Every year, just like Google conducts its I/O press conference to introduce developers to the new Android version and announce all the upcoming features and APIs it will bring, Apple does the same. Its WWDC event took place this past Monday and, as any mobile enthusiast, we tuned in to see what the company has in store for its operating systems. While the dominating rhetoric over many years has been Apple’s uncanny ability to announce an Android feature that has existed for years as innovative and ground-breaking, things have changed recently. 2019 was one of the most interesting thanks to plenty of both small and big additions to iOS 13 that leave us a little doe-eyed and jealous. So here are twenty five new iOS features we’d really like to see on Android.
Sign in with Apple
Definitely the most interesting announcement made at WWDC, Sign in with Apple is a new login process available to developers and service makers. It has the same convenience of Google login (i.e. no need to create a new account and memorize a new password), but it’s built with privacy in mind. The appeal is that you’ll be able to sign into any app with just a button tap — the device will use Touch ID or Face ID to authenticate you, so your email address doesn’t get entered anywhere.
For providers that would still like to have an email at hand to reach you, Apple offers to either share your proper email address or hide it by giving a unique address that forwards to your real one. Every app gets a different generated email address, so no two apps will be able to track your usage across them.
Automatic Dark Mode
iOS 13 is introducing a system-wide Dark Mode, but unlike Android Q’s, it can also be turned on automatically. Options include from sunset to sunrise as well as user-specific schedules, so you could have dark mode flip on at 10pm then switch back to the light mode at 7am. Or the other way around if you’re a vampire.
Optimized Battery Charging
It wasn’t mentioned during the keynote, but iOS 13 brings a setting to preserve your battery’s performance and longevity. It does so by avoiding keeping it fully charged for a long period of time, which is known to degrade batteries. When enabled, your device will charge up to 80% and wait, even if it’s still plugged in. Based on your past behavior, it will only fill up the remaining 20% right before you usually unplug and start using your phone.
Maps: Favorites and Look Around
Apple Maps has long been the laughing stock of iOS and Android users alike. Beside announcing more detailed maps data starting with the US, Apple is adding a few features that we wish we had in Google Maps. First is a super easy way to access favorites by just swiping up on the main screen. While Google Maps is putting more focus on exploring places around you (and hiding your starred places in the side menu), Apple’s approach is to let you quickly get to your favorites, lists, and recent searches. I definitely prefer the latter.
Another spectacular addition is the new Street View-like Look Around, which blends real-life imagery with map data in two ways. Not only does it let you view the real street and smoothly move through it as if you were there, it also overlays places of interest on top of the imagery (see the floating pink and yellow icons on the left in the screenshot below) and lets you explore them without leaving the street. That also works the other way around: You can overlay Look Around on top of the map, while still controlling the latter. It’s all quite impressive when you see it in action, and something we would definitely like to see with Google Maps and Street View.
Find your device, even offline
We’ve been able to find our Android phones, tablets, watches, and Chromebooks for years now, but if your device is offline, the location you’ll have is the last one where it connected. With the new features in Apple’s Find My, users will be able to get their devices’ locations even if they’re no longer online. The way this works is that a disconnected iPhone or Macbook or iPad still acts like a secure Bluetooth beacon. It will relay its location, in an encrypted and anonymous manner, to other nearby Apple devices. This will piggy-back across an entire network of devices and eventually reach you.
Full Page screenshots
Several Android brands have had scrolling screenshots for years now, but we had to make a near riot to get Google to commit to implementing them natively in Android R — read: next year. Leave it to Apple to one-up this by making something better. iOS and iPadOS both support a new Full Page mode for screenshots, where you simply tap a button and the entire page you’re seeing (webpage, document, long note, apps that scroll vertically, etc…) is saved. No animation or manual scrolling needed.
More powerful Reminders
Google’s Reminders system has existed for years, but it’s erratic, confusing, spread across multiple apps including Keep, Calendar, Assistant, and the new Tasks app, and divergent in its execution among each of them. Contrast that to Apple’s centralized Reminders app and you have a big chasm between the two OSes. Apple widened that gap further by giving its Reminders app a fresh coat of paint and plenty of new features in iOS 13.
There are smart lists for things due today, scheduled for later, or flagged. There’s also a smart parsing mechanism that understands places and times, such as “go to the gym every Wednesday at 8pm.” Also new is a quick toolbar to assign a time, location, flag, or attachment to any reminder, including things like leaving work or getting home. And the cherry on top of the cake is better integration with other services, such as associating a to-do with a top-level reminder; tagging a person in a reminder so that the next time you message them you get notified about the topic you should discuss; and having Siri suggest you set up a reminder when you’re chatting with someone about what should be an upcoming task. It’s the kind of smooth integration we just wish Google Tasks, Keep, Calendar, Messages, and Assistant could do.
Non-destructive and extensive video editing
Perhaps the most impressive, yet least talked-about feature demo’ed at WWDC is iOS 13’s new non-destructive video editing. Think of how you can open any pic in Google Photos, apply any edit, save it, and still go back to the original whenever you want, and you’ll see what iOS does to videos too. There’s rotation and flipping, all kinds of filters and effects, many options for cropping vertically or horizontally and to any ratio you want, and finally, a simple reset button that takes you back to the original video, even if you had already saved your progress.
It’s this level of powerful video editing that we dream of having in Google Photos. Instead, the app only handles stabilization, rotation, and trimming, all of which create a new video instead of applying on top of the existing one.
Smarter photo library
I love Google Photos, don’t get me wrong, but seeing iOS’s new display modes for its Photos app left me very jealous. The gallery can smartly and in one fell swoop remove duplicates, screenshots, receipts, to focus only on the most interesting pics of every day. It also has a month view with highlights from certain days. But more awesome is the contextual and dynamic yearly view. It surfaces highlights from past years that are similar to what you’re doing now. If it’s someone’s birthday, for example, all of the yearly view thumbnails will focus on that and let you quickly access your pics from their previous birthdays.
Photos also transitions seamlessly between views, so you don’t lose your place when going from yearly to monthly to daily; automatically assigns names to events based on location or holiday or concert performer; and all of those thumbnails can dynamically preview videos and Live Photos without even tapping on them. By contrast, looking at Google Photos right now makes me feel that the interface is very static and not as interactive as it could be.
Portrait lighting effects for the camera
While you can always edit images after taking them on any platform, the ability to see certain effects live is very welcome, as it can help you better frame your photo. That’s why I like the option to apply lighting effects in portrait shots while still using the camera on iOS 13. You can even change the effect so that the light appears closer or further away from the subject.
Per-website settings and browser improvements
Safari in iOS 13 is bringing a lot of small but nice changes that we’d like to see in Chrome. Reader mode, showing the desktop or mobile site, and content blockers can now be set on a per-site basis. Also new is a pop-up that asks if you want to resize an image before uploading it, and offers multiple options so you don’t share a 7MB image in a Disqus comment section, for example.
Also new are the Siri suggested sub-pages, so when you type “espn,” you can quickly jump to its NFL, NBA, MLB, and other popular sub-pages without loading the main site first.
And finally, Safari is adding multiple-tab bookmarks. Think of it as Chrome’s tab groups with bookmarking on top, so you could choose a few tabs, save them together, close them, and then be able to re-open them all in one go. This could be super handy for certain workflows, like quickly loading the different sites you check each morning, or having your favorite trip planning sites bundled together.
Allow apps to access location only once
Android Q just introduced new location permission abilities, including the option to allow an app access to your location only when it’s in use, but iOS 13 takes that one step further. You can let an app access your location only once, then it’ll have to ask you again. This can be handy for apps that need to know your general location to tailor their content, but don’t need that further everytime you use them.
Combined app limits in Screen Time
Screen Time is Apple’s equivalent to Digital Wellbeing on Android, and with iOS 13 it has received a few improvements that we really like. You can ask for one more minute before an app is paused, just so you can finish your current task, as well as set communication limits for children so they can only talk to approved contacts at different times of the day. But more handy in my opinion is the combined app limit. Say you want to spend only one hour on gaming or social networks or messaging apps, you can select multiple apps in each category and set an overall limit to all of them. That way you can divide your allotted time as you see fit every day.
Hotspot family sharing
When you’re traveling or on a road-trip outside the home, and you’re one of a few people with a data connection, your family may start pestering you to share that with them. Creating a hotspot is easy, but giving that password to different people can be annoying, so iOS has added a family sharing option to quickly allow iCloud members of the same family to automatically connect to your device’s hotspot without having to set up a new WiFi network or enter a new password.
Lyrics while playing music
There are dozens of apps that can do this particular thing on Android, but having the functionality native to the music app is much, much better. So we’re definitely envious of iOS’s newly-added ability to display lyrics in sync with the music, a result of Apple’s acquisition of Shazam surely. You can also tap any section of the lyrics to skip to that part of the song. I dream of the day Spotify implements that, instead of its limited Behind the Lyrics. Or YouTube Music if that’s more your thing.
Switch Wi-Fi networks from Control Center
On Android, we used to be able to quickly switch to any Wi-Fi network by simply expanding the quick settings toggle, then Pie removed it. Now, tapping and holding on the toggle opens the entire Wi-Fi page in Settings. And what did iOS just add? Well, an option to quickly switch Wi-Fi networks (and Bluetooth output devices) from Control Center. Gah!
Voice Control with a numbered grid
Google spent a lot of time discussing accessibility at I/O by involving Assistant, impressive speech recognition, and more. But one feature from Apple left me smiling and thinking this should be implemented everywhere: voice control with numbers. Simply say “show numbers” when navigating iOS (and macOS) and your entire screen will be transformed into a numbered grid. You can narrow down to super precise sections and trigger inputs there, all very quickly, a feature anyone with mobility impairment should find welcome.
There aren’t many Siri capabilities I wish Assistant had, but Shortcuts is definitely one of them. The feature can integrate into third-party apps, save you many repetitive clicks for tasks you perform frequently, and now comes built into iOS 13. It’ll also start suggesting some automations for you by taking your habits and throwing them into a template, so you only need to approve and get going. This is the kind of smarts and deep app integration I wish Assistant had.
Thanks to its ecosystem of devices, Apple can enable a few experiences that would be a lot less seamless and more complicated to achieve on Android. One of them is iOS’s new ability to share playing audio with someone else’s AirPods, without pairing them first, disconnecting your current set, or even pausing the music to begin with. Two people, two sets of Airpods, the same audio playing.
Hand off audio to the HomePod
In a similar vein to sharing audio between AirPods, you can now hand off music, podcasts, and phone calls from your iPhone to the HomePod by just getting it close when you arrive home or enter a certain room. Likewise, you can take your audio with you when you leave.
Many great additions to iPadOS
While Google has completely given up on the idea of Android on tablets, Apple continues to forge forward with its iPad. At WWDC, the device was given its own OS, separate from iOS. Even if there’s no point in making a direct comparison with Android, we can’t help but glance over and think of what could have been.
The new iPadOS brings two ways of multitasking: Slide Over, which overlays an app on the right side on top of your current app; and Split View, which now supports two windows from the same app, drag-and-drop between windows, dragging to create a new window, and multiple spaces with different split views each. You can also have multiple instances of the same app running, and view a dashboard of all your spaces to switch between them. This is desktop-level multitasking, and something neither Android nor Chrome OS can handle this well.
Other additions include gestures to select text, copy, cut, paste, undo, and redo; a floating keyboard that can be moved all around the screen; a column view in Files to browse complicated file structures, see thumbnails, perform quick actions, and check metadata simultaneously; and the ability to use the iPad as a second display for a Mac, wired or wirelessly, including touch and input support. I’ll just sit here and think… if only.
Siri-suggested actions on CarPlay
Similar to Android Auto’s redesigned homescreen, CarPlay is getting a new dashboard and one of the most interesting additions are Siri-suggested actions, which surface quick actions like opening your Garage door when you’re close to home, or seeing your next calendar event when you’re leaving in the morning.
HomeKit Secure Video and routers
Apple also announced two new HomeKit features for routers and security cameras. The first lets them firewall each device and accessory so any compromise on one doesn’t affect the others, and the second enables recorded video to be locally analyzed on existing iPads, Apple TVs, and HomePods in your home, then sent fully-encrypted to iCloud. That means only you can see the video and neither camera providers nor Apple can’t access it.
Multi-user on tvOS
A long, long sigh escaped me when Apple announced multi-user support for Apple TV, with a customized homescreen and recommendations per profile. It’s true that Android TV supports multiple users, but the functionality is so gimped and useless that my husband and I don’t even bother setting it up on our Nvidia Shield.
Nice additions to watchOS
And last but not least, here’s another example of Apple speeding along with a platform and lapping Google multiple times, while our favorite company sits and twiddles its thumbs: watchOS. It has a new female cycle tracking feature with notifications, a noise measuring app that can detect loud environments, and activity trends to let you know if you’ve been maintaining your levels over the past 90 days compared to the entire year, or if you’re slacking or improving.
It’s easy to get stuck ruminating every major and minor change in Android from our Google-centric viewpoint, but looking behind the fence at what Apple is doing provides a different kind of perspective. You start noticing the more important gaps in Android, like video editing, reminders, and better integration between apps and devices. You also have a bit more appreciation for the things you’ve had for years that were just added on iOS, like USB support and swipe typing.
This is my first time closely following the WWDC keynote in a few years, and I’m glad I decided to tune in. I now have a new-found appreciation of iOS. Even if I still don’t see myself using it as my main platform, I can clearly recognize the progress it’s made and how it has transformed into a very powerful mobile operating system over the years.