How iOS 14 stole features from Android—and made them so much better

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How iOS 14 stole features from Android—and made them so much better

On Monday Apple unveiled iOS 14—and if you’re an Android user, the “new” OS might have looked a little familiar.

The latest upgrade to the iPhone operating system, due to release this fall, promises improvements including a new home screen, smarter navigation, faster apps, and a fresh coat of paint on everything. And it’s clear that many of the best features are inspired, influenced, or just plain swiped from Android, from the new default email and browser apps to the picture-in-picture for videos. You can plainly see the influence on the new compact view for Siri and incoming calls, cycling directions in Maps, even the new home screen widgets.

ios14 features Apple

Apple’s marquee iOS features will be very familiar to anyone who’s used an Android phone—but also a whole lot different.

But as I watched Apple unveil the features during the slick and fast-paced keynote, I couldn’t help feeling a little envious. Apple has refined Android’s features to the point where they practically make Google’s version seem downright inferior. It’s not just Apple’s slick sales pitch—there are numerous iOS 14 features that I’ve used on Android for years. But they somehow still seem fresh and right at home on the iPhone.

Apple gets a lot of credit for breaking new ground, but the fact of the matter is it rarely does. What Apple does best is build things that work so well and feel so natural that whatever came before doesn’t matter. That talent is on full display in iOS 14.

A drawer by any other name

The most obvious feature borrowed from Android is the App Library. Similar in spirit to Android’s longstanding app drawer, it finally removes the need to keep every app you’ve downloaded on your home screen with no way to sort them automatically.

But instead of just moving them to a drawer, Apple has developed a novel feature that lets you hide home screen pages but still access your apps with a swipe. That’s similar to how Android works—apps are collected in the drawer but can also exist on your home screens for quick access—but the iOS 14 version lets you have it both ways.

galaxy s20 ultra apps Christopher Hebert/IDG

Once you see the App Library in iOS 14, you’ll never look at the app drawer in Android in quite the same way.

Hiding apps from view on iOS is a long-overdue feature that Android has had for years, but it still feels new in iOS 14. On Android, you need to nuke every app when you want to clear out a home screen and start over if you change your mind. Apple’s App Library keeps your home screens organized as they were before, but lets you easily hide and unhide them. Even the App Library itself gets an upgrade over the app drawer, with smart suggestions and folders that spotlight your most commonly used apps. 

Winning the widget war

Apple has also done a better job with iOS widgets. Android has had widgets on the home screen for as long as the iPhone has had a Lightning port, but very few of them are worth using, outside of the Google search bar and basic weather conditions. Third-party widgets are, to put it mildly, mostly garbage, and Google hasn’t done anything to advance the platform aside from a few Pixel-first widgets that are installed by default.

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