The two leading companies in the mobile platform market, Google and Apple, both announced their new operating systems for the next year recently. While neither Apple’s iOS 9 nor Google’s Android M have been released yet (both will land this fall), the companies did detail their new software at length. With that in mind we decided to tackle which looks to be the most comprehensive update and we will try to decide whether one of the OS’s is pulling away from the other in terms of quality.
Android M vs. iOS 9 – New Features
Both of these platforms had huge changes made to them with their last major build release. Apple’s iOS 8 revamped the software in terms of design and brought a whole host of new features, while with Android Lollipop, Google did the same by bringing Material Design and brand new features to the system. With that in mind the two companies were never going to make wholesale changes again this year, so it was hardly a surprise that iOS 9 and Android M arrived with incremental updates.
There is a strong argument for Android being the most feature rich of the two platforms these days, but that was an argument present before the arrival of “M” or iOS 9. In terms of blooding new features it really is a draw, although if one includes Apple Music as a feature then iOS 9 is probably the winner. Apple has had problems with music over the last year, essentially shoving a U2 album down everyone’s throat whether they wanted it or not. With Apple Music the company has been clever and embedded it as an app in iOS 9, which means it is as native to the system as the phone app or the safari browser. Cupertino is essentially tapping in to hundreds of millions of users in one swoop and Apple Music is something that Android cannot match.
Google Play Music we hear you shout, and yes Google did announce the service during its Android M keynote at I/O this year. The service looks like it will get most of the job done, and it too is ready to go on the Google Play Store for hundreds of millions of users. However, it is not as fully baked as Apple Music and is not really a true competitor at all (that title goes to something like Spotify), so while Google Play Music is impressive in its own right, Apple Music appears for now to be a different animal.
In terms of OS features, many believe that iOS is now playing catch-up and adding things that Google has been using for some time, it is of course something Apple fans outright deny. True or not, iOS 9 introduced some battery features that Android has had for a few builds, such as monitoring and power saving features. It also finally gets multi-tasking, again something that large screen Android smartphones have been boasting for some time.
However, while Android is arguably ahead in end user features, Apple clearly leads the pack in what happens behind the scenes and monetizing its services. A year after launching Apple Pay, Google responded with Android Pay, a service that does plenty to mimic Cupertino’s effort. Mountain View has also aped Apple by adding a dedicated fingerprint sensing API for developers, while also adding lucid app permissions.
Apple Maps finally brought with it transit route information in select global cities, although it is something that Google Maps has had for a long time, and really there really is no competition with Google’s service still miles ahead.
Covering all the little features and trims both companies made would simply take too long here, but neither went as bold as they did with Android Lollipop or iOS 8.
Google Now vs. Siri
Voice control is going to be moving forward quickly, as was evident by how much Google and Apple discussed it in their respective keynotes. You may not think that Siri or Google Now are that important, but in the near future they will be, and are very much part of big plans for both companies.
Again, this is an area where Android’s offering feels more fleshed out and only this year did Apple give Siri some of Google Now’s more impressive features, such as understanding words like “it” in context. She will even make suggestions and appointments now, something Google Now has been able to do for a while.
Which is best?
In many ways this is an unanswerable question as it really depends on what you already know and what you may want. If you are a long time iOS user then the 9th major build is likely to please you a lot, it brings with it interesting and useable new features and continues to maintain its ease of use. That ability to be used easily is what attracts new users too, as well as Apple’s uber-desirable products.
Not that new users are shying away from Android, Google’s OS is pulling in more people in fact and with Android M the company once again showed its ambition to make the platform a massive unified entity across multiple platforms. As always, Apple’s and Google’s ambitions differ while being the same in some aspects, but in terms of trying to bring a complete experience beyond mobile, Android M’s rich feature set is certainly appealing.