Google took to the stage during Google I/O 2017 to announce more features of the company’s new Android Oreo OS. Then less than a month later Apple unveiled iOS 11 at WWDC 2017. But how do the two mobile operating systems compare? And how can Apple learn from Google, and vice versa?
We’ve outlined some of the key new additions to Android Oreo, how they compare to iOS 11, and the features we feel that Apple should implement into iOS to compete.
You can read more general comparisons of the iOS and Android ecosystems in our iPhone vs Android comparison article.
What’s new in Android Oreo?
So, what does Android Oreo bring to the table? While none are groundbreaking features, Android Oreo brings a handful of useful changes to Google’s operating system.
One of the announcements made at Google I/O 2017 was the addition of picture-in-picture, a feature already used not only in Google’s YouTube app, but also in iOS. Picture-in-Picture was introduced for iPad users along with iOS 9, allowing users to minimise the video and perform other tasks while still being able to watch.
Google Oreo’s implementation of picture-in-picture works much the same as it does on iOS; with a video playing, Android users need only tap the Home button and the video will pop into a small window that remains on-screen while you use other apps. You can slide the video around for the best placement or swipe it off-screen to end the video.
While users of custom Android launchers have had access to notification badges for years, Google has never officially offered it – until now. Much like with app badges on iOS, you’ll see a small ‘dot’ that appears on top of your app icon when you receive a notification on Android Oreo.
What is different to iOS is what you can do with it; as well as being able to tap on the app to open it and interact with the notification, you can also long-press the icon to get a short list of actions to perform. This includes the ability to view the notification without opening the app via a small on-screen pop-up that looks like the 3D Touch shortcut menu on iOS, but more notification-based.
Smart Text Selection
Basic text selection tools have been around for quite some time and have largely remained unchanged. More recent iterations of Android and iOS have introduced formatting to applicable text, but not much else. That was until Google announced Smart Text Selection, which uses Google’s AI to intelligently analyse what is being selected, and provides you with contextual shortcuts.
Say, for example, you highlight a phone number – it’ll offer you a shortcut to dial the number. Similarly, highlighting an address will provide a shortcut to begin navigation using Google Maps. It’s not just smart suggestions either, as the highlighting process will also be more intelligent, selecting full phrases and addresses instead of single words.
Android Oreo isn’t about one headline feature, instead it’s about addressing a number of smaller issues within the operating system. One such addition is Auto-Fill. It’s not going to bring iOS users over to the dark side, but it should make Android users lives a little bit easier.
For the most used apps on your Android device, Android Oreo will help you quickly log in. Although support needs to be manually added by developers, once supported, Android Oreo will remember usernames and passwords to quickly log into apps on your device.
If you’re logged into your Chrome account and that account has passwords saved, the corresponding apps (if updated) will sync with the data to autofill the forms if you’ve not yet signed in. It works well, although not every app will support it.
Vitals isn’t one feature, but is instead a suite of tools that helps to improve the performance and security of your Android device. It includes Google Play Protect, which acts similarly to a virus scanner for Android apps and scans your apps for malicious content. It also includes Wise Limits, which prevents apps from running in the background for too long and helps to make your battery last longer.
Google claims that the improvements have halved the boot time of the company’s Pixel smartphone, and that apps run faster too.
(You can read more about those devices in our iPhone 7 Plus vs Google Pixel XL and iPhone 7 vs Google Pixel comparison articles.)
As well as the above features (and a long list of tiny tweaks), Android Oreo presents a cleaner version of Android – especially in the Notification Shade and Settings app. Although there aren’t dramatic differences in what’s on offer, it’s often the smaller changes that are most appreciated (like when Apple changed the font in iOS 9).
What’s new in iOS 11?
Apple has announced a swathe of new features that will be added to iOS in 2017.
Apple has redesigned the App Store quite extensively for iOS 11. Launching the iOS app now takes you to a Today tab, designed to help with app discovery (one of the App Store’s historically greatest problems). You’ll see new Collections, a Daily List centred around a particular theme, and tutorials that show you how to do particular things in new apps.
There are now dedicated tabs for Games and (non-game) Apps, places for you to discover both new and popular offerings, as well as in-app purchases for apps you may already own which are available to view and download right there within the App Store. You’ll see previews, tips and gameplay videos too.
It’s traditionally been the case that Apple does app curation better than Google, which has tended to allow more apps to be sold through its stores but is less fussy about quality and reliability.
But while there’s more crap to wade through on Google Play, the company is canny at handling discovery – offering a range of useful and sometimes unexpected categories to help you find what’s right for you – and (obviously, this being Google) search. It’s ahead in a number of ways. Google’s store, for example, offers pre-registration for a wide range of of unreleased apps, something that Apple has offered in a very small number of cases only.
The new Dock in iOS 11 (for iPad only) means you’ll be able to access your most frequently used apps and files from any screen. And a new App Switcher design is going to make life easier when you want to quickly change apps or open new ones.
There’s also system-wide Drag and Drop, which we understand works on iPhone as well as iPad. This means you can move pretty much anything between any two apps. An image, for example, can be intuitively dragged and dropped directly into an email.
Again for iPad only, iOS 11 features a new app called Files.
Files keeps all your documents in one easy-to-access place. You’ll be ale to drag and drop attachments from Mail or any other app into a particular folder, or create folders to help stay organised and find what you’re looking for faster. It’s going to make multitasking so much quicker, and brings the iPad Pro a lot closer to an alternative to a laptop.
Do Not Disturb While Driving
iOS 11 sees the launch of a new feature called Do Not Disturb While Driving, which is designed to help you avoid distractions when controlling a car, without losing the online features necessary for navigation.
When the feature is activated (and you’re driving), people who are trying to get in touch with you will get a note to say you’ll see the message when you arrive at your destination. (They can choose to override this, if it’s an emergency.)
iOS 11’s Messages app has been updated with several new features including a new ‘app drawer’, which contains stickers, and a new peer-to-peer version of Apple Pay which lets you pay contacts via iMessage. That could be a game-changer; Apple Pay has already made big strides in corporate adoption but this can take it into the realm of everyday life (and may make settling up restaurant debts a doddle).
Apple Pay’s new feature still uses the TouchID fingerprint sensor, and money received will go into your Apple Pay Cash Card, which you can use for further Apple Pay payments or to transfer money back into your bank account.
There’s also new Messages in iCloud: a feature that will automatically synchronise your conversations across all of your iOS and macOS devices.
Finally, Apple has added a new QuickType keyboard which on iPhone will mean you can use the device easier one-handedly. It will move the keys closer to your thumb for one-handed typing.
What else does Apple need to offer to compete with Android Oreo?
While Apple showcased some great new features at WWDC 2017, here’s what we think iOS needs to offer in order to compete with Google’s Android Oreo.
Improvements to the Notification Centre
The Notification Centre was originally introduced alongside iOS 5, although what was initially introduced is worlds away with what is on offer in iOS 10, including the Today view with third-party Widgets. While it has seen improvements year-on-year, we feel like it could use a bit of an upgrade, namely with the way that it handles notifications.
Notifications in iOS 10 are a mess. While you used to have the ability to group (and clear) notifications based on app, iOS 10 removed the option. Instead, you can only sort notifications by newest first, meaning those that receive many notifications (from games, social networks, etc) may miss important text messages or emails.
Compare this to the Notification Shade in Android Oreo: it’s clean, and the notifications are automatically grouped by app. You can split the group notification into single notifications to interact with a specific one, or you can clear them all with a single swipe. It’s so simple and intuitive, and it’s something that Apple fans are calling for in iOS 11.
UI improvements – or at least the fabled Dark Mode
iOS hasn’t seen a major redesign since iOS 7, which introduced Apple’s mobile system to a world of bold shapes and colours. While Apple’s operating system doesn’t necessarily look ugly, it has looked essentially the same since 2013, and some argue that it’s due for another facelift. Couple that with the fact that the iPhone is 10 years old this year, and we think Apple could be planning something big.
If it’s not an overhaul of the look and feel of iOS, we imagine Apple will finally announce the fabled Dark Mode, a feature rumoured to be coming to iOS soon.
Ability to change default apps
The main argument in the iOS vs Android war is “Android allows for more customisation than iOS”; and for the most part, that’s true. Android users can change the launcher of their smartphones, allowing for a completely different look to what Google envisioned. It’s not just in terms of visuals either: Android users can select different default apps, they aren’t locked into the default Google apps like iOS users are with Apple’s first-party apps like Maps and Mail.
When an iOS user clicks on an email address in Safari, it’ll open in Mail and there’s nothing they can do about it. It’s a similar story with addresses – it’ll open Apple Maps, even if you use Google Maps or Waze more often.
While we don’t want Android-esque launchers to be available in iOS 11, we’d love the ability to change the default apps that open. Because, let’s be honest Apple, nobody really uses the default Mail app.