Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, is certainly not your thing, nor mine. Nevertheless, I tested it out on the iPhone SE for several weeks. There are three strengths I noticed in iOS that Android is lacking. Google and other developers would do us favor including them in Android.
1. High quality of Apps
I am amazed by the average quality of the apps in Apple’s App Store. You can see and feel the maturity of iOS and the benefits of the strict App Store guidelines. Apple’s iOS has a small temporal advantage over Android. Apple released its smartphone OS in January 2007 and incorporated the App Store in July 2008. This head start gave Apple the luxury of being able to banish some apps from the App Store for not meeting its quality criteria. The smartphone experience on iOS, in terms of apps, is sometimes much better than on Android.
Google must become more stringent with the Play Store. Just because you entered the market a few months later, it doesn’t mean that, eight years later, you should be proud just to have a few hundred thousand more apps available than Apple. Many of the apps in the Play Store are simply bad and result in a frustrating user experience. This negatively affects the reputation of the entire ecosystem and gives iPhone users a reason to prefer iOS over Android.
2. High security software
Thanks to a more limited product range, Apple has another thing tightly under control: software security. Apple continues to provide five year old devices with security updates. On Android, devices are left to the wolves after, at most, three years.
It would be possible to change this on Android and indeed many devices are now seeing monthly security updates. But even better would be if updates to the OS, so jumps from Android 5.0 to 5.1 or 6.0, arrive on more devices within a six-month window. However, manufacturers claim that they could not optimize these updates with their user interfaces (TouchWiz, EMUI, et al.) within a shorter period of time.
Not every manufacturer adopts the approach of HTC or Motorola, who have trimmed much of the fat from their UIs, making the update process much quicker. Google makes room for smartphone manufacturers customizations by increasingly decoupling parts of the system kernel and making them available through Play Store updates. This is easier to install than a full Android update and circumvents the difficulties associated with custom UIs.
And here Google will continue to make progress. The kernel eventually needs to become completely separated from the UI. If there’s a known security problem in the kernel, and it is pending a fix, it could be carried out through an interface compatible replacement. So Samsung, LG, Sony and other manufacturers could retain their user interfaces and also provide timely updates to the kernel. When Google will achieve this decoupling to the satisfaction of manufacturers, we unfortunately do not yet know.
3. A full backup
My time spent with the iPhone SE meant a lot of contact with the iCloud Backup. It was heavenly. Within five minutes you can move from one iPhone to another with everything – all your apps, settings and data – completely intact.
The apps are exactly as they were before, down to their locations on the home screen; you are already logged in everywhere; your messages, call logs, chat histories, save data and background image are all carried over. In Android, you can do this too, I know, but my grandmother would not be able to do it.
Transferring your app data to a new Android device is a horrorshow. Most people have to start from scratch, because the solutions Google offers are useless. If you’re not careful, Google will proceed to install every single app you have ever downloaded from he Play Store. With every single one, you will need to log in again and a few, if you’re lucky, will have made a cloud backup of your data.
Here, however, I have to say that app developers, and not so much Google, are to blame. Since API Level 8, so Android 2.2, there has been a Data Backup API, through which developers could upload app data to any cloud service. Since Android 6.0, this interface has been active at a factory level; app developers only need to take a look at Google’s documentation. If you want to argue that only a fraction of users are running Android 6.0, and this is why developers have been slow to adopt the API, Google has that covered.
Android is a great operating system, much more open than iOS and it remains my favorite. The three points I have raised here are advantages iOS has over Android, and I want to see them on on my side of the fence. Google and Android app developers are kindly asked to step up to the plate and show Apple that Android can do things better.
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