iOS 6 Vs Ice Cream Sandwich: The Ultimate Comparison

iOS 6 is on its way to an iPhone and iPad near you. But how does Apple's latest and greatest compare to the latest and greatest out of the Android camp, aka Ice Cream Sandwich? Gladiators, step forth!

For the record, this is not a review. There will be no review until we have spent some quality time with the final version of iOS 6. This is a look at how these two stack up on paper in 10 key categories.


Apple: 650,000 apps. 225,000 for iPad. That's one ginormous ecosystem.

Android: Android is currently at 450,000 apps for Android. While most of those will work on tablets, the number of apps that have been specifically optimised for Android tablets pales in comparison to iOS.


Apple: Apple finally has its own Maps, which is a move that surprised no one, since Apple has been buying up mapping companies for years, and because Apple and Google aren't exactly getting along smashingly. From what we can tell, it's an elegant solution, with plenty of overlaid information, traffic updates and turn-by-turn directions (narrated by Siri). It also has a 3D flyover mode (with vector-based graphics) that looks great, but it raises a question: since none of the iPhones have 4G LTE radios, would 3D maps even be practical when you aren't firmly tethered to Wi-Fi? This, however, may be a non-issue, as 4G iPhones will likely be out in time for iOS 6 to drop. Big notable omissions: transit directions, bike directions, walking directions and Street View.

Android: Google Maps is the gold standard (sorry, Bing, you ain't there yet). You can choose maps or satellite, crazy 3D buildings are coming, along with offline access, and Yelp-like locations/reviews are baked in. The banner feature has been turn-by-turn directions, which it's had since Android 2.0. For regular directions, you can choose driving, biking, walking or public transportation. They've also mapped the insides of museums and expo centres. And, of course, there's Street View, which lets you actually see the place you're going -- like, what it really looks like. 3D flyovers are cool and all, but the eye-level view may ultimately be much more useful.

Browser Sync

Apple: New in iOS 6, your browser tabs can be synced between all of your devices. In other words, the tab you open in Safari on your desktop will be easier to open on your iPhone or iPad. It's a pretty handy feature. Bookmarks are synced as well (which isn't new). The problem? Nobody uses Safari.

Android: With Chrome (beta) for Ice Cream Sandwich you get that same thing (tabs, bookmarks, search terms, etc) synced between Chrome and your desktop. The only difference: people actually use Chrome.

Facebook Integration

Apple: Twitter was nicely integrated into iOS 5, but what about Zuck's little project? iOS 6 will have Facebook more deeply tied into the framework. You'll be able to upload photos directly from the phone's photo gallery. "Like" apps right from the App Store, and see which your friends "Like". Apple will be opening up the Facebook API so third-party apps can take advantage of this too.

Android: Sharing has been one of Android's tentpoles pretty much from the beginning. Facebook is deeply integrated into Ice Cream Sandwich. You can share pretty much anything to Facebook from pretty much anywhere in the OS, through Android's little share icon (which you can use to share through a zillion other apps, and doesn't require additional work from app developers). You can choose to sync Facebook info either from people whose contacts you already have on your phone, or you can pull all of your Facebook friends into your phone contacts (but seriously, why would you do such a thing?). Sharing is still easier on Android, hands down.

Voice Commands

Apple: Some people might go as far to say that Siri in iOS 5 was Apple's broken promise. It worked OK, most of the time, but not as well as everyone expected. Siri has been greatly improved, at least in the US, with new capabilities on movies, sports scores and restaurant info. Also, Siri will now be available for iPad owners, opening the door for even more people to talk at slabs of glass.

Android: The amount of hype around Android's Voice Actions pales in comparison to that around Siri, but that seems to be a PR problem more than anything else. Not only has it been around longer than Siri, it outgunned Siri in the majority of our tests. It's also been available on tablets with Ice Cream Sandwich, and there are rumours that it will be even more capable come the next version of Android.

Mobile Payments

Apple: The new iOS 6 feature Passbook looks really, really cool. It aggregates all of your tickets, passes and some of your payment cards into one mobile wallet type of solution. It has GPS deeply integrated, so info pops up right when you need it (theoretically). It also live-updates, so if your flight is delayed or your gate it changed, it'll let you know. We have the feeling that this is just the beginning, and that we're likely to see NFC payments integrated at a later point, making it a true digital wallet.

Android: Android has Google Wallet, which some phones in the US can use to pay at some places. Large chain stores and taxis are the most common places right now. It's cool, but some carriers are really slowing down its growth by keeping it off their networks (looking at you, Verizon). Also, there just aren't that many places NFC is accepted yet. It can store a few loyalty cards (but not many). For more, you have to go to third-party apps. Apple's Passbook just looks way better than what Google is offering right now.

Video Chat

Apple: Facetime is cool for chatting with other people using Apple devices. It was limited to doing that over Wi-Fi, but with iOS 6 you'll finally be able to do it over mobile data networks.

Android: With Android, you can video chat with anybody who has Gmail. It works on Macs or PCs, in whatever browser, and on Android phones and tablets. Basically, you have access to many more people. Also, you've been able to video chat over mobile data networks pretty much from the get-go.

Phone Features

Apple: iOS gussied up its phone a bit for iOS 6, adding a quick-reply by text feature ("Can't talk now, what's up?", etc) and a do-not-disturb mode to keep your phone from lighting up or ringing. You can also set it so calls will only come through from certain people. Both nice additions.

Android: Quick replies by text are built into Ice Cream Sandwich. You can pre-write a bunch of your most common responses and just hit one to send it. Android doesn't have an answer to Do Not Disturb mode, which would certainly be a welcome addition, though you can choose to have certain contacts go directly to voicemail when they call.


Apple: iMessages were a disaster in the early developer previews of Mountain Lion, but it's looking like they're getting the bugs worked out. You will have a unified ID, so in theory your text messages will sync through your iPhone, iPad and Mac. The ability to reply to text messages via a full-sized keyboard is wonderfully convenient. It also integrates pretty seamlessly with iChat.

Android: Being able to reply to text messages from my browser makes Google Voice great for those in US. Most people text from their own phone numbers, so iMessages wins out here. As far as IMs go, though, the cross-platform nature of Google Chat means you can simply keep up with way, way more people.

Smarter Icons

Apple: One of the things we'd hoped for was that Apple would smarten up its app icons. Let them change to display information. Windows Phone does this with live tiles, and they're certainly more useful than static icons which simply launch an app. Unfortunately, Apple is still stuck in the past on this one.

Android: Widgets have been a part of Android for years now. Not only can they display information in real time, but you can use them to adjust settings on the fly without leaving your home screen. Some of them are even scrollable, saving you more space and looking rather cool. Yes, they come in all shapes and sizes, so they don't look as tidy as Apple's square grid or even Window Phone's Live Tiles. But they're infinitely more useful.



    Neat comparison.

    its also good to note that ICS is last years OS (even though its only on 7% of phones) and at the end of the month we will get a look at jellybean at I/O

    on the note of ICS being just 7% i feel that a lot of users even some of my tech savy people have not updated to ICS on their galaxy s 2 as they are happy how it works and never use the samsung software to see that there is an update. Unlike how people use Itunes. Also does Itunes make you update?

      iTunes doesnt MAKE you update, but it does prompt you. So the average user will go "update?!?! sure why not!" and just do it.

      I use iOS on my phone and ICS on my tablet. I think they both have good and bad aspects, however, I was expecting alot more from iOS6 especially in the iPad space. I can understand not having widgets on an iPhone, but this is something they should have at least bought in for iPad.

      Come Oct when the contract is up, I am still not sure what I will do, iPhone 5 or SIII... I have equal amounts of "investment" in both camps in terms of complimentary products.

        The missus upgraded her S2 to the S3 on Wednesday. She spent the better part of 6 hours configuring everything and making it work how she wants. Which is a big deal for a not so tech savy person. So far she's found at least a dozen features that make it mile better than her old phone - most of which are OS specific.

        Now leave me looking at my WP7 phone wondering when I'm going to get some love.

      It doesn't make you update. It just whinges at you when you do.
      "An update is available for your device, do you want to download?" With a checkbox that you can tick to make it not check again in the future.

      I've been on ICS on my Galaxy Note for a month and a bit now, and have been using it as a landscape mini-tablet. ICS really isn't all that different from Gingerbread or Honeycomb, but it is a lot tastier.

    Compare it to Android 5.0 when we know more about it.

      Why? ICS might be the 2011 update, but with only 7% penetration it will be another year until Googles 2012 software is relevant.

        "Why?" Because it might be handy for people who are in the market to buy a brand new smartphone in a few months' time and want to compare the latest and greatest.

    To fans of the almighty iPhone God: At first it may seem very Android biased. But then you realise, there's truth to what Brent is saying. But really who cares? Just use whatever OS you feel like.

    However I have to agree with Scott, that this comparison should be made with Android's 2012 OS update aka Android Jellybean.

      Well, based on cycles it should be compared to JellyBean.
      But based on market adoption/penetration/absorbtion - it makes more sense to compare iOS6 with GingerBread considering 60-70% of the Android ecosystems still operates in that space. I wonder if its going to continue to lag on like this? By the time JB is out - youll have a 40 40 10 split between GB ICS and JB (plus the rest)?
      But on the flipside... you guys are probably the top 7% of the class!

        Of course, to you its right to compare the absolute latest major release of an OS with the oldest release of a competitor's OS you can reasonably get your hands on.

        Actually, if I use you're market penetration logic, we shouldn't be comparing iOS6 with Gingerbread, we should be comparing iOS5 with Gingerbread, since iOS6 currently has 0% market share, which is even less that ICS! Mind you, that would be an incredibly boring read, and I'm pretty sure there are articles in the archives that already address that comparison.

    What about Windows phone? :)

      What about Nokia 3320? I feel left out because my phone isn't being compared to anything! Hey, I got Snake II on this thing.

        As a Nokia 6230 owner, I smirk at your lowly 3320. Google Maps + halfway usable web browsing using opera, kiss my ass Snake II!

    Firefox syncs on Android.

    The simple fact is that IOS is a closed environment with a dedicated team to look after it and proprietary hardware to look after. That is a lot easier to manage than the myriad devices and standards with Android. That makes IOS sound great, but you pay the price of having to play by Cupertino's rather draconian rules. Plus without Android there would be sweet F'all competition for Apple. I don't care if Android isn't as perfect as Apple's stuff, it's much needed competition, and without it we'd be up shit creek without a penny left in our pockets.

      Oh and don't forget Windows 8 is just around the corner, and it will rock Apples world when it gets a head of steam.

    So if I don't personally care about millions of iOS "fart" app and other such useless apps, facebook, siri, mobile payments, video chat, messaging (I use SMS) or pretty icons then IOS 6 is very underwhelming.

    BTW did Apple actually claim it was more stable, robust, and accurate than iOS 5?

    This comparison is obviously biased. It is basically views from an Android fan. Yes, some new features in iOS 6 have been integrated into Android for quite some time, but longer time doesn’t mean better. Many people are misled by quality and quantity. What Apple really focuses on is its product quality. A clear sign: The whole world associates Android with the word ‘Laggy’; Apple with the word ‘smooth’. Even the best Android Tablet ‘ASUS Transformer’ lags and hangs sometimes, Apple doesn’t. Apple has goals to create the smoothness, great user-friendliness, awesome customers’ experience etc. & they really deliver it. I strongly believe some functions in iOS or Android have been put in planning, but Android released it urgently just to dominate the ‘quantity’, not the ‘quality’. In other words, Android has no quality control. In fact, I kind of admire windows phone for maintaining its uniqueness instead of rushing into something without considering its quality.

      I'm nominating you for the apple fanboy award
      I have an iPad and an android phone ... guess which one lags and which one doesn't? The iPad lags, and it lags like crazy, yes the versions I have are both released at about the same time. Please stop trying to force your views on the whole world. And by the way android does have quality control and it runs very well, smoother on every android device I've ever seen then iOS running on an apple device. geez it used to take 20 mins to load and close apps on my ipod touch 2nd gen when it was only 4 months old. Yes this is just my view. But at least my view is based on the facts I know and not over generalizing the entire world -"The whole world associates Android with the word ‘Laggy’".

        Yes, i did generalize it that way but i have to say that was one of the best generalizations I've ever made. Quote: "yes the versions I have are both released at about the same time" ? Why didn't reveal the version? Are you using iPad 1? and you comparing with an Android phone? Could you be more relevant bro.

        I would advise you to be open a lil bit and not forcing your irrelevant experience to judge iOS like how you judged it.

        Maybe you should read more, & not boasting your self-declared facts.
        Start from this one -->

          Just so you know, I rooted my two year old HTC Desire with the latest pure ICS 4.0.3 and let me tell you this. This thing is smooth as butter. I can only imagine what smoothness an S3 with a pure ICS would look like. Without the overlaid Touchwiz it would kill. Btw, the only reason your iphone runs so smoothly is because it doesn't properly do multi-tasking like an Android. Btw cant wait till iOS joins the fragmentation crowd.

            KzD. Steve Kondik the developer for cyanogenmod was to my knowledge the head developer of touchwiz UX. Sammy brought him in to iron out the speed issues touchwiz has. and to add more innovative features. like smart stay. I would love to see the s3 running AOSP roms but you would need a quad core kernel thats stable enough to do it. personally i would stick with steves rendition of touchwiz UX. atleast until XDA devs have had a few months to improve on it

        How to you get through life with blinkers on ? Must be really sad.

      iphone 4s, iOS 5. lags at random times for seemingly no reason. Apps get stuck.

      You are full of it.

    Its good Aplle didn't do live tiles
    You dont need it for crying out loud
    There a reson why they dont doit
    If you want to check the weather just press the friggin app
    Windows is just tricking un knowladgeble consumers so they think Windows has got all these features which is crap this
    Windows has got flash
    If apple gets flash which wont happen i will not get it
    and also just to get a crappy emulator i will not jailbrack my iphone oh just so you can get in the file system like back in windows days
    who gives a shit if you get in to a file system which you dont need.

      no no, you're right, going in and out of apps for information is far more convenient...

      "Windows is just tricking un knowladgeble consumers" - while we're at it, I'm guessing you'd love some advice to convince you on which phone to purchase, here goes (excuse paraphrasing from Apple ads); "Siri works!". There is no 'tricking' it is called MARKETING, Apple have the best marketing department in the world, hands down, hell they sold the 4$... God forbid another company try and market a feature of their OS that is not in the competition, WP7 has livetiles, iOS doesn't, they're actually pretty functional, suck it up.

      I like having a file system, now bare with me here, but I use the file system on my Android phone to, brace yourself, ACCESS FILES :O I get my work roster as an Excel spreadsheet, it goes in my work file, I can check it whenever I like, Uni timetable, check, CV, check, PDF's check, photos, check.. File systems are convenient, I can see and open everything, all in the one place!! Rather than have to go into a specific app to open a specific file then switch out of that app and into a new one to see a different type of file.

    Roll on Key Lime Pie (aka Android 5.0). Even Jelly Bean (4.1) might have a few surprises.

    In regards to the 'Messaging' section, check out MightyText. sms from your (chrome)browser to android phone.

    I started using an iPhone a bit after the iPhone 3 came out. I then upgraded to the iPhone 4 nearly as soon as it came and and enjoyed using iPhone the whole and also purchased an iPad 2 last year. That all changed when bought my wife a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 and myself a Galaxy S3. I'm pretty sure I will never go back to iPhone/iPhones now. My eyes have been opened and I now see the light. The S3 has so many features and functions that the iphone doesn't and it's such a beautiful phone. When I look at my iPhone that I haven't gotten rid of just yet, it just seems so... lacking.

      Bravo, Rob. It's always to see people who rely on reason and have been enlightened. As opposed to others (Ayden) who blindly follow the herd and believe popularity is synonymous with technical superiority, especially when the popularity only exists because it caters to the lowest common denominator.

        Hi Abz! I heard my name here.

        Lets Compare Samsung Galaxy S2 with iPhone 4S. It's pretty obvious that 4S has lower specs than S2, but it runs as smooth as silk, as compared to S2(not as smooth). The iOS & its hardware work perfectly well. I tried to like Android because of it so called 'many features', but the user interface is just not as nice. But this is understandable because Android wouldn't have born without Apple.

          "But this is understandable because Android wouldn’t have born without Apple."

          Wow, really?? You're gonna go there?? Android existed in 2006, a year BEFORE iOS.

          How about we start listening to facts rather than the Jobsian Review of "YOU STOLE MY WORK, I'M GONNA DESTROY YOU".

          You like iOS better for the User Interface? Great. Meanwhile, I'll pootle along with my HTC One XL with 4G and an interface so nice, I'm seriously considering moving to a country where it's legal to marry inanimate objects.

          Each to their own. But don't spread lies.

            Well, let me rephrase. "Android TODAY would not be how it is TODAY, if not because of Apple." Yes, you can explore into the timeline and say Android is one year older than Apple, but we all know this is not the point. The point is Apple did create something brilliant and Android had to learn from scratch from them. You can illustrate how much you love your ‘lover’ as crazily as you like, but facts are facts, you are only making a fool of yourself actually.

            “marry inanimate objects” ? Laugh-Out-Loud!

          Easy Tiger, you`re really starting to embarrass yourself. You should be pleased that with iOS6 Apple is starting to catch up.

            There is nothing to be embarrassed about. :) I just feel sorry that people only look at the surface nowadays. A great smartphone isn't only about how many features you have, how good is the hardware specs etc. Apple isn't catching up, in fact they are just becoming greater & others are trying to copy it.

            When you hold an iPhone,

              Ayden. I have an S2. its silky smooth and runs a lot better then my iphone 4s. i bought both phones the 4s first then a S2. S2 runs like a dream, 4s lags and has SO many problems. apple took notification center from android. ios6 new features are already on android. android has been around longer yes. apple didnt invent touch phones. the first touch screen innovative phone was. Linux. then linux and Danger merged with google. creating android. in 2003. all apple did was make the UI easier to use. then android simplified. apple has stolen a heap from google. and the only 2 reasons they still keep kicking is because of great marketing and sheep. you sir are a sheep. you stand by ios like its a god. well it aint. its simple, basic and slightly behind the times. which is great for a lot of people. but a lot of people love android because it is a fluid os. u can change it to suit you. that was the point of android. making phone os for people to change into what they the user needed/wanted. not being forced into having only what apple wants them to have.

                Lol rofl apple made the smartphone they are the father of smartphones android may have more features but its all thrown around.. And its terribly sad that more then half the android population is still on gingerbread. All the dual core android phones that came out last year are still stuck on gingerbread... ROFL... Android got serious fragmentation problems and androids tablet market doesnt even come close to ipad

    I don't know if this is purely a OS problem or hardware problem, but the Hands Free integration in iOS is far far better than most Android phones at the moment. One-Click music, Long Hold for Voice Control, Triple-Click for previous track etc. is much better than Android where each phone has their own take.
    For example, my Galaxy Note has FM Radio as One-Click, where my Google Nexus S is Music Player. However, they don't have next track/previous track clicks, volume control doesn't work (for Nexus S) and there is no way to make a shortcut to Voice Control that I can find (again for the Nexus S). There was something about Voice control on the Note, but somehow it's been overridden by the stupid FM radio. My uncle has the HTC One X which has a great function of Double-Click to call the last call, whether it was a missed call or last person you called. Too bad it's not standard or anything...

    Disclaimer: I haven't rooted either of my phones, and I'm sure there HAS to be a way to, as I've seen some 3rd-party music apps that have hands-free control setup (that I can't get to work). It's just that there isn't any built-in standard with the Android OS itself that makes me sad :(

      Yeah, Sense on HTC, although some people grouse about its size or whatever, still really works beautifully to smooth away all those Android niggles you have with other Android phones.

        +1 Ozone. Sense 4.0 works brilliantly on my HTC One XL

    You compare BMW with Mazda. The features are comparable, but not the brand status.

    Technically, wouldn't the "ultimate comparison" be based on AFTER you've actually used the final release of iOS6...?

    Will be very interesting to see what WP8 will bring. WP7.5 is great but it's lacking in those core indicators such as browser speed, maps, voice and killer applications. Even with Nokia helping MS out, Bing Maps is well behind Google Maps.

      Browser speed is fast I go toe to toe with IOS and android and my wp7 wins every time. All wp7 have offline maps with voice navigation Nokia drive for Nokia , HTC locations for HTC. Voice is good for what I want it to do read text msgs for me in car and dictate them back. Apps is the only thing lacking but building day by day. Should of been 3 way comparison wp7 would of got most I think.

    It's more "SIMPLY SAID" ANDROID runs on many "DIFFERENT" devices
    IOS runs "only"on "APPLE" DEVICES
    Andriod =choice of device you chose what to buy in style too
    IOS = APPLE only device your given the style
    Ultimately it is up to the buyer, but being given one style of object seems like everyone having to drive the same car.......
    Not a fanboy .....I have the first gen galaxy S (the little one) because my last phone died :(

    I really hate it how these comments turn into troll feeding fests.. nom nom nom

    I have both iOS and Android devices, and I love my Galaxy Nexus. What they said as new features in iOS 6 isn't new at all comparing with ICS.

    i have been waiting for that damn "Reply with Message" feature for ages! my old nokia n86 had that feature and it was so useful!!! people would call me while i was driving and i had a pre saved message and i would just push that pop up button when i needed instead of answer and risk a fine or hang up on them.
    yes there is bluetooth handsfree but sometimes its nice not to answer the phone while driving

    So iOS6 is on par with Android 2.1. Great work apple!

    I love my nokia lumia 900, but the camera sucks,,and i am addicted to phones, so i just pre-ordered this samsung galaxy s3, look good. i will also get the iphone 5 and will definitley go back to nokia when they get apollo and the puerview 41 mega pixel on a nokia lumia. (bored of htc ) so i guess its nokia-- galaxy --iphone for me.

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