Choosing a phone isn’t just about choosing between iOS and Android: It’s also about deciding which apps you’re going to pick for your emails, your driving directions, your music, and everything else. We’ve used both sets of native apps for years, and thought it was time to deliver our verdict for 2022.
For the sake of brevity, we’re going to focus on the default apps you’re most likely to use on your phone, and leave digital services (like YouTube Music and Apple Music), software more commonly used on the desktop (like Apple Pages and Google Docs), and digital assistants (Google Assistant and Siri) for another day.
2 / 11
We suspect that most people will agree with us when we say that Gmail beats Apple Mail in most key areas: in its searching and sorting capabilities, in the look of its interface, and in the features that it offers. Gmail lets you snooze emails and send emails with an expiry date and Apple Mail doesn’t, for example, although both apps can now schedule emails.
Apple Mail is by no means terrible, letting you manage multiple accounts with ease, group conversations into threads, perform quick actions with swipes, and generally get your emailing tasks done… but there’s a reason a lot of third-party apps have tried to improve the emailing situation on iOS and plug some of the feature gaps that currently exist.
And the winner is… Gmail
3 / 11
Google Maps had a seven year head start on Apple Maps, and while it’s done a lot of catching up, it hasn’t reached parity yet—and as with Gmail, we think most people would agree. Apple Maps is perfectly fine as a mapping app, but it doesn’t have the breadth and the depth of the Google equivalent, especially when it comes to worldwide coverage.
Apple Maps is gradually adding missing features that Google Maps has—Street View (Look Around), augmented reality walking navigation, multi-stop routes—but Google Maps still just about has the edge, whether that’s in bookmarking and reviewing locations, saving maps for offline use, or seeing how busy a particular place is before you arrive at it.
And the winner is… Google Maps
4 / 11
All mobile web browsers need to do is give you a window to the internet, so there’s not as much room for extra functionality with these apps as there is with some of the others. Both Safari and Chrome cover the basics, including multi-tab browsing, a private or incognito mode, bookmarking, easy link sharing, and tightly integrated web searching features.
Dig into the details though, and Safari has a bit more to it, whether that’s with tighter privacy and anti-tracking controls, or extras like the integrated reader view that strips out page distractions. Of course, your choice here is largely going to depend on what you rely on using on the desktop, because you’ll want to keep everything synced to your phone.
And the winner is… Apple Safari
5 / 11
At this point, iMessage is a mature, stable messaging platform that brings with it just about everything you could want: Read receipts, location sharing, reaction effects, the ability to unsend messages, and plenty more. It syncs your messages seamlessly across iPhones, iPads and Macs as well, so you don’t always have to do your chatting on your smartphone.
Google’s messaging strategy continues to be a mess: Chat has now taken over from Allo, Hangouts and everything else, but doesn’t play well with Apple. It’s not a bad chat app, and offers several handy features, but its only real advantage over iMessage is that you can use it on any device, whether or not that device is made by Apple.
And the winner is… iMessage
6 / 11
Video calling apps need fewer features, so there’s not as much to choose between in FaceTime and Google Meet as there is with some other apps: They both let you quickly connect to your contacts via video, they both support video conferencing, they both let you blur your background, and they both let you share what’s on your phone screen.
It’s difficult to choose a winner here, because both do all the essentials very well. Google Meet of course has the more expansive, Zoom-like features for teams and businesses across multiple platforms, but when it comes to making high quality, straightforward one-to-one calls on your phone, then we think FaceTime is just about the better option.
And the winner is… FaceTime
7 / 11
Apple Photos and Google Photos really show the two tech giants playing to their strengths: Apple’s app is neat and tidy and packed with useful features, while Google’s app excels in terms of its search and AI features (including face and object recognition). Apple Photos looks a little bit nicer, whereas Google Photos tends to work a bit more intuitively.
Both apps offer intelligent sorting features, a bunch of editing options, and tight integration with other apps. There’s hardly any area where one truly excels over the other, but concentrating just on the mobile apps alone—and ignoring the web interfaces, for example—we think Google Photos is just slightly more fluid and easier to get around.
And the winner is… Google Photos
8 / 11
At first glance it seems as though Apple Notes has more going for it, but Google Keep manages to pack plenty of features behind a straightforward interface. Both apps let you collaborate on notes with other people, both apps let you combine images and lists and text, and both apps let you apply labels to make it easier to keep everything organized.
There are differences here as well: Password-protected notes in Apple Notes for example, and the ability to set reminders alongside notes in Google Keep. While Google Keep is a fine note-taking app, overall Apple Notes seems to have more to it—including superior filtering and smart tagging options—and at the moment we’d say it’s the better app.
And the winner is… Apple Notes
9 / 11
Another app category where there’s not much difference between the offerings from Apple and Google. After years and years of development, both these tools have grown into very capable, very solid calendar apps with most of the features you’re going to need, from recurring events to calendar sharing to getting alerts when it’s time to leave for a meeting.
Taking everything into consideration, Google Calendar wins the contest by a narrow margin: it’s one of those apps where the interface really pops and works well (including the default illustrations for events like weddings and birthdays), you get a few more options for scheduling events with others, and overall it’s a bit more intuitive to use. Plus, most of your contacts are likely already using it.
And the winner is… Google Calendar
10 / 11
The news apps from Apple and Google continue to evolve and change with the times, both offering up a selection of popular trending stories as well as personally recommended articles for you. You can dig into news based on topics of interest or a particular region in both these apps, though it’s slightly easier to manage if you’re using Google News.
Apple News makes more of an attempt to create a Flipboard-style interface that’s pleasing to the eye, and when it works, it works very well—so although Google News is perhaps a little faster and more comprehensive, we think Apple News is slightly ahead here because it aims for a more curated experience that’s more aesthetically pleasing to look at.
And the winner is… Apple News
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