Android and iOS are constantly running in parallel, copying (and expanding on) each other’s features. But they’re not always at parity. Here’s a closer look at a handful of things Android can do that you won’t find on iPhone—even after you upgrade to iOS 12 this Fall.
Before we jump into some features, however, let’s first make one thing clear: this isn’t a flame war. Our intention is not to say “Android is better than iOS” because that’s not the case. Both operating systems are great, and each one has its own standout features.
Multiple Users and Guest Access
You can hand any Android device running Lollipop (Android 5.x) or newer to another person and they can sign in, have access to their apps, info, and the like—all without messing with the primary account on the phone.
If you just want to let someone check out your phone without worrying about all your personal info showing up front and center, you can also use Guest Mode. This basically fires up a stock instance of Android without needing to log in, allowing someone to use your phone for simple tasks while keeping your stuff separate.
If you want to let someone use your iPhone, well, you’re going to have to hand it over as-is. One could argue that there’s no real need for a guest mode or multi-user access on phones since they’re designed to be single-user devices in the first place, and that’s a fine take. But tablets are a different story. Even if multiple user/guest access never showed up on iPhones, it could be very useful on iPads.
Direct USB Access and a Real File System
If you plug an Android device up to a computer, you can directly access all files and folders found within its local storage in the same way that you would any other drive connected to your computer. If you do the same thing with an iOS device, you basically just get access to camera contents.
The same thing applies to file managers installed on the device. iOS comes with one out of the box, but it’s extremely limited, only showing “recent” files and providing no true file system access. Conversely, if you install a file manager on Android—and there are dozens in the Play Store—you have full access to the entire storage partition. You can cut, copy, move, and delete files as you will, just like you can on a computer.
This is especially useful forexternal drives. On Android, you simply plug a drive into your phone and use it (which may require a dongle); but on iOS, each drive requires its own app for any sort of file management. It’s convoluted and far more confusing than it should be.
Meaningful Home Screen Customization
On iOS, you can move icons around and group them into folders. That’s useful, but not as useful as it could be. On Android, for example, you can not only group icons together in folders, but completely redesign how your home screens work by adding widgets that place meaningful information where you need it.
To take things even further, there are a slew of third-party launchers available in the Play Store with a wide range of features that really let you take control of your home screen layout. You can change icon size, grid size, and so much more. There are even entire communities dedicated to nothing but home screen design and versatility. The possibilities here are pretty endless—if you can think it up, you can do it on Android.
Default App Choices
If you download a new browser on Android, you can set it as your default choice for opening links. The same goes for the keyboard, messaging app, home screen, phone app, digital assistant, and more. And you’re free to change this as you see fit.
On iOS, you basically get what you’re given. You can download other browsers, but you can’t set them as your default. The same thing goes for the keyboard. As long as multiple options are available, there should be a way to specify which one you’d prefer to use as your primary.
RELATED: How to Set Default Apps on Android
Always-on Display for At-A-Glance Info
There’s something absolutely satisfying about being able to glance at your phone and see the time, date, notifications, and more all without having to even touch it. This is a relatively new feature for Android, but it’s one that becomes invaluable once you get used to it.
Many new Android phones, like the Pixel 2 and Galaxy S9, have always-on displays that show quick-glance info. You can, of course, turn it off if you don’t like it, and Samsung even lets you customize it or set it to be automatically disabled at a certain time (like overnight).
The closest thing you’ll get on iOS is rise-to-wake, which turns the display on when you pick the phone up. That’s useful, but just glancing down at your phone is nicer.
Multi-Window Support for True Multitasking
Starting with Android Nougat (7.x), Google implemented the ability to run two apps side-by-side on the screen. And while it doesn’t sound like something you’d ever use (why would you want to run two apps on your tiny phone screen), it really is a useful feature when you need it. For example, you can see your grocery list and calculator for keeping tabs on the cost at the same time. That’s a game changer. Plus, it becomes even more useful on a tablet.
Now, this feature is available on iOS—but only on the iPad. It makes a lot of sense on the bigger screen of a tablet, but don’t sell this feature short—it’s one that makes a lot of sense on phones too, especially if you use something like a Plus model.