Icons, notifications and synchronisations – Google Android and Apple iOS seem to come closer together with each update.
While Google, with its history of sweet-themed iterations – including Cupcake, Gingerbread and Jellybean – keeps us guessing on what Android’s ‘L’ means (‘Lollipop’, ‘Liquorice’?), we have already had a peek at the OS. Once again, Google is claiming plenty of ‘firsts’ and ‘cutting edge’ developments. Just as Apple did when it released iOS8. But there’s a hint of flattery from both sides – increasing similarities between the two operating systems. iOS8, for example, has finally joined Android in offering battery monitoring, while Android ‘L’ will support 64-bit processors.
With so many similarities between iOS and Android we look at what’s really new and what’s actually more of a copy and paste.
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New with Android ‘L’
Like a Scandinavian sweater the current trend for operating systems is for flat, minimalist designs. Each Android OS has a stock design, available to Google’s Nexus devices and open for phone makers to develop for their own handsets – Samsung’s ‘TouchWiz’ and HTC’s ‘Sense’ are examples. Google’s stock Android is already the simplest and Android L seeks to make it even simpler. A sleeker stock OS will hopefully ensure less customisation by manufacturers, a more consistent look for apps and menus across different phones, and faster updates.
- Who was first? Apple introduced a flatter, minimalist design in iOS 7.
Trusted environments touch-free unlocking
Instead of requiring a PIN or pattern code to access your phone, Android L will unlock to a basic screen without you having to enter a password if it detects a ‘trusted environment’, such as a home wi-fi network or nearby smartwatch. If you’re somewhere new or not wearing a smartwatch, it’ll still present a lock screen that requires authentication.
- Who was first? Google for trusted environments – having already given the iPhone 5S a fingerprint scanner Apple could have something similar up its sleeve.
Laptop, smartphone and multi-device synchronisation
Google’s Chrome browser can already sync pages and settings between devices, but Android L offers greater synchronisation with Chromebooks, including ‘trusted environment’ unlocking, screen mirroring and notification sharing, like your Chromebook alerting you when your phone’s battery is low. It’s designed to work across tablets, smartwatches and TVs, too.
- Who was first? Apple’s iCloud, iOS7 and Mavericks are already great examples of ecosystem integration between different devices. iOS8’s ‘Handoff’ and ‘Continuity’ features will build on this, letting you take apps and files to other devices simply – say a document from your Mac to your iPhone, or handle calls and messages on your Mac.
Notifications will pop-up on top of apps at the top of the screen and will be ordered according to importance. Users will be able to pull-down and interact with notifications, such as typing into a keyboard within the Notification Center to respond to an SMS, rather than having to open the app itself.
- Who was first? Android has a long-established system that lets users pull down, access and clear individual notifications. Android ‘L’ will build on this with its Heads Up feature.
iOS has never really had widgets (shortcuts or app extensions) – unless you count ‘stocks’ and ‘weather’ which lurked in the iOS5 and 6 Notification Center before being replaced by iOS7’s ‘Today’ view. Instead, you had to pop in-and-out of full-screen apps to use them. However, in iOS8 users can add app widgets, including third-party widgets to the Notification Center. It’s part of Apple’s ‘Extensibility’ feature which also brings a new QuickType on-screen predictive keyboard and supports third-party keyboards, too.
- Who was first? Android has long-featured widgets as well as Google’s predictive and third-party keyboards.
The rumoured iWatch is yet to become reality but iOS8 is geared-up for it. An updated Health app features a dashboard bursting with health and ﬁtness information to track progress, while a new HealthKit tool allows developers to bring health and ﬁtness apps together.
- Who was first? Android was ready for the recent smartwatch wave, and Android L will have dedicated Android Wear apps.