With iOS 14, Apple made a better version of Android than Google ever will

iOS 14 and Android 11
iOS 14 and Android 11 (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

If you're reading this article, there's a good chance you've already heard about iOS 14 at this point. The next evolution of Apple's mobile operating system was announced at the WWDC opening keynote on June 22, and in addition to our friends at iMore covering the event extensively, we also had our own fair share of coverage here on AC.

Apple releases a new iOS update ever year, but this one is perhaps the biggest and most important we've ever seen. iOS 14 fundamentally changes how you interact with an iPhone, with many of the noteworthy changes being direct ripoffs of what we've had with Android since the very beginning.

After some initial hesitation, I went ahead and loaded my iPhone 11 Pro with the iOS 14 Developer Beta to see what it was like for myself, and after a few days of using the software, I think Apple may have created a better version of Android than we'll ever see from Google itself. Seriously.

iOS 14 and Android 11

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Let's start first with the most obvious change — the home screen. iOS's home screen has traditionally been nothing but pages of your installed apps, but with iOS 14, it now functions a lot like your Android phone. All of your endless app pages are still there by default, but you can go ahead and hide any pages you don't want to show up. From here, you're free to add and remove apps to your home screens as you see fit.

I have my 16 most-used apps on my first home screen, along with eight others that are slightly-less-used on my second page. All of my other apps (which there are a lot of) now live in the App Library, which is accessed with a swipe to the left on your right-most home screen. This is essentially Android's long-standing app drawer, but it functions a bit differently. Instead of having a scrolling list of your apps all laid out alphabetically, they're grouped into pre-made folders based on certain categories (such as Social, Productivity, Utilities, Entertainment, etc.). Tapping on the larger icons directly opens that app, while tapping on the smaller bundle of four expands that folder. Alternatively, you can swipe down or tap the search bar to see an alphabetical list of everything that's installed.

iOS 14 and Android 11

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

I know a lot of people aren't thrilled with how Apple implemented the App Library, but as a first try, it's actually pretty good. It feels organized, comes with gorgeous animations, and the Suggestions folder is already doing a decent job of predicting apps I may open next.

The App Library could use some tweaking, but it's a massive step in the right direction.

I'd love to see Apple allow users to customize these folders, or better yet, have the option to just view an alphabetical list by default. Even so, just having any sort of app drawer in iOS is a complete re-thinking of the software and makes my iPhone feel less cluttered than it ever has. Just like on my Pixel 4 (opens in new tab), I now have a couple of home screens for the apps I use all the time, while everything else is tucked away and out of sight until I need it.

The second component of the home screen overhaul comes in the form of widgets. Widgets have existed in iOS for a while, but they've been reserved to the left-most page next to your home screens. You can now place widgets on your actual home screen for much easier access — again, just like Android. However, while the App Library is mostly an alternative to Android's app drawer, iOS 14's widgets are a marked improvement.

iOS 14 and Android 11

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

There are a few reasons for this, the first of which is the design. Widgets in iOS 14 have a cohesive design language and look like they all belong with one another. This is not the case with Android, in which every widget has its own distinct appearance/style. At least to my eyes, this means that iOS 14 widgets look like thoughtful expansions of my home screen rather than something that's just tacked on.

Widgets in iOS 14 are more functional, too. Apple got a lot of buzz for its Smart Stack widget, which automatically cycles through different widgets throughout the day based on what iOS thinks you'll find more useful at any given time. Even cooler, you can make your own widget stacks by dragging one widget on top of another — giving you the option to manually scroll through them or have them do the same automatic switching.

You can make fun of it taking Apple this many years to finally add such a basic feature to iOS, but the implementation here is just so much better in virtually every way.

The tweaks to the home screen are the most notable differences with iOS 14, but there are other things it borrows from Android that further enhance the user experience.

iOS 14 and Android 11

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Picture-in-picture, for example, can be re-sized just by pinching and zooming on the miniature video player and has playback controls for rewinding and fast-forwarding by 15 seconds. There's also a feature that allows you to hide the video off-screen to just hear audio, and whenever you want, bring the PiP player back out onto your screen. It took Apple a long time to adopt the feature, but it's more functional and well-thought-out than Android.

For just about every feature Apple "copied," it improved on Google's implementation in one way or another.

Swipe down to access the Control Center, and you'll find Apple Home shortcuts right there with all of your other controls (not hidden away in a power button shortcut the way Google has it implemented in Android 11). You can also (finally) set default apps for your web browser and email, which slowly tears down just a small part of Apple's infamous walled garden.

All of that means that my iPhone now looks and feels a lot more like my Pixel, all while retaining everything that has always made iOS so damn great. It still has iMessage, AirDrop, higher-quality apps, unmatched performance, and is backed by years of software updates on a level that no other company can compete with.

There are certain aspects of iOS 14 that aren't perfect, such as there still being some restrictions on where you can place apps and widgets on your home screens, but it's kind of insane how much it already feels like a more polished version of Android. iOS 15, 16, and beyond are bound to iron out some of the kinks and further expand on the ideas introduced with this latest update, and I cannot wait to see how they turn out.

iOS 14

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Does all of this mean Android is suddenly irrelevant and has no reason to exist? Of course not. There are certain things Android still does better, namely managing notifications, app permission handling, and offering users more expansive customization options (being able to place apps and widgets anywhere on the home screen, third-party icon packs, launchers, etc.). But iOS 14 makes the iPhone a lot more accessible to Android fans that have typically been put off by its overly restrictive nature.

For the very first time, my iPhone feels personal and unique in almost the same way my Pixel does. The combination of those core Android staples and the various benefits iOS has had for ages makes iOS 14 a seriously excellent bit of software, and by my account, it's already enough to replace Android.

Give it a couple of years and some updates to improve on this formula, and it won't even be a competition.

iOS 14 stole these 8 useful features from Android

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

129 Comments
  • I love how AndroidCentral has become a self-loathing Android centric site. It’s fine to appreciate a competitors achievements. It’s okay to see where they’ve improved on some various things here and there. It’s even great to acknowledge where the competition has done something that Android should do. But lately, the amount of articles that laud Apple and damn Google, Samsung, and the various other OEMs is crazy. If we wanted to see this, we could just follow Rene who was at iMore. Part of the reason for how Android is viewed has to do with how it’s described by various websites. While no one should ever cover over flaws when reviewing, it seems as if nearly every Android review just reinforces certain stigmas about the platform. Note that Apple focused sites don’t do this; or not to nearly the same degree. Android will continue to look like a second rate OS until this stops. I would’ve hoped AndroidCentral wouldn’t continue this trend. But I can see that it’s joining the ranks of Android focused sites doing this if late. Oh well.
  • How is the author wanting android to continue to improve such a bad thing? Man you OS specific fanboys will whine about everything. There are things IOS does better and there are things android does better. Neither is perfect, and both still have room to improve. Hop down off of your high horse and take a deep breath. It's not that serious. 
  • I see you didn’t bother reading what I wrote. I very specifically stated how those things you mentioned were okay. I actually agree. Where I disagree is how the author sums up that basically iOS is just better with the additions gained/copied from Android. It’s been a trend lately from what I read at Android centric sites. Android isn’t without its flaws. I actually, if you had bothered to read, said that it was good to call out Android where it needs improvements. What’s not okay to do is constantly bash the platform. This is a stark difference from what Apple centric sites do. There in lies the problem. Why harp on flaws when we are aware of them all the time? Why not focus more on the positives? Focusing on positives isn’t sweeping problems under the rug. It’s simply showing that those positive aspects outweigh the bad. And yeah...my bad for thinking that a site dedicated to Android would actually make a point to do that. Focus on speaking well of the platform would seem a best practice. As for me being a fan boy....isn’t that the point of being on a site call ANDROIDCENTRAL? Miss me with the nonsense. If I wanted a focus on Apple, there are numerous sites. I actually use an iPhone now, my Pixel 2 XL being my current backup device. Regardless of that, it’s okay to enjoy a platform without putting another down. And last I checked, nothing I wrote in the above post discredited the iPhone in any way, shape, or form. I can only imagine you think your being level headed. You can indeed like both. I do. But I don’t believe you have to bash one to make a point. I don’t think you have to constantly berate one in some hope that it will make the platform better. It’s very simple really. But hey, reading and context and all that stuff.
  • You say about reading and context and then let the point go completely over your head. There are fanboys for every OS (hence the sites such as these), I said OS specific (see reading and context ya know). The author wrote this piece (I assume as a means to show that IOS finally has "caught up" to android in some regards). They aren't going to sugar coat it and make it seem like android is something special (it is in some areas, but not in others). I am not sure how you feel that because the author points this out that they are "continue to look like a second rate OS until this stops" simply because every article doesn't praise the OS.  Also, of course the apple sites are not going to critique iOS, it is a completely different world over there (and Apple is far less ok with letting them talk about the short comings of the OS as shown by them revoking bloggers/writers who talk badly about the OS). As someone who uses an iPhone and an android device on the daily, I welcome these kinds of articles and do not feel in any way that Android is a "Second rate OS." I enjoy what Google has done with android (compared to what it was when the droid line first came out it is a breath of fresh air) and also that Apple finally acknowledged that they needed to change things up and "borrowed" some things from Android.  Maybe I just don't get as offended because 1. it is a phone OS and not a family member, and 2. you can't just praise all the positives and act like the flaws don't exist, which even though you claim is not "brushing it under the rug, it clearly is if they don't point out areas the OS needs to improve. That is how you end up with something like WindowsMobile/Phone/BlackberryOS that got left behind.
  • Wow. I’ll agree to disagree. Thanks.
  • You say the following in your first post: "Android will continue to look like a second rate OS until this stops."
    And in your second post: "I actually use an iPhone now, my Pixel 2 XL being my current backup device."
    You called out Android Central for making Android look "second rate" behind iPhone. Yet, an iPhone is your primary device. An android is your secondary. Do you think that arrangement contributes to making Android look "first rate?"
    I have some extra Windex lying around you can use for that glass house.
  • I can understand this sentiment. I have had similar gripes with AC around their treatment of Google/Pixel vs. Samsung & other OEMs. Basically, to most site editors, the Pixel line is king and other devices are nice, but "not for them." This is completely disjointed from the market reality where the Pixel is a bit player. This speaks volumes about the smartphone market and has a significant impact on the coverage, which you have noted. I'll try to unpack some of this: 1. The iPhone/iOS vs. Android debate is, at its core, more about paradigms than specific products or brands. iPhone/iOS is a vertically integrated HW+SW solution built by a single vendor: Apple. Android on the other hand, has SW developed by Google and an ecosystem of HW vendors that also can control the SW experience so that no two Android devices deliver the same experience. 2. Unlike during the Mac vs. PC desktop wars, the benefits of a HW ecosystem seem less compelling to users. In fact, some would argue that it's a liability vs. Apple where the tight integration between SW and HW yields performance optimizations and user experience improvements. Basically, the primary advantages of a HW ecosystem are cost and availability; the technical benefits around specs and what-not serve an enthusiast population, which is a niche part of the market. 3. When AC editors by and large prefer and recommend Pixel devices, they are underscoring the benefit of vertical HW+SW integration and inadvertently diminishing the value prop of a HW ecosystem like Android or like WinTel/PC. What these folks really seem to want is vertically-integrated alternative to iPhone a la Pixel--not an alternative paradigm. Contrast this with Linux/FOSS users which, IMO, are so invested in the FOSS paradigm that in many cases, it overshadows the technical debate between Linux vs. Mac/Windows. Linux vs. Mac/Windows is more about open-source software vs. closed-source software than it is about underlying technical differences. 4. Brand loyalty and community are stronger when they come from a place of support for a product vs. a reaction against a product. Many iPhone users love the iPhone and Apple products and it reflects in their glowing coverage. When it comes to Android enthusiasts, some might love Android or a specific device line, but many use it because it's "anything but Apple" (I was in this camp for a while). You can see this in descriptions of Apple fans as a "cult." By contrast, Android users are more like a loose alliance unified more by their dislike of Apple than by some strong affinity for a particular Android OEM or even Android itself, hence the often critical coverage or "self-loathing." 5. Google itself has a bipolar relationship with Android. Their Android app quality has gotten better, and there are inherent advantages to some Android apps like YouTube due to underlying OS differences (at least until iOS 14). But I recall when Google's own apps would be updated on iOS before Android. That's insane. In fact, it would be interesting to know how many Google employees use Pixels as their primary phone vs. iPhones. If Google itself sends mixed messages about Android, why would we expect any different from its users?
  • Then maybe they should rename the site CellPhone Central and just cover all cell phones no matter the OS! But no...this is ANDROID CENTRAL. Got it?
  • *Mobile Phone Central
  • Finally someone else points it out. I'm getting rid of Android central in my RSS now.
  • Well said. I personally find Android is a better OS. I have way more bugs on iOS.
  • Are widgets scrollable?
    Can apps have permissions to automatically mute and unmute my phone?
  • Joe, the writer of this article is an idiot. With such headlines and shabby content, you guys wants us to abuse you right? Because no way I'm gonna point out the stupid stuff and prove Android better than Apple for you guys! ... Wonder how this article got approved.
  • Your comment is idiotic, I love the small of Android numpties foaming over an opinion which I happen to agree with. iOS is now a better version of Android.
  • not until i can default google maps and do two things at once.
  • It's called clickbait my friend. They want you reacting and filling the comment sections of their site.
  • I don't agree with Joe's ultimate conclusion that iOS is definitively better than Android, but I absolutely agree with him that this release will be huge.
  • This feels more like a bad attempt at trolling than an actual factual and informative article. After reading it, I still don't know what Apple has done that is better than Google. Other than some snappier animations that is...
  • Ummm...Google +, hangouts, duo, allo, umm...whatever else their failed messaging system has been. Garbage...that's it...garbage. Give credit where it's due.
  • Sooooo the addition of crippled versions of an "app drawer" and widgets, makes iOS a better android? Because App Drawer and Widgets makes android what it is, and now Apple does it better? Really. It's really nice to read a positive article about iOS in an "android related" website, but maaaan this is really hard to read without commenting. Sorry, but that's really bad writing, it's written just to create unwanted discussion.
  • The App Library on iOS 14 is better than the Android app drawer, it's better organized unlike the meas that is the Android version. Bite me.
  • can i change the names of the categories?
  • Yes, you can.
  • So the article was purposely written to create unwanted discussion? Why would anyone do something to get a result he doesn't want? What sense does that make?
  • HI, i completely agree with last sentence and overall article, the word is cohesive design, and looks so much better, rounded edges on all widgets, Google cant do that. period.
  • I've got lots of rounded widgets on my Android... For years...
  • Samsung did. Years ago.
  • With iOS 14, I don't ever see myself going back to Android.
  • Oh, how will we ever survive. Bye Felicia.
  • I'll be able to survive pretty easy, especially with asinine comments like the ones posted here.
  • Do worry about her, fan-girl stuff.
  • Same here, although I was already excited to switch back to iPhone with an iPhone 11 anyway and iOS 14 has only reinforced my belief that I'm making the right decision in returning to iPhone and eventually dumping Android for good.
  • Then leave isheep
  • I will eventually leave Android sooner rather than later as the Android community is becoming toxic just like the Android OS itself, a hot meas of fragmentation and OEMs not giving a crap about their users. Thank goodness it's just over a month and I'll be back where I belong and I'll leave you fandroids in your toxic hell stew of a platform.
  • The irony of an iPhone user calling an Android user toxic.
  • iOS 13 was enough to make me finally give the iPhone a try. iOS 14 is just icing on the cake.
  • Psst! That's what you get for using a Pixel. Go check out Samsung widgets.
  • F Samsung widgets,
    Apple's will be better than any Android widget.
  • Not sure how to answer this so.. No.. not even close.
  • Its getting really old with all the dang Apple news on this site. Author, you love IOS so much go write for Apple! I think its laughable that this article would ever be published.
  • I think your comment is laughable and shows how snobbish the Android community is when Android fanboys are telling the author to go and write for Apple, and yeah I think iOS is a better fit for me (and is better overall) than Android, I'm not a techie but know a lot more than the average user.
  • android central finally sealed their own coffin
  • Haven't they kinda already done that when they're promoting cases for phones that came out like 2 1/2 years ago?
  • And I'll not be here much when I get my iPhone 11, I'll only be here to laud it over you lowly Android rabble.
  • With iOS14, AndroidCentral finally became the anti-Android clickbait site it always wanted to be.
  • With iOS 14, Android Central came to it's senses, Android has always been and always will be a money losing platform that's fragmented and a hot mess of poor app experiences (ok it's not as bad as before), janky scrolling and a wondering if my Android phone will get a third platform update. No thanks, this Android user is going back to iPhone where the experience is consistent, reliable, better quality of apps, better accessibility features for those with disabilities like myself oh and I'll get 5 years of software support and when a 5 year old iPhone gets the latest version of iOS (14) it's a damming indictment on Google and Android.
  • This site has really gone down. The iOS love and Android bashing has gotten out of control.
  • Sometimes I think it's apple central