When it comes to smartphones, there are three primary options that many tend to go with, at least here in the U.S.: Apple’s iPhone, Samsung’s Galaxy lineup, and Google’s Pixel devices. But choosing among these three smartphone models is easier said than done. After all, each one offers different strengths and weaknesses, so how do you decide which one fits you best?
Over the years, I’ve spent more than my fair share of time with each of the three primary smartphone lineups. With that experience, I broke down each of these devices below, including what I find the most appealing about them, all so that you can decide which device fits your needs best and avoid the pain of buyer’s remorse.
iPhone: the easy pick
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When it comes to smartphones, the iPhone is one of the easiest picks to make, which is why it continues to absolutely dominate the market. Apple designs the iPhone to integrate seamlessly with the rest of its ecosystem: If you already have Apple devices, you can take advantage of a slew of features that blend your devices together under Apple’s iCloud umbrella.
The iPhone is also just simple to use. iOS walks you through setup, and the App Store is there when you’re ready to add more to the mix. The device has never been more customizable than it currently is, but the “it just works” philosophy is still on full display here. That goes double for privacy and security, too: You’ve probably heard that iPhones are one of the most secure smartphones out there, and it’s true. Apple offers a variety of strong privacy features, like automatically blocking your IP when using Safari, and even breaking down how different apps access your data.
Of course, there’s also the whole iMessage debacle, which has continued to be a thorn in the side of every person with a mix of iPhone and Android friends. If everyone you text uses iPhones, great! You’ll be able to use iMessage, FaceTime, and all the perks that comes along with that. But add one Android user to the mix, and all of a sudden texting—especially group texts—becomes a stripped-down struggle. If only Apple would adopt RCS, we’d all be better off.
If you want an easy-to-use device that offers straightforward access to things like messaging, web browsing, and media—while also offering years of excellent support—then the Apple iPhone is an excellent choice. And because Apple is still supporting some of its older devices, you may be able to buy a slightly older iPhone, like the iPhone 12, and save yourself some money. Don’t sleep on used devices, either, for the ultimate Apple value.
Samsung Galaxy: features galore
Where iPhones are straightforward and offer a lot of benefits, Samsung’s Galaxy line-up tries to emulate the same experience, but on the more open nature of the Android operating system. It isn’t truly open—there are still plenty of things you’re locked into, here—but Samsung put a lot of work into making its OneUI system customizable and user-friendly. Samsung’s devices also offer fantastic user options, which simplify the phone system and make it easier for less- experienced users to dig into.
If you care about performance, too, the Galaxy lineup easily offers some of the best Android phones you’ll find on the market, even when looking at Samsung’s more budget-friendly A-series devices. Not only do they utilize fantastic hardware, but the software has been fine-tuned to eke out as much juice as possible while still keeping the phone running smoothly for years to come. (Four years, to be precise.)
There’s a reason Samsung continues to stay on top of the Android market, and it’s thanks to the design and hardware the company chooses when making a new device. Samsung’s Galaxy lineup has often been touted as the iPhone of the Android world, as Samsung and Apple borrow a lot from each other. But those implementations and inspirations aren’t bad, especially if you want to experience Android on a top-of-the-line device with fantastic software and features to boot.
Google Pixel: a clean Android experience
The Google Pixel series has been making waves since Google first launched the original Pixel nearly seven years ago. Since then, the company finally created its own custom chips—Google Tensor—leaning heavily into the tech-loving side of the Android community.
Perhaps one of the most appealing parts of the Google Pixel is its bloatware-free approach to the Android operating system—though if you buy it through a carrier, you’re likely to find some bloatware pre-installed. The Pixel series is undeniably Android, and it benefits from a lot of the work Google puts into machine learning. Where Samsung devices and Apple devices rely heavily on their hardware to drive their performance, Google’s onboard machine learning helps drive the Pixel to almost unparalleled levels, offering state-of-the-art camera features in devices that don’t break the bank.
Speaking of which, Pixel devices aren’t quite as budget-friendly as they used to be, but Google continues to innovate with its smartphones to offer a smooth, clean Android experience that’s perfect for techies who want to be able to dig deep into every facet of their smartphones. You can also enjoy this smartphone without any tech experience, though you’ll really get the most out of it if you’re already involved in the tech world and familiar with the openness of Google’s Android operating system.
Which is right for me?
Ultimately, choosing among these three devices is always going to be difficult—they all offer fantastic features, great hardware, and their own special perks. If you’re looking for something that integrates well with other Apple products or just want a straightforward device, the iPhone is a great place to start.
Those who value features and hardware performance over everything else will find the Galaxy lineup isn’t lacking at all, especially with so many options coming out of Samsung in recent years. But if you care most about a clean Android experience that gives you unbridled access to Android, then the Google Pixel is going to be a winner.