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Summary:

After watching Apple show off two hours worth of software developments, it’s clear there’s a big change in Apple’s walled garden. You can see it in iOS 8, for example, which elegantly adds many features that will appeal to Android owners.

ios 8 spotlight

So if, like me, you were hoping for any new Apple hardware at the company’s 2014 Worldwide Developer Conference on Monday, you were left lacking. Look beyond that, however, and you can see how much Apple’s current and future hardware will improve thanks to dozens of upcoming additions, changes and upgrades in both OS X and iOS. And several of those changes actually remove some of the advantages offered by that other big mobile platform: Android.

ios 8 trio

Apple has less say over your app data but still protects it

Take the new Extensibility feature in iOS, for example, which lets apps talk to each other and share data between them in a sandboxed way: There are still strict walls between apps for security and stability but apps can work together for tasks. You might take a picture in the iPhone’s Camera app but you can add filters to your photo from another app without effectively leaving the Camera app. It’s akin to web extensions that add features to a browser only on a different scale; this all happens in native apps.

Apple’s iOS also opens up the door for developers to add different sharing options. With iOS 8, you’ll be able to share images, text or web pages not just to the default apps that Apple has chosen — Facebook and Twitter — but to whatever apps or services developers want to support. This is definitely similar to the “intents” system used by Google Android and takes away one of the key differences between the two mobile platforms. Heck, it’s one of the reasons I personally like Android: It’s just so much simpler to share something. Not once iOS 8 arrives in the fall, if developers embrace this new iOS feature, which I suspect they will.

Your choice of keyboard and widgets? Finally!

Of course, Android has long allowed for third-party keyboards; another personalized option that has kept some consumers away from the iPhone previously. Apple showed off a much improved native keyboard at WWDC, complete with contextual word prediction — the feature is called “quick type” —  that looks excellent. The keyboard learns how you personally communicate with others to improve the word prediction; something Google’s own Android keyboard can do. There’s a difference though. Apple’s keyboard learns from on-device data; with Android, you’re sharing your typing data with Google in the cloud.

Apple didn’t stop there, however when it comes to typing. You’ll be able to use third-party keyboards in iOS 8; long-time Android favorite Swype was shown on stage and the folks at SwiftKey have already told me they’ve got a version of their great keyboard in the works for Apple’s updated mobile software. You can even sign up now for a beta of the Fleksy keyboard app on iOS 8.

iOS 8 keyboard

And if that wasn’t enough, something the Apple faithful never figured would happen actually did: Apple showed off widgets on both iOS and OS X. You can see Apple’s elegant hand in the implementation though because these widgets won’t be covering up the home screen of your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Instead, they’re part of the pull-down Notification Center. They’re not quite glanceable as a result, but I think it’s a fair trade-off: Information with one touch of the screen.

Content sharing and seamless tasks regardless of device

There’s some icing on this cake though because Apple is adding something that Android doesn’t offer: Sharing of content purchases. Starting with iOS 8, up to six people can collectively share their iTunes purchases with Family Sharing. That’s completely opposite of the Android approach, where everything is tied to unique Google accounts. For families that have some iOS devices in house, this actually provides incentive to add more iOS devices; I called it a “super halo” effect during the live blog as a result.

iOS 8 family sharing

I was also impressed on how Apple has integrated different apps and features between iOS and OS X; something that you can do with Android but typically through third-party software or services. You can start a phone call on your Mac, for example, or edit a document on the iPhone that was started on a Mac. It’s all part of how the two platforms will work seamlessly together and it’s a big deal: When you don’t have to pick a device for a given task but instead use any device, it becomes a “magical” experience. The new iCloud Drive helps here too, looking more like an integrated storage set with lower pricing, while Spotlight becomes a far more useful universal search.

A welcome crack in the walled garden of Apple

As CEO Tim Cook so eloquently stated it, “This is something only Apple can do,” when describing the new software, and that statement is evident in how Apple’s software is evolving. It speaks not just to how Apple provides both software and hardware optimized to work together but also how Apple is giving users and developers more control without completely opening up either software platform to a wild-west show of chaos.

While iOS started as a very walled garden in 2007 it’s clear to me after hearing Apple executives earlier today the company is happy to advance its software and provide users more controls so long as Apple still has controls around the approach. I don’t think Apple will ever embrace the openness provided by Google Android, but this may be the next best thing. Why? Users win with more control over their mobile experience; developers are supporting a platform that will surely continue to grow because of it and Apple still maintains some of its walls without appearing to be completely closed relative to the competition.

It’s a win all around that will could provide Apple more growth over the coming years than analysts have previously expected. And as someone who uses Android at least as much as iOS, if not more, it gives me fewer reasons to keep my SIM card in an Android phone. Well played, Apple. Well played.

wwdc-ticker

  1. Reblogged this on Taste of Apple and commented:
    The gap is pretty much non-existent in most ways. In fact, Android is looking a little dated after iOS 8.

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    1. Good joke. Even now, Android is still ahead iOS when it comes to capabilities.

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    2. JohnnyFrankie Monday, June 9, 2014

      Yeeeeeaaahhhh, right. Lmao.
      Nice i-try, but no dice.

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  2. Davin Peterson Monday, June 2, 2014

    Android users have many choices of hardware to choose from, whereas iOS does not as Apple doesn’t allow it’s OS to be copied/cloned. Android already the feature that allows for third party keyboard, widgets and child lock

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    1. GuestRetiredInSouthFlorida Monday, June 2, 2014

      Davin Peterson— i’m sorely tempted to correct all your grammatical errors and awkward phrasings. However, I won’t.

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      1. JohnnyFrankie Monday, June 9, 2014

        Thanks, cause everyone hates a grammar nazi. You nuts must have major ocd or something!

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  3. Going to love It Monday, June 2, 2014

    Love it

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  4. Where is the Siri API?

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    1. people still use Siri ??!?!??!

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    2. Mike Marchant Thursday, June 5, 2014

      Siri was shot down by a patent troll.

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  5. So many new wasteful features that Windows users will not be able to use

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  6. Your cause-and-effect relationship is back-asswards, Kevin.

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    1. How’s that?

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      1. Why would apple catching up make it more attractive than the innovating platform? Doesn’t this release prove that if you want the latest and greatest that is only available on android?

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        1. “Why would apple catching up make it more attractive than the innovating platform?”

          “Some people” see Apple as innovating; Google and Samsung, not so much.

          It’s a matter of opinion, isn’t it?

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          1. Rob Williams Tuesday, June 3, 2014

            Not when more than half of Apple’s announcements are things that already exist. What exactly is opinion-based about that??

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          2. JohnnyFrankie Monday, June 9, 2014

            Apple USED to be innovative. Those days have been over for a looooong time! Now they copy the latest technology from Android and Windows. Kind of a nice thing to watch actually. : )

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  7. So Apple will deliver functionality in 3 or 4 months that Android has had for awhile on devices that without subsidies will cost about twice what a comparable Android device costs and you feel Apple now has a leg up? Oh and Google’s platform doesn’t force you to buy all of your devices from one company.

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    1. I’ve been a fairly heavy Android user since the Nexus One (still have it!) and I’ve also used iOS since it launched. Just adding for perspective. Having said that, I do think Apple has made needed (and some long overdue) improvements that bring more parity between the two in terms of features. My point being: some of the main reasons people choose Android over iOS are no longer valid reasons.

      I’m not implying Apple’s global market share will suddenly double or threaten that of Android. I’m simply pointing out that for your average consumer buying a phone, there are fewer differences.

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      1. Rob Williams Tuesday, June 3, 2014

        That’s a totally dated version of the A vs. A condition. The old ‘choice vs. security.’ It’s laughable that Apple is still trying to keep it in those terms. Android has made huge strides in the last year. KitKat is much more stable, much better looking, had lots of new features, while ios7 was largely a peter max makeover that also introduced a spontaneous reboot problem that took 6 months for them to fix.

        The integration you are seeing coming from Apple is a mirage. They have had 7 years already and iCloud is really an embarrassment. If people are using it, they don’t really know it, and Apple’s attempt to make it the backbone of a syncing capability for developers has been a huge flop.

        What is abundantly clear from WWDC is that Apple is now playing defense. Wait, the other thing that’s abundantly clear: they’re not good at it.

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        1. People not knowing they’re using iCloud is the whole point. You come off as someone who has never used an iPhone. When you sound so angry and ramble about the looks of a platform, which is totally subjective and a bug in iOS 6 (really) no one takes you seriously. Just saying

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  8. Android ripoff features. Should be sued for patent infringement hahaha

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  9. C’mon, Karl -

    Be a good boy … drink your Kool-Aid! ;-)

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  10. Something only Apple can do – since 1996. Critics who not only can’t do; but, ignore history.

    History becomes style, sooner or later. Having to switch carriers to get updates ain’t progress.

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