With Android N, Google has given its mobile operating system the shot in the arm it needed to exceed Apple’s iPhone and iPad.
When Google took to the stage at its I/O Developer Conference last week and brought to bear everything it has been working on with Android N – besides its still-elusive name, of course – the result was a revelation that was on par with the moment Steve Jobs touted the first iPhone so many years ago.
At I/O, Google not only demonstrated that it has been listening to its user-base, but has been thinking ahead of them; in my mind, there are three major areas where Android N has thundered past the iPhone and iPad, and has left Apple in a dangerous coup de grace round of speak-and-respond. The first, naturally, is Assistant.
Google just wants to help
We knew that artificial intelligence would play a major role at I/O, but we couldn’t have predicted that Google would proceed to one-up its Google Now offering by providing an intelligent and reasoned means through which to interact with one’s phone.
Leaving the likes of Siri and Cortana behind, Assistant is the first true instance of welcoming a true digital assistant into our lives. Now has always been useful, but it’s the measure that Assistant will actually intrude into our day-to-day rather than simply wait to be useful that makes Google’s new software so compelling.
In contrast, Siri remains in the former camp; a presence that’s only useful once spoken to, and one at that which doesn’t render half the tasks Apple would like to claim it does; Siri Suggestions being a prime example.
“Assistant will actually intrude into our day-to-day rather than simply wait to be useful.”
Voice control still, in 2016, feel like a clunky and somewhat embarrassing means to control a mobile device; but Google’s deft use of Assistant – providing context over clutter – means that while we still need to overcome stage fright, our dialogue will be that much more natural.
Read: Google Home is your new control centre
Half the app, double the fun
Secondly, Instant Apps is the feature revolution we’ve been looking for. While iOS relies on the concept that you’re willing to use data as well as a modicum of your battery to install and use a fully featured app, Android N brings a diet in which users will be able to use app functions through the web without the need to download or install an app itself entirely.
While Apple Pay has gained favor abroad and Android Pay steadily catches up, this will offer consumers a fast and simple solution in mobile transactions. As Google product manager Michael Siliski phrased it, Android apps have evolved to the point where the user doesn’t even have to install them to use them.
“Android apps have evolved to the point where the user doesn’t even have to install them to use them.”
While Apple might be famed for its slick Apple Pay experience on both the iPad and iPhone, the fact of the matter remains that shopping online is largely restricted to either a mobile site or an iOS app; on Android N, the strengths of both these approaches sees synergy in a method that not only streamlines transactions, but further promotes app discovery itself.
Read: Google unveils Duo and Allo, its new chat apps
Let’s get multitasking
Apple has taken the longer, winding route in bringing true multitasking to the iPad and iPhone; while the former bears some interesting ideas in limiting side-by-side viewing to newer models and bringing smaller app displays over the side for quick reference, neither approach really hits the mark for a majority of iOS users.
“Now, Android N is set to bring to all eligible handsets what LG and Samsung have toyed with.”
This goes without mention on the iPhone, one which Apple hasn’t yet broken free of the stranglehold single-tasking offers, despite offering larger device offerings in the form of the iPhone 6s Plus.
Now, Android N is set to bring to all eligible handsets what LG and Samsung have toyed with; the concept of true side-by-side multitasking in split-screen viewing,
Split-screen mode will offer all Android N devices the ability to quickly run two Android apps atop one another, allowing users to quickly transfer information and stay abreast of different developments in separate apps.
Read: Android Wear 2.0 could bring us the smartwatches we were promised
Apple, please respond
With these three improvements to Android N, Apple is now left not only to make substantial rebuttals with the next version of iOS, but fundamentally correct three areas of the platform which have consequently – and consistently- fallen behind year after year.
Google’s incubation of Android N hasn’t just resulted in a new version of its mobile operating system; it’s brought about a response that takes a critical swipe at iOS’ weakest points.
I’ve always been somewhat wary of the argument that one mobile operating system is better than the other, and I still remain so. However, so successful is Android’s latest retort that Apple will either be forced to implement massive improvements to iOS, or be left drowning in its rival’s wake. As someone who recently (re) converted from Android to Apple, it’s both a saddening and exciting admission to make.
Read: What I learned moving from iOS to Android, and back to iOS in 2016
What are your thoughts? Which operating system reigns supreme in your mind? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!
Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA