Apple’s iOS 14.5 beta has just recently gone live, and while it brings some incremental improvements to the iOS software that ran out of the box in the iPhone 12 series, we here at XDA feel iOS still has some ways to go before matching Android in usability (okay, fine, we may be just a bit biased…).
With the next new version of iOS (15) likely being unveiled in June and launching with the iPhone 13 series (or whatever Apple ends up calling it) in September or October, Apple software engineers have a few months to hopefully improve iOS even more. Several of us at XDA carry use both, an iPhone and Android regularly, so here are some Android features we hope iOS 15 should offer.
Better Notification Management
I often wake up to dozens of notifications from Gmail, WhatsApp, and Telegram. If my daily driver is an Android, I see just three notification cards — one for each app — because Android groups all notifications from one app together. I can expand and view each individual message if I so choose, but until I do that, my notifications remain neatly organized.
If I happen to have my main SIM in my iPhone at the time, however, then it’s anything goes. Apple’s software is supposed to group my messages together, but it still breaks from that if the messages are spread over a couple of hours apart. Take, for example, the below screenshots: Android grouped all my Telegram messages into one card, while the iPhone showed me two boxes for Telegram messages sent a minute apart. Also, notice the two cards for two Gmail notifications.
Anyone who receives a fair bunch of notifications throughout the day would agree that the notification management is in need of a few fixes, and iOS could do well at copying Android over here.
Free Homescreen Grid
The iPhone 12 Pro Max is an unwieldy phone to use with one-hand. But while some would attribute that to the nature of using a big phone, I disagree. I can use a similarly-large Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or LG Wing with one hand and not struggle much, because I can customize the Android homescreen to adapt. For example, I place all my app at the bottom of the screen, and I use a grid with more horizontal spots so I can fit more than, say, four apps in a row.
iOS doesn’t let me do this: the app homescreen grid is fixed whether I’m using a 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max or a 5.4-inch iPhone 12 Mini, and apps must start at the top of the screen in left-to-right order direction. Take a look at the photo below and tell me which phone looks easier to use with one hand. Reaching Spotify on the iPhone in the photo requires me to loosen my grip so I can stretch my thumb.
“Just use Reachability or place more widgets on the homescreen to push apps further down the screen then,” some of you may say. No! Both of these are compromises. I shouldn’t have to find workarounds just to be able to reach my apps with ease.
Both Android and iOS offer the ability to lock portrait orientation so apps don’t rotate automatically when a phone is tilted sideways. This comes in particularly handy when using the phone while laying in bed. However, on iOS, the lock is set in stone. This means if my portrait orientation lock is on, and I want to view a video in landscape orientation, I must jump into the control center and turn orientation off.
Android, beginning with Pie (aka version 8), offered a smart feature called “rotate suggestions,” which allows us to override portrait orientation lock when playing widescreen videos. This happens automatically — whenever I play a video or tilt my phone sideways while using an app that supports landscape mode, a small icon appears in the corner asking if I want to rotate to landscape orientation. A tap will do so; or I can ignore it and the suggestion will stay out of the way. This context-aware UI makes a phone feel “smarter,” not to mention it genuinely comes in handy for using a smartphone in bed.
iOS offers nothing of this sort. While yes, this is not a feature whose absence will ruin your smartphone experience. But I do believe this is a feature that does add that nice finishing touch that one expects to see on a mature OS.
This may make me sound old, but I still make phone calls. On Android, as soon as I start typing a number, the dialer will begin scouring my contacts list for that string of numbers as well as lookup combinations for the names under T9 dialing. This way, by the time I’ve input just the second or third number, the dailer would have already popped up the full contact info of the person, and from there I can just tap on the name to call.
iPhones, as of now, still cannot do this. In fact, iOS will not show the name of the contact until you’ve input the phone number in its entirety. Even if you’re one number off, iOS won’t budge. See the below screenshots for an example: on an iPhone, it wouldn’t show my girlfriend’s contact until I’ve finished inputting all eight digits of her phone number; on an Android, the dialer had already identified her contact by the second number.
And iOS wouldn’t even search through for T9 Dialing. If you have to search a contact by their name, you need to jump into the Contacts tab and use the search bar. It’s really inconvenient, especially if you have gotten used to dialing up contacts with such a breeze on Android.
Double Tap to Wake vs Single Tap to Wake
Ever since the iPhone X removed the home button, Apple has introduced a software feature named “Touch to Wake,” which as the name implies, allows a user to wake the screen by tapping on the screen. This is good because touching a screen to wake the phone is more convenient than pressing the power button. But Android has an even superior solution: double-tap to wake.
Requiring two consecutive taps to wake a screen makes it harder to accidentally trigger. I walk around town holding my phone in my hand often (even when I’m not using it), and I dislike that the iPhone screen will occasionally light up when I didn’t intend it to because my palm had touched the screen. This doesn’t happen on my Android devices.
(Also shout out to LG for introducing “double tap to wake” years before Google, Samsung, Oppo, and Xiaomi adopted it. Another shout out to custom ROMs that have packed in this feature for years as well. We couldn’t trace who brought the feature first.)
Better File Management System
Downloading a file to your local storage for use later is a common practice in the computing space, and Android has given us the option to that since day one. iPhones, however, didn’t have a filing system at all until 2017’s introduction of iOS 11, and even now, the iOS filing system is relatively confusing.
For example, I can only download files from an email on an iPhone only if it was sent as a standalone attachment. If it was sent as part of a third party cloud storage like Google Drive, I cannot save that file to my iPhone’s internal storage without some major workarounds. On an Android, it doesn’t matter what app or service it is — if it’s a file, I can download it and have it saved in local storage.
We know Apple’s philosophy here, they restrict downloads so people who don’t know what they’re doing won’t stuff their phone with junk (think about how messy our parents’ computer download folders look). But for those of us who know what we’re doing, the option to download directly is far more convenient. Android does give storage apps far too much power, and there is some cut down happening with Scoped Storage, but even with those restrictions in place, Android remains the convenient OS of the two.
Of course, these are just our specific requests here from the team at XDA. There are likely many others we haven’t even touched on. What are some Android software tricks you want to see on iOS 15?