The developer previews of Android L have captured the attention of developers all over the world. Apple is also ready with its iOS 8 platform, and is eyeing for an early-September release. We here present a comparative analysis of the two mobile OS biggies, based on early reports, rumors and previews.
As many as five beta versions of iOS 8 have already been tested by Apple Inc. A sixth update would reportedly be approved in the first week of September, only days before iPhone 6 (hopefully) hits the markets. It is, hence, being widely considered that the new phone model would be powered by iOS 8. Google’s Android L (yes, it still does not have a name, although ‘Lollipop’ seems to be the favorite) has pretty much impressed developers and analysts with its developer previews. How does the eagerly anticipated iOS 8 vs Android L battle stack up in terms of features and functionality? Let’s take a look:
- Notifications and alerts – Google has done a stellar job with the revamped notification system in Android L. The provision of pop-ups at the top-end of mobile screens is highly convenient, while people would also love the direct notification-view option from the lockscreen. The user-authentication framework for individuals using pattern locks is another cool addition. iOS 8 will also be going for a less-intrusive notification system – with popups and lockscreen alerts. There’s a chance that TouchID would include location awareness in the new Apple platform too.
- Speed – This is going to be a mighty close affair – with both Apple and Google shoring up their APIs and supported programming languages. Tim Cook and his team have hyped up the Metal Graphics API in particular – which is focused to make mobile gaming faster than ever before. The Swift programming language has also got the global iPhone app developer community interested. On the Android front, ART (Android Run Time) is in instead of Dalvik. Early reports suggest that the latter can push up device speeds by up to 4 times.
- Battery performance – iOS 8 is likely to finally have a dedicated screen for informing users about battery usage data. While this would enable people to adjust their phone settings (turn off wi-fi, for instance) to get a bit more battery juice – it is not quite as compact as Android L’s Project Volta. Couple it with Google’s innovative Battery Saving Mode and Battery Historian, and it seems clear that Android L will, depending on user-behavior, offer slightly better battery performance.
- Flat UI designs – Google calls it Material Design – and it has definitely caught the fancy of Android application development experts from all over. The layered flatness in Android L makes it seem that the installed apps are simply ‘floating’ above each other. This rules out the need for hard transitions. iOS 8, on the other hand, will be continuing with the transparent flat UI of iOS 7 (with a couple of subtle changes). The glassy designs were not initially very well-received, but people have gradually started liking them.
- Desktop/laptop integration – Apple fans will be able to keep iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite in sync, just as Android users will be able to seamlessly shift from their Google Chromebooks and Android L-powered handsets. The Handoff feature of Yosemite probably gives Apple an edge in this round – although Android also has a series of apps (Vine, Evernote, Flipboard, etc.) which supports cross-device functionality. Both platforms are going to make transferring work from computer to mobile (and vice versa) extremely simple.
- New APIs – Android L’s SDK has more than 5000 new APIs – about a thousand more than the number that would be available on iOS 8. The 64-bit processor has also arrived on Android L (iOS 7 already had it). It would be premature to declare a winner based solely on API-count – but Google Android has an early lead on this. A qualitative comparison of the APIs on the two platforms will make things clearer.
- In-car OS – An important factor in the iOS 8 vs Android L fight would be how Apple Carplay and Android Auto fare in comparison with each other. Both have already garnered widespread interest among automotive companies (nearly 50 companies are reportedly already in talks with Android). Apart from navigation support, the in-car OS software would let people take calls and send texts, while managing the car controls efficiently.
- Multitasking features – Apple and Google have finally realized the need for enhanced multitasking provisions on their latest mobile platforms. The default app switcher on iOS 8 will have a special shortcut list of contacts. Android L has Chrome tabs along with apps – facilitating faster multitasking and more seamless app-navigation. In terms of integration with the World Wide Web, Android seems to have done a better job – since it has revived the functionality of Project Hera, for mobile applications and web items to be stacked together.
- Support for Wearable technology – The biggest difference in this count is, while Google has already done a good job with its Android Wear series (Samsung Gear Fit is a big hit), Apple is still mulling over the release of iWatch. However, iOS 8 is certain to come with a customized HealthKit API and a Healthbook application. Still, as long as there is no Apple smartwatch, Android would win the tussle over wearables in a canter.
- Security – Although Samsung and Google have probably parted ways for good, Android L is ‘inspired’ by the former’s high-end Knox mobile security features. The data encryption methods do away with all chances of unauthorized information access in the new line of Android devices. iOS app developers and experts are expecting enhanced security features in iOS 8 too – via TouchID and pre-tested third-party app support. Once again, more details would become available when iOS 8 actually debuts.
- Supported devices – Nexus 6 (also known as the Motorola Shamu) is likely to be the first handset with Android L. It will be interesting to see how Google manages the platform, in the absence of Samsung (which would be using its home-grown Tizen OS). Upcoming LG and HTC smartphones are likely to have Android L-compatibility – while the Sony Xperia series will probably be another partner as well. Apple, on its part, will be hoping for iPhone 6 to be a huge hit – for iOS 8 to really become popular. All that’s required is a non-repetition of the iPhone 5C fiasco.
This is the first time that Android has gone with a full-fledged preview of its new version – something that only Apple was known for till now. This clearly underlines the confidence that the Android developers have in the features of its new, redesigned platform. iOS 8 also has, understandably, generated considerable pre-release buzz. It won’t be that easy for Cupertino to stay ahead of Mountain View this time though!
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