We compare iOS 8 and Android KitKat 4.4.2 to see whether it’s Apple’s or Google’s mobile OS that excels across the board.
It didn’t come as a surprise when Apple launched its iOS 8 operating system at WWDC, nor did it come as a surprise that the iPhone maker bundled in a lot of the same tweaks as Google bundled with its Android KitKat update, including improved customisation within apps.
What did surprise us though, was the opening up of iOS 8 to developers — something that’s been missing for a long time — making it much more flexible for app makers to create a whole plethora of immersive apps that can control every tiny detail of your life.
But is Android KitKat still better? We investigate.
iOS 8 vs KitKat: User interface
Notifications have been improved for iOS 8, allowing you to not only see notifications in any app, but also to act upon them, even if you’re in a completely different application. The feature works on texts, email, calendar invitations and reminders. For example, you can mark an email as read right from the notifications banner.
Although not as advanced as iOS 8 notifications (you can’t reply, mark as read etc. when you get a new email notification), Android already included the ability to carry out some actions from the notifications bar, like snoozing or turning off the alarm before it sounds in the morning.
In iOS 8, if you want to see the people you speak to most and contact them quickly, double tap the home button to get a banner of all your favourite contacts along the top of the screen. You’ll see the contacts split into Favorites and Recent, so you can continue conversations you’d already started in a couple of taps.
What Apple hasn’t introduced to the end-user in iOS 8 is the ability to customise your iPhone or iPad to the extent of KitKat. With the Google Experience Launcher (GEL) on Android, you can change the homescreen even more than you could with previous iterations of Google’s OS. SO you can happily change the style of the icons, or enable/disable wallpaper scrolling.
Google also introduced a similar feature to Apple’s contact quick view, allowing you to see a list of the people you’ve recently been in touch with or your favourite contacts from the dialer.
Winner: iOS 8. Although Apple was late coming to the party with notifications, it’s finally quicker to react to them and the UI is as beautiful as ever. Android KitKat still has the lead over customisation options, but with Apple’s move towards allowing developers to tweak device settings, we’re hopeful the iPhone maker will go one step further with the next update and unlock the same for consumers.
iOS 8 vs KitKat: Apps
Traditionally, Apple’s App Store has been the leader in the apps market. However, Android is catching up fast.
Although the App Store and Google Play both have 2 million apps available, downloads on Android are still higher, with 45 per cent more downloads that Apple’s iOS App Store in Q1 according to App Annie.
Apple hasn’t made life easier with the introduction of iOS 8 either. In fact, the company may have just killed many developers’ livelihoods by introducing a lot of new features in iOS 8 that were previously only available as a third-party download.
The updated iMessage allows you to send multimedia messages, killing WhatsApp and Snapchat for those who only have iPhone friends. iCloud eradicates the need for Dropbox and the need for Skype has been killed off with the ability to make calls over Wi-Fi, without using an app (we’ll talk more about that later).
Hand in hand with that though, Apple is steering its developers to concentrate on lifestyle apps, adding HomeKit and HealthKit to its suite of APIs. The former allows developers to control everything in your home, from the lighting, to your thermostat, even your fridge if you want it to, while HealthKit enables app makers to merge health monitoring apps and devices to third party apps.
Apple is streamlining its attitude to apps and almost forcing developers to create what it wants them to produce – of course, further locking consumers into the iOS ecosystem.
In contrast, Google leaves a lot of its functionality to be carried out by third party apps, although a few new APIs were added in KitKat. Google Cloud Print has been built into Android, but AirPrint already exists in iOS. There’s an API allowing developers to use the health sensors such as the pedometer, but it isn’t transferable onto all devices, only working if the hardware exists.
Winner: iOS 8: Although Apple is encouraging everyone to delve deeper into the Apple ecosystem, the fact it bundles so much into one place is better than Android, which expects users to download additions from Google Play. Apple is future-proofing app development and although Google Play may win in stats, Apple wins on ease of use.
iOS 8 vs KitKat: Communications
The iPhone was built on communication first and foremost and it seems iOS 8 has taken this to a whole new level.
Updates to iMessage and Facetime mean iOS 8 is leaps and bounds ahead of Android 4.4. The biggest additions are the ability to send multimedia messages and voice messages via iMessage. Although it means you’ll still have to use Snapchat or WhatsApp if you’re messaging across platforms, iPhone users are able to communicate without using their SMS allowance.
Group chat is supported with the ability to rename conversations, just like WhatsApp, and you can control the conversation by adding and removing people if you want.
Although Apple didn’t officially reveal it at WWDC, you’ll soon be able to make calls to phone numbers over Wi-Fi, rather than just your contacts. Skype allows you to do this via ‘Skype Out’ but it’s thought Apple will offer the service for free.
Facetime will also support Call Waiting, meaning you can reject or accept another Facetime call while you’re already on one. You can switch between the calls, just as you can on a call using your mobile network.
Google only has Hangouts for extra-value comms on its Android system, and although it allows you to message via Wi-Fi and video chat, the all-in-one interface can get a little confusing at times.
Sure, you can use your computer to chat on Hangouts, but you have to use the browser, can only call the US and Canada for free (and can’t receive calls over Wi-Fi unless you’re in the US) and it’s sometimes a little laggy in comparison to Facetime. Group chat on Hangouts is a bonus, but add video into the mix in a conversation with more than three people and the video will start to stutter, making it almost impossible to use the service.
Added to that, the mobile version of Hangouts is much more limited than the browser-based version, while Apple has kept Facetime on Mac and phone a very similar experience.
Winner: iOS 8. Apple has thought of everything with iMessage and Facetime, while we can’t help thinking Hangouts on Android was a bit of an afterthought for Google.
iOS 8 vs KitKat:Safari vs Chrome
Safari is another of the preinstalled apps that has been updated with iOS 8. Although Apple didn’t go into detail about the new Safari browser, initial benchmarks show the browser scores 440 points (out of 550) on HTML5 tests.
However, Safari doesn’t beat third party browsers including Chrome, Firefox and Opera, which all have a higher benchmark.
New developer extensions will add support for extras to be added to the Safari browser. At the launch of iOS 8, Apple software chief Craig Federighi demoed a Bing translation extension that allows users to instantly translate browser text using Microsoft’s tool, for example.
Although when Android 4.4 was first released to developers, it didn’t ship with a browser, most device manufacturers decided to pre-install Chrome. Chrome is much more personalised and as one of the most popular browsers on desktop, it makes managing your extensions, bookmarks and account from your mobile a lot easier.
For the record, Chrome also shows faster HTML5 benchmarks, achieving 488 out of 550.
Winner: Android KitKat: Although the new extensions in Safari are all well and good, the Chrome browser is still faster and is more widely used on PCs. Extensions are synced between a user’s computer and their mobile, meaning everything is the same whether you’re using your computer, a PC or your tablet.
iOS 8 vs KitKat: Google Now vs Siri
Siri has become much more like Google Now with the update to iOS 8. You can activate the function by saying ‘Hey Siri’, just as you can wake up Google Now by saying, ‘Hey Google’
Although it’s a little gimmicky on both platforms (for the feature to work, your phone has to be relatively close so you could just pick it up), it’s a nice touch and means you can control your phone while doing something else, like typing.
Siri also now supports ‘streaming voice recognition’ allowing you to see your words on screen and correct them if Siri doesn’t get them right first time.
Apple has added the ability for you to identify songs using Shazam and then go on to purchase iTunes content using your voice.
Like Siri, Google Now allows you to carry out almost any process by just talking to your device, including launching voice search to find information on the internet, send a text, call a friend, get directions or start playing music.
New features in Android 4.4 KitKat’s implementation of the tool allows you to access Google Now by swiping from left to right on the screen and also alerts you to important emails, with improved suggestions based on your web searches.
Winner: iOS 8: With these new features, Apple is making Siri more advanced. It may have stolen a few features from Google, but it makes your life even easier than it was with iOS 7, so who cares?
iOS 8 vs KitKat: Availability
Apple has made sure iOS 8 is available to most iPhone users. It can be downloaded by iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPod touch 5th generation, iPad 2, iPad with Retina display, iPad Air, iPad mini and iPad mini with Retina display owners from the Autumn.
Android KitKat on the other hand, is limited by device with only newer devices supporting it. The update was released in October and at present, KitKat in all its forms is running on 13.6 per cent of devices.
However, nine months after Apple launched iOS 7, the update was being used by 87 per cent of iDevice users. If this information is accurate, iOS 8 will go the same way and be installed by the vast majority of iPhone users.
Winner: iOS 8: Unlike Google, Apple is very good at ensuring all its users update to the most current version. It’s also available to almost every iPhone out there, making it ace the upgrade charts.
As fantastic as Android KitKat is, we’d have to say the mobile OS we’re most keen to stroke right now is iOS 8. It would appear Apple has stepped its game up significantly for the latest iteration, which is now packed with features that either match or surpass what Android offers. It, and future iPhones that will run the software, has a very bright future indeed.
Check out our full iOS 8 features round-up for more info, and let us know your own thoughts below – can iOS 8 smash Android with its new features, or is Google still riding high?