You Love iPhone. Your Partner Loves Android. How to Make It Work.
The pros and cons of Apple and Google’s mobile operating systems—and how people can find neutral apps that work with both.
The pros and cons of Apple and Google’s mobile operating systems—and how people can find neutral apps that work with both.
I’m on iOS. My husband, Will, is on Android. He says he’ll never switch.
When we met, Will had a Samsung Galaxy S3. He has stuck with Android phones since, except for a brief stint with the iPhone 6S Plus. When he ditched that phone, many of his texts got lost because they were still trying to get to him via iMessage. That quick taste of Apple’s lock-in only deepened his resolve. (Apple has since addressed the problem.)
There are several reasons for my iPhone preference. The main one is that I can’t seem to give up my iMessage group chats.
Generally, people aren’t prone to switching from Android to iOS or vice versa. But we’re in the throes of Smartphone Season, the time of year when Samsung, Apple and Google unveil their latest models, so maybe it’s worth the consideration. Also, there are ways to coexist harmoniously in an iOS-Android household, which I’ll discuss below.
I wanted to explore this iOS-Android divide, so I asked Will and other Android loyalists: What do you love about your platform?
I took Will’s Pixel 6a and started a voice recording. As we talked, the app transcribed our conversation in real time with near perfect precision. It’s one of the Android artificial intelligence features that I’m most jealous of. The second is Hold for Me, a tool that does just that when you’re waiting for a customer-service representative.
Will said he likes the swipe-style keyboard, which Android had long before iPhones did, and access to the file system, which allows him to sync data between his computer and phone over Wi-Fi. “Those are things that I’ve enjoyed for a long time,” Will, who works as an engineer at a medical software company, said. “It’s hard to break habits.”
Will isn’t bothered by those green-bubble text messages his Android phone triggers on iPhones. For one, he doesn’t see it—it all shows up the same on the Pixel. His family is mostly based in Europe, and they use Signal and other apps that look the same across platforms.
Google has tried to shame Apple into adopting the next-generation texting standard, called Rich Communication Services, to make all texts more like iMessage. For Apple, implementing it could take away a reason for people to stick with iPhones.
William Edmiston, a Samsung Galaxy S9 user, chose Android because of Google’s innovation and Apple’s tight control and closed system. “I too am a ‘never iPhone’ person,” said the Raleigh, N.C., resident, who works at an orthodontics technology company. “Android felt a bit more leading-edge, embraced by true tech enthusiasts.”
Mr. Edmiston also liked being able to treat the phone like a PC, and install different operating systems and apps. He admitted he’s now entrenched in Google’s own apps.
Both Android and Apple offer helpful guides for those who want to make the jump to the rival platform. But swapping systems is more than just transferring contacts and photos. It’s learning an entirely new language of gestures and menus, which can be frustrating.
“I frankly don’t think one operating system is better than the other, but I do think that changing operating systems is a massive pain in the butt,” my husband said.
In the U.S., 55% of Americans use an iOS device. There are more Android users globally, where Google’s platform has 71% market share, according to analytics firm Statcounter.
Apple develops iOS exclusively for iPhones and iPads (with the iPadOS variation). Google develops Android but provides it freely as open-source software. That means Android can be used by any hardware maker. The most popular include Samsung, Xiaomi and OnePlus. Google makes its own Pixel-branded phones, and even Microsoft has dabbled in Android.
And while the two are constantly copying each other’s features, they differ in key ways:
• Hardware: iOS devices are only made by Apple, and you can choose from three or four new phones each year.
There are far more Android phones and designs to choose from, from the cheapest to the most extreme. On the low end, you can get a budget model for under $240. (At $719, the iPhone SE is Apple’s budget offering.) On the high end, Samsung sells Android phones with flexible screens that can flip and fold.
• Ecosystem: Apple designs both its hardware and software, a position the company touts as a benefit, as its devices “just work” together. AirPods that automatically connect to your Mac. A lost Apple Watch you can ping from your iPad.
Android devices aren’t integrated as seamlessly, though Google is doing more now. Last year, the company launched features so Android users could locate their phones or send texts from Chromebooks. A feature similar to Universal Clipboard—Apple’s cross-device copy-and-paste functionality—is coming to Android phones and tablets.
Samsung has its own gadget universe. Samsung Galaxy phones can beam videos to Samsung smart TVs, while Galaxy Watches can remotely control the camera shutter of Galaxy phones, for example.
• Updates: iPhones and iPads get a big feature-rich software update every fall, available to all eligible models. Apple supports phones for about five years.
Because the Android universe is fragmented, each phone maker has a different system-update timeline and policy. Typically, Google’s Pixel phones are first, as with Android 13, which launched earlier this month. Newer Pixel phones get five years of support, while older models get three. Samsung devices get three to four years of system updates, plus an additional year of security patches.
• Customisation: Historically, iPhones have been less customizable than Android devices. But the upcoming iOS 16 update allows users to style the lockscreen fonts and add little interactive widgets, something Android users have long been able to do.
Android is a better platform for techie tinkers. For example, you can set a third-party messaging app as the default. You can also sideload apps on Android—downloading them from outside of the Google Play store—though you do so at your own risk.
Google has increased efforts to keep bad apps out of its Play store. Still, the platform is more open, like a traditional PC, so users who aren’t careful can make their devices susceptible to malware and data leaks.
Yes, iOS and Android feel different, and there will always be things one can do better than the other. But if you pick the right apps, they can dwell together happily.
Google is actually great at this: Will and I rely on Google Maps for location sharing, Google Photos for photo storage and Google Assistant to control smart-home products. These Google services all have iPhone apps, though the experience is more integrated on Android.
For home entertainment, we’ve found Roku streaming devices, many of which support both Google Cast and Apple’s AirPlay, work well. So do Sonos speakers, which can be configured with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, and work with AirPlay.
Will and I won’t be on the same platforms anytime soon, but we make it work. At least until I need a great voice transcription and steal his phone. Again.
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A food-and-wine writer from the U.S. describes his annual pilgrimage to the Normandy Coast for thalassotherapy—a round of treatments that’s proven to be an antidote for his occupational overindulgence.
AS A food-and-travel writer who lives in France, I face occupational hazards other people might envy: Think white Burgundies, foie gras, butter, cream and the world’s best cheeses. It’s a constant battle to avoid ending up with the silhouette of a pear.
That’s why in the years since I moved to Paris in 1986, I’ve become a fan of thalassotherapy, taking dozens of “cures” at some of the 50-odd thalassotherapy centres along the Atlantic and Mediterranean littorals of France. The word derives from the Greek words “thalassa” (sea) and “therapeia” (to nurse or cure) and refers to a series of treatments—heated seawater baths, stimulating jet showers and seaweed wraps—and exercise such as aqua gym (in-water calisthenics).
While these cures alleviate the fatigue and sluggishness I feel after months of late-night dinners and deadline pressure, I’ve found that a weeklong thalassotherapy circuit that includes low-calorie meals also contributes to a healthier, slimmer, better-toned me. Apparently, Plato believed “the sea cures all human ailments,” but my goal is simply to retreat, relax and, at the end, be able to tighten my belt to its customary notch.
A thalassotherapy experience can be completed in as little time as a weekend, but a typical stay lasts 5-7 days. A 6-day signature cure with room and board and four treatments a day costs about $1,580 at Thalazur in Cabourg, a well-mannered Belle Époque seaside resort in Normandy. It was there I booked my most recent extended cure in February, 2020.
I’d heard of Cabourg as a favourite escape of Marcel Proust, who stayed at the Grand Hôtel and, by his account, would gaze at the flinty waves of the English Channel while enjoying his favourite sole Normande (sole poached in cider with a rich cream sauce garnished with button mushrooms, shrimp and mussels).
The centre is a brisk 10-minute walk from the heart of Cabourg with its fan-shaped street plan spreading out from the casino and the Grand Hôtel. Even if my low-calorie regimen barred me from indulging in sole Normande, I never felt gastronomically deprived as I enjoyed a healthy menu with tasty choices such as freshly shucked Norman oysters and steamed salmon with spinach.
My pleasantly monastic existence found me donning a terry cloth bathrobe and slippers every morning and reporting for my daily program of five treatments. Administered by cheerful spa attendants in individual white-tiled spa cabins, these averaged 25 minutes each. While the seaweed jet baths were blissfully relaxing, the high-velocity jet showers, an attempt to pummel the cellulite out of you and improve circulation, were more of a “grin and bear it” prospect.
I can’t pretend I loved the wraps either: Slathered in puréed seaweed, swathed in huge sheets of plastic film and then covered with a heated blanket, I felt like I was being mummified. This detoxification process promises to rid you of “water weight,” and your parched skin receives a good dose of seaweed’s moisturising oligo elements, but I inevitably developed an itch somewhere I couldn’t scratch. Still, when the slick plastic was stripped away and I could shower, I felt hugely invigorated.
More alarming, I also endured cryotherapy. The attendants locked me in a capsule of dry air cooled to -230 degrees Fahrenheit for three minutes, an experience meant to improve circulation and increase production of cortisol, collagen, endorphins and adrenaline. The adrenaline rush, at least, was real; it was a profound relief to exit my capsule after being subjected to a blast of Arctic chill while wearing nothing more than black paper spa panties.
These morning regimens induced a languorous exhaustion, so I inevitably followed up the light lunch with a nap in the afternoon. Then, refreshed, I took long walks on the beach or bicycled along the promenade in front of the hotel.
Memories of my stay—and the 7 pounds I dropped there—prompted me to test the waters again last winter. I booked a 1-night, 2-day weekend sampler at the Thalazur in Port Camargue on the Mediterranean, an hour from my house.
This centre was smaller but also had lovely sea-views, plus my stylish sea-shack style room came with a large private balcony. The three treatments a day were excellent, too; the cost, about $178, was worth it for the belt-tightening.
When, on the Monday after my return home, I went to the single-window post office in my village, the post mistress raised her eyebrows theatrically. “Bonjour!” she said with a grin. “What happened!? You look great!” I went for a weekend of thalassotherapy, I told her. “Ah, voilà! La Thalasso fait toujours du bien,” she purred.
She was right, of course. I look forward to a week-long saltwater wallow this winter, maybe in Bandol with its views of the Mediterranean, or at the elegant new Relais Thalasso in the seaside town of Pornichet on the sunny Atlantic coast in the Loire region. Unlike at other centers, where you traipse about between treatments, the Relais Thalasso crew stash you in a spacious private suite with a comfy lounge area, the better to nap before another go-round.
France pioneered thalassotherapy but you can find excellent centers in other countries, too
For the uninitiated, La Perla, a stylish centre in San Sebastián in the Spanish Basque Country, is a great place to sample thalassotherapy before committing to a full-on cure. Originally established by Spain’s Queen Maria Cristina, when she was queen from 1829-1833, at the royal family’s summer house here, the spa was rebuilt in 1912 on a site overlooking La Concha, a crescent-shaped beach. A 5-hour day pass gives you access to a hydrotherapy pool, water beds, marine steam baths and an in-water exercise circuit. Another option includes a massage and lunch in the spa’s restaurant overlooking the sea. From $49 for a 5-hour day pass.
Vilalara Longevity Thalassa and Medical Spa in Lagoa, a city in Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, is set in lush gardens overlooking the Atlantic. It has two seawater pools, 20 treatment cabins and a variety of cures, including a 5-night detoxification program with 2 thalassotherapy sessions per night, lymphatic drainage massages, access to thalasso pools and a consultation with a nutritionist to personalise a tasty low-calorie meal plan or a liquid diet of anti-inflammatory shakes, juices and soups. From about $3,899.
Situated on the Athenian Riviera, this world-class spa in the Divani Apollon Palace and Thalasso outside of Athens boasts the largest thalassotherapy pool in Greece with 16 different water jet areas in its expanse. The X factor at this family-run beach-front property with 25 treatment rooms is its healthy low-calorie menu created by the hotel’s chef and in-house dietician. Appetising proof that shedding pounds needn’t mean privation: the zucchini-crust Greek pizza with anthotryo (fresh cheese), cherry tomatoes, oregano and EVOO. From about $1,747 for a 3-day stay.
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