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Fight for the top: Android 4.4 KitKat vs iOS 7

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Fight for the top: Android 4.4 KitKat vs iOS 7


Siri vs Google Now


Siri is the name of Apple's voice-controlled virtual assistant built into iOS. At first she was seen as more of a gimmick rather than something one would have a need for on a daily basis, but to tell you the truth, that's not really the case anymore. Apple has done a great job at expanding the list of uses for Siri, thus making her more useful than ever before. She can launch apps, send text messages, set reminders and alarms, check the weather, convert currencies, adjust the device's settings, or look up things on Wikipedia or Twitter. And that's just a fraction of Siri's repertoire. Best of all, she's very good at interpreting our voice input despite it being provided in every-day language. Don't speak English? No worries! Siri recognizes French and German as well.

Android's Google Now feature is a bit different. Like Siri, it is capable of recognizing voice commands accurately, but in addition, it attempts to provide the user with relevant information exactly when they need it. For example, driving directions will appear if it is the end of the work day. If you just looked up some place on Google Maps, Google Now will show you how to get there when triggered. If you have a plane trip coming, it will provide you with up-to-date details about your flight. And if you're in a different country, Google Now lists places of interest, currency exchange rates, and other useful information. And these are just a small number of the things Google Now is capable of.

To wrap things up, both Siri and Google Now are great additions that can come in handy in a number of situations. They do a great job at complementing the overall user experience, all the while demonstrating how intelligent our mobile devices have become.

Android Beam vs AirDrop


Android Beam is used for transferring files, bookmarks, contact information, YouTube videos and more between nearby Android devices. It seems like a cool feature on paper, but it has a number of limitations that make it not as practical as we wish it was. To initiate a Beam transfer, two Android devices are tapped together, back to back, so that their NFC radios can take care of the pairing process. But the NFC radios on different phones don't always communicate well with each other because of variations in their placement. That's why some phones won't “shake hands” unless they are aligned the right way. Then there's the speed, at which data is transferred. Images, in particular, can take quite a long time to copy because of their size. Apple's AirDrop, on the other hand, moves photos between devices almost instantaneously. Furthermore, it does not require devices to be as near as Beam does – no need to go around the room bumping your handset with others' phones. Long story short, AirDrop is faster and easier to use. It works only on recent iOS devices, however.

Internet Browser


Android 4.4 uses Google's Chrome web browser by default, while iOS 7 relies on Safari in its latest form. Both applications are ideal for surfing the web as they are very fast, although the latter seems a tad smoother and more responsive. The two offer essential internet browsing features like Incognito mode, multiple tab support, and bookmark synchronization between devices, which is pretty cool for people who switch from one device to another. We only wish that Chrome had Safari's Reader mode, which cleans all unnecessary content from a web page, leaving only an article's text and some images for easier reading.


Maps


There was a time when Apple Maps, found in iOS, was ridiculed for its shortcomings, but things have changed since then. The fact of the matter is that Apple's maps application is now more reliable and has all the features one would expect out of a proper app of this kind. It can give you adequate directions depending on whether you're driving, walking, or using public transportation. Locations can be quickly shared with others or bookmarked for future use. Real-time traffic information is available as well, which can save you from a traffic jam on your way home from work. All of these features can be found on Google Maps as well. While neither solutions will provide you with true offline navigation in a way that Nokia's maps would, both Apple Maps and Google Maps can cache map data in order to navigate you without relying on internet connectivity.

Camera and Gallery


The stock camera interface on Android 4.4 leaves something to be desired. For people who aren't familiar with its arrangement, the UI can be confusing and frustrating to use, especially when it comes to switching scene modes. But it is not all bad. Android 4.4 comes with PhotoSphere – a mode that let's you take impressive 360-degree photos. A new HDR+ mode is present as well, producing better results than HDR found in previous Android releases. On iOS 7 we find a clean, simple, much better laid out user interface. It offers a modest, yet welcome selection of extras, such as its HDR mode, image filters, and 120fps slow-motion videos.

The Android 4.4 Gallery application is not only for viewing photos. They can be modified as well using the built-in editing tools. Images can be cropped, frames can be applied to them, their exposure, vignette, contrast, saturation and more can be adjusted. From there, once can easily share one or multiple photos via email or their favorite social network. The iOS 7 Photos app, on the other hand, isn't as functional when it comes to sharing images. It does not seem to get along well with some third-party apps – Instagram, Skype, or WhatsApp, for example, are not among the available options; you have to use these services' apps instead. But the new Moments feature is nice. It intelligently sorts the user's photos in collections, based on when and where they were taken.

Music and video apps


To move music or videos from a computer to an Android device, once simply connects the two over USB and copies the files into the device's music folder. It is a straightforward process that works even if the user's music collection isn't organized well. With iOS 7, however, copying media requires additional software – iTunes, usually. Now, that's not too bad of a solution, but perhaps not every single iOS user out there is a fan of Apple's application. Thankfully, some popular third-party media players now come with built-in or optional iOS device support for managing the media on iPhones, iPads, and iPods.

Of course, one is free to purchase media straight from their device – via the Play Store for Android devices and via iTunes for iOS users – where millions of songs, movies, and TV shows are available at a tap of a few buttons. Alternatively, there's streaming. Apple has iTunes radio, which is a free service delivering tunes over the air and straight to your device, with stations across various genres and intelligent recommendations based on what you've listened to previously. Best of all, the service is free, although there are ads baked into it. On the downside, there's a limit of skipping no more than six song when tuned into a station. Android offers a similar radio-like streaming service called Play Music All Access. Described as “radio without rules”, it lets you reorder the tracks in your queue or swipe away the songs you don't want. If you're into a particular song, the service can build a radio station by populating a playlist with similar tracks. And unlike the case is with iTunes radio, Google's solution lets you skip tracks as much as you want. All Access, however, comes at a price - $9.99 per month, to be more specific, which is as much as a premium Spotify account costs.

The default music players on Android 4.4 and iOS 7 are quite similar in terms of functionality, although Apple's app feels a bit more polished and better organized. But Play Music is nice as well and it gets the job done once one gets used to it. Both apps are smart enough to display playback controls on the lock screen for quick and easy pausing or skipping tracks. What's really cool about them is that they allow the user to have music stored in the cloud, available for streaming over the internet at any time.

It is a bit strange that on Android 4.4 we still have to use the Gallery application to watch the videos we have stored onto the device. Having a dedicated video player would have been nice since the Gallery seems a bit too simple for the purpose. Fortunately, the Play Store offers a good selection of third-party alternatives. The iOS 7 video player is okay with its simple UI and support for closed captions.

Conclusion


There was a time when Android was regarded as an OS for geeks and techies, as an OS incapable of delivering the smooth and flawless experience often associated with iOS products. Well, things have changed since then. Android in its latest form is a well-polished, reliable, and feature-rich mobile platform that would appeal to a broader-than-ever range of consumers. At the same time, it sticks to its traditions of being widely open to visual and functional modifications, without actually requiring any in order to be a top-notch, full-fledged mobile OS.

But the big question remains to be answered: can Android 4.4 be considered better than iOS 7? Well, we don't quite think so, but we can't rank Android as inferior either. The fact of the matter is that both platforms have their own unique traits and personalities. People who are into tweaks and personalization, and those who like the feeling of having control over their smartphone would be quite happy with Android in its latest form. Besides, Google's OS stands out with its broader selection of free software. On the other hand, folks who favor a clean and elegant interface, or those who simply aren't sure what they want, would be perfectly happy with a device running iOS 7. It is intuitive, built with a lot of attention to detail, and providing superb user experience complemented by the best selection of applications a mobile OS can offer.
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