Android ICS already offers more than what is coming in iOS 6

Android ICS already offers more than what is coming in iOS 6

Summary: It looks like Apple's days of blowing people away with new features and functions has cooled now that solid platforms like Ice Cream Sandwich and Windows Phone exist.


Apple officially announced iOS 6 yesterday and while it is a welcome update for iOS that I look forward to installing on my iPad 3, most everything Apple revealed can already be done today on Ice Cream Sandwich Android devices.

Apple does a good job of taking existing technology and features and making it more user friendly (they did it with iOS 5 last year), but ICS took Android a long ways and the experience on the HTC One X is fantastic.

Apple stated there are over 200 new features in iOS 6 and we will have to wait until the fall to see everything. Developers will be loading up beta versions soon so we will see some more discussions on features over the next few weeks and months.

They did reveal several major features and functions at WWDC, so let's take a look and compare them to what we see with existing Android ICS. You can check out the table below that summarizes the differences, followed by more lengthy discussion and my opinions. Don't forget that Google revealed ICS last year and is likely to show off Jelly Bean this month at Google I/O.

Apple iOS 6 Android Ice Cream Sandwich
Maps Turn-by-turn, 3D Turn-by-turn, walking/biking/transit, 3D, offline coming
Voice control Siri Google Voice Actions, S-Voice on SGSIII
Travel and reward card management Passbook 3rd party apps
Email Unique account signatures, limited attachment support, VIP filtering Unique account signatures, complete attachment support, VIP filtering, full Gmail client
Service sharing Facebook and Twitter Virtually all cloud and social services
Notifications Reply with text, Do Not Disturb, Shade Reply with text, Do Not Disturb (3rd party), Shade, premium experience
Video calling 3G & WiFi FaceTime, Skype, Tango others Google Talk, Skype, Tango, others
Video stabilization Yes Yes
Maps: Apple has always included a Maps application, based on Google Maps. As we discussed in May, Apple has decided to finally put some effort into navigation (powered by TomTom) and will be rolling out their own mapping solution in iOS 6.

In typical Apple fashion, the application has lots of attractive visuals with good functionality. It is their first attempt so there is still work to be done, but the new Maps does provide for turn-by-turn navigation, traffic monitoring (crowd-sourced like Waze), location-based integration in apps, and some great lock screen capability.

There doesn't appear to be any offline navigation support, which is something that Google just recently announced for Android devices.

It also appears iOS owners will lose bicycle, pedestrian, and transit functions seen in Google Maps on iOS 5. Google Maps Navigation is a tried and tested service and application that will be tough to beat.

Siri: Siri looks to finally be getting some functionality that it should have had at launch, including the ability to launch apps, real-time sports, movie, and restaurant information and integration, and support from auto manufacturers for true eyes-free usage.

As a sports fan, I liked the demos at WWDC. Then again, I follow the sports I enjoy most with dedicated apps anyway so it isn't as critical as it was made out to be. These functions are great to see in Siri, but I wonder how many people will use it past the week or two novelty period. I only used Siri on my iPhone 4S for reminders after the novelty wore off and rarely see people talking to their phone so am still not yet sold on the practicality of Siri.

Passbook: Passbook looks like it takes the best from multiple 3rd party apps like TripIt, Starbucks, Flixster, and more to provide one location for storing airline info, store reward cards and more. It is not a payment system application, but seems like it could move that way in the future.

Mail enhancements: I almost fell on the floor laughing when I saw how excited people were about multiple email signatures coming to iOS. You can now have a different signature for each email account on your iOS device, WOW :)

You can also now finally add attachments from within the email client rather than having to go to the Photos app and then create an email. However, attachment support is still extremely limited due to Apple's closed approach to the file system. You can attach just photos and only one at a time.

iOS 6 will also include a VIP mailbox so you can filter people's email that you really want to see. One thing I love about HTC Sense is this same ability to have groups that let you quickly filter your email with the touch of a tab. Again, nothing new or groundbreaking for Android, but nice to see Apple catching up.

Facebook: iOS 5 brought some basic Twitter integration to the platform and now we see Apple including some Facebook support. Windows Phone launched with Facebook support and Android is the king of sharing capability with the most extensive support for sharing across a large number of services.

Notification center: Like other devices have for years, iOS 6 will now enable you to quickly reply with a text message when a call comes in and you don't want to answer it. There will also be a Do Not Disturb feature that seems very handy.

If you do a quick search in the Play Store you can find several of these same type of apps available now for Android devices. I never gave much thought to it, but I might just try a couple of these out and find one for my HTC One X.

FaceTime over 3G: Since the launch of FaceTime on iOS, people have been asking for the ability to use it over a connection other than WiFi. Other developers provided this capability through their apps, Skype, Tango, and others. Apple will be making carriers happy in iOS 6 if people use it a lot with restricted wireless carrier data caps. Again, it's another feature that was expected and good to finally see, but I prefer using Skype since it is able to be used with more people across all platforms.

Video stabilization: You will find that iOS 6 helps you reduce shaky videos, something seen on other platforms for some time.

Some other interesting new features include:

  • Guided Access enhancements that will help those with challenges use iOS devices.
  • Game Center improvements. (I never use this so maybe the improvements will have me finally trying it out on my iPad.)
  • Full screen landscape support in Safari. (will help with iPad browsing for sure.)
  • Safari browser syncing. (It's teason why I use Chrome on my computers and HTC One X.)
  • Photo stream sharing.

iOS 6 is a welcome update for iOS fans. iOS 5 Apple borrowed quite a bit from multiple platforms and improved the user interface elements. It looks like they did the same again, but ICS already has some solid user interface elements for these features and the differentiation isn't as great as it used to be.

I find it hilarious that Apple compares the percentage of iPhone owners using the latest OS with Android when there is just a single device released from Apple each year and many released with Android. If there was just one Android phone, then of course everyone would be on ICS. It's a dumb comparison made to slam Android.

With Google likely to reveal Jelly Bean later this month at Google I/O I can understand why analysts predict iOS to continue with a fairly flat rate of adoption. Microsoft may also hit it out of the park with Windows Phone 8 and hopefully we see some of what they have coming soon at their June developer conference. I personally find the HTC One X to be a better piece of hardware than the iPhone 4S and with the customizations and useful glanceable widgets I intend to update my new iPad to iOS 6, but skip picking up a new iPhone when they are announced.

It depends on how compelling the new iPhone hardware is, but iOS 6 isn't compelling enough itself to sway me from Android or Windows Phone.

Related ZDNet and CNET coverage

Topic: Operating Systems

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  • Only one with real eyes

    can realize.
    • Realise your potential

      close minded Americans??? Never!! He might be British remember them?
    • The iOS platform is selling like ice-cream a hot summer day

      Annoying isn't it? =P
      • Err... relevency?

        Your comment doesn't seem to relate to the original post you're replying to.

        Also, Android outsells iOS 5 to 3, so.. your point is?
      • His point is...

        ... that only 7% of Android userz upgraded to ICS and 80% of iOS users upgraded to iOS5?
      • His point is ... you don`t understand either !!


        Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of the phone manufactures and then the carriers in that matter dude, it is not up to us!
        Please get your facts right or just don`t comment on things you don`t comprehend ...
  • Agreed, iOS 6 is more catch-up than innovation...

    I was reading about the new iOS 6 features like Passbook and Email VIP lists and realised that even WP7 has been able to do this for ages, using the powerful Live Tiles feature. Assuming WP8 provides the ability to create custom hubs or groups, then Live Tiles for things like store cards and boarding passed can simply be grouped together and voila! Certainly nothing innovative in Passbook.

    Same goes for Email VIP lists - WP7 can already do this with Live Tiles. You can create a group of contacts or an idnividual contact on the start screen, and any mail notifications are filtered only for that group or individual. Notifications are displayed on the tile. It's an awesome feature in WP7.

    WP7 Live Tiles are much powerful than many people realise, and this will improve further in WP8. I can certainly see WP8 staying way ahead of iOS 6.
    • But Apple said it's "the most advanced mobile operating system"

      In the World.

      Apple wouldn't put marketing above reality and the truth, would they.

    • Agreed, iOS 6 is more catch-up than innovation...

      I have to agree with wp7mango. I'm glad that ios users get some new toys and think it's cool that android can already do them, but I've had this functionality on my HTC Titan for a year now. These "features" are already integrated into my daily life.
    • But can you upgrade your current WP7

      device to WP8??? WP is dead on arrival. Who will be the next hardware vendor to pull out?
      • careful, you are going to make the fanboys cry.

        The faithful are doing the best to put their best foot forward, but WP is way past the 'who cares' stage. What they have done is about 3 years too late. The only thing preventing WP from following RIM into the great abyss is the MS cash cow. It's like the old joke where the only way to get the family dog to play with it is too strap a pork chop to it's neck, MS will need to pay hardware vendors to play.
    • What say you about ICS catching up to iOS's 2007?

      You do realize that the fundamental UI changes in Android in ICS (display compositing and GPU acceleration) are technologies that existed in iOS at its inception, WindowsPhone since 7, and was even in BBerry's latest turd of an OS before ICS had it?

      Android always has been, and always will be behind all other OSes in display technology, and this is something that Android's dev team has openly admitted.

      Of course, we could go back to circlejerking about how laughably bad iOS is - you know, with it's 5 year head start on RENDERING ITS UI.
      • Right...

        Because Apple's UI has so drastically evolved over the years. Same old boring super app drawer for your desktop, really innovative...
        • See the real review and a classic iOS vs Android fight@

          See this review and a classic iOS vs Android@@@@@@@
          It is truth...Only fandroids/Mindless people will say that that was not good and real@

          A must read one@
      • Nope

        And it is funny that there is no difference between 2.1.1 and 4.0.4 when it comes to GUI speed, as even 2.1.1 is totally smooth and without any problems when reading web pages (heavy JS) or using launcher even when using just few generation older CPU and few times slower than Windows Phone specs dictates.

        The earlier 1.6 version lagged but it got changed quickly.

        GPU accelerated 2D isn't so important for basic user but if you want to make HTML5 sites after standard gets finalized in next 3-4 years, we have Android 6.x series and iOS 9 and WP might be gone already.
    • Tiles are not powerful at all.

      Yes, WP7 may be more powerful than iOS. But disagree that "Live" tiles are any better. The square tiles cannot even match the capabilities of widgets on Android. You cannot even read emails, or refresh weather etc directly from the tiles, unlike widgets. To me, tiles are just animated shortcuts which launch the respective applications, that's all.
      • Live tiles are live

        Live tiles are live. They can update automatically (typically from background tasks and notifications). There is no need to 'refresh' tiles because they are designed to refresh automatically.

        Yes, they are not as powerful as widgets, but they also don't require running code in the background or slowing down the UI like widgets can.
      • CPU cycles


        "Yes, they are not as powerful as widgets, but they also don't require running code in the background or slowing down the UI like widgets can."


        Live Tiles are exactly using CPU cycles everytime they update (cache new data) and refresh the view.
        Even Nokia specifically dictates at their manual that people should not place many live tiles at Metro because it eats battery quickly.

        Live Tiles are not interactive like Widgets are. That is the difference. Android supports exactly the same functions as Live Tiles meaning you could make icons what gets refreshed when new data is updated and then work as normal icon (like Live Tile does) that pointing icon launch that application.

        But widgets are interactive, meaning that you can operate the function without launching the application. Like scroll latest new emails, play/pause etc music, enable/disable functions etc.
        And widget is not refreshing all the time like Live Tile unless widget is done so that it is refreshing all the time. So widget use less CPU cycles than Live Tiles does.

        Live Tiles are as well bad for usability point, too much space wasted and limited to see everything at glance. And too much information stacked to small space so it is almost useless (like 3x3 grid for contacts).
      • Live tiles are ad servers and nothing more

        Live tiles are an abomination. They were created for the sole purpose of scrolling advertisements. Flashing banner ads were the scourge of the internet 10 years ago and now Microsoft has made them the core of it's new operating systems. One only has to fire up an XBox to see the future of Microsoft computing.
      • Mistaken


        You're mistaken as to how live tiles work (FWIW I am a WP7 developer and use live tiles in several apps).

        A live tile in WP7 is simple a line of XML code that points to either an image, some text, or a combination of both. This information can only be updated periodically and/or remotely. Live tiles do not run any code continuously in the background (widgets on Android do this).

        For example, some tiles will only update when a notification is received (e.g. an email hitting your inbox). The only code running is when the notification is received and the tile updated (usually a tiny amount of code very infrequently).

        The other common way a live tile works is by background agent. WP7 only allows background agents to run at 30 minute intervals for a few seconds at most. In reality it's a few lines of code every half an hour, which is not the same as code constantly running. WP7 also limits how much of this happens and won't run the half-hourly code if the phone's UI will be compromised by it.

        WP7 forbids multitasking for 3rd party applications, so it's not even possible to have code running constantly to update a tile.

        Live tiles use essentially no more CPU cycles than a wallpaper. Live tiles do not 'eat battery' at all. They use negligible CPU/battery by design.

        You clearly don't understand live tiles and widgets very well. A widget is essentially an application always in RAM. Live tiles are single lines of code that only do any work when requested via a background task or notification (i.e. very rarely). Even when a live tile is refreshed (either half-hourly or when a notification occurs, NEVER any other time, NEVER 'constantly') it is changed by either switching its image URL, changing its text, or running a tiny amount of code (which is all the OS allows).

        I can tell you haven't used Windows Phone by your 'wasted space' comment. Live tiles do what they are designed for - they present information for quick glancing. It may not be everyone's preferred way, but it works, and it's great. It greatly reduces the need to actually run applications (which requires more effort and time).

        Nobody is debating that widgets are more powerful than live tiles - but live tiles achieve a lot of the most important functionality of widgets without the CPU/battery overhead. If you're still under the delusion that live tiles use up copious amounts of CPU and battery I suggest you look up the huge amounts of information Microsoft has put out there about how live tiles actually work. It's actually a very interesting software engineering approach to the dual-edged sword that is widgets.