iOS 8 full review

Apple iOS 8 and Android 4.4 KitKat are both new mobile operating heavyweights. Our iOS 8 vs KitKat comparison review takes a close look at each new operating system. We analyse Apple's announcements, and compare them to Google Android equivalents. Which is going to be the best operating system: iOS 8 or Android KitKat?

Both Apple and Google have announced a raft of new features for phones and tablets, but when you cut through the hype, who has the best new features? Our iOS 8 vs Android KitKat review looks at the new features from each device.

Apple is still buzzing from the WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) during which it announced iOS 8 (along with a new Mac operating system and programming language for developers). Apple's Tim Cook and Craig Federighi announced feature after feature for the iPhone and iPad operating system, to cheers and whoops from the crowd.

But now the dust has settled we have time to analyse both iOS and KitKat, and we can now look at which offers the better user experience and most interesting new features.

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iOS 8 vs Android KitKat: Design and interface

The iOS 8 interface running on iPhone 5S

Both Apple and Google have tweaked their interfaces for the upcoming operating systems. iOS 8 isn't as dramatic a shift as the leap from iOS 6 to iOS 7 (which saw the 'realistic' skeuomorphic design replaced by the layered 'flat' design), but iOS 8 still offers plenty of dazzling new features.

Interactive Notifications are the big new deal in iOS 8. In iOS the Notifications are designed to spur new kinds of behaviours. You can now reply to emails or messages from Notifications, for example. This kind of interactivity isn’t limited to Apple’s stock apps either, third-party developers can develop interactive notifications too enabling iOS users to respond to app prompts without leaving the app they are currently using. So you will be able to respond or, perhaps, like Facebook messages or check in on Foursquare on the fly.

Android KitKat also has interactive notifications, but they're not as powerful because they require you to quit what you’re already doing to respond to the notification. Although Android announced this feature first, Apple has a better implementation.

How to get the iOS 8 beta on your iPhone and iPad right now

iOS 8 vs Android KitKat: new keyboards

Another big new feature from Apple is the presence of the new QuickType keyboard. QuickType enables you to tap on words suggestions as you type. It bases guesses for the next word based upon your past conversations. Apple’s QuickType keyboard will even type into account the app you are using, and will make different suggestions in Messages than in Mail (based upon the kind of language you use in each app).

Also, Apple has opened up the SDK to enable third-party developers to create keyboards for iOS. Apps such as SwiftKey will soon be appearing on the iPhone. Apple is also making it possible for apps to directly integrate with each other and developers can now create extensions for both other apps and the iOS operating system as a whole. In general, iOS 8 is going to be a much more powerful operating system for developers.

Android has had a similar keyboard for a while and has long allowed third party keyboards for its device. Where Apple can claim a moral (if nothing else) edge, however, is that its keyboard keeps your data private on the iPhone unless you allow it permission to send the data over the internet (some apps use cloud-based analysis). Third-party keyboards are a big security concern because an interception of the keyboard means everything you type can be analysed, but Apple’s solution will ensure that the iPhone remains a safer device to use.

Another iOS 8 feature to see a boost is Spotlight. It now combines suggestions from the internet with information on your phone. So if you search for a song, you will get the song on your device as well as Wikipedia entries for it.

Read our comparison review of iOS 8 and Android Lollipop

iOS 8 vs Android KitKat: Cloud Services

iPhone 5s running different services

Apple’s big new cloud service is iCloud Drive. With iCloud Drive, you save, and access files directly to a folder on your Mac’s hard drive. The files stored in iCloud Drive are then accessible inside iCloud Drive-compatible apps. It works in tandem with Apple’s current service, Documents in the Cloud (these apps create files inside the iCloud Drive and keep them synced across all iOS and Mac OS X devices).

We’re stoked about iCloud Drive. Being able to access the file and folder structure means that many people may finally be able to consider the iPad as a sole alternative to the MacBook. With iCloud Drive, you can now work on the same file across multiple apps, so you can draw an image in one app and colour it in using another, and then drop it into a Page document. The edits you make on one device will appear on all others.

It’s hardly a unique feature, however, and Google has Google Drive (not to mention Dropbox, OneDrive, and all the other similar cloud services). iCloud Drive has the benefit of being an Apple feature, and will therefore get widespread support though. It also combines iCloud Drive with Documents in the Cloud to create a system where documents are accessible anywhere, but also updated and refreshed everywhere. The iPad will become a serious workhorse in iOS 8.

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iOS 8 vs Android KitKat: Siri vs Google Now

Google Android 4.4 KitKat

Apple introduces a number of new features to Siri in iOS 8. The first is that you can activate Siri by just saying “Hey Siri”. The caveat is that saying, “Hey Siri” only works when your iPhone or iPad is plugged into a power source (we presume that having Siri active in the background and listening for Hey Siri is currently a drain on the battery).

For more on Siri, take a look at our complete guide: How to use Siri: 'Hey Siri!' and all the other Siri features

Siri is now plugged into the Shazam music service and can identify tracks that are playing.

While Shazam is a minor improvement, we think “Hey Siri” is a much bigger deal. Hey Siri means that you can leave the iPad plugged in next to you while you work, and ask questions or pass voice commands while you work. Siri is becoming more and more like a personal assistant with every new iteration.

Google’s Siri alternative, Google Now, is getting smarter with every new iteration too. The latest version of Google Now included with Android KitKat. This can also be launched via a voice command “OK Google”. There have been a few issues of performance with Google Now though, especially on older devices (although that’s more a sign of Android fragmentation than any inherent problem with Google Now).

Both Google Now and Siri feel pretty much neck-and-neck at the moment, and both offer similar levels of voice recognition (which is either great, or not good enough depending on how strong an accent you have). Both are rapidly improving at breakneck speed.

iOS 8 vs Android KitKat: Health and Home

Where things get interesting is with new features such as Health and Home (and both HealthKit and HomeKit software developer kits). With Health, the iPhone will be able to track all your personal health information. Health is designed to be a single place to contain all the data collected by other health and fitness apps and devices. So your activity tracker, heart rate monitor, and other health and fitness apps can talk to each other. In many ways Health is similar to PassBook, and how much of a success it is depends on developer support.

Developers of fitness apps and devices are currently using the HealthKit SDK to integrate the new Health feature into their products. Beyond that is a new HomeKit that will enable developers to do the same for integrated Home products. HomeKit means that developers creating “Internet of Things” products will get a buzz from Apple’s new developer features.

There’s nothing comparable in Android 4.4 KitKat, which is why developers have been cheering so loudly about iOS 8. All of these features should combine to produce a very interesting operating system.


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