Sincerest form of flattery: iOS 8 features that Android had first

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.

ios 8_03

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:

Interactive Notifications

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.

interactive notifications

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.

Third-party keyboards

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.

swype

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.

TestFlight

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.

App Previews

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.

Widgets

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.

“Hey, Siri”

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.

hey siri

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.

Extensions

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.

  • brian

    apple’s playing catchup and still charging a premium. Doesn’t sound like a very good strategy for stopping the bleeding marketshare.

  • jjmoose

    and now who is the real innovation leader and who infringes on others,,,

  • Guest

    Really, I would just like to see the tech related patent lawsuits drop to a reasonable level, but there is a vindictive side to me that just wants to see the rest of the industry use Apple’s dirty tactics and just sue them into oblivion. Lord knows that would be some true karma.

  • Guest

    Why can’t I find a picture of one of these notification widgets? I want to see how they are implemented. My concern would be screen space. With everything already going on in the notification tray, how much room can there be for widgets? I would imagine that typical users would have room for what, maybe 1 widget in their notification tray at most? What if my notifications take up all the space, does the widget just get hidden away until there is room for it to come back? I can’t help but wonder if patents had anything to do with Apple putting the widgets where they did, it just seems like such an illogical placement for widget, given the lack of screen space.

  • Feignt

    Jobs went his own way with Apple, ignoring the ‘Herd’ and refusing to ‘dilute’ the Apple experience for his millions of loyal fans – and that worked for him and Apple because (and I say this grudgingly) he was a genius. With his death his vision is fading and his successors have none of their own. So of course they have to play catch-up (or is it Ketchup or catsup?). Welcome to the herd Apple, Try to avoid being trampled to death.

  • occam

    Apple will now promptly sue Google claiming that they, Apple, previously invented those Android features … in an alternate reality.

  • Cal Rankin

    I’m curious about the “Hey, Siri” thing. Would it work when the phone is asleep, because I doubt it. If so, iPhones would lose a lot of battery to always listen.
    However, could the M7 co-processor in the 5S receive this ability to listen a la Moto X with the software update?

  • Gkohle

    And yet, developers are leaving Android and programming for only iOS. This is the ultimate reason that I will buy Apple and soon ditch my Android phone. Two of my main apps that I use were originally for both Android and IOS but they stopped producing for Android because Google has reduced their support for programmers (and too many devices with different specs).

  • abhilashthakur

    Android is ahead of ios 8