This fall Apple plans to launch what it calls the biggest update to iOS since the introduction of the App Store. The update to iOS 8 will bring some nifty new features including support for sharing iTunes downloads with family members on up to 6 devices, and “Instant Hotspot” functions that lets you quickly use your iPhone into a WiFi hotspot for your iPad or MacBook without even entering a password.
But some of the fancy new features in iOS 8? They don’t look so new to Android users who have those features for years.
Apple is doing thing their own way, so when the company adds support for third-party keyboards and widgets, they won’t necessarily work the same way on an iPhone as they do on a Samsung Galaxy S5. And I don’t mean to suggest that Apple shouldn’t borrow ideas from other platforms: it’d be nice if Google and Microsoft would adopt that family sharing idea. I’m just saying these “new” features look kind of familiar:
Starting with iOS 8, Apple will let you respond to certain types of notifications without actually opening up an app. Just pull down from the top of the screen to view the Notification Center and if there’s a text message, for example, you may be able to tap a button to reply to that message without leaving the Notification Center.
This is a feature that’s been available to Android app developers for some time. For example, if you pull down the Android notification tray and see a Gmail message, just pull down on the message to bring up buttons that let you archive it or start a reply.
QuickType predictive keyboard
Apple’s new QuickType on-screen keyboard includes support for predictive text. As you start typing, it will try to guess the word you’re entering and offer suggestions. Just tap a word to fill out the rest of the characters and save some time.
It can also guess the words you’re likely to need before you even enter any text at all: for example when you receive a text message asking if you’d like to meet for dinner and a movie, “dinner” and “movie” might show up as suggestions.
The official Google Keyboard for Android has had predictions built-in for a while, and there are a number of third-party keyboards for Android such as SwiftKey that offer even more advanced predictions.
Still, it’s nice to see Apple get into this territory, and the company says that while the results are personalized and should get better the more you use QuickType, that data isn’t uploaded to the internet. It’s all stored on your device to protect your privacy.
Speaking of third-party keyboards, Android has supported them for as long as Android phones have been available. Up until now if you’ve wanted to use a third-party keyboard on iOS though, you’ve either needed to jailbreak your device or install an app that has a keyboard baked right into the app… and which you would then be unable to use with any other apps.
Starting with iOS 8 you’ll be able to install system-wide third-party keyboards. Apple showed a photo of the popular Swype keyboard (which lets you type by dragging your finger from key to key without lifting it) as an example.
Apple will let app developers give their users a chance to beta test new apps before they’re generally available. Apple calls this “TestFlight,” but Google simply calls it beta testing and staged rollouts.
The apps should be available from the App Store, although you may still need to jump through some hoops to access them. The good news is that you probably won’t have to sign up for a Google+ community to beta test iOS apps.
Speaking of the App Store, it will support video previews of apps when iOS 8 launches this fall. That’s something that’s been available for Android for a while, and it can come in handy for apps that are hard to describe with just text and pictures.
This one’s kind of tricky because iOS and Android don’t handle widgets in the same way at all. While Android users can place widgets for stock quotes, weather forecasts, and other information anywhere on their home screen, iOS widgets only show up in the pull-down Notification Center.
Up until now only Apple had the ability to create apps that could install widgets in the Notification Center. Now third-party developers can create widgets as well.
Don’t want to touch your phone to start talking to Siri? Just say “Hey, Siri.”
It’s kind of like “OK, Google,” but with Siri instead of Google Now.
Apple only promised that the feature would be available when Siri is connected to your car, giving you hands-free operation while you’re on the go. It’s not clear if “Hey, Siri” will work in other contexts, since it’d probably be a bit of a battery hog if it were always-listening. But don’t be surprised if upcoming iOS devices feature low-power co-processors for always-listening mode like the one found in the Motorola Moto X.
Apple is also adding support for extensions, which basically lets apps share data with one another within a secure sandbox. This is what allows third-party keyboards to work, among other things.
Android apps have been talking to one another for ages.