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A Long-time Android User's Review of iOS

Published on 2024-05-02

I recently came into possession of an old 2017-era iPad which I use as an e-reader. If you've read this blog before, you'll know I am a Linux user, and I like freedom and control over my systems.

This has made Android a perfect fit for my choice of smartphone. I had an iPod Touch from wayback when (2010 or 2011), and even jailbroke it before switching to Android.

I liked how Android didn't restrict me. I could play emulators on the platform, copy mp3s to my music player of choice without iTunes. Then eventually sideloading the F-Droid store, replacing all the apps I could with open-source alternatives. F-Droid continues to be my primary app store on Android to this day.

iOS on the otherhand is known to be locked down. But an interesting effect is that Apple has been opening up more recently. Some of this is regulation pressure, the rest seems to be a slow game of "catch up" with Android.

Even though iOS is closed-source and the base version of Android is open, it's not going to make much of a difference if you haven't flashed your phone with another ROM. Both iOS and Android with Google services collects information in the background constantly, even if asked not to. Phones other than the Google Pixel series will also have OEM-related telemetry and bloat.

I cannot tell if iOS spies less, and trying to quantify the difference would quickly turn into a pissing contest. Most will assume Google is worse, but Apple has it's own blunders.

If you buy a phone that's good for custom ROMS (e.g. Google Pixel), you can flash it with a privacy-respecting ROM, don't install Google Services, and you'll have the most privacy respecting experience you can get for a modern smartphone. However, lack of Google Play services means app incompatibility. To mitigate against this you can look into something like microG or the sandbox from GrapheneOS, each methods has it's own strengths and weaknesses.

In terms of hardware. Budget Android phones are competitve with Apple's low-end iPhone SE offering. They'll have different compromises, usually in build and camera quality, but can provide better CPU and (sometimes) battery-life. High-end Android phones will compete with Apple in regards of hardware specs and features, otherwise the high-end iPhones combined with the purpose-built iOS is the best all-round you can buy today.

Many Android phones have copied Apple and remove things like the headphone jack, and microSD expansion making the Android hardware less appealing to me. Google have also made moves to lock down the OS a little more, or move functionality out of open-source Android into Google propritary apps.

I don't plan on moving off Android anytime soon, but I thought I might as well try the competition.

So with this iPad, I login to my old Apple ID, disable all iCloud sync options. I'll try and put this through it's paces and try to do some power-user things.

Dealing with data

Local files

From my desktop running KDE, I use the Dolphin file manager to copy files into supported iOS applications. In my case, VLC, so I don't have to deal with iTunes. Strangely enough, copying data into common folders like Downloads, Photos etc. won't display on the iPad. So you have to copy data into an app.

Android seems to be introducing more strict filesystem access policies, but has from the beginning had a much more accessable filesystem. Common folders exist, they can be shared between apps, so two music apps can access the Music folder. On iOS you must move data between apps in the files app.

Not all apps will give you file system access like this.

Cloud files

The cloud is really how iOS is meant to be used. You can sign up for services like Dropbox, But I've set up my own Nextcloud instance.

I use my Nextcloud instance to keep notes as well, so I won't be testing any other local or cloud-based solution for iOS.

Using a cloud-based filesystem can make accessing files much easier. Many file formats can be "shared" into supported apps in order to open them.

KDE Connect

You can copy one file at a time over Wi-Fi using KDE Connect (essential app). I hear a ding on the iPad when I send a file from my desktop, and the file appears in the Files app. But the KDE Connect app requires it to be opened for it to get any real good use, this really reduces the magic you feel compared to the Android version which runs in the background. The introduction of KDE Connect has otherwise been a game changer.

Something to note, Android has a good compromise for background apps. They must display a persistant notification to stay awake, also serving as a reminder what's running. Apple just sleeps anything that isn't in focus.


In iOS there are no folders, only the camera roll. Downloaded files get saved to Photos app, all images saved are in order, and albums must be created to organise anything. This part is meant to be used with iCloud.

You can otherwise connect the device as a camera and copy the photos that way.

I also hate how iOS uses IMG_001.jpg for images rather than IMG_20240410.jpg. Otherwise the way iOS handles gallery probably doesn't annoy me as much as what it would've in the past.


Since iOS is an app/cloud centric operating system. Let's try some some interesting off-beat and strange things in iOS land, a.k.a. normal stuff for a PC.


Despite GBA emulation being a huge draw for me on Android back in the day. Apple are now officially letting retro emulators on the App Store. I don't know if this spawned from regulation or otherwise. But it's kinda cool it's a thing now.

Android does have the historical advantage here though.


VLC can have files copied to it via a HTTP server over Wi-Fi. This method works very well, but I prefer using the cable to transfer larger libraries. But you probably don't want to move off the screen during the HTTP transfer as iOS aggressively kills background apps.


I just uploaded my epub files over using Nextcloud or KDE Connect. The default books application can then read these without problem, the app is quite nice to use actually.

PDF's will need to be "shared" to the Books application to be added. EPUB's will be imported by default.

Download mp3 in Safari and play with progress saved

Some podcasts exist on Gumroad, and there is an app for it. But I've always just downloaded the mp3 and play it myself.

Downloading mp3s work just fine but you'll have to move it into VLC's folder via the Files app if you want it to save your position. This isn't that big of a deal, I use the custom folder feature on Antennapod for Android.

For audiobooks I would prefer a seperate app for so I found the open-source BookPlayer which is simple and works great. Don't listen to audiobooks much though, so I didn't really test it in anger.

Telegram and app censorship

Telegram is on the Apple Store, but Apple can sometimes request for channels/groups to be blocked in the app. On Android you can sideload the APK without these blocks, or use the web app. On iOS only the later is an option.

This has been a topic of contention in the past before with other apps. And it was made clear at the time that web will be the only way to forward in these cases of epistemic disagreement.

This leads into a broader discussion on Apple's ecosystem. If an app function is forbidden, then you have little recourse.

As of writing, "retro game emulators" have just been allowed. But alternative browser engines are still forbidden, so Chrome and Firefox are just shells over WebKit.

The iOS version of WebKit has restrictions that even the normal WebKit doesn't, such as (aparently) an abitrary limit on the size of WASM binaries. As well as general complaints of WASM support lagging competitors.

I tested streaming with Odysee, but I couldn't select any other option besides the original stream, seems like an issue in Safari.

Other apps?

As mentioned this was on an iPad. I didn't get to try out maps, but I suppose I'd go with Apple Maps, or maybe Organic Maps. For most other things, unless a good open-source app exists, I'd probably just stick with the Apple defaults.


This wasn't a bad experiment and it's good see iOS become more flexible. Even though I'll stick with Android in the near future, I cansee the iPhone as a compelling experience.

Compared to a decade ago, my expectation for what a phone can do have dropped off. Nowadays I like to keep the phone basic, and use a real computer for real things.

If I had to switch to iOS I probably wouldn't miss all the customisation from Android. Instead I would miss all the excellent open-source apps I've used along the way. F-Droid is a major asset to the Android community and the FOSS ecosystem at large.