Android L vs iOS 8: first look

One of the most fascinating rivalries in modern history is that between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Both men are known for inventing a multitude of products and for pioneering new technologies, many of which are still in use to this day. The opinions of Tesla and Edison on certain matters, however, differed drastically, which resulted in a decade-long "war" between the two innovators.

Today, over a century later, we have the rivalry between Google's Android and Apple's iOS. Much like the aforementioned inventors, the two platforms fueled a revolution. iOS played a key role in defining what a modern smartphone OS should look and act like, while Android won the hearts of many with its openness and brought the smartphone experience to a broad array of price points. But at the same time, Android and iOS are different on so many levels that opinions on which one's better can be highly polarized – those who favor one despise the other, and vice versa. 

The releases of iOS 8 and Android L in the fall isn't likely to change anything, and the iOS vs Android flame wars will surely go on. This, however, won't stop us from comparing the two platforms side by side and from commenting on their traits and peculiarities. To do that, we have the iOS 8 beta running on our iPhone 5s and the Android L preview release installed on our Nexus 5

Lock and home screens

Our first stop is the Android L lock screen, which has undergone some notable changes. First and foremost, notifications are now displayed at a glance, right in the middle of the screen, as opposed to before, when we had to pull down the notification panel in order to read them. That's a welcome feature, albeit seemingly inspired from the way iOS handles lock screen notifications. On Android L, tapping twice on a notification launches the respective app and a swipe to the side dismisses it. On iOS 8, a swipe can be used to reply to an email or mark it as read. Both solutions work just fine.

Some might like that a notification causes the screen of an iOS device to light up for several seconds, thus letting the user read it instantly. This won't happen on Android L, but instead, a phone or tablet's RGB notification light will go off, if available. 

The Android L lock screen has one thing that iOS lacks – a shortcut to the Phone application. This lets the user dial a contact's number in as little steps as possible. What's present on both platforms' lock screens, however, is a camera shortcut. 

Now would be a good time to mention that in Android L, support for lock screen widgets has been abandoned. We're kind of left with mixed feelings about this as there were some great ones out there. But on the other hand, lock screen widgets weren't very intuitive to set up and use. Perhaps Google wanted to reduce the lock screen clutter, or to simply free up room for the new Phone shortcut. Ironically, iOS 8 will support third-party widgets in the notification panel, and these will be accessible from the lock screen by pulling the said panel down.

Once on the Android L home screen, we see that everything is as it was in KitKat, pretty much. We got our screens for app shortcuts, folders, and widgets, our app drawer, and Google Now is at a swipe's distance. The iOS 8 home screen hasn't changed either and is as minimalist and intuitive to navigate as before. As they say, if it isn't broken, don't fix it. Naturally, Android L will appeal to those who enjoy personalizing their device, while iOS 8's personalization features are limited for simplicity's sake.

Notification panel, quick controls, multitasking

The overhauled notification panel is one of the significant improvements brought by Android L. We love how important notifications are now pushed up to the top of the list, while non-important ones are pushed down – email alerts appear at the top, for example, while app installation notifications are given low priority. Apple's approach to notifications in iOS 8 is a bit different. Pulling down the panel from the top displays the Today tab, which lists the user's daily schedule and the weather forecast, whatever widgets have been activated, and other bits of information. Notifications are in their separate tab, grouped by application, and the order in which these are listed can be changed from the settings menu.

Android L includes a redesigned Quick Controls menu, which is placed in the pull-down panel, as before. However, Google has chosen to abandon the two-finger swipe-down gesture for accessing the controls easily, which is odd. Anyway, the new panel is not only better looking. It is more functional with the added display brightness slider and, finally, a toggle for locking the screen's orientation. The iOS Control Center is no less awesome. Accessible from any screen, it lets us easily set the screen brightness, toggle Wi-Fi on or off, control music playback, and more. On the downside, one has to be careful not to pull it up by accident, while scrolling down a web page, for example.

With Android L comes a redesigned interface for our recent apps. On one hand, it definitely looks better than before as it now presents recent apps as a stack of cards, not sorted in a boring column as before. But on the other hand, switching to a particular recent app can be a bit cumbersome as no more than 3 cards can be displayed at a time, meaning that we're required to do more scrolling than usual. The recent apps list in iOS 8 is a great one and we like it better. It is simple, yet functional, with apps listed chronologically along with their respective icons on a separate row. What's more, the menu contains a list of our most frequently used contacts, which can be extremely handy.

Keyboard, Dialer, Contacts

The redesigned keyboard included with Android L (and available as a stand-alone app, by the way) is fast and accurate. Visually, it meets the principles set by Google's newly introduced Material Design. Yet from a functional perspective, the L keyboard doesn't seem to be much different from the stock Android keyboard that we know already. As before, it supports word prediction, auto-correct, and gesture typing à la Swype. Emoticons are also present. With iOS 8, Apple is adding intelligent word predictions to its stock keyboard. These follow an algorithm that takes into account the conversation's context and learns from it to provide better predictions. But in case for some reason you aren't happy with Apple's solution, third-party keyboards for iOS 8 are coming with the platform's release.

The Phone app in Android L has a fresh new design, and it looks like things have changed for the better. Starred contacts are organized in a more compact list, and their placement closer to the screen's bottom edge makes them easier to reach with a single thumb. The contact dialed last and the search bar are on top. As before, searching from the Phone app yields not only results from our contacts, but from nearby businesses, restaurants, and hotels as well. This works the other way around, and if you're getting a call from a business that's in Google's directory, their name will be displayed on your screen. Neat! The iOS 8 Phone application hasn't really changed much from before. It is still the minimalist, black-and-white list of contacts, favorites, and recently contacted numbers. Sure, it gets the job done, but lacks in character. Yet points go to Apple for enabling us to block calls and texts from certain contacts in iOS.

Contacts in iOS 8 are displayed in a single alphabetical list. Perhaps it would have been nicer if a picture was shown next to their name, but our guess is that Apple didn't want to include the option as many of those contacts would't have one assigned anyway. Profile pictures are displayed for contacts on the Favorites list, however. On Android, the contacts list has been made more compact, with smaller profile pictures and less empty space between names. 

Search, voice commands

Android 4.4 made it possible to initiate hands-free searches and commands with the "OK, Google" voice trigger, which worked from any home screen. Now, thanks to an update for Google's Search app, we're able to use the same voice command to search from any screen, even from the lock screen. Actually, this update should land on Android phones before Android L is out, and those who don't want the "OK, Google" command to be on at all times are free to turn it off. Similarly, Siri in iOS 8 has gained the ability to listen for voice triggers. "Hey, Siri" is the command she (or he) responds to, but there's a catch. You see, the hands-free commands in iOS 8 work only when the device is plugged into a power source. Otherwise, "Hey, Siri" won't do anything unless the Siri interface is open on the iPhone or iPad. The next iPhone iteration might enable the trigger to work at any time, but that's just a guess.

But our guess is that you'll be typing in whatever it is you're searching for most of the time. On Android L, the Google search bar is placed permanently on the top of any home screen, just like before. While it does occupy precious screen space, it lets us search the internet, find a contact, or search for an app installed on the device. Spotlight search in iOS 8, which is accessible with a swipe down gesture in the middle of any home screen, is no less versatile. In fact, it can be used to search the internet, the user's inbox, contacts, installed apps list, and will also display results from news outlets, from Wikipedia, and the iTunes store.

Cameras, photo gallery

Android L uses Google Camera as its default camera application. Yup, the same app that you can download from the Play Store. Overall, it is a great app that shines with its ease of use. Photography buffs won't find manual exposure, ISO, and shutter speed controls, but ordinary folks should be satisfied with the built-in camera modes. These include Lens Blur, Photo Sphere, HDR, and Panorama. You can read our Google Camera review for more details. On iOS 8 we find a camera application that also has a few tricks up its sleeve. iOS users now have the option to shoot time-lapse videos and the freedom to control focus and exposure independently. Plus, a self timer has been included. Compared to Google Camera, the iOS 8 application is about as easy to get the hang of.

Photos in Android L are viewed from the Photos application. They are organized in two separate tabs – one containing all images and another labeled "Highlights". As the name implies, the latter organizes select images in albums and arranges them by date. The Photos application can automatically back up your photo library so that your photos are never lost. As for its editing tools, there's a lot at our disposal – from basic Crop and Rotate to image filters, frames, and effects. Best of all, you don't need any image editing skills in order to use the app's tools effectively. When it comes to features, the Photos app in iOS 8 has almost as much to offer. Images can be easily sorted by time and date taken for easier management and backed up to the cloud for safe storing. We don't get quite as many image editing options as we do with Android's Photos app, but whatever iOS 8 offers is simple and intuitive to use.


We can't draw any final conclusions as to which is better overall, Android L or iOS 8, as the two platforms are still in beta. Both will surely undergo further tweaking and improvements before they're launched later this year. But even if they were in their final state, we would have probably ranked them at the same level. Either way, we're mostly pleased with what we have seen so far and that both updates are worth being excited about.  

Android L brings along more than just a visual redesign. We really dig the new Quick Controls menu, the improved Phone app and how notifications are now being sorted by priority. Also, it is nice to see that Android has learned a few tricks from iOS, and the way lock screen notifications are handled is a good example of that. Similarly, iOS has assimilated some ideas from Android, such as the options for having third-party widgets and on-screen keyboards – nothing wrong with that, if you ask us. 

So all in all, both OS releases are expected to be of huge benefit to users with all the features and improvements that they'll bring. Whichever camp's side you're on, with Android L or iOS 8, you'll have even more reasons to stick with your platform of choice.



1. jaytai0106

Posts: 1888; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

I wonder when the two companies will merge together.

4. Iodine

Posts: 1480; Member since: Jun 19, 2014

They were wery good partners.... Until google ripped them off with android.

13. T.Law

Posts: 423; Member since: May 10, 2014

*until Android surpassed iOS both in terms of functionality and market share.

66. NinjaBanana

Posts: 37; Member since: Apr 20, 2014

Definitely not functionality...

67. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

Android has been better than iOS with functionality since the Android Donut days....

86. NinjaBanana

Posts: 37; Member since: Apr 20, 2014

Apple, the company of simplicity. Beats Android by far in terms of all that.

119. Junglist724

Posts: 3; Member since: Aug 08, 2014

Only a simple mind spends that much money on a device that simple.

123. sapiopath

Posts: 9; Member since: Jul 11, 2014

I see what you did there.

124. sapiopath

Posts: 9; Member since: Jul 11, 2014

I see what you did there.

130. GalaxyS5

Posts: 430; Member since: Aug 05, 2014

when apple was in it's prime (innovation days) it was the most complex OS much more complex than nokias and berries at the time, and I used to brag how my iPhone had this and this and that. now it's wrong to make an excuse for a company that stopped innovating and started catching up. if apple was the innovating company it was years ago you would have defended the "features", but now it's trailing behind you defend what it has left as the OS looks so deprived and simple when compared to android. it's literally an empty and closed OS. plus the simplest of things like storage and music alone are a headache on apple devices. it's so "simple" for me to add and remove stuff from my smartphone, while the same process is a headache on apple devices. tell me about simplicity please.

134. ph00ny

Posts: 2031; Member since: May 26, 2011

iOS was lacking quite a bit compared to the old WinMo. Even the current one lacks against the old WinMo. Those were the days where hardware was just not enough to drive the OS

117. Junglist724

Posts: 3; Member since: Aug 08, 2014

iOS is lacking the most basic function a REAL OS has to do, give access to a filesystem. What could you do on your mac or pc if you didn't have finder or windows explorer? The permissions system, and general openness of android give you limitless functionality without even having to root or install custom roms. iOS is for people who don't need anything but some casual games, a web browser, media player, and basic productivity apps(and maybe niche products like serato). If you want a device can be more like a real computer, android is the only choice(that has market share).

121. AlikMalix unregistered

In response to Post 67 and 117. For the hundreds time: How do you explain that Android is more functional than iOS, even with filesystem, and the "openness", you cannot do more functions in any business venture, or real life situations than iOS. There are a few conveniences that iOS may not have, but iOS counteracts that with a few conveniences that Android doesn't have. I do play casual and 3D games, first person shooters, racing sims, flying sims, these games are goregous. I do use it for web browser, a media player, and productivity like accessing/edit spreadsheets and documents created at the office in MS office. I unloaded my entire mind/memory into my phone. I use it like a personal assistant (siri) for just about everything that a real assistant does (except make coffee). I control my lights, ambient lights, security, A/C and front door lock with my phone. I edit home videos on my phone even those I captured with my old digital camera (I use iPad to edit because the apps are much quicker and results are much smoother than PC software that has a huge learning curve). I actually have access to my entire harddrive at home from anywhere and I use it to back up my photos, videos, and phone essentials like you would with cloud. I stream my music, video library and photos from my HD at home while I'm running around the city or while I'm taking vacation in Mexico. Soon I'll have my iPhone take over my car's infotainment (as soon as need a new car). I use my phone to find out if my wife has left work yet, or if my friends are near by. I can set up notifications just the way I need them to be (something that's an annoying headache on android). I can manage each permission on each app one by one (something you cannot on android), I can manage my plethora of apps into individual folders. I can litterally run 90% of my phone just from a locked screen including settings, and it would be possible for 99% but there's security involved. I make reservations at a restaurant from a locked screen (for crying out loud). I can do things without taking my phone out of pocket: send emails, send text, call, find and play music, make reminders, calendar events. I've thought about the file system, but after using iOS, especially after version 4 or 5, I'm begining to question the idea of accessing files for the sake of accessing files.. Maybe our PC ways are not absolute, but flawed - iOS seems to prove that point to me really well and in a simple, crisp UI... And just in case Apple decides to add more productivity, or convineneces to iOS - I'll get it on Day ONE, for at least next 3 years, that's what my 64-bit architecture insures me, that my phone will be compatible when everything moves even further in the future... Once again, what can you do on Android in real world, that I cannot do on iOS?

122. saffant

Posts: 274; Member since: Jul 04, 2011

Play 18GB x264 mkv files from my server using just the file browser to access it.

125. sapiopath

Posts: 9; Member since: Jul 11, 2014

If you want a device like a real computer, get a computer. There are laptops much cheaper than the iPhone or most good Android phones. If you want a phone, get a Nokia feature phone. If you want a smartphone, get an iPhone.

140. oldhamletman

Posts: 72; Member since: Sep 03, 2011

Apple took a 4 year snooze thinking they could just ride fanboy love and they got whacked by both android and windows phone in a lot of functionality areas pleas... Apple comes out with this turkey keynote speech this week saying: weve got predictive texting! Windows Phone had that since day one in Oct 2010... there is a list a mile long about how apple has ignored their fan base.... and it's really a fan base, not customers.... Jobs famously said: our customers don't need a screen bigger than 3.5" on a phone.... it's a phone... they don't need that so we aren't going to do it.... the arrogance of Apple and Jobs is why you guys don't have a fully up to date phone... end of story. both Windows phone and Android are better than IOS hands down, it's not even close.. the best thing I ever did was leave apple for windows phone

21. Nexus4lifes

Posts: 294; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

or Until apple's growth was dented by google with an overall superior and more functional OS...

128. michaelmicro unregistered

You mean a cheaper OS...

133. AlikMalix unregistered

No, you mean free OS, as in Freeware (free software licence funded otherwise by adds or unavoidable offers to download pre-sellected software called Bloatware)...

23. StraightEdgeNexus

Posts: 3689; Member since: Feb 14, 2014

Grow up buddy :)

25. boosook

Posts: 1442; Member since: Nov 19, 2012

Until Google allowed people who couldn't afford to spend seven hundred euros to own a smartphone as well.

41. kabhijeet.16

Posts: 889; Member since: Dec 05, 2012


112. epdm2be

Posts: 822; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

Already Nokia and Microsoft (with it's partners) allowed that with Symbian and Windows Mobile (or Pocket PC). What a bunch of lamers in here. You really think that there were no smartphones before Android or IOS? In fact most o/t old beasts have MUCH more functionality than current versions of Android and IOS (and even Windows Phone). For example WIndows Mobile had full office functionality (including outlook syncing), call recording, MP3 and movie playback, wifi, bluetooth a file manager with access to Windows shared folders, widgets, homescreens, launchers (e.g. SPB Mobile Shell) etc... So stop pretending that Android invented these things. The same is true for Symbian. Which had a much better multitasking system, better use of (limited) resources AND terrific camera's

120. sprockkets

Posts: 1612; Member since: Jan 16, 2012

WinMob's office was less functional than docs to go at the time available on Palm. Movie playback was with wmv or crappy avi files, while TCPMP put it to shame. You could bt a file, but receiving it required awkwardly turning on beaming. Windows shared folders? What are you talking about? There were no widgets on WinMob natively. Android kicked WinMob's ass in everything else.

141. oldhamletman

Posts: 72; Member since: Sep 03, 2011

then when windows phone came out... android completely got their ass kicked..... anyone who really honestly tried windows phone found that out.... if you are on windows phone, you have no malware threat... you can do anything app wise.... and it is so intuitive that it's crazy.... windows phone is hands down the best OS... but of course that doesn't mean it will win... it should, but it probably won't it's like OS/2 vs windows 95... OS/2 was slam dunk better than windows 95... completely object oriented, completely true multitasking... OS/2 in 1992 was better than windows xp in 2001 but nobody knew it because IBM was a wimp about marketing it windows phone is the shxt... and hopefully it will survive... if everyone ignores it, it will be a huge loss to mobile computing

126. sapiopath

Posts: 9; Member since: Jul 11, 2014

You are quite unfamiliar with the app paradigm, aren't you? Also, the concept of a universal turing machine is lost on you.

131. GalaxyS5

Posts: 430; Member since: Aug 05, 2014

who cares?

118. Junglist724

Posts: 3; Member since: Aug 08, 2014

Everyone rips everyone off. Get over it.

33. Liveitup

Posts: 1798; Member since: Jan 07, 2014

PH needs video reviews of devices. Id like to see a comparison of the top four operating systems.

61. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

RIP resolutions of nexus 5 below Expectations title.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.