During Apple’s WWDC 2020 keynote, the iPhone maker announced a number of new features that I’m sure have anti-Apple folks talking. With the admittedly Android-like features in iOS 14, I’m sure Google enthusiasts bragging about how great their OS is for Apple to copy it. For those who aren’t keeping score, I’m talking about the changes to widgets and the addition of picture-in-picture, Translate, and other features. In my opinion, these Android-inspired features in iOS 14 are welcome and long overdue.
Yes, There Are Android-Inspired Features in iOS 14
Let’s get that out of the way right now. Yes, Apple copied features from Android. Yes, they’ve been doing it for years. Guess what? Google does the same thing. As The Verge’s Chaim Gartenberg says,
It’s the eternal cycle of software platforms: Google’s good ideas will almost always end up on iOS at some point, even as the next version of Android will, no doubt, crib some ideas from Apple.
It just makes good product development sense. As Apple sees what features people really love about their Android devices, it adopts and improves upon them for iOS and iPad OS.
Giving iOS Users More Customization Options
One of the biggest attractions for many Android users is the many ways they can customize their screens. This is also a big reason for jailbreaking iOS. They can add widgets to their home screens for things like mail inboxes, news feeds, current weather, and more. By bringing us Android-like features in IOS 14, Apple is giving us that ability to customize our devices without jailbreaking.
Another example of this customization is the new App Library. Right now, all of the apps you install are on one of your home screens. Sure, you can hide them away in folders if you don’t use them often or just want to organize things. You can’t remove them from the home screen without deleting them, though.
On Android, you have an app drawer. Every app on your phone lives here, and you can add them to your home screen when you want, or just keep them in the drawer. This has driven me a bit crazy, having every single app on my home pages. Starting with iOS 14, that won’t be a problem for me anymore. If I want to keep it on my device but not clutter my screens, I can just keep it in the new App List View.
Deeper in customization, we won’t have to be limited to Apple’s apps by default for email and opening web links. With iOS 14, we will be able to set Google Chrome as the default web browser, for example, or Newton Mail as the email client. Right now, that’s the only default you can change.
The Android-Inspired Features in iOS 14 Are a Sign of the Times
In prior years, we could arguably have said that Apple was in the business of telling users how to use their devices. We all can remember the “you’re holding it wrong” drama, and Steve Jobs was such an innovator that he predicted how we would want to use our iPhone devices before we really knew it.
The fact is, times have changed dramatically when it comes to developing for smart phones. Early on, Apple was developing in a relative vacuum. The field was still new and mostly unexplored, and people often didn’t know for sure what they wanted from their iOS devices. It made sense, then, for Jobs and company to show us how we should be using our phones.
The landscape is totally different today. Google has proven to be a strong innovator in and of itself, coming up with features that people flock to. It really only makes sense for us to start seeing Android-inspired features in iOS 14. It isn’t a matter of “stealing” ideas from Google, as some might say. Apple recognizes the good and bad in Android, as well as iOS. Cupertino wants to keep existing users as well as attract new ones, so it’s bringing in the features it knows people want.
It’s interesting to note, though, that we can see in iOS 14 the next feature Google Android will “borrow” from Apple. Siri is no longer going to take up your entire screen when you’re using your personal assistant. The Google Assistant, at least on Android version 9, still consumes your entire screen.