- 1 Replace email and browser default apps
- 2 Widgets on the home screen
- 3 App Library
- 4 Suggested apps in the App Library
- 5 Less intrusive call notifications
- 6 Picture-in-Picture
- 7 Wind Down mode
- 8 Familiar smart assistant overlay
- 9 Apple Maps gets bike support
- 10 Apple Translate
- 11 Apple Maps get speed camera alerts
- 12 On-device voice recognition for keyboard input
- 13 Safari gets language translation
- 14 Safari password monitoring
- 15 App Clips
- 16 Mirror front camera photos
- 17 Bonus: Support for third-party music services on HomePod
Unless you’ve been forcibly avoiding the news, you know iOS 14 is now a thing. But if you don’t use an iPhone (or maybe even if you do), you might not have bothered checking out what was new in Apple’s latest mobile operating system. But as fail to be basically every year we watch the WWDC keynote, no one on the Android Police was surprised to have one recurring thought: “hey, that feature looks familiar.” Apple apparently felt very inspired by Android in the last year, and iOS 14 has a whole bunch of “world-first” innovations to show you that—very coincidentally!—also happen to be on Android. Here are 16 such features.
Replace email and browser default apps
This is one of the biggest changes to land on iOS in years, and it’s incredible that Apple didn’t even talk about at the event — probably because it couldn’t find a way to mention it as a benefit without facing the obvious “what took you so long?” criticism. But you can finally, finally replace the email and browser apps with your own third-party choices for actions like opening a link or composing a message directly from another app. (Do note that all iOS web browsers are still just Safari with a skin, like they’ve always been, though.)
The days of foisting Safari and Mail on Google service-using customers will be over on iOS 14. It’s the end of an overly-restrictive, borderline anti-competitive era.
Widgets on the home screen
iOS joins the ranks of almost every Android launcher released since 2008 by finally supporting widgets on the home screen. That’s right, the boxed-up interactive elements from different apps and services that Android users have been using for almost twelve years are finally coming to the iPhone’s home screen.
iOS users can also now enjoy forgetting Widgets are a thing.
Apple has made widgets for most of its own apps, and it has even redesigned quite a few of them for this release. (Note that you could previously have widgets on a weird Today View shelf to the left of your home screen, accessible by swiping over to it.) As on Android, widgets come in different sizes (just three for iOS: small, medium, and large), and you can stack them together to swipe between them. There’s also a “Smart Stack” widget that claims to automatically offer the widgets you need at the right times and locations that you’d need them.
Those last two details are actually pretty cool, and probably something Google should consider bringing to Android.
“Library” is the new “Drawer.”
Apple can call it an “App Library,” but anyone that’s ever used Android knows an app drawer when they’ve seen one. Like all app drawers, it lists all the apps you have installed on your phone. Apple’s twist is that it automatically categorizes them into specific groups like Social and Entertainment (as many Android launchers do), but it’s basically just an app drawer. And that’s a good thing. iOS has needed an app drawer for a long time, and the drop-everything-on-the-home-screen-and-ignore-it approach is way too 2007. In fact, another App Library feature sounds more than a little familiar…
Suggested apps in the App Library
Like Google’s Pixel Launcher and piles of other launchers on Android, the iOS launcher is picking up suggested apps in its App Library, which dynamically shows apps you might need to use based on things like location, time, or perceived activity.
Less intrusive call notifications
Took Apple long enough.
Both phone calls and FaceTime calls on iOS will finally not take up the entire screen when they come in. Instead of interrupting everything you’re doing, you’ll be able to see them come in and either finish what you’re doing or reject it without being disturbed.
With spam calls being a pretty big problem these days, it will be far less frustrating not having to be entirely interrupted with every call that comes in — sort of like how it hasn’t been a problem on Android in ages.
It might have a few features that Google is still working on for its own implementation, but iOS has picked up Android’s Picture-in-Picture overlay. Apple’s version will be resizeable, though, and that’s a trick Google’s still working on.
Wind Down mode
Apple didn’t even bother to rename its new Wind Down mode for iOS, though Google has since changed its version to called “Bedtime mode.” Either way, the feature is about the same, flipping your phone into Do Not Disturb mode and encouraging you via “various actions” to relax before bed. Google’s version supports things like a grayscale mode, and I’d hazard that Apple includes something similar. Google’s version recently picked up a snazzy feature that only triggers it once it’s charging at night, though.
Familiar smart assistant overlay
The newly redesigned “Compact UI” for Apple’s Siri seems pretty familiar to us. Sure, it varies when it comes to particulars like animations and other aesthetic choices, but one can’t look at the design and not see the Assistant overlay — especially the new version that landed with Google’s Pixel 4. Apple promises this new interface lets you refer to on-screen info contextually in a compact layout that doesn’t distract from the contents of your screen. In other words: Google Assistant users should feel right at home.
Apple Maps gets bike support
I honestly assumed Apple Maps already had this — pretty late.
It’s crazy, but Apple Maps didn’t actually have a biking mode. You could select driving, walking, mass transit, or ridesharing as transportation options, but not a bicycle. Apple’s incredibly late to this particular party, but it’s picking up a “cycling” mode. Like the mode Google Maps has had for ages, the cycling mode will also tell you what sort of elevation changes you’ll have to deal with, and how busy the streets are.
It even looks familiar.
Apple just calls its app “Translate,” but much of the functionality seems taken almost directly from Google’s Translate app. It doesn’t sound like it will be real-time, like Google’s app is, but it will have a conversation mode that appears similar to Google’s, and it will support on-device translation like Google’s. Of course, Apple’s version is limited to just 11 languages at launch. Google has it beaten by a solid order of magnitude there.
Apple Maps get speed camera alerts
On-device voice recognition for keyboard input
Google’s Pixels have supported on-device voice recognition for quite a while, and Apple is bringing the same feature to its iPhones.
I don’t think that people appreciate how different the voice to text experience on a Pixel is from an iPhone. So here is a little head to head example. The Pixel is so responsive it feels like it is reading my mind! pic.twitter.com/zmxTKxL3LB
— James Cham ✍🏻 (@jamescham) May 27, 2020
Pixels have been miles faster when it comes to voice-based text input for a while. We don’t know too much about how Apple’s system will work yet, but we hope that Apple’s new on-device voice recognition is as good (and as fast) as Google’s is.
Safari gets language translation
Apple’s Safari browser is picking up the ability to translate entire web pages. That’s a feature from Chrome that’s so old, I have difficulty even dating it, but it’s something users of Google’s browser are already deeply familiar with.
Safari password monitoring
Like Google’s Chrome, Safari will let you know if your saved passwords have been part of a leak or breach. Your real password is never revealed, of course, but when you elect to store a password in Safari, they can be cryptographically checked against credentials exposed in breaches, so you can be warned not to reuse a bad password.
Apple’s new App Clips are lightweight shortcuts to portions of a stripped-down app experience, available as you need them and offering a further prompt to check out the full app. If that sounds like an almost direct clone of Android’s four-year-old Instant Apps feature, that’s because it basically is. Apple is integrating them a bit more deeply into its other services like Maps and Messages, and it’s rolling out custom QR codes and NFC support just for these new App Clips, but it’s basically the same thing. If Apple can put some pressure on developers, though, it might see better adoption than it did on Android — while there are quite a few apps that have Instant versions, it’s not as widespread as it could be.
Mirror front camera photos
I can’t believe this wasn’t a feature on iOS before, but apparently you couldn’t set the front camera to mirror its results to match the preview, as you can on most Android phones, including Google’s Pixels. Well, on iOS 14, you’ll be able to.
Bonus: Support for third-party music services on HomePod
I know we said “16 features,” but hers’s a bonus that’s not technically from iOS. Like Assistant-compatible speakers have supported since basically forever, Apple’s HomePod can now play nice with third-party music services. No more ridiculous AirPlay workarounds.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether Apple or Google invented a given feature. All that matters is that the platform you choose has the features you want. Now Apple users will be familiar with 17 features on Android, which might tempt them to switch teams. Though, conversely, Android users thinking the grass might be greener on Apple’s side of the fence have 17 fewer reasons to say no.