We are all well aware that competition breeds innovation. Android and iPhone constantly improve because of the market threat and creative ingenuity the other one poses with each great idea aimed at their respective consumer niches. PlayStation and Xbox operate similarly as direct competitors. The same goes for all other consumer products and even major business models. What often starts off as distinct features and methods from business giants result in a template of common ground. They maintain their core identity but mimic each others strengths until (and if the market permits it) an ambitious emerging company challenges the way things are done. We’ve seen what Chipotle has done to the “fast food” industry offering a more casual upscale dinning experience and new business model. We’ve seen Apple and Microsoft borrow inspiration from each other over the years in both hardware and software development. Ultimately with competition, the products improve and hopefully the prices drop. Although I am exclusively an Android user, I am tech lover first and foremost. This means I deeply enjoy improvements among rival products because it usually means improvements among supported products will soon follow.
Since we live in a world where technology as (let’s face it) a novelty is at the center of consumerism in some way, fandom is inevitable. Fans will always try to find reasons to justify the believed superiority of their preferred products regardless on whether or not they are true. “The iPhone doesn’t crash”. “You can customize an Android, with no restrictions”. “The iPhone can face-time”. “Android has NFC technology”. “The Samsung has a fingerprint reader”. These statements are misleading and for some cases only refer to a “timed” availability. Depending on when you’re reading this, these statement may not seem relevant to the point I’m trying to make. Google eventually implemented video conferencing capability through their Hangout app which is still being redesigned for a more seamless experience. Apple is currently working on incorporating a fingerprint reader for future devices. Three years down the line some of these distinctions won’t even matter because both Android and iPhone would have both been designed from a similar template. What tends to remain are fundamental ideologies and the approach at innovation.
Android is beating iPhone at its own game by becoming more and more user friendly and visually appealing but is still managing to maintain focus on one of its core strengths: its notification system.
Apple’s focus and strength has always been on aesthetics and its user friendly interface. It’s ambitious dive into the future offering a full touch screen device as the mobile phone standard may have granted Apple its success at the turn of the social age but its aesthetical approach and exclusivity was what secured it. The iPhone, still relying on proprietary compatibility options and in-house app distribution is still exclusive but its aesthetics is outdated and quite frankly has been bested by Android’s new minimalist Material Design. Android is beating iPhone at its own game by becoming more and more user friendly and visually appealing but is still managing to maintain focus on one of its core strengths: its notification system. While iPhone had the beloved home screen which served as a gateway to the world, Android had a notification system powered by Google. Android’s notification system which has incorporated a superior predictive search and feed algorithm has been far more superior than anything iPhone has attempted ever since the 2011 release of Android 2.3 Gingerbread.
Apple has been making great strides in the iPhone notification system ever since iOS 5 but still relies on the home screen for the majority of user activity. An app on the home screen will display a red alert badge once a notification goes through. This system doesn’t offer the “at-a-galancibility” and functionality that Android’s notifications and Google Now Cards do. What hurts iPhone the most is that its system requires users to linger on the home screen. This made sense five years ago where the appeal was found in the apps themselves. Google has made it so that in this high demanding, fast paced world, users don’t want to waste their time in one app but would rather have quick access to the information and functions each app is able to offer them. Considering it has always been Google’s goal to learn the most it can from its users to provide them with more of what they want, its no surprise that it now delivers information from your apps, interests, and daily activities in a more streamline and synchronous fashion. In fact, Google has flat out declared it wishes to make interacting with apps directly (as the primary usage of the smartphone) a thing of the past. Google is shaking things up in the mobile industry the way the late great Steve Jobs used to with Apple and the way the iPhone did in 2007. Apple has already fallen behind and now aims to catch up.
iOS lacks contextual information that would make it proactive much like Android as opposed to reactive.
It seems Apple is finally ready to do away with what has been a crutch for so long. If Google is right about notifications and predictive technology being the way of the future then drastic changes need to be made on the iPhone user interface and home screen. iPhone users have only recently starting to become accustomed to defaulting their interactions at the notifications. Meanwhile, Android is setting the pace. From the 2012 launch of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, actionable buttons and additional text under expandable notifications were added. Two years later, iPhone begins to implement these features. The lackluster response to the iPhone notification drawer is partially because its simply not as useful or friendly compared to what Android offers. The other reason is that the home screen serves as some sort of safety net or security blanket for users and (I would imagine) developers and designers alike. At the World Wide Developers Conference last week Apple made several announcements including iOS 9 features and the subtle suggestion that the home screen is dead. This announcement does not come as a surprise. iOS lacks contextual information that would make it proactive much like Android as opposed to reactive. They’ve realize that apps become obsolete once your phone’s personal assistant, search function, and notifications can provide you with all the information you want in one place before you know you want it.
Over the past two years I’ve been consistently removing apps from my phone that I’ve realized can be replaced by Google Now. Five years ago, we had an app for everything and it was exciting to discover how each app behaved. Having an abundance of apps now feels cumbersome and having it forcefully displayed on your iPhone home screen in an grid-like format is overwhelming and archaic. If I want game scores, movie listings, restaurant reviews, weather updates, or currency conversion, I default to Google. It’s quicker, easier, and constantly being improved. Much like Google over the past year, Apple is now suggesting the death of apps a few years down the line. For now, apps are still being used as the source of much of the information Google directs at me. Although I’m certain Siri and the iPhone notifications will improve significantly in both contextual relevance and predictive properties, Apple lacks the solid platform Google has to analyze its users behavior outside the physical device you’re probably reading this on. One thing is for sure, as search continues to control notifications and smartphone activity Google only gets stronger. Apple, focusing more on hardware has a long road ahead. For more on Apple’s announcement, check out the link below.