The month of October saw the fierce mobile battle intensify with mobile giants, Apple and Google bringing in the newest flavours to their operating systems. Apple’s Lets Talk iPhone event saw the unveiling of iOS 5 on October 4, 2011. It was soon followed by Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) unfurled in an exclusive Google Samsung event on October 18, 2011. iOS 5 and ICS updates have been popping their heads up way before their release dates and now emerge with their flagship devices viz. the iPhone 4S and the Galaxy Nexus, respectively.
The hype around newer iterations of iOS and Android, as well as the ‘coincidental’ time of their release is bound to call in some comparisons. As always, Apple and Google have tried to put their best foot forward and the umpteen changes elucidate that. So, who's going to fare better? Let’s quickly run through some key attributes of operating systems to find out.
Launched with the latest iPhone 4S, you definitely can’t use iOS 5 with all older Apple devices. The ones that can be upgraded with this most recent flavour of iOS are limited to the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad, iPad 2 and the third and fourth generations of the iPod Touch. The openness of Android should see the operating system rolling out onto several devices by manufacturers in the coming months. However, it is yet unclear as to which or how many existing Gingerbread running Android smartphones will be fed to the ICS upgrade (learn from RIM’s mistakes, it better be a large number).
This domain is completely user oriented; some look for a familiar UI among generations of devices, while others may want a refreshed look. A glance at the iOS 5 UI and an Apple loyalist could instantly relate to it as Apple decided to keep it simple. On the other hand, Android has undergone a notable makeover. It has gone all blue (literally!) with an interface that imbibes some similar qualities of the tablet-exclusive Honeycomb. The changes stretch to the font size and resizable widgets. While ICS decided on a makeover, iOS 5 incorporated touch-ups. In fact, it seems like Apple might have thought some of Android's now notable features could have been worth adding to their line up, as well. Though there's a similarity, please keep in mind, it isn't the same altogether. For example, a pull down notification menu in iOS 5. The difference between this and Android is that Apple's works even when the screen is locked.
Surprisingly, creative minds at both ends have been working at improving the camera capabilities. Apple hadn’t really given much weightage to the camera’s pixel count earlier and it’s possibly the increasing number of hi-res Android camera phones that have compelled it to equip the iPhone 4S with an 8MP camera. However, one can’t doubt its capability when it comes to image quality. Nevertheless, it has always spruced up camera functions and this time is no different. With iOS 5, Apple users can access the camera from the lock screen, edit on the device, pinch to zoom, grid-lines, tap to adjust exposure and use volume-up button for capturing snapshots. Google has an answer to these features in the form of enhanced camera UI, improved gallery widget, panorama mode, red eye reduction and photo tools, among others.
Siri has come across as the much talked about feature of iOS 5 (be it for good or bad). Who wouldn’t like a talking smartphone? In the mobile era, we wouldn’t be surprised if it replaces your best pals. For Android fans, there is no such integration, but the Android Market would let you access some apps on similar lines like Iris (Really? an Anagram of 'Siri'? That's the best they came up with) and Skyvi.
Apple still remains true to its good old 'swipe to unlock' screen gesture, while Android steps ahead with their new facial login capability. While Apple fans still swipe across that dainty touchscreen, Android users can flash those pearly whites to make their way across a locked screen. Android really puts you 'into the picture'.
If you can speak, I can smile
With Google Wallet in tow, support for NFC is something we’d expected the latest Android OS to carry. Android Beam takes it even further, allowing data transfer between devices by placing them next to one another. Apple didn’t seem to think NFC capability was too important for their recently launched iPhone 4S, the lack of which could have led them to take a little flak from the community overall.
Apple has offered its home brewed iCloud service with iOS 5. This feature would be even more beneficial for those owning multiple Apple devices. Simply click a photo from your iPad 2 and it can be accessed from other Apple devices supporting iCloud. This makes all your documents, emails and reading lists available across other iDevices. It negates the hassles of a PC for updates by allowing backup and restore through iCloud and also helps you save a little on internal device storage. Surprisingly, Google hasn’t given cloud storage any attention in this most recent OS flavour. It seems pretty satiated with the existing cloud-based music, doc and other third party cloud-based applications developers provide for their users.
This is a space we’re looking forward to, owing to the ongoing social media trend. Apple’s iOS 5 comes with complete Twitter integration, allowing its users to tweet directly within applications like camera, photos, YouTube and so on. You can bookmark stories to be read later. While Google may not necessarily have an affinity towards Facebook, several existing Android devices could prove it wrong. Android ICS has gone ahead to add a feature dubbed ‘People’, which isn’t something new. It’s simply the way your contacts are displayed and intermingled socially, akin to what the WP7 Mango update has.
Both Apple and Google have spruced up their web browsers. Android 4.0 ensures that the browser inclines more towards the desktop Chrome version. It also tags along Chrome sync, full site button and an Incognito tab. Apple competes with a faster browser speed. It also adds separate tabs for browsing and bookmarking of stories to be read later in the latest Safari edition.
Apple has Game Center, which now allows purchasing of new games directly without heading to the App Store. It takes a step ahead from what the last version served. Google doesn't have much say on this front. Besides the usual Android Market games, we didn’t see ICS come with any gaming centric section.
Following on similar lines of the BlackBerry BBM, Apple released yet another anticipated feature called iMessage. This is something that it seems all handset makers are working towards, as recently we saw Samsung release the ChatOn feature for its users. If Apple boasts of iMessage to stay connected, then Android flaunts its complete social platform – Google+ with the messaging service, Huddle.
For most of us, Apple has been enjoying the limelight for years now. The Android open platform, which emerged later to its share of skepticism (just like any new operating system) has accelerated its pace in a short span of time. That being said, Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS sings a similar tune and could make it big by the second quarter of 2012. Cut out Zune and add in another Mango-sized update to the WP and there it's ready to compete with the likes of iOS.
As mentioned, both operating systems have been trying to follow similar paths and are picking attributes from each other. As an entity, Android ICS appears smooth and friendly, while over its last version Apple has added a plethora of novel features. Android allows utmost customization, while iOS is known for its slick performance. Through the years, the iPhone has turned into crème de la crème of the mobile world, while Android devices can perk up a common man whilst reaching even budget phone users. Weighing the pros and cons, it makes it trickier to be able to zero in on the one that outperforms the other. We are sure the strong fan following of both OS' would agree with us, but feel free to voice your opinion in our comments section.
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