We have two new contenders in the handheld department which claim to be the next big thing in the world of smartphones and tablets. Android 4.0 and iOS 5 fight it out in our spec-to-feature comparison here. iOS already has its loyal fan-base thanks to its solid OS and great App Store. Android, on the other hand is the new smartboy who can upset the Apples with its open-source OS and the tremendous speed at which it is growing. Let us see who is the best among the two.
First things first. We are not following a section-wise approach here as the features are far too many and for too difficult to discuss in one section. So we take them head-on. All we need in the hand-held devices is functionality and looks. We shall start with looks for now.
iOS has maintained its icon-centric main menu in the fifth version. Android too has retained its widget-icon combo main menu in Android 4. But unlike iOS 5, Android has transformed its UI a lot from that linux look into a more modern one with a hint of both 2.x and 3.x versions. The readability and appeal has increased in Android whereas there hasn’t been any major change in iOS in the looks department. iOS has a new notification tray which seems to be hurriedly borrowed from Android. It shows the stocks, weather and other notifications such as calls, messages, twitter mentions etc. which used to pop-up right into your face. Now they will just slide in at the top of the application you are using and disappear. Android already has this. So Android takes the lead here.
As for multitasking, Android has a new trick up its sleeve. It has a new interface in which apps can be switched easily. You can also close them right there. iOS hasn’t changed its multitasking feature in any way. Multitasking on Android looks cooler though its efficiency may depend on the hardware too. Android has a new lock-screen too! You can use the camera right from the lock screen. You can also respond to a call by picking up or messaging the caller without having to unlock the screen. iOS 5 can show notifications on the lock-screen and the respective apps can be accessed directly too.
Another new feature in Android is the use of virtual buttons instead of hardware ones. This is indeed nice since it makes it easier to access the buttons. When you are used to the touch-interface the hardware buttons are often disappointing. iOS still has that home button to access the main menu. It is simpler using a single home button though, and logical too. No matter where you are, you can go home with the press of just one button.Like iOS Android has added a new feature that allows you to group similar apps. This is well known to iOS users and may attract some legal action too!
iOS 5 has added a new input method with the introduction of Siri(Currently in iPhone 4S only). It is a voice-controlled virtual assistant who can read out mails, search for what you want, look for restaurants you want to eat in and also send out e-mails and messages dictated by you. On the other hand Android has a voice-controlled assistant too but its activities are limited to writing the dictated text. But it has updated and optimized its dictionary for more accurate correction. It has added a spell-checker too, which underlines the mistakes in red and the user can correct it by tapping on the word and selecting the correct one from the list or choosing other options. iOS 5 has its old dictionary in its system which works great too. Android takes the lead here for the new and magnificent UI, though iOS still has the simplicity and a new Personal Assistant(And it is a She!).
Most of us have limited-data plans here on handheld devices. Thus it is a great headache for any user to control the data his apps are using. Android 4 has come to the rescue here with its data usage management settings. Here you can see the amount of data being streamed by individual apps and also put caps on them or set warning levels. This is really great for people feel pinched every time they pay their data-bills. iOS has no such option though 3rd-party apps may have similar functionality limited to monitoring data.
Both the OSes have new features in the Camera app though iOS would win with the superb cameras they have in their iDevices. Android has made some changes to the photo-gallery and iOS has added some quick-edit features too. But Android has a new option called Live Effects which allows you to transform the video you have recorded to add backgrounds or custom effects. It also has Silly Faces which can manipulate the video being captured to make the face of a person on camera look funny.
Web-browsing is one of the primary uses of smartphones. Hence all the mobile OSes strive hard to make themselves faster, lighter and stronger. iOS is easily among the best and Android is quite good too, though not better than iOS. But it all comes down to the network you are on and the signal you have. Still, the best comparisons can be made with WiFi-based networks. Recent tests have proved iPhone 4S is faster than Android phones but Android 4 has not been tested yet. We are still waiting for the results even if we are sure iOS is the deserving candidate since Android claims to have achieved a 220% increase in browsing speed over the Android 2.3 browser.
Apple has landed on the clouds with its iCloud service which spans PCs and Macs to iPhones and iPads. Google too has its cloud-service but it has limited capabilities. Apple provides a 5 GB backup for free where you can store all your music, photos, videos and files. You can also buy more space if you want. It is great to share your photos with all the iDevices linked to your iCloud account.
Android is beaming up a new mode called Android Beam that lets two NFC-enabled Android devices to exchange photos, music, videos, apps etc. Now game-scores can be shared and you can also chat with others through this. iOS has Bluetooth but file transfers are not allowed. Android introduces another two features called WiFi Direct which offers a similar service like Android Beam and Bluetooth HDP enables the user to use Bluetooth-enabled wireless health-monitoring devices. Such devices are already available for Apple products running on iOS. iDevices were damned for long due to the connecting cable one had to connect every time the device needed to be synced. But iOS 5 allows you to do away with a cord and a PC/Mac altogether! You can activate and use a WiFi enabled iDevice without connecting it to anything(except a power-source). You can download all your data from your iCloud backup and get all the data anywhere.
Face-recognition is old news for laptop-users but now Android has brought it to mobile devices. It is pretty handy and useful if your hands are full but may not be that usable in direct sunlight or in the dark. iOS still has the pass-code lock.
iOS offers some new apps, namely- Newsstand, iMessage, Reminders, Twitter and Cards. newsstand is basically just a newsstand where your subscribed magazines and newspapers are available. Android has no such service. iMessage is a new service that allows iOS 5 users to communicate over WiFi or 3G. It is vaguely similar to Blackberry Messenger and Android Beam might be a close competitor. Reminders is a new app which will obviously remind you that you were to finish that article an hour ago! Twitter is now integrated into iOS and is a really great app. Android does have Facebook and Twitter integration already but it remains to be seen whether their interfaces are as good as in the iOS. Cards is an innovative app that can be used to create customized cards that are printed and posted by Apple upon payment.
A major change we almost forgot is Roboto – the new font adopted for Android 4. It feels more Androidy too!
Both the OSes have a lot of differences and a lot in common. Both of them provide loads of new features and functionality. In the end, it is all up to the user. iOS is solid, has great security and great apps, has a back-up cloud service, has a virtual assistant and is blazing fast as always. Android is deeply customizable with widgets and a custom home-screen, has better lock-screen options, offers bandwidth management, is easier to multitask and feels more modern and refreshing. My verdict would go to Android 4 as it has refreshed a whole lot of things but I am an iOS loyalist and love the way iOS 5 works. Android-loyalists will love the new features that are added in Android 4.0 a.k.a IceCream Sandwich. I myself admire the new font, virtual buttons, the new photo gallery and the multitasking feature of Android 4.0.
What will you opt for?