iOS 8 vs Android: how much catching up did Apple really manage?

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Yesterday’s WWDC 2014 keynote brought a lot a fun, interesting, and exciting things – especially for Android users like you and I! Why? Apple validated the direction that Android is taking, and improved upon some of Google’s services and features in some creative ways.

Before you draw-and-quarter me for blasphemy or for being a witch, hear me out.

I’m Joe the Android guy for a reason. I was even offered an iPhone free of charge from my day job. I turned them down and opted to pay for my own device as well as my own line of service. Why? I like what Android does, and I think it’s better than iOS 7. But what about iOS 8?

iOS 8 isn’t available yet – not even to developers.  iOS 8 hasn’t been available for developers long enough for us to get a good sense of what’s in it (not yet, anyway). That having been said, we got to see a lot of new features at WWDC yesterday, and Apple did some catching up to Google. How much catching up? Quite a bit.

Widgets

Apple finally seems to get the idea that widgets are a good thing — at least in OS X. Widgets still haven’t arrived in iOS, but the fact that OS X is moving closer to iOS, and OS X is getting widgets seems to indicate that iOS may get widgets sometime in the future.

What’s even more interesting is that Apple calls them widgets, not iPanels or iScreens or iPeak or iSuppose. They’re “widgets”, just like they’re “widgets” on Android and everywhere else.
HeySiri

Hey Siri

Apple is finally going hands-free… sort of. Just like many Androids can listen for “OK Google” on various screens, or even when the screen is off for some devices, once iOS 8 is running on your iPhone you’ll be able to say “Hey Siri” to get the same kind of experience — as long as you’re plugged into a power supply.

Apparently the A7 processor chews up so much power that Apple can’t offer this feature all the time, only when you won’t notice the power draw. While Apple didn’t confirm that in as many words, it’s the logical deduction. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s a very valuable feature for when you’re in the car – and one that Apple will undoubtedly capitalize upon, making its in-car experience better than Android.

As Apple’s chipsets get more power efficient, I’m sure this feature will become available all the time, perhaps as early as on the iPhone 6.

Text Messaging

After Apple’s Text-Gate controversy where the company allegedly hijacked phone numbers, preventing users from getting messages after they had switched to another platform, Apple has finally seen the light and is incorporating text messages across devices.

People who have been using the Google Voice service have had this ability for a very long time, so it’s nice to see Apple catching up – and even one-upping Google here.
Note the caveman-like posture still required to use Mac OS 10.

Browser Phone Calls

Google has enabled us to make and receive phone calls in the browser for a while now. It’s not as tightly integrated as Apple’s offering appears to be, so there’s another point to Apple.

Typing

iOS 8 also opens the door for predictive typing and third-party keyboards, both items that Android has had for quite a while.  Both are welcome additions, but don’t seem to add anything beyond what Android can already do. No points here, but we’re really happy that our iOS friends will finally be able to have these features on their devices, too!

AutoAwesome

Google has been playing around a lot with what you can do with your images on its servers. Google came up with something called AutoAwesome, one of the silliest named features on the planet – but perfectly descriptive of what it does. Simply put, it automatically makes your photos awesome. Lighting, contrast, brightness, vignette – all can be automatically (and non-destructively) applied to make an average (or terrible) photo look great.

Apple is doing essentially the same thing with its new photo services. Although this isn’t exactly iOS 8 vs Android, photos are a core functionality of each platform, and this web-based service helps each in similar ways.

Beta Testing

There’s nothing worse than a bad app. Speaking as a software developer, the development/test/release process is vitally important. Releasing something before it’s been completely tested is embarrassing and costly to the developer, and inconvenient at best to the end user. Google recently offered the ability for developers to release their apps to testers, then roll builds out incrementally. Apple essentially decided to do the same, though its mechanism is a bit different.

Intelligent Notifications

The notification shade is the future. Apple knows it. Google knows it. The race is on.

Google lets developers expose various information and controls to users through items in the notification shade. Apple is doing the same with iOS 8, but upping the ante. In addition to play/pause, archive/delete, accept/decline-type actions, Apple is enabling developers to extend the notification shade to accept much more information than simple button pushes. We were shown how you’ll be able to reply to messages directly from within the shade, and we imagine that’s only the beginning.

Conclusion

Though we use different platforms, we’re really not that dissimilar. Apple has validated a lot of design-cues and features that are offered both in Android as well as Google’s services. In some cases Apple took things to the next level. In others, Apple just caught up. Regardless, it’s great news for iOS users, and even better news for those on Android.

The playing field is now set, and with Google I/O coming later this month, it will be exciting to see if and how Google responds.

But enough of what I have to say, what’s your take on yesterday’s WWDC 2014 keynote?

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy".By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video.Read more about Joe Levi here.