With Google I/O right around the corner and the possibility that we could see an update to the Android operating system, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to see how Google’s devs could look to iOS, their biggest competitor, for inspiration. Having spent a few weeks with iOS 6 and the iPhone 5, I figured numerous items would jump out at me as novel or potentially interesting additions to Android. The problem is, I’m having trouble pinpointing any.
I think it’s safe to say in terms of software functionality Android has surpassed iOS. Google’s operating system allows users to simply do more with what they have. Now, that’s no knock to iOS, necessarily. The iPhone operating system works great for how it is purposed on its hardware, and it definitely operates in a more intuitive manner than Android. Yes, Android allows greater customization and deeper control, but this functionality is not always transparent.
For instance, take a long-standing iOS feature that Android users have clamored for in the past: lockscreen notifications. This is one of the iPhone’s greatest advantages. New messages, app interactions, and alerts compile directly on the lockscreen. Swiping across a notification bounces the user directly into the app of origin.
In comparison, Android doesn’t offer lockscreen notifications out of the box. Some OEMs have attempted to address the issue with UI skins while apps are available to mimic the effect, but it’s not baked into the core of the Android software. In the green guy’s defense, Android’s notification pane is far superior to Apple’s offering, particularly in the latest Jelly Bean releases. Rich, interactive notifications trump the iPhone’s pull-down Notification Center any day.
But what else does iOS offer that you can’t accomplish in one way or another with Android? For a moment I thought I would mention iOS’ Photo Stream feature as a real bonus to the operating system. The feature, which allows you to share a photo album from your phone for others to access, is — again — intuitive and easy, incorporating directly into your iPhone gallery, but it’s far from unique. Consider Google+ auto photo uploads and Android can more or less achieve the same results (with added social networking functionality), though it might not be immediately obvious to users.
Another item to consider is Apple’s messaging app. Based on device and network, messages are smartly toggled between a standard SMS and an iMessage. Google has yet to implement a similar function in their stock messaging app, a service that seems continually neglected in Android updates. However, it sounds like Google is working toward a solution with Babel, an integrated messaging platform that would span several Google services such as Talk and Gmail.
One thing I do admire about iOS is the Settings menu. Android’s Settings menu is a bit cluttered and not always obvious. While the same can be said for certain aspects of Apple’s Settings, one superior feature is consolidated notification settings. On Android, you would need to enter each app individually, navigate to that apps settings, and adjust notifications and alerts there. For iOS, most apps will populate in the main Settings menu allowing you to adjust notifications for all in one central location.
Otherwise, it’s less about what one operating system has that the other needs and more about how each handles the same tasks in different manners. Multi-tasking, uninstalling apps, searching on device and on the web — both platforms do these things, though in their own way. It’s hard to say which is intrinsically better, only that iOS and Android are as different as they are the same, and I like it that way. It will be exciting to see the new functions and features both camps introduce at their upcoming developer conferences.
Longtime Android user and Phandroid blogger Kevin Krause has made the switch to iPhone. Follow his exploits as he navigates the world of Apple over at iSource.com.