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Why software is infinitely more important than any other phone spec

Google Pixel 4 XL
Google Pixel 4 XL (Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

All of us at AC recently got together for a fun roundtable talking about features in a phone that we think are the most important.

Out of all the features that were mentioned, "camera" stuck out as the thing that was brought up the most — and rightfully so. It's a hugely important feature, as our phone is often the only tool we have to preserve family gatherings, sleepy pets, and jaw-dropping sunrises.

Cameras also happen to be one of those features we talk about quite frequently when a new phone comes out. It's a spec that we can judge and compare next to something else, just like we do for so many other aspects of a device. The same goes for the processor, display, RAM, storage, and battery.

All of those things play a massive role in how a phone performs, but for me personally, there's something that stands above all of that. Something that's even more impactful in deciding which phones I'm interested in — software.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Bader

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Whenever you do anything on your phone, you're interacting with its software. From checking your notifications, navigating your home screens, using an app, etc. Your phone's software is at the core of all that and is what allows things to work the way they do. Furthermore, it also determines what various elements on your phone look like, certain features you may or may not have access to, and how quickly (or slowly) you get updates.

The Pixel 4 is flawed in more ways than one, but its software keeps me coming back for more.

My Android phone of choice is a Pixel 4 XL, which admittedly isn't the most technically-impressive phone on the market. It doesn't have an ultra-wide camera and battery life is mediocre at best, but since I love Google's software so much, I continue to use and enjoy the phone in spite of those things. I appreciate its clean user interface, not having to mess with duplicate apps, and knowing I'm first in line for software updates as they become available.

Similarly, software is why I often don't get very excited about Samsung's Galaxy S or Note flagships. These are phones that are typically filled with the highest-end specs you can think of, but because I don't personally like One UI, I don't ever seriously consider buying them.

That's what makes the whole topic of software so interesting. Unlike a display or processor that serves one main purpose and can be objectively judged, the software powering a phone is a multi-layered thing that's not as easy to directly compare. The Snapdragon 865 is objectively better than the 665, just like a 5,000 mAh battery is larger than a 4,000 mAh one — there's no arguing those two points. However, while I prefer the software of a Pixel phone and dislike One UI, someone else could have the exact opposite taste. They aren't wrong, that's just their preference.

OnePlus 8 Pro

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

I also think that's why software plays such a big role in a phone buying decision, even if you aren't consciously aware of it. If you've been using a Samsung phone for years, you're likely very familiar and comfortable with Samsung software. The Pixel 4 might take better low-light photos than the S20, but having to adjust what you know and love about how your phone works isn't worth it for a slightly better camera, sharper display, or faster processor.

Whether you're a fan of One UI, OxygenOS, Pixel software, or anything else in between, that's great. All of these have various pros and cons over each other, but it's impossible to say that one is definitively better than the other for all users. What I do think, though, is that the software on your phone plays a bigger role than you may give it credit.

Your phone's display, processor, and other bits are necessary and a lot of fun to discuss, but if you don't have good software and don't enjoy the UX you're interacting with day in and day out, all of those fancy components are for naught.

The most important features in a phone — ranked by the Android Central staff

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

83 Comments
  • Great Article Joe. So many phone reviewers literally vomit for 6-10 minutes over camera specs and displays while completely ignoring the software experience. Samsungs UI has been a dumpster fire only until recently with One UI kind of revitalizing the experience but year in and year out Samsung phones are routinely praised while really solid software experiences without flagship "specs" are completely overlooked by the tech community
  • Well, when it comes to selling phones the ACTUAL most important spec is marketing budget.
  • ... and, when it comes to buying phones the ACTUAL most important thing is your budget :-P
  • Yet the A51 is one of the best selling budget phones despite being terrible, why do you think that is?
  • Because in US you can buy it for $13.50/month on contract and the screen stands out in the row of other phones?
  • Is it terrible, though?
  • Lol "terrible" Maybe if you compare it to a flagship device, but those buying the A51 are coming from a device that is under $300 in price and normally low end, bottom of the barrel specs.
  • Thanks! Camera and other specs are definitely important, but they're also a lot easier to explain in a review compared to the day-to-day experience of what a phone's entire software package is like. Cheers 🙂
  • True, and not only is it subjective but it's impossible to control. For example, i use dark theme, I'm using hex installer and l have "force dark mode" turned on in developer settings. And yet, apps like Uber eats, eBay, Sonos and even Google apps like home and docs are still capable of completely ruining my software experience with an awfully light theme that apparently can't be changed.
  • > apps like Uber eats, eBay, Sonos... completely ruining my software experience While you present completely valid point, I am not sure how it is relevant to the article -- these apps will behave regardless of the phone you select. Am I missing something?
  • That IS my point. That it's all well and good to talk about the software that ships with the phone, but at most it's only 50% of the actual software experience. And on a side note we shouldn't praise Google's software experience when Android 10 launched 8 months ago and the Google app JUST got a dark theme. And in case you don't get it, this isn't about the dark theme specifically, that's just an example that happens to be important to me. It could just as easily be about menus that slide out from the left, tabs at the bottom and 3-dot in the top right.
  • I see now and I agree with you completely -- the user experience share of the software that shipped with the phone and differs from phone to phone is low enough to not warrant an article.
  • Software can make up for *some* deficiencies. But you can't fix a phone that has inadequate RAM and is constantly shuffling apps in & out of memory. Software can't fix a phone with limited storage and no expandable memory. And software can only do so much for a phone with abysmal battery life without gimping smartphone features and radios/connectivity. It is less of a concern if you are always near a power source, but not everyone sits at a desk all day.
  • Agree with this! 100% no point having great software if the phone is gimped in practically every other area!
  • THIS! Software is important, but it does not make up for the rest of the phone being gimped or full of compromises. Given a choice between bleeding edge updates with poor hardware, and advanced hardware with ok software, I know what I'd pick.
  • I'd rather pick software over hardware and the iPhone is the one of pic as it impresses me more than the big spec Android flagships, because of how well handles what it has and we all know that A series chips are the most powerful on a smartphone.
  • I meant to say that the iPhone is the one that suits me more.
  • I have to agree, no amount of software will fix a low amount of RAM, storages and a puny battery capacity and the Pixel phones are the poster child for all that.
  • Came to samung a year ago after years of blackberry I thought I would have a hard time being able to get things done like I did on the berry. Samsung has everything I need to get the job done and done quickly. I use the crap of the edge panel as well, quickly accessible from any screen capturing of an area and such. Saves a lot of time from having to screenshot then go to the photo and crop.
  • You didn't mention which phone you have, but you sound like Note guy. If you haven't tried a Note, then you should get your hands on one. You'll probably love it.
  • Yeah, son's Note 10+ is really sweet and he loves it.
  • Why would anyone tout Pixel and it's buggy software?
  • Because Google! lol not sure why anyone touts pixels. Outside of the camera, they are essentially beta testers for Google. I mean they once were the "speed kings" with the software, and now they have been passed over my multiple OEM's in terms of speed and fluidity. 
  • Yes Google has been overtaken by multiple OEMs in speed but mainly Chinese OEMs but certainly not Samsung.
  • My S20+ runs every bit as smooth and lag-free as my old P2XL (and my P2XL ran a modded custom kernel). It required some tweaking to get there, but it *is* possible to get buttery smooth UI on a Samsung. 96/120 Hz screen helps a lot too.
  • Wait until 3 years when Samsung stuffs even more bloat on your S20+
  • I won't have this phone 3 years from now. But if I did, I'd simply disable any new bloat, just like I've already done.
  • Beno your 100% in the slowing down of Samsung phones with bloat! this was a problem years ago but from at least the S7 or S8 Samsung has sorted this and One Ui is alot better than the old Touchwiz.
  • This is a fantastic article, I've always valued software above anything else because it's the software that is makes everything tick along and I've never been a fan of Samsung's software because it's just too overwhelming for me and I wouldn't even get close to using all the features and customisation One UI offers and I this Oxygen OS is the perfect balance of customisation while not overloading and overwhelming the user with features that aren't useful. But for me I think the iPhone suits me best as I don't worry about having to clear my cache, the better app quality, far better backup and restore system and so on as i don't customise my phone much, no having as much tcustomisation on iOS isn't a problem for me and I personally prefer it that way, but on the Android side I like Oxygen OS, Pixel and Android One for my preferred flavour of Android because I don't want any bloatware on my phone, I don't need another app store, OEM browser or inferior copycat apps and updates are important to and only Apple, Google and Nokia are consistent with updates.
  • I've been really pleased with the speed and frequency of updates on my OP devices. Carrier locks might be different, but I always buy unlocked.
  • Apparently Samsung UI is so overwhelming for you, you don't understand how to disable preinstalled apps you don't use, and hide them from your home screen? On any Samsung phone, bloatware is a nonissue. Samsung UI tends to lead Android with new features, which Google/Android add in newer OS upgrades. One might argue that having more choices inside Samsung UI is a richer experience than stock Android on Google branded phones.
  • I wonder which part of the "software" visible to the user is not replaceable from the play store?
  • If you're on Android 10 and you want to keep the new gesture navigation, and you're on a Samsung phone, the launcher. I miss being able to use a launcher like Nova with scrolling wallpapers. Switching to another launcher, the phone automatically disables the new gestures. Not sure if it's Google or Samsung that's to blame here but I hate it.
  • > Not sure if it's Google or Samsung that's to blame here but I hate it. If one to believe Nova's developers -- you have Google -- they disable gestures if you activate custom launcher...
  • I use Nova Launcher with One Hand Operation+ and Samsung gestures, and everything works together perfectly. Extremely intuitive, and better than Android 10 gestures imo.
  • The best software in the world with crappy hardware will always play second fiddle in the marketplace. Real world users want fantastic hardware and usable software, doesn't have to be the best in the market but they'll buy it. Only fanboys care about the nitty gritty of software specs. YouTube reviewers know this, that's why they focus more on hardware specs.
  • Software is the last thing I care for when I buy a new phone. I've been using Nova launcher since 2012 and all my phones have been looking and feeling more or less the same since then.
  • Completely agree. When I needed to move one of my seniors from her Windows Phone, I just reskinned first reasonably-priced Android device with the Windows-Phone-alike launcher and handed it to her. There still was some learning curve, but not all that much.
  • Good for you, software is more important than hardware because what good is the hardware if the software is crappy and bloated? That's why iPhones impress me more than Android phones, because on paper, the iPhone doesn't have as many cores or as much RAM as a big spec Android phone, because iOS is designed around the hardware unlike Android so while Apple's A series has less cores, the A series is far more powerful than even the current Snapdragon 865 on 2020 Android flagships.
  • I really can't tell much of a difference when running the same app on either Android/iOS software with comparable Android/iOS hardware. Your argument is that iOS has better optimization with Apple hardware but that's expected. I'd expect similar from Android with Google hardware but it has to play nice with all it's licensed OEMs too. I'd argue that Android/iOS provides the similar type solution just coming from different sides of the room.
  • More cores do not magically make something better. Android has been throwing more cores for a long time. Software only gets you so far. 
  • Android is more resources intensive so it needs "more cores" and RAM where as iOS is optimised for even duel core processors, remember the A9 destroyed Android phones back in 2015/16.
  • I dont think it is necessarily more resource intensive, apple just has the vertical integration with processor, and OS whereas android is using off the shelf chips which are meant to be placed in a wide range of phones and not really tailored towards just any one phone. Will be interesting to see if Google starts making their own chips if they can begin to close the gap on apple and their A series chips.
  • Google may close the gap between Android and the iPhone in optimisation if they start making their own chips but it isn't guaranteed, look at Samsung and Huawei to they still get beaten by the Apple A series chips but then Google's advantage is that they make Android so that could tip the balance in their favour but o still think while Android remains resource intensive, it will always be slightly behind Apple, especially in game performance.
  • Beno, you forgot the disclaimer that the A series chips are better... on paper.
    Benchmarks cannot be compared cross platform, so you may as well say a tree has better numbers than a fire hydrant.
    Apple's game superiority is a myth, and that's coming from someone who probably games a lot more than most on both. Our last gaming session lasted two and a half days and our sessions include Riptide GP2, Asphalt 9, Agent A, Alto's Adventure, Alto's Odyssey, Leo's Fortune, and Machinarium. Most of the games play exactly the same on both platforms, some of them play better on Android, but none of these games were better on iPhone. Not one.
  • I think it depends on the game and the developer, you're right in saying that most games on both iPhone and Android are pretty much the same but the difference is with an iPhone, including older iPhones performance is the same because the iOS is unified as 1 so the software experience is exactly the same on every iPhone compared to Android with each OEMs various takes on Android except for the Pixels which are the same experience which is what they have in common with the iPhone, as far as gaming is concerned, the difference is that games load slightly quicker on the iPhone and depending on the game and developer, some games often look better on the iPhone which are due to the developers putting more effort into the iPhone version of the same game for both platforms but I like the fact that on iOS, a lot of games let you save to iCloud so you won't lose your progress which only w few games support Google Play Games on Android and the games you mentioned if they're better on Android than on iPhone, it's because the developer put more effort in to the Android version of the games you say are better on Android and yes for the most part synthetic benchmarks are not an indicator of real world performance but are an indicator of how powerful the hardware is and in Apple's case it was the A9 which showed that Apple meant business in performance because the 2 cores in the A9 chip were high performance cores and it took all of the Android world by surprise and while Qualcomm is catching up in performance to Apple, it remains behind in GPU performance as Gary Sims from Android Authority explained on his YouTube channel last year when he did a speed test with a Qualcomm reference device and the iPhone 11 Pro (I think).
  • Was gonna say just this. Made the move to Microsoft Launcher a few years back and now I couldn't care less about software. It's not like I ever use gestures or anything.
    If the camera/screen stinks or if there's no SD or NFC support, the phone is a non-starter.
  • I see Joe's point in this article and agree to some degree as when I had to inevitably move from Windows phone I bought a Samsung galaxy and absolutely hated it, cumbersome complicated and just downright confusing and I thought that was the Android experience but I sent it back and bought an original Moto g and absolutely loved it from the start. Since then one of my first considerations when looking at new phones is the software. However now having got used to android as my main phone experience I'm sure if I spent a little time using any of the various android 'skins' I could get used to it. As long as software works properly it's just a case of getting used to it. What puts me off some of the Chinese skins is that often things like notifications don't work properly and this would be far more frustrating than the fact it worked in a slightly different way. I guess it all depends on what is most important to different people and what compromises folks are prepared to accept?
  • If you ever consider getting a Chinese phone z get a OnePlus phone, the Oxygen OS software is similar to Google's and Motorola with enough customisation and features while being bloatware free.
  • Utter trash... Sure software links all the hardware and gives the user experience... But if you don't have a good camera, enough ram, nice screen etc... Your phone will suck... A halfway decent gui is enough... People have 4 year old phones with android 7 or 8 or whatever that have never been updated to a newer version and don't care or won't notice (except for the scrambling of menus etc). This article is to make up for the comments on the new se.. People saying it's 5 year old camera and screen and battery (yes of course overpowered with a kickass cpu) but with years of software updates to come! I agree that flashy colors etc enhances the user experience... But the software powering the phone is not the key selling point. People want good cameras good screens, and fast enough apps...
  • I'm still using a 2014 Moto X as my daily phone as I'm not a techie and don't need to work from my phone and honestly (I'm no fanboy) to me it still feels as fast as when I bought it. It has an occasional stutter when it's nearly full of memory but clearing the cache and removing few photos etc sorts it. It's on Android 6 mmallow and haven't got any apps that don't work. I admit I'm not super security conscious like some people but the few little extras from Motorola don't seem to have been bettered enough to make any new phone compelling enough to upgrade. The only problem I'm having is the battery which I think is on its way out and I'm tempted by the Moto G7 plus as it's under £200 (UK user) and has NFC unlike the new Moto G8 series. Any suggestions of alternatives or anybody using a G7 plus care to comment if this is a good choice?
  • Good for you, I think Moto is trash for their software support and that's why I wouldn't buy their phones and I'm used to having flagship performance with flagship hardware or something with the Snapdragon 7XX series powering the phone, Moto hardware for me leaves s lot to be desired as well as performance in their mid range phones I had a Moto G ,(, second Gen) which was my first ever Android phone and it was great at first and then I put a 32GB memory card and the thing started the lag like crazy, granted the specs were modest and the RAM was insufficient to run full fat Android 5.0 lollipop which was very buggy and glitchy but it soured my experience with Moto and I will never buy their phones again, personally iPhones suit my needs better overall, especially as a visually impaired person but on the Android side I'd rather pick Nokia (I have a Nokia 8.1 which is obviously more modern than your Moto X) Google along with OnePlus.
  • Yeah I agree lollipop was very buggy but mm was/still works great. Looking at Nokia(nostalgia) but also android one at a reasonable price and also still Moto but feel they going backwards with hardware like no NFC and a 720p screen? What's that all about in 2020? Maybe gonna wait till they work out under screen camera tech as don't like notches and holes in the screen.
  • If Google hadn't sold Motorola I would have considered them because when they were owned by Google, they were great with updates but under Lenovo, they are terrible with updates now and no longer guarantee them as they no longer care about updating their phones, and their hardware for their budget phones is underwhelming to say the least with them using the chipsets like the Snapdragon 632 or 625 or something like that as you mentioned 720p screens and still no NFC I. 2020, even my old Alcatel A7 had NFC and had a decent MediaTek processor. Aren't you not worried about security on Your Moto X? Because Marshmallow is no longer supported by Google anymore and most app features now require you to be on a more recent version of Android now. If you're worried about notches, there are plenty of Android phones that don't have notches, like the Samsung Galaxy A series, the more recent Nokia Android One phones.
  • Congrats on keeping your Moto X this long. Unfortunately, phones that small are pretty much gone. If you want another small Android phone, then consider a Pixel 3a. Another small option is iPhone SE, but you'll change ecosystems obviously.
  • I haven't kept the Moto X because it's a small phone, in fact I'm looking forward to getting a phone with a bigger screen and an up to date OS, I kept it because to quote a cliche 'it simply works' and does what I need. A few social apps, couple of games, Gmail, Google maps etc nothing too demanding and I love the Moto tweaks and it's implementation of an AOD. I don't use the camera a lot so any kind of upgrade would be an improvement in that department. I know it's probably got security issues and one of the main reasons I need to upgrade is the battery has really gone downhill recently. Thanks for all your suggestions I'll probably go for a Nokia as they seem to be quite good for the money. I don't think I'll go for an iPhone, not because I'm an Android fanboy but for what I need there's plenty of choice in android handsets and I can't be bothered to re-learn a new OS lol.
  • In keeping with the theme of this article, there is one bit of software that is MOST important to me, updates. Frequent security and operating system updates are imperative for me and this is why I choose the Pixel line of phones. Google sends out updates at a minimum of once per month and is the first line of phones to get operating system updates and new features from Google.
  • Good point. That's what has me so torn with something like a Moto phone. The out-of-the-box software is excellent, but if you have a Moto G, you're SOL after your first major OS update.
  • This would have been much more true 5 or 7 years ago. Most people spend most of their time in apps anyway. Most OS’s are good enough that the rest of the time is inconsequential to the average user. Some fringe users (most of which frequent sites like this) will certainly care more about the OS. But this is the distinct minority of overall users IMO.
  • Wake up sheep. This alleged article is nothing more than a paid editorial for Google, which has way too many unsold Google Pixel 4XL phones unsold. At the end of the article is the Google Pixel 4XL in a big blue box with purchase links to Best Buy and B&H. Below the box is a disclaimer that Android Central may earn s commission for purchases using their links. Android apps look better and run faster on Android phones not sold by Google. Beno... Yes, it is a fact that Android software requires much more RAM than Apple because Android is terribly inefficient at handling memory. (Google it folks, there a very thorough explanation out there in there, lol, google it folks). However, Apple isn't perfect either. Today on 9 to 5 Mac the feature article details how ANY iPhone running iOS 13.5 can be jailbroken, and throuough instructions on how to do so due to a 0day kernal vulnerability. I own a Note 8, and it's awesome. Somewhat foolishly, I seriously considered the 512GB S20+ Ultra, but it's a bit of a mess. The Note 20 (biggest and baddest whatever it's called) had my interest. But I ended up buying the 512GB Apple 11 Pro Max last week... It's on its way in the mail. Google apps run well on iOS, and music matters to me. I have zero faith Google will get YouTube Music right prior to shutting down Google Play Music at year end.... So I'm out for now... ITunes will get my music subscription. I'll still have my Note 8 and Samsung tablet as WiFi devices for GP books I've not finished, and a couple of games. We'll maybe see what the best of Android has to offer in a few years. I know the iPhone 11 does not have 5G... It won't be where I live anytime soon, and frankly, 5G is overhyped. The vast majority of my, and most people's content consumption, is on home WiFi networks. Peace.
  • Sorry to burst your bubble, but that's not at all what happened. The Pixel 4 is a phone I happen to like mostly for its software, so I thought it was a good fit to add it as a little close-out to the article. No conspiracy theory or paid endorsements here.
  • @Northern Arbiter this article is Joe's opinion and I mostly agree with it, software is the thing that holds everything together and Samsung's hardware is great but their software keeps me away because it's too overwhelming and overbearing, I like my Android clean, smooth and bloatware free and consistently updated with the latest security patch and OS updates and OnePlus succeeds with the OS updates but are lax with security updates so that is why I'd pick a Pixel or Nokia going forward but I think I'll go with a Pixel to go complement my iPhone 11 (which will be my daily driver when I get it in August) because whether you like Pixels or not, they is similar experience to the iPhone, just Android flavoured with all the things you expect from Android, Google style now although I think oxygen OS is better overall, I want my updates from day 1 and love being first in line for updates.
  • Beno, I know you've harped on about iPhones in countless articles on here can I ask you something? I'm not trolling but why are you gonna buy a iPhone 11 in August? which is literally a few weeks away from the iPhone 12 launch (if there's no delays obviously) And which iPhone are you buying? the normal 11? 11 pro or Max? I'm just curious.
  • Because I'm in a sim only contract and August is when I can upgrade to a full phone contract (after 2 more payments) and the iPhone 11 is the phone I want because I will be on a 3 year contract due to the line rental being more expensive if I were to go for a 24 month contract and I pick iPhone due to the reasons I've have already explained and w major reason is the software support being for 5 years so by the time I upgrade in 2023, my iPhone 11 will still be supported where as if it were an Android phone, apart from the Pixels which aren't available (except for the Pixel 3) on O2 which is the carrier I'm on in the UK where I'm based.
  • Spending $800+ on these "premium" phones is flushing good money down the toilet for stuff you'll never notice.
  • I didn't realize just how important software was until I switched from a Samsung phone to a Pixel 3 a couple of Christmases ago. Initially when I bought the Pixel 3, I was irritated with the lack of customization options, specifically the lack of a system wide dark mode. I keep my phones for 2 years so I almost returned it for an S9, cringing at the thought of regularly being blinded by a white interface, but then I read that Google was working on dark mode for Android 10. I decided to stick it out and I'm so glad I did. Not only did Google release system wide dark mode shortly after I bought the Pixel 3, but I get the newest Android versions first, and updates every month like clockwork. The software is so buttery smooth and simplistic that I KNOW I can always rely on it without frustration. The interface gets out of my way so I can get things done. Sure there are plenty of other phones with better battery life, more ram, faster processor etc, but the difference in how quickly the software responds to literally anything and everything I want compared to Samsung phones cannot be understated. It's something you have to experience to truly appreciate.
    For this reason I'll always go with a phone made by Google.
  • I've come to the conclusion that most Android enthusiasts are SNOBS, they value hardware more than software, screen, processor, RAM etc, well due to Android's resources intensive nature then RAM is important but overall I value software over anything else and that's down to my first smartphone being an iPhone, because as long as the processor is fast enough, camera is good enough then I'm good, because most phones are good enough now so I value software and timely updates which again my mentality on that is due to me being an iPhone user but I've reluctantly gotten used to the slow updates on Android but I won't put up with the Android fragmentation anymore, so y'all know already that I'm switching back to iPhone (I plan on going into the Apple ecosystem and staying there) for the other reasons I've stated and Android fragmentation is another reason too.
  • 😂😂 that first line 'snobs' really? I could say the same about Apple people who use them because they are fashion statements to show off his much money they have! and because celebrities all use them etc! Fact of the matter is your more likely to find 'snobs' as you put it using iphones! They are the people with more money than sense!
  • The iPhone is a commodity now that most people own one, I say that the Android enthusiasts are SNOBS because they value stuff that the average user doesn't care about like QHD displays, 12GB RAM, multiple cores, customisation, etc, ask yourself why iPhone users stick with iPhones and don't switch, because of Android's bad rep with malware and being cheap and laggy which I know isn't the case but iPhone users are influenced by not just celebrities using iPhones but also the media when they report the latest Android security vulnerability, often going along the likes of "this XXX security vulnerability affects billions of Android users", but some of the stuff people say about Android is still true through, with the fragmentation and cheap and slow phones (although only the really low end phones are slow), i think many people see the iPhone as suiting their needs more and also because their friends have one and let's face it, Android doesn't have anything that compares to iMessage and FaceTime even with the wealth of options available on the Play Store.
  • Speaking of software, they all look and work the same when you use a launcher.
    I just jumped into a Huawei P smart Z, as my P30 Pro is going in to be repaired and the thing looks much the same, maybe even nicer, which is pretty good considering this phone cost less than 25% of the cost. Sure the camera isn't as good, it's a little slower and I have to watch out that I don't take it swimming, but the important part the I interface with is the same.
    I only had to save the settings on one phone and restore these on the new phone and it's good to go. As it was from my previous Huawei, previously Samsung, Xiaomis, and whatever it was before those.
    The manufacturers software was little difference.
    You should tout launchers if software is what gets you excited.
  • I always skip the camera part of phone reviews because they bore me, yes o know camera, processor etc is important but it's the software that ties everything together because what use is big beefy specs if the software is rubbish? That's why I pick iPhone, Pixel, Nokia or OnePlus, because they know how to get the best out of the hardware with their software process, especially Google and OnePlus on the Android side and Apple with the iPhone which has better optimization because they make both the hardware and software unlike Google who is better on the software side but they don't make the processors like Apple does, the same with OnePlus band Nokia.
  • I use both iPhone Xs and Galaxy note 10+ pretty much every day and I end up spending more time than I should to decide which one I should use for my work and personal life since I want to carry only one phone. iPhone: Amazing user experience. More feature rich apps and mostly better UI. Look at all banking apps or password managers. Smooth scrolling throughout the OS (although I have started seeing some choppiness here and there). Face ID works (although I dont like it). Good standby time. Software integration between devices such as apple watch and homepods (unfortunately I do own those despite their dumbness). The feeling of trapped in the ecosystem despite not owning any apps in particular. This shows why software is important. Not only phone OS software but app developers also need to follow proper guideline to design their apps to provide better use experience. I understand it is hard when you need to code for so many AR and hardware specs but still. Android: more freedom to do anything you like. Love it. Proper file system. Widgets, smart toggles tasker etc. Software experience is good. Can be better. Such as smooth scrolling throughout OS and apps. I understand apps also need to be properly written but google needs to provide incentive to developers to write great apps. One UI, oxygen OS or anything for that matter is 90% there with iOS. It is those annoying 10% issues that kill the user experience. For example, password manager integration on android needs to get better. Dark mode needs to be consistent. Notifications although superior to iOS need to become cleaner. So to answer, what is more important - HW or SW, I would say both. It is the tight integration between the two that delivers best user experience. Unfortunately, a lot of user don't care about this I think. Think of Windows mobile or palm OS for that matter. Amazing SW with poor HW. Got nowhere but people still remember those. So, should I say SW is more important?
  • My first smartphone was a Nokia Lumia 820 in bright yellow(which could be swapped for another colour as it had a replaceable battery) and I absolutely loved it! It had an oled screen, wireless charging, great AOD way before android phones had them, expandable storage, replaceable battery and was made from polycarbonate so didn't smash if you dropped it! Loved the OS but sadly no apps killed it. Would have stuck with Windows phones if the ecosystem had grown like android and iOS. Still my favourite phone I've owned and I'm sure other ex Windows phone users would agree?
  • While I agree with you for the most part, I think Apple nails the most important aspects of a phone for me more than most Android phones, with great software, hardware and software support but I. It's own, the iPhone isn't enough, I need to have an iPad as well for me to completely be happy in the Apple ecosystem, with Android that's not an issue because an Android phone is all you need, you don't need anything else to get the best out of Android and while I'll have both iPhone (the iPhone will be my primary phone) and Android phone (as a secondary phone), as I've come to realize that it's better to have both because of certain things, the iPhone fulfills what I need in a smartphone overall with iOS, the better backup restore system, more polished apps and better managed App Store, but Android has it's own advantages too, it's far easier to find your videos and files when transferring them to a computer or laptop than iOS which you need the awful iTunes installed to do so and then as you said the freedom of customisation (which I don't bother with after setup) the multitasking (which I only use for YouTube premium) downloading apps from outside the Play Store along with a good selection of apps but I feel the fragmentation, poor optimisation along with poor job that Google does in policing the Play Store frustrate me about Android along with the confusing Play Store system updates which as introduced with Android 10 and those and s few other reasons are why the iPhone will be my primary phone and Android being my secondary phone.
  • Good for you Beno it's nice to see you simply explaining why you prefer one to the other rather than just saying iPhones are great and Android is crap. I actually agree with most of what you say when you put it like you have been doing recently as I too like my phone more simple and don't do much customising. I still use Google now launcher and the only thing I change is my wallpaper occasionally. I have a meltdown when faced with too much choice lol! Can never decide which subway to have coz there's too many to choose from!
  • That's what I was trying to say, there's pros and cons for both platforms, Android's strength is it's customisation, versatility, variety, Apple's strength is it's security, long software support (5 years) more optimised apps, great integration with other Apple devices, simplicity ease of use (you could say that about Android to an extent if it's a Pixel or Android One phone), iMessage and facetime (if you know loads of people with an iPhone), Android cons too fragmented, not as optimised due to the sheer number of devices to code for, not as secure due to Android's open source and software limited software support, iPhone cons, not as customisable, boring grid of icons, locked down, iPhone doesn't play nice with non Apple products ( iTunes is a nightmare when finding your files, photos or videos) repair costs are almost as much as getting a new iPhone.
  • Completely agree with the article. I recently bought the OnePlus 8 and software was definitively a big driver of my choice. My other options were the Poco F2 PRO or waiting for the Pixel 4a. For me, the OnePlus 8 offered the best value in the long run. OnePlus doesn't completely change Android but listens to the community and adds features that make sense while also being relatively quick when it comes to updating the OS.
    So other than Google Pixel that gets new Android versions first, it seemed like the best alternative, specially because battery life is very important to me.
  • Oxygen OS is the reason I got my 7T but and the only complaint I have is OnePlus isn't as good when it comes to security updates which have been very late as I live in the UK and it's thanks to Oxygen Updater that I get the updates relatively quickly still but I think I will be getting a Pixel (to completment my iPhone 11 Which will be my primary phone) going forward unless OnePlus improve with security updates because like you said they are good with platform updates and I also agree with this article too.
  • If we set aside the rediculous endorsement of Pixel phones... Android users can agree the stability of Android updates is a good thing. Over at Apple, users are still afraid of updates because Apple updates tend to be buggy... Sometimes more seriously than others for both their macs and iPhones.
  • OK AC... if you're asking us what we feel is most important in a phone and you've come to the conclusion that it's... SOFTWARE... let's see articles by you folks, directed to Samsung, et al including Verizon and the carriers... why on earth does Android, for the most part... only give buyers TWO YEAR'S OF OS UPDATES? Please, let's get to the crux of the matter... they want to churn and burn phones! I'd like to see a really well written article about the two year only Android OS Update... scam!
  • Think you got your wish a article has just been posted on the two year updates
  • Yeah, just saw it. Good thing AC got on the ball and hopefully the mfg'ers and carriers will actually read it and follow through. I've been on Android since the beginning, and this two year limit, now that other hardware and software have hit their stride... the phones are ready for increased OS and Security Updates. Nice going AC.
  • Exactly, especially at the ridiculous prices that Android OEMs charge for their flagships and it's worse for their mid range phones which receives next to no software support at all unless you're using an Android One phone (Nokia) or the Pixel 3a which gets at least 3 years software support but still falls short of Apple's 5 years support which the Android "enthusiasts" that comment on this site choose to ignore by using excuses like "I don't hold on to my phone more than 6 months" well not everyone wants to spend money on a phone every 6 months or even 18 months, that's why iPhones are more appealing to a lot of people.