The UX, or the iOS user experience has always been Apple's big selling point. So much so that its followers forgive it for the iPhone's hardware lag over their Android competitors, but with the unveiling of iOS 14 on Monday, June 22, it happens to walk very closely in Android's footsteps. Does this mean that Apple is at risk of losing its trump card?
It has almost exploded as a meme overnight when I noticed this comparison between iOS 14 and Android on the sidelines of Apple's WWDC 2020 yesterday. The widgets that recall Windows Tiles, Apple Translate that seemingly emulates Google Translate, the App Clips that are inspired by Instant Apps, or even the Apple Maps update that follows in the footsteps of Google Maps, it is unnerving.
- Read also: Apple WWDC 2020 announcements
iOS is finally getting home screen widgets! Cue the Android/reinvention jokes pic.twitter.com/nvrlaY8Nc5— Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) June 22, 2020
I think everyone got the picture and we've all had our fill of mocking iOS 14 jokes across numerous social networks. However, beyond the "Android is already doing it", these similarities between the two mobile operating systems do not deliver anything negative for users. In fact, you can even consider it to be a good thing, where there is a little more openness between the two systems or two dogmatic ways of thinking/getting things done.
But if we put ourselves in Apple's shoes, the similarities of iOS with Android, when it comes to features, is not necessarily the best idea. Obviously, it's normal and encouraging to see iOS deliver new features, especially if they have already proven themselves on their Android equivalents.
On the other hand, how can we justify the price of the iPhone, Apple's commercial strategy, and the exclusivity of its user experience if it will eventually end up with an identical user experience that is found on Android?
Apple "copies" Android: the obligation to do better
Even if Apple 'copies' or is inspired by Android, so what? I have not been on the iPhone for several years now. However, I know I could only look at the improvements announced for iOS 14 during WWDC 2020 yesterday with a positive view. It doesn't matter who's the first to launch a particular feature, what matters is this - what I'm using right now.
I don't care that Huawei was one of the first to offer a triple photo sensor on the P20 Pro. Copying ideas from one manufacturer to another, whether it be software or hardware, is a natural phenomenon in the wheel of technical progress.
It's also one of the excesses of marketing that sometimes leads to the proliferation of gimmicky features that tend to be presented as innovations simply because it's fashionable, even though it isn't. On the other hand, for Apple to be inspired by Android is one thing. It is important that the resemblance ought not be too striking or at least the emulation of it should not be too basic.
It's not a simple case of copying-and-pasting Android features. Hence, Apple has an obligation to do better as it is late to the game. Coming in second place with panache would be a more accurate description. Even though with that kind of buzz, it is still quite impossible to gauge its performance, as the iOS 14 beta has just been released and I have not been able to test it yet.
But what is certain is that Apple has fully mastered the strategy of making something new out of an old thing by perfecting it, where along the way it sometimes makes it better. So much so that every new thing, be it hardware or software, is touted to be a killer-feature.
Over and over again, why pay the full price for something old?
But let's take into account what was presented during the keynote into consideration. Unlike Android widgets which can be of any size and shape, iOS 14 widgets happen to be more uniform and come in three different sizes that can be modified in order to accommodate the amount of information that you would like to see.
With the Smart Stack feature, you can create a pile or stack of widgets that can be moved around and take up the same amount of space as that of a single widget. This way, you don't have to browse multiple pages containing multiple widgets.
iOS 14 also uses AI to toggle widgets in the same stack based on time, location, and user activity. For example, it can display a news widget early in the morning and a summary of your activity at the end of the day. This is intuitiveness on a whole new level that cannot be found on Android.
Another example: the App Library which is based on the Android app drawer. This time around, Apple decided to take a different approach here compared to Android. The App Library in iOS 14 automatically groups different types of applications into clearly identified folders.
You don't even have to do this yourself to organize your application pages, and the best part is, you can hide as many application pages as you want. By swiping to the right, the App Gallery shows you the recently added applications in a box at the top. In short, it's much less chaotic than the application pages in Android, at least on paper anyway.
We return to the obligation of the company to do better in order to stand out. Apple has been doing this for several years now with varying degrees of success. Optimization rather than innovation happens to be a choice that can be criticized, but it is the one adopted by Cupertino.
The problem, in my opinion, is that even if Apple stands out by doing better while copying Android, the firm is likely to attract a fewer number of new users. Existing iPhone and iOS fans are already in place, and they are the ones who would be happy with the new improvements.
But what about Android users, who would like to take the plunge? If the iOS user experience is what makes the iPhone so appealing, and justifies their generally higher price for lower specification hardware, will these potential defectors still be as motivated to switch to the Apple's side?
Why pay more for a smartphone if the features offered already exist on Android, especially on cheaper Android-powered models? No doubt about it, I speculate and extrapolate such thoughts. We are not quite there yet, and thankfully Apple has many other things going for it such as the unparalleled strength of its product ecosystem.
But I think that in the long run, the Apple brand will have to work hard to find a new demarcation criterion, an "Apple" touch that makes its products and services unique. What they need is a revolution and not evolution. After all, it's about time.
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