Mobile OS Wars: iOS 5 vs. Android 4.0

With the release of Apple’s iOS 5 and Google’s Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), users have two top-tier mobile operating systems to choose from. While iOS 5 debuted on the iPhone 4S and Android 4.0 on the Galaxy Nexus, the software can be looked at independently. The top improvements to each operating system are detailed below, with the goal of helping buyers sort through cell phones and decide which is right for them.

Camera

The camera apps in both iOS 5 and Android 4.0 have been given a lot of attention. Apple has added its popular pinch-to-zoom technology to the camera, making close-up shots more intuitive. On the other side of the fence, Google has given Android’s camera a makeover. The Android 4.0 camera is faster, and supports panorama photos.

Interestingly, both operating systems now allow users to access the camera from the lock screen in order to take faster photos. Both cameras are also designed to be faster. The iPhone 4S can take shots in less than two seconds, and the Galaxy Nexus is only a few tenths of a second behind.

Notifications

Ice Cream Sandwich maintains much of the same functionality as previous builds of Android. Users still access notifications by dragging down the status bar from the top of the screen. The Recent Apps feature from Honeycomb has been brought into phones with Ice Cream Sandwich, letting users view a list of their most recent apps with graphic displays for each app.

Apple has meanwhile stolen a page out of Android’s playbook, as iOS 5 now offers the same drag-the-status-bar method of accessing notifications. On top of this, Apple also added notifications to the lock screen in iOS 5. The improvements bring iOS a lot closer to Android in terms of multitasking and switching between apps.

Your Voice Controls the Phone

Apple rolled out their voice-activated personal assistant, Siri, with iOS 5. The software is currently in beta and is exclusive to the 4S, but has received favorable reviews from nearly everyone who’s used it. Siri has a unique ability to parse human speech and translate it to commands, making interacting with Siri a breeze for anyone.

Meanwhile, Google has made improvements to its own Voice Actions feature. In Android 4.0, Voice Commands can now be accessed hands-free just by speaking to the phone. It’s not as natural as Siri, because users still need to know what commands can be used and how to phrase them. However, once a user knows the commands, Google’s software comes very close to matching Siri’s effectiveness.

Surfing the Web

The browser in Android 4.0 is one of Ice Cream Sandwich’s top enhancements. It makes using different browser tabs a much easier experience, allowing users to quickly scroll between them and letting them close tabs with a flick of their finger. It also adds other useful features, such as the ability to view pages offline and sync bookmarks with Chrome, Google’s desktop browser.

Apple has also improved the browser in iOS 5, adding features such as Private Browsing. Traditional tabbed browsing is also available on the iPad, while the iPhone and iPod Touch still require users to press a button to bring up a view of their tabs. Both browsers are very effective in terms of speed and rendering pages, but it’s worth noting that iOS 5 still doesn’t support Adobe Flash.

Cloud Services

Google rolled out its Google Music cloud service in the middle of 2011, and has offered photo syncing to Google+ for some time. These features have been improved on in Android 4.0. Apple has responded by launching its iCloud service, a cloud feature that lets users sync their photos, music, movies and files across all of their devices. While Apple’s service launched after Google’s products, iCloud is admittedly a bit more convenient because it’s all rolled into one service. Google’s approach requires users to utilize multiple products.

Choosing between iOS 5 and Android 4.0 isn’t an easy decision, as cell phones running either OS are great devices. They each present compelling reasons for users to go with them. It’s something that individuals need to decide for themselves.

Free book: Jump Start HTML5 Basics

Grab a free copy of one our latest ebooks! Packed with hints and tips on HTML5's most powerful new features.

  • eckhard

    wow the browser part seems really to be written from a strange point of view, since android actually still lacks css3 transitions, websockets, and so on. while the flash player for mobile web really does not play a role anymore one could say.

    • http://lach.la Lachlan

      I beg to differ: goo.gl/XULDz

      Quote:
      “Chrome for Android supports… FlexBox, DateTime pickers, range input, hardware accelerated canvas, requestAnimationFrame, File System API, IndexedDB, Web Workers and Web Sockets.”

      And: goo.gl/tFiKn

      Quote:
      “Fluid CSS3 transforms and transitions, AppCache, localStorage, Geolocation API, HTML media capture (for camera access), Device orientation, Android Intent URIs”

      And my personal favourite, the remote debugging tools that hook straight into a desktop browser.