Over the past couple of years, there has been a consensus amongst even the most ardent Apple fans that iOS hasn’t changed as much as Android. That is, of course, for a good reason – Apple got the iPhone UI right from day one, while Google had to iterate over and over, until it hired Matias Duarte from Palm and introduced the “Holo” design language.
Along with improvements in Android’s design language, Google also came up with a number of features like expandable notifications, and most recently, multiple user accounts and lock screen widgets, which we’ve been looking forward to have in iOS since a long time.
Even recently launched Windows Phone 8 introduces a number of new features that would be nice to have on iOS. The dynamic live tiles have been a subject of envy for iOS users since the day Windows Phone first launched, and recent additions like Kids Corner only make us want Apple to borrow these features from the OS right away.
Let’s take a deeper look into the aspects where iOS falls short, when compared to rival platforms, and what Apple can do to address this.
Static Home Screen
The 2D grid of roundrect icons has been, literally, a trademark iOS feature since its inception, with Apple suing Samsung and other Android manufacturers for copying that look. The interface was well-thought and executed when the iPhone launched in ’07 with its measly 412MHz CPU and 128MB RAM.
Five years down the line, the iPhone comes with a dual core CPU running at frequencies of nearly 1.4GHz, 8 times more RAM, and yet the home screen largely remains a collection of static roundrect icons with no way of accessing information right from the home screen.
Widgets on Android and Live Tiles on Windows Phone do a pretty good job at presenting easy to consume information right from the home screen, and updates to both these platforms make this task even more easier. Android now allows users to add widgets, not just on their home screens but even on the lock screen.
Windows Phone 8 adds a similar feature, which lets “live apps” add photos, notifications and content to your lock screen.
Besides this, Android has had SBSettings like toggles to quickly enable or disable frequently used settings like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, unlike stock iOS, which required a deep, time-consuming dive into the Settings app.
We already know that iOS has private APIs that power the Stocks and Weather widgets in Notification Center, and we can only hope that Apple decides to open it up to developers in iOS 7.
We’ve all, at least once, experienced the annoyance when a someone asks for your iPhone for a simple task like making a phone call or opening a website, and scans through your messages, emails or photos. While a phone is largely meant for a single person, a lot of people do get access to it, making us want a “Guest account” of sorts, which hides away all personal data and exposes only the most basic apps. This is even more attractive on an iPad, which is generally shared between several members of a family.
(Image via CNET)
Both these devices also get used by kids a lot for playing the wide array of games available on the App Store. Parental restrictions have been a part of iOS since long, but the controls have been designed keeping parents in mind rather than kids. Windows Phone 8 tries to solve this problem with “Kids Corner,” which is essentially a home screen for kids with apps that you want your child to have access to.
Here’s a look at Windows Phone 8:
Google added multiple user support to Android 4.2, addressing not only the issue of privacy, but also the usage pattern of tablets, which closely resembles PCs. Here’s The Verge’s description of the feature:
Android 4.2 also add multiple user support on tablets for easier sharing — each user gets their own apps and data. It’s cleverly done: if one user has already downloaded an app, the other users don’t have to redownload anything to install it. Google showed us Bad Piggies running on one user account with saved levels and scores; when the other user installed the app, it appeared instantly in a completely fresh state. Apps are backgrounded when you switch away from an account — they can complete certain tasks like downloads but are otherwise mostly shut down.
Google’s newest Android release also adds Swype like gesture typing as an input method, letting you slide your finger over the keyboard and predicting what you’re trying to type. While the closed nature of iOS certainly has its benefits, iPhone and iPad users have been missing out on innovative ways of input like this.
Here’s The Verge’s walkthrough of all the new features in Android 4.2, along with a look at the newly released Nexus phone and tablet:
With all the talk that has been going around after Scott Forstall’s departure from Apple, we’re really hoping for some major changes to the iOS UI, with features that get iOS on par with competing platforms in departments that it is currently lagging behind. We’re also excited at the prospect of Jony Ive leading the iOS Human Interface design.
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