Is Apple Playing Catch-Up with Android?

Apple held its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) last week in San Francisco, where Tim Cook and his team announced a wide array of new features and functionality across Apple platforms, including a major update to iOS 10, the renaming of mac OS X to macOS (the new version will be named macOS Sierra) and updates to iwatchOS 3, and tvOS 10 were also announced.

After reading about it though, I can’t help but think that we already have a lot of the features talked about in a number of Android phones and personally feel that Apple is merely playing catch-up to Android. That said, I will leave you to make up your own mind.

Developer previews are being released as I write and there will be public betas for most of the new software in July. Everything will be available on Apple devices from September onwards. Meantime, you will have all the news about these latest enhancements sent directly to your Mac, your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. A lot of the new features focus on improving the use of the iPhone and the iPad such as:

Raise to Wake - a key feature which means that as soon as you take your phone out of your pocket your screen lights up letting you check notifications on the iPhone’s screen without touching a single button. Android has had this feature for a while, Google introduced Ambient Display in Android Lollipop, so I don’t see this as anything to shout about.

Universal Clip Board was another new feature. What this means is that if you have an iPhone, you can copy what you have on your phone to the Universal Clip Board and sync this to your Mac. This is very handy for pasting images, links and so on. Clearly great if you own an iPhone, a Mac and an Apple Watch whereby everything immediately syncs. I tend to use Dropbox and my Android phone where all my photos immediately appear and sync. So if I screen shot on my device, it will automatically appear in my Dropbox and I can then even paste this immediately into a presentation for example. Google also provides ‘carry over search’ so if you are using Chrome on both devices it synchronises but clearly this is not a clipboard. As a visual copy feature this is very good so now instead of selecting copy/paste you have Universal Clip Board. This new feature definitely gets the thumbs up from me.

Photos App – If you take a load of photos in one area, it makes a little clip out of these and groups them together. Google Photos on Android has been doing this for a while and it does provide a better visual search. It is really quite clever because if you are looking for a photo you can search for a person using facial recognition.

Apple Maps - This has been redesigned to make it easier to navigate around. In effect, it is more accurate and it is now integrated with Car Play to give you more of a Sat Nav guide on your car screen. But all these handy new features were already available in Google Maps, including traffic information, support for additional stops, and third-party integrations.

Voicemail Transcriptions – Instead of having to dial your voicemail, the iPhone automatically translates these and sends you a message with your voicemail. This is very handy for mobile numbers and email addresses. There was a service called Spin box that was launched in late 2000 but it seems to have disappeared.

Spam Filters – Stop you from receiving spam calls such as “have you had a car accident”, or “your latest PPI claim”. The iPhone now filters out these numbers. But again this is the same as the Android. For example, Android 6 undertakes reverse look-ups for telephone numbers and populates your screen. I recently ordered a pizza and when the restaurant rang me back it automatically showed me the restaurant name but this was not in my phone contacts book.

Apple Music – This feature has been redesigned from the ground up to make it easier to navigate around and it will be interesting to see how users now find this and whether it will regain momentum. Apple originally launched this feature on the basis that you would own music and Apple Music would integrate with your music and your device. However, when Spotify came into the market, people realised that they didn’t need to own their own music.

There were big improvements to the watchOS 3 such as loading times being seven times faster and a revamped UX making using the watch much simpler with new features and different swipes to access different capabilities. Additionally, certain apps have been revamped and improved. For example, there are four new watch faces and a call the police feature, whereby if you hold the middle button for four seconds it automatically dials 999.

And finally, Apple Pay was the last major announcement. The key news here is that Apple Pay is now available via the web browser. In effect, you pay for items using your Safari browser by using your phone to pay for items on the web via thumb recognition. So you no longer have to type in your card number every time you make a purchase.

All of the above is not exactly revolutionary. I have certainly seen many of these features or similar in Android. However there was definitely a lot of hysteria on show at the event, so let’s hope the new features meet user demand.

Paul Swaddle, Chairman, Pocket App

Photo Credit: Tsahi Levent-Levi