Apple told its developers that iOS 7 is the biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone launched, which is a bold–and a claim that we find to be accurate here at GottaBeMobile–statement. However, as bold and revolutionary as iOS 7 is, there are still some areas where Apple’s rivals do better. In this editorial, we’ll take a look at 7 features from the Android camp that bests Apple overall.
Bear in mind that this editorial is based on our very limited time with iOS 7 Beta at this point. We’ll likely revisit this topic in the fall when Apple is widely believed to introduce its new iPhone 5S, which should ship with a final release of iOS 7. Until then, let’s dive in with seven best-in-class features from Android that Apple still cannot match or beat at this time.
1. Google Now
The crown jewel of the Android camp is Google Now, which is available for Android 4.1 and later devices. It’s Google’s voice search engine that’s largely designed to compete with Siri. Though there are many similarities between the two voice recognition engines, there are some differences in the way that each function.
For one, Google Voice largely anticipates and learns from you, thanks to Google owning the large pie of the Internet search and your information through services like Gmail, YouTube, and Google Maps. You can set up your favorite sports teams for Now to update you with the latest scores and schedules and have Now track your boarding passes, trips, and packages.
Siri doesn’t have such a wide repository information to do anticipatory searches for you. Instead, it’s more of a voice-based assistant that allows you to schedule, call, and make notes.
While Apple is busy touting its own quick access to the panoramic camera, the Nexus ships with an awesome tool called Photosphere, which allows pedestrian users–like myself–the ability to stitch together 360-degree Google Street View-like shots. You’re not limited to 360 degrees horizontally either, like panoramas.
With Photosphere, you can pan up to get the sky, and pan down to get the earth.
iOS 7 made a big visual jump to a cards-like view for its multitasking engine. Rather than showing app icons, the multitasking panel now shows both the icon as well as a live preview of the app in a card. It’s similar to how multitasking looks on Windows Phone as well as on Android, though on Android it’s most similar to HTC’s implementation of multitasking on Sense 4.0. Yet, despite the visual upgrade, Apple still hasn’t quite matched Android leader Samsung yet with true multitasking.
Originally introduced on the company’s Galaxy Note range, Multi-View windows allows Galaxy owners to run two or more apps side-by-side. On larger 10.1-inch tablets, users can run apps in an array of cascading windows even, similar to how programs run in multiple re-sizable windows on Windows 7 or 8. Apps can snap together side-by-side like on Windows 7 and 8, and two of them run simultaneously on smaller phones, phablets, and tablets.
4. Touchless Gestures
iOS 7 introduced more subtle gesture controls, like swiping up from the bottom to reveal Control Center and swiping in from the left in the Message app to reveal your contact list. However, all those new gestures still require you to touch the display.
On newer Android handsets from LG and Samsung, touchless gestures make it easier to operate your device when you don’t have a free hand–for instance if you’re busy eating a hamburger with greasy fingers or if you’re working in the kitchen baking and don’t want to dirty your display. Here, you can swipe in front of the camera or infrared sensor to scroll or turn pages, and if you’re viewing a video and look away from the front-facing camera your video would automatically pause.
Some of the gestures may never be used by many users and are superfluous, but depending on who you are and how you use your smartphone, a few of the many gestures recently introduced on new Android flagships may come in handy.
5. Auto Awesome
iOS 7 introduced a number of new camera options, including a better way to manage your photos into dates and locations, as well as filters for the camera, but there is still no way to make your photos automatically awesome. Google had introduced a number of automatic photo enhancements that will be applied to your photos when you upload them to the Google+ social networking site.
The best automatic photo feature is called Auto Awesome, which applies a bunch of edits to make your photos pop. If you don’t like your Auto Awesome photo, go with the unedited original shot.
6. A Swype-able Keyboard That Learns From You
Initially, many Android smartphone-makers used Swype to bring an alternative keyboard that allows users to trace over the letters to form words, rather than peck at the keyboard with their fingers. Google made this type of keyboard native on its recent iteration of Android, and Samsung is using its own proprietary keyboard that offers similar functionality based on the SwiftKey software. What Samsung’s keyboard does is that it could analyze what you’ve written on Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Messaging, and Contact apps to learn words for you.
If there’s a specific word that you and your friends use often to communicate, SwiftKey would have learned it already if you programmed it. So while SwiftKey is predictive in learning your typing behavior as you type, it can also anticipate special words you use based on past communications.
A bigger category that Android still wins is through the flexibility of the platform in allowing user customization. We’re not talking about just wallpapers and widgets either, but the ability to have deeper integration with third-party apps. If you use Skype or Google Voice a lot to make voice calls, you can set up your phone dialer to always use Google Voice or Skype to make any voice calls when you punch in the number to your phone’s dial pad.
And if you’re a frequent sharer of things, you don’t have to just rely on Google’s ecosystem. You can tell your phone to integrate with Dropbox, Box, Pogoplug, Google Drive, Skydrive, or any other cloud, just as long as you have the app for it installed on your phone and the developer builds in the support.
And if you have multiple mapping services installed, you can always choose when you click an address if you want to navigate through TeleNav Scout, Google Maps, Waze, or any number of third-party paid GPS app, like Garmin, TomTom, and Navigon.
It’s a more robust OS with deeper links embedded in at the OS level.