One of the most heated "debates" within the wireless industry is the one between iOS and Android fans. In case it isn't obvious, we've put "debate" in quotes, because it's much more of a flame war, rather than a civilized debate, but anyway, you get the point. So here we are, not trying to start yet another flame war, but wanting to make it easy for users to find out what the meaningful differences between iOS 7 and Android 4.3 are. And without further ado, let's dive straight into it.
Lock and home screens
The lock screen (if enabled) is the very first thing a user sees upon turning their smartphone on, which is why its flawless execution is of utmost importance. And it is hard to decide which one we like more – the one on iOS 7 or on Android 4.3, but we're pretty sure they both leave room for improvement. The iOS 7 lock screen is minimalist, providing instant access to the camera, the Control Center, or the pending notifications. However, it would have been better if one could slide either way to unlock it; only a swipe to the right takes you to the home screen. The Android 4.3 lock screen is flexible when it comes to customization, with its widgets and all, and it doesn't matter which way you swipe to unlock it. However, the selection of widgets one can place there isn't as broad as we wish it was. Overall, both lock screens are great, although they could have been better.
On each home screen of an iPhone 5, 5S, or 5C there's room for 24 icons in total. Interestingly, a stock Android home screen on a Google Nexus 4 leaves room for only 20 app shortcuts even though the smartphone has a larger display with higher resolution. Of course, that's not too big of a deal, especially when both interfaces allow apps to be sorted in folders. Speaking of which, the iOS 7 approach to folders is more elegant as there is virtually no limit to how many apps the user can place in one. On Android in its stock form, there's a limit of 16 apps per folder, which isn't bad, but it is a drawback nonetheless.
The layout of an iOS 7 home screen is well designed, but perhaps it's all a bit too static, which is why we tend to like the versatility of Android. It is just that widgets are a pretty cool feature that Apple's mobile OS has yet to adopt in one form or another, and we don't see this happening anytime soon. But there are things that Android might learn from iOS 7. One of them is that the text, which is used to display the names of apps, changes color depending on what wallpaper image is being used (but it doesn't work with dynamic wallpapers for some reason). If the image is light, the text goes dark, and vice versa, which makes app names much easier to read. On Android 4.3, there's a shadow under the apps' names, but still, text isn't as legible as it is on iOS 7.
Quick controls and notifications
Control Center adds functionality that iOS sorely needed. Simply put, swiping up from the bottom of an iOS 7 home screen brings up a list of toggle buttons for turning things like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on and off, controlling music playback, adjusting the screen's brightness, even using the camera's LED as a flashlight. But Control Center isn't really a groundbreaking feature. Options like these have been available on custom Android UIs for a long time, and the stock Android 4.3 interface has many of them as well out of the box, located in a menu accessible from the notification bar. Furthermore, Control Center might be triggered accidentally if one is scrolling on a page or trying to launch the camera from its lock screen shortcut, located in the lower right-hand corner. Yet nevertheless, Apple's solution to adding toggles in iOS 7 is still pretty elegant and it is at least as good as Android's approach.
The Notification Center in iOS 7 has been overhauled and now takes the user straight to their agenda. That's very convenient for people who actually use the Calendar app. Those who find it too crowded in there are free to pick what notifications are to be displayed there – stocks information, unread email, Game Center alerts, reminders, and more. Android's notification bar is a bit different for it doesn't display much if there aren't any pending notifications. But on the other hand, the user does get updates via Google Now.
A noteworthy advantage for iOS 7 versus Android is that both the Notification Center and the Control Center can be accessed from any screen, even when they are hidden. Yup, even if you're playing a game or watching a movie. However, a double-slide is required in order to do that, which prevents the user from accidentally pulling out either of them. In Android, the notification panel is often not visible if a full-screen application is running, which renders it inaccessible.
When it comes to customization, Android is still king with its widgets, live wallpapers, and custom launchers. Tons of them are available for download from the Play Store for anyone bored of their Android device's interface. However, Apple has done some progress and is now catching up, without making things too complicated for iOS 7 users. The latest version of the platform features the so-called parallax effect, which shifts the background image depending on the angle, at which the handset is being held. That creates an illusion of depth and the effect is really nice in our opinion – pretty, yet unobtrusive.
In addition, we have Apple's dynamic wallpapers (yup, they are just like Android's live wallpapers) – these can be set on both the home and the lock screens. Unfortunately, all you get out of the box is a single dynamic wallpaper in several different colors, and the wallpaper is suspiciously similar to Android's stock Phase Beam live wallpaper. We hope that someday, more dynamic wallpapers will be released for iOS 7, but this could be just wishful thinking.