Apple ended its WWDC 2016 keynote with the most amazing, fantastic, and beautiful refresh to iOS yet, and Tim Cook doesn’t know how you ever lived without it. It’s loaded with new features and tweaks, and, to Apple’s credit, some of them are actually some really nifty additions to mobile software.
There’s just one catch: you’re going to have to wait until this fall to take advantage of Apple’s latest iOS software. Like always, the new version of iOS will officially launch with the new iPhone around August or September, so until then you’re stuck with iOS 9. Unless, of course, you have an Android phone and would like to go ahead and snag all those useful iOS features for your smartphone right now. Fortunately for us, there are enough apps and software adjustments on Android to get pretty much every cool feature Apple announced without iOS 10 or an expensive iPhone.
Lock Screen Redesign and Widgets
Apple has done a lot of tweaking with the lock screen to make it easier to see notifications at a glance, and they’ve even pushed their notification center widgets onto the left side of the lock screen. Those are all fantastic additions, but Android has had lock screen widgets since Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Yeah, way back.
If you want a lock screen that reacts when you pick the device up, many new Samsung phones already support glance notifications that only light up once you pick up the device. They’re nice, since they save a bit of battery and save you the hassle of turning the screen on just to check a missed call. If you happen to have a device that doesn’t support that, though, you’ve got apps on the Play Store to fix things up.
AcDisplay is a good example that completely replicates Apple’s functionality. It uses the sensors on your device to know when to wake up, saving you from hitting the home button or power button on your device. It’s also customizable, so you can adjust which notifications you want to show up, plus use some power saving settings and dynamic backgrounds.
If you’re interested in lock screen widgets (since Google did away with them in Android 5.0 Lollipop) you’ve got a few options there as well. WidgetLocker used to be extremely popular, and you’ve got alternatives like Sesame that offer intelligent information instead of cluttered widgets.
Sesame proactively shows you stuff that you’re actually going to want, including websites you frequently visit, apps you regularly use, music that you typically listen to in Spotify, and Google Now notifications, plus Quick Search options for things like the Play Store, YouTube, and Google Music. That goes above and beyond what you’re going to find in Apple’s newest lock screen.
Apple also put in a method of clearing all of your notifications at once. We don’t really need an app for that on Android, since it’s been around since Android as long as Android.
Intelligent Apps and Services
The key to a successful smartphone in 2016 is knowing what you want before you even know that you want to ask for it. Apple is jumping on board with this by opening up some of its core apps to third-party developers, but also by developing smart features in their own stock apps. Think Google Now, but all throughout the system. It’s cool, saves you time and hassle, and has been available on Android for years.
Third-party extensions for Siri are huge, but it’s something that Google has been doing for a very long time. Google Now will show cards for tons of third-party apps, and “Okay Google” on most phones will hook into plenty of other apps installed on your device. If you’re still not satisfied, though, you’ve got plenty of alternatives.
Microsoft offers Cortana to handle your personal desktop PC files in addition to tasks on your smartphone, and Soundhound’s own Hound assistant allows you to carry on a natural conversation to get what you want.
The smart, predictive features are coming to other aspects of iOS, too. QuickType is Apple’s answer to intelligent predictive text, which is the thing that SwiftKey has been knocking out of the park for years. In fact, even with Apple’s money and clout behind it, I’d still trust SwiftKey to do a better job. That’s on Android, at least, since the third-party keyboard situation on iOS has still been a little iffy.
Apple’s Photos app is getting smart sorting, and it’s even adopted some features pretty similar to HTC Zoe, like the ability to make slideshows with pictures and short videos complete with thematic background music. It can now also recognize faces and places to create Smart Albums, almost exactly like what Google’s fantastic Photos app already does. Photos also has the benefit of being completely cross-platform and with unlimited free photo storage. No pesky iCloud limits here.
Apple Maps is also getting the smart treatment. This is Apple’s attempt to make Apple Maps not terrible, but I’m pretty sure everyone knows Google Maps is already not terrible and probably the best navigation app available. You should probably just go download Google Maps.
They’ve got some pretty close characteristics, and in Apple’s defense, neither of them are out yet. However, Google announced a pretty awesome new chat client at I/O this year in Allo that includes most of the cool new things that iMessage does and then some, including smart replies, intelligent information sources, and a private mode.
If you don’t want to wait and want to get some similar features right now, there are plenty of third-party apps already available that offer more features and more compatibility, including things like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and even Google’s own mostly-functional Hangouts app. Most of these messaging apps also offer competent Facetime competition, too, with free VoIP calling and video chatting. Plus, they’ll work with more than just your Apple buddies.
Revamped Stock Apps
Apple has also tweaked some of their stock apps, including some new features and some slight interface changes. Apple Music was a big mention at the keynote, but most of the changes were cosmetic. We found Apple Music to be a little lacking against tough competitors in Spotify and Google’s All-Access, but if you’re firmly wanting to use Apple Music, it’s still available for Android and will probably see the same interface updates later this year.
Apple also added RAW image support to their camera app, although that’s something that most other flagship Android phones are already doing. The ability to delete pre-installed apps is also something that Google has been doing for a while, with Android getting the benefit of actually being able to replace the default app for things like emails and a web browser.
The Notes app in iOS is getting some new tweaks to bring it more in line with Evernote, like collaborative note sharing, but if you’re feature hunting, it’s hard to argue against Evernote’s enormous bag of tricks. The visual design of Apple News is being changed, too, but when you have things like Feedly and Flipboard available on both platforms, why not stick with the app that will follow you to whichever ecosystem you’re currently in?
There’s also a shared clipboard between iOS and MacOS, so anything you copy on an iPhone will also be easily accessed on a MacBook running MacOS Sierra, for example. It’s a very cool trick, and something that’s relatively easy to replicate with Pushbullet. And if you’d like to go further, Pushbullet will also handle images, links, and notifications, plus a ton of other stuff like text messaging.
For the most part, Apple didn’t introduce much that wasn’t already available in some shape on Android devices, and in a more open fashion. Pretty much everything can be replicated with a third-party app (and sometimes with Google’s or an OEM’s own implementation), with the slight exception of Apple’s unified home automation app.
The new app, simply called Home, will supposedly manage all of your smart home devices within a single interface. It uses Apple’s Homekit as a backbone but actually gives the user an interface to work with, which has been sorely lacking from home automation products. That’s not to say that an iPhone will have more compatibility with smart cameras and thermostats, but it will be able to handle everything in a single app instead of a different app for every different manufacturer you have in your house. Is that a major feature? Probably not for most people, but we’ll give credit where it’s due.
iOS 10 will surely be a great update for Apple loyalists, and this isn’t meant to knock Apple’s accomplishments in
catching up creating new features for its users. But if you’re interested in getting a taste of what Apple is offering without paying the toll to jump into their ecosystem, this is a great place to start.