The iOS vs Android argument
predates human civilization has existed since the release of these operating systems. We’re all entitled to our own opinions. Whether these subjective views are logical, factual, or in sync with the hive mind is irrelevant. As mature adults, we accept these differences in others. Nonetheless, we also get to criticize them in a cultured manner. Objectively, perhaps we can all agree that Android has always been more flexible than iOS. The latter OS seemingly has been catering to average users by sticking to familiarities and avoiding sudden, major changes. In recent years, though, I’ve been noticing Apple’s slow progression towards liberating its mobile OS. This vision — which could tempt undecided Android users to switch sides — is particularly apparent in iOS 16. In my opinion, this release highlights Apple’s submission to the Android philosophy — through advanced customizations we had never seen on iOS, and more.
iOS 16: An increasingly flexible system
Unshackled iOS 16 Lock Screen
The iOS Lock Screen has been iconic since the original iPhone. Who would forget THE slide to unlock mechanism? It has evolved over the years by introducing a cleaner user interface (UI), animated wallpapers, and a parallax effect. In spite of these tweaks, though, it retained its unique identity and character. That can be a bad thing, though. This familiar screen looked almost identical on each and every iPhone. Users had no way to truly express themselves and their personalities — apart from setting a wallpaper.
Simply put, iOS 16 rips the great iPhone Lock Screen apart. It provides users with the raw materials to build their own vision from scratch. It’s the least Apple-like feature I’ve seen on the OS, ever, and I totally did not see this one coming. The Cupertino firm typically limits users to its presets. It always has presented its products in a restricted manner — where the company knows what the user needs best. Until now, Apple used to do the thinking on our behalf. While this handholding simplified our lives, it also bound us to the company’s narrow image.
With adjustable fonts and a color-picker for users to choose a specific shade, the Lock Screen on iOS 16 is unique to each person. It’s no longer the same generic one with just a different wallpaper. It additionally supports a depth effect and introduces an all-new emoji wallpaper creator. It’s all about giving users options and letting them be creative when handling their personal devices.
One of the features I really miss from Android OS is Lock Screen widgets. I recall being able to check the weather, next alarm or appointment/reminder, or other handy pieces of information without unlocking my phone. iOS has supported swiping right to view the widgets page for a while now. However, that’s not as convenient as having them on the main screen. I don’t want to swipe or interact with my phone to view these basic details.
iOS 16 brings a handful of proper Lock Screen widgets — with third-party developer support. Users get to choose between different sizes and locations to build their ideal Lock Screen. Additionally, rumors point to a high possibility of iPhone 14 Pro models supporting the always-on display (AOD) feature — which could keep these widgets visible, even when the screen is off. This would finally make iOS a worthy competitor to Android OS in this particular department. Long overdue, Apple.
One of the arguments I’ve included in my piece where I praise iOS for being more average-user-friendly than Android is the lack of unnecessary customizations. For the longest time, Apple has limited iPhone users by supporting minimal adjustments — especially when it comes to system-level elements. iOS 16 changes that, particularly when it comes to notifications. Users now get to choose between a stack, list, or number. The Cupertino overlord no longer decides how your notifications appear on the Lock Screen. It truly is a very Android-y feature, and I expect future iOS versions to introduce further changes of this nature.
Another notable introduction in iOS 16 is Live Activities — or what Android users might know as persistent notifications. This concept has been available on Google’s mobile OS for years. Now it has finally made its way to the iPhone, with support for third-party apps, too. The Music app, for example, now takes advantage of this API and has a cleaner look. The music player will additionally support large Lock Screen album art as an optional view. This further proves that iOS 16 is all about giving users choices that Apple had deemed inessential.
An epiphany that non-Apple solutions exist, too
To be honest, Apple sometimes pretends that third-party solutions don’t exist. I get it, though — it has to market its products and services to further boost its revenue stream. Nonetheless, iOS 16 gives users more freedom when it comes to choosing their preferences. It additionally provides developers with some neat APIs to make their apps more powerful.
Just like the Lock Screen widget API, developers can also take advantage of new Collaboration and Focus APIs. The former allows users to instantly collaborate on whatever task an app offers by shooting a text message. Apple could’ve restricted this new feature to its own iWork Suite. However, it’s acknowledging indirectly that users also need some exciting new features in third-party apps. After all — spoiler alert — not every iPhone user depends on the bundled Apple apps.
The Focus API allows developers to hide certain elements in their apps when a user enables a Focus mode. Similarly, Apple could’ve restricted it to its own apps — as it isn’t really a fundamental API to provide to third-party devs. Whether it’s trying to avoid lawsuits revolving around monopolistic practices or doing it out of goodwill — users and developers alike are winning here. The former category doesn’t feel the pressure to depend on Apple apps. Similarly, the latter category doesn’t have to develop its own solutions when there is a system API that makes everyone’s lives easier.
A few years ago, the Cupertino firm started allowing users to delete certain inessential apps. These included Music, TV, Tips, etc. iOS 16 further gives users flexibility. You can now uninstall the Find My, Health, and Clock apps. It’s very surprising seeing this move — as these apps are somewhat fundamental. Either way, Apple doesn’t want to stand in your way if you’d rather use a third-party clock app and get rid of the default one.
For 15 years, the iPhone has been a solid device for getting smartphone tasks done. You get to do what you’d expect a phone to do — call, text, install popular apps, take stunning shots, etc. The OS is very easy to navigate, and it doesn’t take new users a lot of time to familiarize themselves with the logic behind it. One of the common complaints, though, especially from Android users hesitant about making the move, is the lack of Pro features.
Power users often find the iPhone too basic. The customizations are too limited (to keep the OS simple), and the built-in features don’t cater to many above-average needs. iOS 16 changes a lot of that. You notice across the system several changes here and there that reflect Apple’s recognition of the issue. But hey, better late than never.
Last year, Apple started allowing iPhone users to edit the time and location of a certain photo or video — without needing third-party utilities. iOS 16 takes the Photos app to the next level. Users can now detect duplicates and delete them with a single click, remove subject backgrounds with literally no effort, copy and paste edits from one photo to another, and more.
The iPhone Photos app is no longer a basic media viewer. It has become a solid tool with Pro features that we hadn’t expected to see on iOS. I truly don’t believe what I’m seeing right now. Certainly, it feels like a Jailbreak tweak — just because of how surreal the whole situation is. Well done, Apple.
Apart from Photos enhancements, iOS 16 scratches many of our itches. Users can now view saved Wi-Fi passwords to share or delete them. They also get to rename file extensions to change a file type without converting it. Want to unsend, edit, or mark an iMessage as unread? You can do that, too. That’s not to mention that Safari on iOS will finally support web push notifications in 2023 — according to Apple. The company is clearly listening to our complaints, and iOS 16 packs plenty of these small changes that make A LOT of difference when depending on these devices.
Prior to iOS 16
This more open-minded vision that Apple clearly demonstrates in iOS 16 has been ongoing for a few years now. It’s particularly obvious in iOS 16. However, the company has slowly been testing these waters for a while. For example, as I mentioned, we got location and time tweaks in Photos last year. A few years before that, we got screen recording, third-party keyboard support, default app selection, file download support in Safari, a Files app, system app deletion, third-party password manager support, proper widgets, etc.
It’s exhilarating to witness Apple slowly open up iOS. This way we’re getting the best features Android OS is known for, without missing out on the unmatched performance, longer support years, better app optimizations, and the tight Apple Ecosystem. Not that it matters, but I’m really proud of the route Apple has taken in iOS 16.
The iPhone will likely always remain more restricted than an Android device. However, Apple has been carefully studying its moves and bringing some of the highly-requested features into an Apple form. As in — it won’t let the OS become as messy as Android, while also bringing exciting features and giving users more liberty and control. For example, icon packs are still not supported on iOS. However, there are workarounds to change app icons on the Home Screen without Jailbreaking the phone. This is the new Apple way. It gives users options, but it sometimes hides them behind a few steps to make sure that only the power users get to them and avoid confusion amongst the average ones. Ultimately, the company has indirectly admitted that Android was right all along in many aspects, and it’s ready to see the light.
As an Android user, do you see yourself moving to iPhone following the release of iOS 16? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments section below.
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