How iOS 14 stole Android features and made them much better

On Monday, Apple unveiled iOS 14, and if you’re an Android user, the “new” operating system might have seemed a bit familiar.

The latest update to the iPhone operating system, to be released this fall, promises improvements including a new home screen, smarter navigation, faster apps, and a fresh coat of paint throughout. And it’s clear that many of the best features are inspired, influenced, or just slipped from Android, from the new default email and browser apps to picture-in-picture for videos. You can clearly see the influence in the new compact view for Siri and incoming calls, cycling instructions in Maps, even the new widgets on the home screen.

ios14 features Apple

Apple’s iOS features will be very familiar to anyone who has used an Android phone, but also very different.

But while watching Apple unveil the features during the masterful and quick note, I couldn’t help but feel a little envious. Apple has refined Android’s features to the point where they practically make Google’s version look downright inferior. It’s not just Apple’s fancy sales pitch: There are numerous iOS 14 features that I’ve used on Android for years. But somehow they still look cool and at home on the iPhone.

Apple receives a lot of credit for breaking new ground, but the fact is, it rarely does. What Apple does best is build things that work so well and feel so natural that what happened before doesn’t matter. That talent is on full display in iOS 14.

A drawer with any other name

The most obvious feature borrowed from Android is the App Library. Similar in spirit to the old Android app drawer, it finally eliminates the need to keep all the apps you’ve downloaded on your home screen with no way to automatically sort them.

But instead of just moving them to a drawer, Apple has developed a novel feature that allows you to hide pages from the home screen but still access your apps with a swipe. It’s similar to how Android works: apps are collected in the drawer but can also exist on your home screens for quick access, but the iOS 14 version allows you to have it both ways.

galaxy s20 ultra apps Christopher Hebert / IDG

Once you see the App Library in iOS 14, you will never see the app drawer in Android the same way.

Hiding apps so they won’t be seen on iOS is a feature that Android had a long time ago for years, but still feels like new on iOS 14. On Android, you must remove all apps when you want to clear a home screen. Apple’s app library keeps your home screens organized as they were before, but allows you to easily hide and unhide them. Even the app library itself gets an update on the app drawer, with smart tips and folders highlighting your most-used apps.

Winning the widget war

Apple has also done a better job with the iOS widgets. Android has had widgets on the home screen for as long as the iPhone has had a Lightning port, but very few of them are worth using, outside of Google’s search bar and basic weather conditions. Third-party widgets are, to put it mildly, mostly junk, and Google has done nothing to advance the platform apart from a few Pixel first widgets that are installed by default.