Comparing the latest mobile operating systems: iOS 14 v Android 11
Apple announced a slew of new features for its upcoming mobile operating system (OS), iOS 14, on June 22 during its annual developer conference last week.
While Google’s existing Android operating system already had many of these features, its upcoming Android 11 will have better 5G support and improved privacy protection, among others. The beta version of Android 11 was announced in May.
These OSes will power the new Apple and Google smartphones, which will be launched later this year.
We look at their key features.
Apple will finally allow users to add widgets – which display information from an app without the user having to start the app – to their home screens.
Widgets have been a mainstay in Android since 2008, and have been one of the core differentiating features between Android and iOS. Even the virtually extinct Windows Phone OS had widgets known as Live Tiles.
Ms Kiranjeet Kaur, senior research manager at market research firm IDC, says: “Some parts of the interface are more alike now but I would not say that means the lines between Android and iOS are blurred now.”
While widgets have been an Android staple, their development has stagnated.
For instance, the Weather widget does not do more than tell the weather. Google also did not announce any new developments for widgets in Android 11.
Ms Kaur says: “I don’t think many Android users have been excited about widgets for a long time and Apple has brought interest in this area again, for both iOS and Android users and developers.”
With Apple also providing widgets, it is likely that Google will put in more effort to develop this space, she added.
For the first time, Apple users will be notified when an app is using their iPhone’s camera or micrcophone. An indicator in the status bar will light up.
Apple will also be giving users better control over what apps track in the background. It is changing its App Store policy to require apps to ask users before tracking them across apps and websites owned by other companies. Additionally, users will also be able to choose between “Allow Tracking” or “Ask App Not To Track.”
Users can also choose to share their approximate – rather than precise – location data when granting an app location access permission.
App developers will also be required to declare what data they collect on the App Store.
Some of the key privacy changes in Android 11 include allowing users to grant one-time permission for apps to access location data, and use the microphone or camera.
Such access will not be always on.
In addition, Android 11 will require all developers to implement scooped storage – similar to an Apple iOS 13 feature.
Scooped storage limits the access an app can get to a particular directory or media it creates and stores in the phone. Apps can no longer access a smartphone’s entire storage.
APP CLIPS/INSTANT APPS
This feature will allow users to use an app without actually downloading it.
App Clips will use no more than 10MB of space in users’ smartphone to perform specific tasks, such as buying coffee or renting a car.
App Clips may also be embedded in apps like Yelp, which provides online reservation, to let people pay for meals without having to download an app from a specific restaurant. It works by tapping the smartphone on a contactless payment reader or scanning a QR code.
The feature is widely known as instant app, or officially Google Play Instant. It has been available on Android since 2017.
Google Play Instant even allows users to play games without having to download an app but the game size must be no more than 15MB.
APP LIBRARY/APP LAUNCHER
It is an app launcher or app drawer where apps reside, so smartphone users can look for them easily. Known as App Library, it will automatically organise apps into folders based on their functions.
Android 11 has an App Suggestions feature, which will suggest to users what their main dock apps – the row of apps that stay permanently sited at the bottom of the home screen – should be.
An upgrade to the Messages app in iOS 14 will allow users to enjoy features similar to those available on popular messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram.
For instance, users will be able to pin group chats to the top of their messages list and customise them by setting a group photo.
Also in iOS 14, animated stickers of users known as Memoji stickers can be used on WhatsApp and Telegram. Memoji stickers will also feature new hairstyles, headwear, eyewear and even face masks.
Chat bubbles, a feature the Facebook Messenger app has on Android phones, will be added to Android 11’s Messages app.
When users receive a message, the picture of the sender will appear in a bubble on the home screen. Users can reply to the message by tapping on the bubble.
The application program interface (API) of this feature will also be made available to all developers.
Incoming messages will appear in a new Conversations section on the home screen for quick access to new messages.
Mr Hiromi Yamaguchi, research manager at market research firm Euromonitor International, says: “Smartphone manufacturers are focusing more on software development because hardware innovation has been more difficult.”
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