iPhone or Android: I can't decide if Xbox Game Pass is a good enough reason to switch

Commentary: Apple's AppStore practices had never bothered me, until it got in the way of my gaming.

Eric Franklin Former Editorial Director
Eric Franklin led the CNET Tech team as Editorial Director. A 20-plus-year industry veteran, Eric began his tech journey testing computers in the CNET Labs. When not at work he can usually be found at the gym, chauffeuring his kids around town, or absorbing every motivational book he can get his hands on.
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I've had an  iPhone  since the iPhone 3G in 2008 and currently own an iPhone XS Max . I love the iOS ecosystem and, besides some forgettable minor annoyances here and there, I never had any issue with it. That is until now. OnAug. 4, Microsoft announced the full version of Xbox Game Pass will come to Android phones, but not iPhones. Now, for the first time in a long time, my plans of upgrading to the iPhone 12 have been thrown into doubt.

Xbox Game Pass is Microsoft's subscription-based Netflix-like game service. It currently allows you to download and play around 200 games on the Xbox One family of systems or PC. Starting Sept. 15, however, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will allow subscribers to stream over 100 games to an Android phone or tablet. As an avid Xbox gamer who doesn't own any Android mobile devices, this has put me in a conundrum. 

I'm primarily an Xbox gamer

After owning an Xbox One since release in 2013, I'm completely invested in the Xbox ecosystem and plan to take full advantage of everything Microsoft offers for it. The Xbox Series X is my first choice in the next generation of consoles because of features such as backwards compatibility (all the way back to the original Xbox), free and automatic enhancements for old and some current games, quick resume and faster load times. In all likelihood I'll be getting the PS5 too, which is expected sometime this holiday, though I probably won't pull the trigger until 2021 at the earliest. I'll buy an Xbox Series X when it's released in November, and I'm seriously considering the still-unannounced Series S for the home office. 


Xbox Game Pass lets me download and try more games than I really do have time for. And with the Ultimate membership I'll also have the option to stream over 100 Game Pass games to my phone. Well, not my phone -- an Android phone, actually. Which, again, I don't have. 

Instead, I'm left to make a Green Goblin-like sadistic choice: stay in the iPhone ecosystem and buy an extra Android phone just to stream Game Pass games, or drop the iPhone and switch fully to Android.

Apple and Microsoft

Despite the fact that there's been a test version of Xbox game streaming, previously referred to as xCloud, on iOS for the last 10 months, there's been no official word from Apple when a full version will be released. Microsoft said in a statement earlier this month, "Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass." And things aren't looking especially good when Microsoft added the fact that the company does "not have a path to bring our vision of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to gamers on iOS via the Apple App Store."

Apple's response to this was that its customers "enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers and gaming services," and that gaming services can "absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers including submitting games individually for review and appearing in charts and search."


What Apple is basically saying, then, is that because it can't individually review every game available to stream on Game Pass and evaluate each game's quality, it's throwing the baby out with the bath water and disallowing game streaming on the App Store en masse.

I'm not sure why Apple is taking this particular stance and honestly I don't really care. Its decision is the reason why I can't stream Xbox games on my iPhone, and the company is actually forcing me to consider switching my phone to achieve this.

iPhone or Android?

So now I'm in this pickle. Do I buy a cheap Android phone like the Pixel 4A and keep my iPhone? Or should I fully dive into #TeamAndroid altogether and get something premium like a Note 20 Ultra

Thanks to my job at CNET, I happen to have a company-owned Galaxy S20 Plus on hand that I can use for reference. I don't own it, but it will allow me to try the Game Pass Beta to see if it works for me before I upend my entire phone life. It's not a permanent solution for sure, and I know other iPhone users in the same situation as me aren't fortunate enough to have a spare Android in the house. And since I was looking forward to streaming Xbox games on my phone, as well as buying the iPhone 12, the prospect of having to switch OSes definitely dampened my enthusiasm.

What do you think? Let me know if I should make the jump or hold onto my iPhone a little longer. For anyone who recently switched ecosystems, was it as daunting as I think it will be? What Android features other than Game Pass will make the switch worth it? Sound off on the comments below and in the meantime, let's hope Apple and Microsoft work this out soon.