both are welcome) but a few misconceptions need to be cleared up first I think.

  • Frequency of data transfer is not equal to the amount of data transferred. 10 times as often is not 10 times as much.
  • Users on iOS also see background data being transferred on average of 10 times per hour (compared to 40 times per hour on Android).
  • You agreed to this data transfer when you installed Chrome (on iOS) or first used Chrome on your Android phone.
  • Dr. Schmidt's paper wasn't about privacy violations, it was about data transfers.

Schmidt's tone may suggest he isn't at all pleased with how much data Chrome sends to Google on Android. If I were tasked with writing the same paper, my tone would be similar. It's good to be concerned about your data and where it goes, no matter how benign you might think that data is. But what we all get in return for that data can't be ignored in any discussion about how or how much of it is going to Google. Apple wins the contest of transferring data less frequently in almost all areas, but it also wins the prize for last place in usefulness when it comes to Siri or Apple Music recommendations. These two things go hand in hand and is why iPhone users install and love Google's services.

You can log into my Chromebook and Google Assistant is able to help you because of data collection.

Google collecting data helps improve the company's bottom line. Google is not a smartphone company or even a search company. It is an online advertising company, one that happens to employ talented people who build amazing products and services that most everyone loves. Google collecting user data means you can get travel information and see which bar is the best and know if you should take a surfboard or rain jacket when you visit Hatteras next weekend. This isn't a case where some folks down the street are keeping tabs on you — it's a giant company collecting anonymized user data and having computer algorithms sort through it. There is nobody at Google who has a job reading your browser history. Nobody wants to have a job reading your browser history.

Google collects data about the places you visit, and will even ask you about the service and value of services. It can then share this data in Google Maps, or remind you of the last time you visited if you go to the same place or search for information about that place. If you freely contribute to ratings or surveys, it can share that data with others who might not have ever been there. Google looks for trends in your browser history and once specific subjects are stripped away can use this data to show you ads for products that are relevant or suggestions when you ask Assistant to see places to eat in Cape Hatteras. And if you don't want any of this, you can shut it all off by simply reading instead of shouting at the internet.

Nothing here should surprise anyone. Google makes it very clear that it pulls a lot of data about you if you use its services — you can't sign up for any of them without it being pushed right in your face to read and agree to. They also are very transparent about how your data is collected and used, how it's stored, and how you can change your mind and take it all back. This is drastically different from the form letter (opens in new tab) I had to fill out to see what Apple has collected about me over the years; yes, Apple collects data from users, too. So does Microsoft, and Samsung, and LG. Read those agreements when you buy a phone or a computer or a smart television and you'll be surprised.

In the end, you have to decide if the service provided is worth the price you pay. Sometimes, with products like a Google Home or Android phone, that price is a lot of your data. Other times, it's money and a little bit of your data. In both cases you are the product — one company just thinks your data is worth more than the other.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

71 Comments
  • Well said Jerry. Even at 10x that's a low-ball number. And the overall media narrative omits that the carrier is amalgamating as much of this data as well which we have even less visibility and control over.
  • "Android collects ten times as much data as iOS because it offers 10x as much usability" The problem with using that sort of hyperbole is that it diminishes the credibility and objectivity of the entire article.
  • What about BlackBerry, the supposed champion of user privacy and security? They require you to give access to all permissions to use their services, and their terms of services state they collect user data as well...
  • much better than Android and ios in my personal experience!
  • Yeah much better. On a BlackBerry Android device: Google
    TCL
    BlackBerry All collect your data.
  • It's all true like you said even on a blackberry Android device. At the end of the day I can give two shots if Google wants my data if I am going to get better products and services tailored to my needs collect all the data that you want.
  • I hope the EU goes nuts and breaks up Google/Android at least to the point where it's possible to compete again. Before Google started cheating, there was vibrant competition in the market place. You had iOS, WebOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry, whatever Nokia was up to, and everyone was trying to catch up to Apple. Because of Google's aggressive patent and copyright infringement (they literally stole Java), coupled with unfair tying and dumping (they took what they had stole and sold it below cost, tying it to their other profitable services), all other competitors were driven from the market. So now we live with 2 bad options. Do want to pay $1000 for a phone that costs $200 to assemble, or do you want to spend $300 for a $200 phone that's a bit more capable but Google will track everything you do every second of the day and the handset maker will make next to nothing. There is no other option. Thanks, Google.
  • Lol. Windows phone had no app support that's y they failed. Assembly isn't the only thing that goes into a phone price. And both Android and iPhones have other options if u want a cheaper phone.
  • What you just said doesn't make any sense whatsoever. For starters, phones that cost $1k did NOT cost $200 to assemble. The note 9 cost around $470 to assemble. Yes they're selling it at $1k but weather you like it or not that's just business. If they sold it for the same manufacturing cost, then they wouldn't make any money. Plus they did include some accessories which is more than what I can say for the iPhone X which only cost $370 to make. Second, price doesn't mean anything. You can buy a $1k phone and not be tracked by Google because Google play services wouldn't be installed on it. If you buy a phone with the Google play store/services already installed expect to be tracked by Google regardless of the price. And if you want a good phone but don't wanna spend a lot of money then buy an old flagship (bought a galaxy s7 for only $210)
  • Chaseyoboy. Points are proven when we use accurate and factual information. Being that I own the Galaxy Note 8 and the iPhone X, I can tell you how incorrect you are in comparison of the two devices. For starters, The iPhone X is designed, engineered, and provides specific functionality and features meant for those who also own a Mac. iOS is not at all meant to work as a standalone operating system. When MacOS and iOS are used as intended, MacOS being the main hub and iOS being the portable, on-the-go mobile OS That creates an excellent user experience. You have integration like no other. You have superior pro software that can't be matched for the most part. The age long debate is so annoying because it's obvious... Artists, Musicians, Digital design, audio engineering, Video Production, etc. Know Apples platform is unmatched in that way. There is no possible way to justify purchasing an iPhone if you don't own a Mac. Period. The iPhone X also comes with accessories, making it pretty obvious that I'm responding to an individual who really doesn't know. The iPhone X comes with a headphone adapter which allows users to plug any pair of headphones into the iPhone, also comes with a nice pair of earbuds, one Thunderbolt cable. As for Android, there is no question It is the only full fledged, self-sustaining Mobile OS along with the only one to have a full-blown Linux Kernel and Posix implementation. Android is best for those who do not have a PC/Laptop but need full functionality. Android also offers features that you simply won't find on any other mobile OS. To sum it up, Android is pretty much a computer in your pocket. iOS combined with MacOS gives users professional applications and seamless integration. Android is tailored for the geek superuser and can do almost anything. The only drawback is the applications/software for Android is about what you would expect from a GNU/Linux Distribution... Gets the job done with mostly open source software that is rough around the edges and lacking. For years, I worked on an operating system that would bring Android to the PC/Mac. Not mobile Android... More like Android/GNU! The new version of Android for the x86_64 architecture was meant to be the parent OS... The plan was to create the same exact functionality we find with MacOS/iOS. Only difference Is that Android is tailored towards superusers, devs, software engineers, etc.
  • 1. The earbuds are garbage (i own an iphone) and you get a lightning cable, not thunderbolt. 
  • I think you skipped a few classes back in school. Google is a US company, the EU cannot break them up (outside of the EU and even then most likely would lose that battle if they tried). Not to mention more goes into the price of a phone outside of just the manufacturing costs. And onto the claim about stealing Java, pretty sure courts ruled otherwise. Since you seem to be so knowledgeable, why don't you design your own phones and make them run how you want. You can use the AOSP code =)
  • Before you offend someone, make sure what you say is true. EU actually has the power to force Google to bend under EU competition law. Being a US company has nothing to do with respecting our laws (which some US companies do seem to have a problem with). If the Commission finds that splitting Android or Google in a couple divisions is the only way to go, they sure can try imposing that (although it will end up a major legal fight in front of CJEU.
  • Yes they can try to split them up in the EU, but that would be the only place, and even then would be a fight that even the EU most likely would not win. 
  • Lol that's like saying that OS2 and Lunux failed (in the consumer space) because Windows cheated. The market has spoken and it will only support 2 platforms as major players. On the PC that's Mac and Windows. On mobile it's Android and iOS. Windows Phone, Blackberry, and other more mobile OSs failed to gain marketshare because they didn't attracted app developers.
  • Mac a major player on PC? Have you seen their market share? Windows Phone had a 10% market share in the UK and something like 18% in Italy... Mac has no where near that...
  • Actually, that's exactly why Microsoft was sued in the early 1990s. Other companies couldn't gain traction and complained that they were cheating by installing IE explorer into Windows 95. And the Antitrust courts agreed.
  • And really Mac OS is basically Unix and very close to Linux. They skinned Unix and customized other parts of the code. The real differentiator are proprietary apps on Mac OS, not so much the software that supports those apps. So really there are two major OSs, Unix/Linux/Mac OS/Chrome, and Windows.
  • You seriously don't understand much about any of this do you?
  • >> there was vibrant competition
    That's an interesting interpretation but I have to take issue with this odd re-write of history. There was no real competition, it was IOS and then Android, and then outside of Blackberry there were just barely single digit market share contenders. Blackberry could have been a real player in the game but opted not to.
  • So in your statement, there was one clear winner, iOS, as everyone else was trying to catch up. Lol. That is exactly what happened, Android caught up and ate the leaders lunch. The others would have stayed around if they offered half the usability, and we're designed for cheap phones. With Android and iOS, you need a premium device. Windows phone and palm of could run on really inexpensive hardware and don't well, but those companies wanted a piece of the wrong pie. And if you had read Jerry's article you would know that Google is most likely getting a huge chunk of your information from an iOS device as well. There are flip phones and Windows PC's.
  • EU can't break up Google.
  • Because it's a US company I bet they'd like to try. They'd never try to break up a so called European monopoly.
  • I always enjoy these posts. I have zero illusions about the data driven world we live in. Knowledge is power (or at least peace of mind). I bought in to data sharing years ago and my world has yet to come crashing down. Thanks for continuing to put things into perspective Jerry.
  • Exactly. The alternative is having to pay (with actual money) for everything online. I'll gladly let Google use my information to serve me adds and relevant reminders.
  • Thing is with Android you do have the option to limit or at least reduce what Google is mining, such as disabling location history, I'm sure there is data still being collected for location but it can be reduced, even removed compared to iOS as far as I know. Unless anyone knows better? I would be interested to know :)
  • You can disable all location easily and clearly in ios
  • Thanks :) the more you know!
  • No android is not 10x better than ios nor are their apps 10x better. You can hsve all your infos and app and great features too between apple devices without collection of data! And please you know data collection is not just bout giving more to customers but to serve their ads business! That is one of the worst article i read here in a long time. « it also wins the prize for last place in usefulness when it comes to Siri or Apple Music recommendations«  Source? That’s just an opinion of an Android fan. Siri is not as useful as Assistant but is still underrated (it does useful thibgd right) as Assistant is overrated. Apple music is a great service too especially for apple users and it made me discover good songs every week
  • I use an iphone and Siri is garbage. Siri was leaps and bounds ahead of assistants years ago and apple sat back and let others surpass it. 
  • It is inferior to the Assistant but for the hasics (alarms, messaging, music,...) it is good. I am not sure those assistants are used much beyond this anyway
  • For the basics, a blackberry curve is just as good. Apple services are garbage. Siri being the biggest example.
  • Ok you convinced me with that irrefutable argument
  • Lol your example seems like a  poor use of assistants anyway. If all you are ever doing is those minor things, then yes, they all are pretty equal, but that is not the case in many instances, hence why Siri has fallen behind. 
  • Lol! Relax, mate .. It's an opinion piece, so yeah it's an opinion of an Android fan.
  • Lol sorry if it appeared a bit angry. It is an opinion but there are no arguments about why it sucks, just that it is made by apple...
  • He didn't make comparisons about the OS. Just hte amount of data collected from each.
  • Everything has its price. Right now, for me, the advantage of Google being able to locate any of my phones is worth letting them know where I am at any given time. If my husband ever learns how to use all its features, I may change my mind. ;-)
  • Ha! Jane, you win today. :)
  • Jane, every single iPhone, Watch, iPad, MacBook can be located for free via Find My iPhone (they forgot to rename it) without Apple collecting any data at all. You can log in on any of the aforementioned devices and use Siri, access all your personal data without it being analysed by Apple or shared with 3rd parties (e.g. Gmail). Data collection is not the price you pay for those features, they're free and can even be done without data leaving your phone (Google has recently started to invest into offline machine learning for Android and iOS). Believe in whatever but you don't have to pay with your privacy for those features. Just keep using your Android and forget this nonsense article.
  • And if you want to you can have just as private of an experience on an android device. Fact is convenience and quality of services are far better with Google services enabled.
  • No. You cannot turn off all the Google tracking, and what you can turn off sends you on a journey to the outback and back. Compress mess of nestedness with those menus and settings- designed specifically so that you can miss some.
  • I'm completely comfortable with Google's data collection practices. I actually a curated and granular technology experience. I want more A.I. and machine learning involved to help drive my user experience to be specific to my needs as possible. If in exchange for that Google wants to collect my anonymized user data for targeted marketing/advertising, sign me up ... twice!
  • The problem for me is not the amount of data, it's just that they aren't clear about what and when they are capturing. The news last week that showed it was still logging data when most users thought they had it turned off.
  • The 10x more usable is a lie and has been proven wrong. For starters it's been proven Android gets far more malware than iOS. It's also been proven android devices get far less updates than iPhones. It's also proven Android devices crash and freeze more often than iPhones do. iOS is more secure and has better privacy than Android. So this Android is 10x more usable has no facts to side with it. It actually contradicts the facts. The main argument android users come up with is you can customize android, yet what do 90% of Android users do who do things like tweak settings and use ROMs? They're making Android more like iOS by using ROMs that remove the bloatware and putting a pure version of Android on their device. They're turning off certain settings to make the settings more the default settings of iOS. And they use their devices exactly like iPhone users. So in the end Android is actually less usable than iOS because it offers a worse out of box experience. Let's not forget performance benchmarks favor iOS as well making the specs of Android's advantages very misleading.
  • Trolling much? lol
  • Lmao. What a bunch of drivel
  • I can't tell if you're serious or not
  • You might want to check this out. lol Iphones crash more than android devices. https://dazeinfo.com/2017/03/07/google-android-apple-ios-iphone-crash-fa... and this https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2012/02/02/does-ios-crash-more-t...
  • iOS 11 was pretty horrible stability wise. iOS 12 is a huge leap forward. I have been using the beta on my iPad and it is so much better than iOS 11. Apple users may not be getting a bunch of new features but the stability they have been know for will return in a big way with iOS12.
  • Android is pretty stable as well. Never had a virus and don't have any protection on my devices.
  • Actually I think both Apple and Google will in the near future - will blur the line in the amount of information being processed by AI or Machine Learning processes. Google - Android - will use it for advertising and Apple will use it to be more efficient. Actually I think they both want to be far more effective and efficient in servicing their client base. Just one, right now, has more of an immediate pay back option than the other. Feed the habit - what ever that may be - vacation, shopping, work, travel, hobbies etc. Tracking is set up to provide - support- for that endeavor. As a developer, that's what I would do. Any company that has enough tracking data on your personal location history, what you buy, where you stay, who your friends are, working relationships, professional relationships - can provide a pretty good profile. That can be used to provide a very good personal assistant or AI assistant for the house or work. As long as a specific company stays compliant with all of the security, I am good. That's all I care about. Share that data with other entities, and I am worrying about collusion, alternative motives, and general speculations that do not have my best interest as the main requisite in - their - empire.
  • * I would prefer * all of the personal data to be stored on a local chip, such as a SIM card etc. And have all of that data be processed by a localized AI chip within your phone. That way your personal assistant can go with you from device to device. An option would be to backup that data to the cloud. I truly like that scenario. That would benefit me. Can I see Google doing this? Possibly, but I sincerely doubt it. Apple could implement this, but I don't know their long term vision... I don't think we will ever stop the trail of breadcrumbs on the internet. But localized data can help immensely too.
  • I think that would be a great scenario and I actually can see a path to that. Critical part, though, Google's gotta decide to do their own silicone. Something similar to how they implement Visual Core, but more advanced obviously. I think Apple will definitely do it once they get their AI straightened out. They've got a bit of a long walk, but once they get there it will be something like what you've described.
  • Women shop at Target...
  • When I use iOS and android, android seems to use lesser mobile data. I’m not sure what iOS is doing but mobile data is generally more. Google is definitely ahead in useful data and been years ahead of suggestion like traffic and next action unlike iOS in the earlier versions. In iOS 12 the suggestions are improving and it might take apple a just few more years to hit what android does now. Sandboxing is what apple does best and they seem very careful on what apps and keyboards can read from your typing and copying. Apple as per usual is the slow coach but they are catching up and their groundwork on security is solid, no system level changes or reading, so text, locations are more seriously handled. It cripples the capabilities but when they do catch up enough it could be a compelling alternative. Until then android will always be far ahead.
  • 👍
  • A very well-written and objective article. Thanks!
  • Enjoying my BlackBerry devices running Android OS and the usefulness of Google. No complaints here. Bought an inexpensive Samsung Chromebook too, and love how everything is organized.
  • This is why standby times on Android phones are so horrible. I don’t like this. It is basically chaining me to iOS. I don’t really use Google services so I don’t want to participate in this for services I won’t use - even if I use the OS. Bad.
  • Turn some stuff off.
  • How about they just stop. I don’t feel the need to introduce more work managing a device that is supposed to exist to ease life’s burdens. And “then some stuff off” is really missing the point and misunderstanding the issue and how google collects data on these phones. Some of these components cannot be turned off, and some of the collection cannot be turned off.
  • I might be alone on this, but I would gladly pay a subscription to use Google services at a reasonable price to stay private. I don't like iOS and don't like Apple, so that's not an option.
  • Let the fan boys be disrespectful, come on...
  • Actually, Cortana is last, not Siri in terms of usefulness. In a recent study, Loup Ventures reports that Google Assistant answered 86% of questions correctly and understood all 800 questions. Siri was close behind, correctly answering 79% and only misunderstanding 11 questions. Alexa correctly answered only 61% and misunderstood 13. Cortana however, was the laggard, correctly answering just 52% and misunderstanding 19. Looks like even though Apple sucks ten times less personal data than Google, Apple's services are very close to Google Assistant at providing useful info after all.
  • Siri isn't supposed to be like Google Assistant. It's more akin to Bixby.
  • I find Google's data collection very useful - NOT. Every day when I get to work in a town about 25 minutes I get a notification telling me I am at work, as if I didn't know. I get this notification if I visit this town even at the weekend when I am not working. At work my phone tells me it is 25 minutes to home, even though I never go straight home but go to another town to pick up my daughter from work. When I pick my daughter up from work it tells me I am parked at the town's retail park, again like I didn't know. So Google knowing all this information about me is useless 99% of the time. And android does consume more data than iOS to let me know this useless information. Having only a small data package, meant that I would often have to turn off my data or I would run out for the month, I never have this problem on iOS. I have also set up Google cards to give me updates on my football team's scores. These mainly come through several hours after the match has finished, so I end up checking the scores in a sports app anyway.
  • Why not adjust the settings? Another thing Android is good at. Granularity.
  • This is the ONLY decent article that Jerry has written. That fact is Android is 10 times the platform iOS will ever be. Suck it iSheep.
  • No amount of features are worth the loss of any more privacy for me worst yet is not only using the privacy in the moment but storing it in some cases against the expressed disapproval of the end user.
  • The DuckDuckGo privacy browser is the default browser on my Android phone. Problem solved ;-)