By Jonathan Charles | Jul 02, 2012 12:22 PM EDT
Until Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich released in 2011, iOS was considered to be ahead in terms of consistent design (no more evident than in the App Store). With Ice Cream Sandwich, Google developed a consistency across Android, and has refined that further with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. So as July begins, is Apple under threat from the new Android operating system?
Siri Versus Voice-to-Text
Google introduced an omnipresent voice-to-text speech capability in Jelly Bean, but despite the comparisons in terms of features there's definite differences between the two. Whereas Siri provides information on a card with a summary, Jelly Bean brings specific information. For example, searching for Prime Minister David Cameron brings up his Wikipedia entry, and a picture. Siri would read the information back.
Of course real world usage with the Nexus 7, releasing mid-July and when Jelly Bean releases on the Galaxy Nexus around the same time, remains to be seen. A recent survey on streets found Siri's accuracy to be close to 70 percent, which may not be the figure Apple would like to hear.
The notification bar across Jelly Bean and iOS 6 is largely similar: users pull a drop-down menu from the status bar, which is in the middle of the screen and shows notifications from implemented apps. However Google changed two key aspects of the notification bar: one, on the Nexus 7, the bar is semi-transparent and covers the middle of the screen; second, notifications can be expanded by pinching on the notification. So for example, a text notification would be expanded to show more than just the subject line, which is unlike iOS 5, which will cut off a text message that's long and forces users to go into the app.
Google Now is probably the main differentiator, though: imagine it as a combination of Google Maps and Siri. It monitors apps and services to provide real-time updates, whether sports scores or the train times from a subway. It updates dynamically: if a train's late, Google Now will change the arrival time.
There's been some discussion over whether Apple's Maps service, replacing Google Maps, will continue to provide the accuracy users are familiar with. It could be a difficult situation for Apple is train times are not updating on time, for example.
Project Butter is the name for technology in Jelly Bean that increases the amount of frames Android produces, or how smooth the phone feels when swiping across screens and between apps in real world use. It's been needed in Android even after Ice Cream Sandwich released: Android didn't feel as responsive as iOS, which is still super responsive to use even on the iPhone 4S' 800MHz processor and the new iPad's 1GHz processor.
Chances are iOS 6, even if it brings a UI refresh, will still offer very consistent performance. Apple prides itself on performance and even though some features, such as notifications, are available on competitors' phones Apple ensures its implementation works. The classic example is copy-and-paste, which is arguably still the best-in-class implementation. Users hold down on a word or phrase, a magnifying glass appears so users can accurately see what text is being selected.
Right now iOS is, for the first time, under considerable threat from Android. Google's mobile operating system has always rivalled iOS in terms of apps - and dominated in terms of device variety - but the experience has consistently been lacking. Android 4.1 Jelly Bean definitely creates the most complete version of Android yet, so it's now up to Apple to show where it feels iOS needs to advance.
What Apple can't do is minimally revise, because the company thinks its large hold of market share won't significantly alter. It was a failure of Microsoft during the Windows Mobile era when it was the market leader, and has been a failure of RIM more recently. When RIM debuted the BlackBerry Torch it didn't compete with iOS or Android in terms of performance, and Microsoft is just now becoming competitive with Windows Phone 8 after Steve Ballmer famously laughed off the original iPhone.
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