In the last month, both Apple and Google have unveiled their upcoming versions of their respective mobile platforms, iOS 8 and Android “L” as it shall be called for now.

It’s in our nature to want to compare the two opposing operating systems and divide out which OS had which features first, but that’s a fruitless battle that is never-ending. Both updates come with some very important features in tow which help performance, future-proofing, appearance, fluidity, and usability.

Below, you will find a comparison of the two updates – what each will bring, how they look, and more.




Every year, it’s the same old story. Google stole Feature X from Apple! Apple created a direct rip-off of a feature Android has had for ages!

We get it. Companies steal borrow ideas from one another. It happens and, ultimately, it pushes the market forward while the fanatics regress into an elementary recess slap fight. But since the debate is virtually impossible to avoid, let’s lay it all out and get it out of the way (and hopefully give you guys more important things to bicker over in the comments).

In the forthcoming update, Apple will bring a feature to iOS which Android has had since 2009 (Android 1.5): third-party keyboards. Third-party firms, such as SwiftKey, Minuum, Swype, and more, are already on board to bring their incredibly popular Android keyboards over to iOS. That’s only the tip of the iceberg, though. Through Apple’s Extensibility APIs, third-party developers will have more control over where their services are accessed throughout the operating system. Users will be able to share to various third-party services from within practically any app (ex: share to Evernote from Safari or share to VSCO Cam from the Photos app). This is also something which has been a core function of Android for quite some time.

handsfree-siriApple also equipped Siri with a new trick. Hands-free mode. So long as your iOS device is on external power, you can speak “Hey, Siri” and dictate some commands. Similarly, on the home screen in stock Android, you can speak “Ok, Google” to do the same in Google Now. This feature was introduced with the Google Experience launcher, though countless Android handsets with compatible SoCs have the same function from standby with no power. And lest we forget the Moto X with Touchless Control.

In a similar way, Android is getting the lock screen notification treatment, a feature which has been available on iOS for quite some time, as well. Although the notifications look and behave differently on Android (double-tap to open and swipe to dismiss), this is still an idea Google has borrowed from iOS. I hesitate to count 64-bit compatibility as something Google copied from iOS, but it’s definitely something Apple beat Google to the punch on.

Finally, iCloud Drive. Apple wasn’t even bashful about taking inspiration in the name of its cloud file storage service.

The more these two operating systems are updated, the more alike they become. There’s nothing wrong with that, though. They still have their differences, and they’re both gradually improving. Who cares who did what first? It’s about who does it better, right?


Fresh, new look


This time around, Android was given a nice UI overhaul and even got an entirely new design language, dubbed Material Design. Gone are the days of an ever-flattened UI on Android. Now things have depth – lots of it. Developers have the ability to specify an elevation level to each UI element.

Frankly, Android L is gorgeous. The navigation buttons have been simplified into basic line shapes – a triangle for back, circle for home, and square for recent apps. Touch interactions are met with fluid 60fps animations that mimic water ripples in a pond. And incoming notifications are less obtrusive, like calls, which appear as a dismissible pop-up near the top of the display rather than a full-screen incoming call page. It’s extremely clean and neat, and it scales very nicely. The recent apps menu is also new. It resembles a mashup of the Safari tabs menu and webOS cards. The best part is that your individual Chrome tabs are displayed as cards in this menu.

ios-8-hands-onThis time around, iOS didn’t really get many visual enhancements – it got its major UI redesign last year in iOS 7. Still, it’s important to not some similarities. Both Android L and iOS 7 (and 8) have depth. Apple describes its depth as a hierarchy which allows users to better understand where they are in the operating system. Android L’s depth is described as Material, a more natural way to interact with digital elements since they react more like physical objects.

Either way, both visual upgrades are just that – upgrades. Once these updates hit, iOS and Android will look better than ever.




Arguably the biggest feature in the iOS 8 update is what Apple calls Continuity and Handoff, or the seamless exchange of information between your Mac, iPad, and iPhone. In the stock Mail app, start typing an email on your iPhone and finish from your iPad or Mac. With the Yosemite and iOS 8 updates, you will be able to answer calls to your iPhone from your Mac, SMS from your iPad, and sync Safari tabs across all your devices.

The idea is to allow the user to perform tasks from the most efficient device at any given time without any hassle whatsoever.


Such behavior have been possible on Android for some time. Drafts in Gmail, for instance, has allowed one to type part of an email from a phone and pick up immediately from any computer in the world mere seconds later for as long as I can remember. But Google has shifted its Android focus away from specifically smartphones, and it made that very clear today. Not only did it show off Android Wear, Android TV, and Android Auto, Material Design is a new continuous UI which creates a consistent UX across all Google services.

Beyond that, Chrome OS can now run Android applications and receive calls from your Android phone.

In other words, Google and Apple are trying to accomplish the same thing – a balanced blend of all their respective products – through slightly different means.


Odds and ends



Beyond these things, both Android and iOS have some odds and ends that don’t necessarily fit in a single category.

For instance, iOS 8 has a drastically improved Spotlight search which incorporates card suggestions from various apps and services, like IMDb, Wikipedia, location recommendations, and more. There is also Family Share, the ability for multiple users to share purchased content from iTunes and App Store. Recent and favorite contacts appear in the recent apps menu, and arguably the coolest feature in iOS 8 is actionable notifications – the ability to pull down on a banner notification to reply without having to switch out of the current app.


Android L gets the Project Volta treatment – from the same people behind Project Butter and other similar projects – to help improve battery life. This comes with a more detailed view of battery usage, a Power Saver mode, optimizations of subsystems and more. Also present are Android expansion packs to help Android graphics catch up with Direct X 11. Google claims Android will have access to games with PC-level graphics by as early as this fall. We’re … not holding our breath.

Both the iOS 8 and Android L announcements came with some external features, as well. HealthKit in iOS 8 will provide a launch platform for all sorts of fitness trackers, including the rumored iWatch. Similarly, Google announced Google Fit, a set of APIs to help developer better utilizes fitness trackers.

Apple announced CarPlay earlier this year. In short, it’s an iOS- and Siri-driven infotainment system for in-car. Google also announced Android Auto, effectively Google Now for your car. Honestly, tit for tat on almost every level here.


Which is the more important update?


That’s a tough question.

No, seriously, Apple and Google have really shown each other a great show this year. Apple improved iOS where it previously fell short while Google sanded away the burrs and rough edges of older versions of Android. Both now work better across multiple devices and across their respective services and platforms. Both look better than ever, come with 64-bit support, and are more contextually aware than ever before. Apple and Google have started to focus on those tiny, little finishing touches that make all the difference – ripple taps in Android L or the subtle yet powerful gestures in iOS 8. Best of all, both platforms represent what a true multi-device ecosystem should be.

For me, still being so heavily invested in Google’s ecosystem, I’m more excited for the changes in Android L. But I will say I’ve been dying for some of the changes being brought in iOS 8 for literally years. Android L, if Google can pull it off well, will be the superior, more innovative update. But that doesn’t mean iOS 8 isn’t impressive or necessary.


What say you, folks? Is iOS 8 or Android L the better update? Which are you looking forward to most? Sound off in the comments below!

Image via Google Developer Blog

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