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Tip 1: Android-style keyboards will be available soon
Ever mulled making the move from Android to iOS? Here's a series of tips to help you decide whether to switch to move to Apple's OS, or stick with Google's.
With the arrival of iOS 8 just around the corner, Android handset owners will soon have fewer reasons to resist hopping over (or back, as the case may be) to the iPhone.
Android owners take for granted the freedom to switch keyboards, add widgets, and install new or even multiple launchers to customise their device. For the most part, Apple has made the decisions on these elements for users, limiting iOS to a few wallpapers and built-in features like the iOS keyboard, which hasn't been revamped since the first iPhone.
The launch of iOS 8 itself will bring two major changes that should make iPhone owners less likely to move to Android, and give Android users one fewer reason to resist a jump to Apple.
First, the keyboard is getting a makeover with new predictive text functionality, which should allow users to write whole sentences with just a few taps, according to Apple. The keyboard will suggest the the next complete word in the sentence being typed, a change from the current method where it just offers to complete the current word itself. Its predictive engine is customised for context too, adopting a more casual tone in Messages and a more formal tone in Mail.
The bigger change in iOS 8 is that Apple has made the keyboard an app rather than a fixture, meaning Android afficinados can choose to swap out Apple's own keyboard for any number of third-party keyboards.
Android users, most likely with larger screen devices than the iPhone 5S, will already be familiar with swipe keyboard apps that can be faster and more accurate than fumbling around a screen to hit iOS' soft keys. Third party keyboards desiged for two-handed typing could also help improve typing on what's expected to be the larger screen iPhone 6. A few that should be coming soon to the App Store include Swype, SwiftKey, and Flesky.
Image: Liam Tung/Google
Tip 2: Widgets are on the way
Widgets can be great for bringing live information to the surface from weather, social, stock and news apps, allowing you to catch key bits of information without having to open an app.
Previously, the only way around the lack of widgets in iOS was to jailbreak the device or buy fake widgets, which use the 'badge app' icon to provide live updated information.
These workarounds won't be necessary when iOS 8 arrives, offering developers the ability to add widgets to their apps.
Android to iOS switchers will find a completely different way of handling widgets and one that still doesn't quite offer the flexibility to plaster the homescreen with large widgets. Instead, widgets will live within the iOS 8 Notification Center, Apple's alert hub for messages in iOS and OS X.
Specifically, widgets will become part of the dropdown in the Notification Center's Today menu, where basic at-a-glance information is drawn from an app that has a Today extension.
So, users will be able to add widgets in the Today view for those apps and can edit them in the Today view to add, reorder and remove widgets.
Whether Apple's way of containing widgets in the Notification Center is popular with Android users remains to be seen, but it does finally address a capability that Android users have come to expect from a modern smartphone.
Image: Liam Tung
Tip 3: Consider Accompli for Mail
Anyone that left iOS for Android in recent years will be pleased to know that search in Mail does work reasonably well now. For Gmail users, it's therefore not as necessary to install the Gmail app just to find an email that's not stored locally.
But there are notable limitations to Mail on iOS. Unlike the native Android Mail app, Mail on iOS cannot attach files to an email. To send photos for example, the user must go to the Camera app, select forward, pick a photo and then choose Mail. It's minor but annoying obstacle to do something that's standard on desktop and on Android.
Fortunately, Acompli, a relatively new email app for iOS, will let you send locally stored attachments from within the app, in addition files that have been recently sent or received.
While adopting Android's more visual approach to email, the app also borrows from the iOS Mail app's archive action, using a swipe left action to bring up delete or archive email.
The app includes an easy way to send a contact your calendar availability or a map of your current location, as well as manage your calendar through the app, cutting out the need to go back and forth between the Mail and the Calendar app. And it's free.
The one downside is the lack of control over notifications. Every single email, no matter how unimportant, will deliver an alert. Notifications for the native iOS Mail app can be limited to people from contacts that are selected as VIP.
iOS 8 brings a number of improvements to the Mail app though, including a new VIP feature that notifies the user when they receive an important reply. The user simply taps 'Notify Me' to activate an alert for incoming messages on a particular thread.
The new Mail app also adds the ability to mark messages as read or unread or to flag them for follow-up with a swipe to the left or right. Swipe actions can also be customised.