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Android vs. iOS: security comparison 2022

Android and iOS smartphones are taking over the world, but that could be good news for cyber criminals. If you value mobile phone security, you’ll probably want to compare Android and iOS. Here’s how they measure up across a range of different features.

Daniel Markuson

Daniel Markuson

Android vs. iOS: security comparison 2022

App marketplace security

Winner: iPhone

Every app on the Apple App Store is closely inspected, which might reduce the number of apps available, but helps to reduce malware-riddled apps and security issues.

Android’s open Google Play Store marketplace has far more apps to choose from than on Apple's App Store, but there’s a far greater chance that hackers can make it onto the platform to distribute malware through malicious apps.

On numerous occasions, highly ranked apps with hundreds of thousands of downloads from the Google Play Store have been discovered to contain Android malware.

Android users can also change their settings to allow apps from outside of the Google Play Store. This provides an even greater selection of apps, but opens users to an even greater risk of downloading a malicious app. Apple's secure App Store wins comfortably on this front.

As a side note, make sure to avoid third party app stores; while the Play Store and the App Store have their faults, they're both much safer than the many unofficial app marketplaces elsewhere online.

Device manufacturers

Winner: iPhone

Apple devices' integrated design makes security vulnerabilities less frequent and harder to find.

Apple’s mobile devices and their operating systems are inseparable, giving them far more control over how they work together. While iOS device features are more restricted than an Android device, the iPhone’s integrated design makes security vulnerabilities far less frequent and harder to find.

Android’s open nature means it can be installed on a wide range of devices. Depending on the manufacturer and the model, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. Some mobile devices integrate perfectly with Android while others leave significant security vulnerabilities.

Device-based security across Android devices also varies – some offer retinal and fingerprint scanners while others are limited to passwords and patterns.

Updates to patch vulnerabilities

Winner: iPhone

Apple updates are easier to control across devices, promising consistent security.

Android and iOS software updates and security updates are some of the main ways that Apple and Google can keep their devices secure. Because Apple strictly controls the devices in its ecosystem, updates are easier to create and distribute. This also means that Apple can usually keep iOS devices updated for longer, generally withdrawing official support after 5 years.

The number of Android devices Google has to serve makes it virtually impossible to keep all of them updated to the same level of security and for the same amount of time and frequency.

It also makes it harder to roll those updates out, as they have to be distributed across multiple manufacturers and devices. Updates come out less frequently and mobile devices are supported for less time.

Support for third party security apps

Winner: iPhone and Android

These two operating systems support a wide range of security apps, including VPNs.

Useful as a device's built-in security features can be, it's also important to be able to integrate third party services like antivirus software and VPN applications into the operating system.

Thankfully, iPhone and Android smartphones both support the most popular and useful security apps, including NordVPN. With the NordVPN app on your device, you can protect your iOS or Android device against hackers, Wi-Fi snoopers, and data brokers.

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Operating system source code security

Winner: iPhone and Android

Apple closely guards their source code, while Android has made the most of its open-source operating system.

Apple’s closed source code makes it harder for hackers to find security flaws. While Android’s open-source nature could mean the exact opposite of that, it also makes it more easily accessible to a wide variety of app developers, and Google is slowly beginning to use this feature to their advantage.

In addition to its own security research, Google has increased the bounties it’s willing to pay to independent security researchers for reporting new Android vulnerabilities. At a major annual mobile security event in 2017, mobile security researchers failed to collect a single bounty for finding Android hacks.

Popularity

Winner: iPhone

Less users means less targets, and less motivation for hackers to develop malware for the iPhone.

The smaller number of targets on iOS, as well as its heightened security, make the iPhone a somewhat less attractive target for hackers. As the most used smartphone in the world, Android’s popularity has become it’s weakness; more users means more targets for hackers and more reasons to develop malware for Android (the same goes for the Windows computer OS).

There is a silver lining for Android users. Android’s popularity and open marketplace mean that there’s a far wider range of security apps available. The security of your Android operating system and device out of the box may vary, but with the right apps, you can take it to the same level of security as iOS or even further.

Android vs iPhone

Android vs. iOS: The threat level

The threat level depends on things that are out of your control, like inconsistent update releases as well as the ease and rate at which exploits can be developed by hackers.

1. Android makes it easier for hackers to develop exploits, increasing the threat level.

Apple’s closed development operating system makes it more challenging for hackers to gain access to develop exploits. Android is the complete opposite. Anyone (including hackers) can view its source code to develop exploits. As the most used mobile in the world, It could be said that Android phones are generally more susceptible to security flaws.

2. Android’s inconsistent update releases, could mean that there are more Android bugs in circulation.

Android and iPhone both receive several updates a year, including security patches to fix dangerous security flaws. Android updates depend on the hardware, the manufacturer of your phone, and the support for your current phone. It’s also easier to push updates back, unlike Apple’s stricter update system.

Is it easier to hack an iPhone or Android?

The likelihood of your phone being hacked partially depends on how you use your device, and what safety precautions you take. At the end of the day, after all, both Android systems and the iPhone can be hacked.

iOS security focuses more on software-based protection, while Android uses a mixture of software and hardware-based protection.

Ultimately, a device is only secure up to a point, unless you take your own precautions. To improve security on iOS or Android, you can use the NordVPN app to encrypt your data and secure your smartphone online.

Enhancing your smartphone security is easy.

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Hardware integration

Before picking an OS, you should also consider hardware integration. We didn't include this one on the comparison list because it's really too context-dependent to determine a clear winner.

The hardware of all iOS-powered devices will have the same level of security since they're all being produced by one company. Android, on the other hand, is used on hardware from a wide range of different manufacturers, so it's harder to make an assessment on this subject.

Some Android device manufacturers, like Samsung, have additional security features built into their hardware, while others don't. That's not a fault of Android, but rather a symptom of how diversified android devices are. In short, neither OS can claim objectively better hardware integration for security purposes, but Apple's system is more consistent since they are the only iOS developers. If you're going with Android, you should research the specific hardware that you're going to be running the OS on.

What do iOS and Android security have in common?

Both iOS and Android have similar built-in features, including virtual sandboxes that limit the damage that malware apps can do. iOS drive encryption comes standard while Android users must enable this feature.

Both OS fully support VPN encryption, which is especially important for mobile devices (NordVPN provides top-of-the-line security to both iOS and Android devices. Secure yourself today!)

iOSAndroid
App marketplace securityyesno
Secure manufacturing processyesno
Security updatesyesno
Support for third party security softwareyesyes
Source code securityyesyes
Most widely usednoyes
Most secure OSyesno

iOS vs Android security: The winner is…

So what is more secure: Android or iOS? Studies show that mobile malware targets Android much more than iOS, so for this reason, and all the others stated in this article, iOS is more secure. While you can remove malware from Android and iPhone, it's better not to get it in the first place.

Android has been working hard to clean up its act. David Kleidermacher, the head of security for Android at Google, has even said that Android’s security now equals that of its rival, iOS.

Until we see those changes borne out in the real world, however, we’re going to have to give it to iOS. In 2022, iOS is still the best operating system when it comes to smartphone safety. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon.

With Google hot on its heels, Apple hasn’t been sleeping at the wheel. Recent iOS updates have included many security improvements, including recording indicators, an ‘approximate location’ option, and password and tracker monitoring in Safari. Being able to limit app tracking and intrusive data gathering is always a positive.

Check out our video on iOS vs. Android security below.

How to stay safe on Android and iOS

  • Download apps from official stores. Try not to download apps from third-party websites, as you can never know if they’re legitimate and safe.
  • Use strong passwords. A strong password should contain lowercase and uppercase letters, along with special characters and numbers. Make sure to create unique passwords for every account you have.
  • Avoid logging into apps using Facebook. Many apps and websites allow you to log into their services quickly using your Facebook profile. However, if your Facebook is compromised, hackers can easily access all the other accounts linked to it. They can then steal your identity and launch social engineering attacks against your friends and other contacts.
  • Update your software on time. iOS and Android updates fix bugs and add new security features. It’s tempting to postpone updates for later, but if you do you’re putting yourself at risk.
  • Use a VPN. A virtual private network hides your IP address and encrypts your traffic, mitigating the risk of getting hacked. If you often connect to public Wi-Fi, having a VPN on Android or, if you use Apple, a VPN for iPhone is a must, as wrongdoers can use fake hotspots to infect your device with malware.

NordVPN iOS and Android apps come with the Dark Web Monitor feature, which notifies users if their personal details are ever leaked on the dark web. With one NordVPN account, you can protect up to six different devices: smartphones, laptops, routers, and more.

NordVPN also has the Threat Protection feature that helps you identify malware-ridden files, stops you from landing on malicious websites, and blocks trackers and intrusive ads on the spot.

Protect your Android and iOS devices now.

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Daniel Markuson
Daniel Markuson Daniel Markuson
Daniel is a digital privacy enthusiast and an internet security expert. As the blog editor at NordVPN, Daniel is generous with spreading news, stories, and tips through the power of a well-written word.