The New iOS 16 Features that Android Had First

The New iOS 16 Features that Android Had First
Apple made some announcements this week for an upcoming version of iOS that sound a lot like some of Android's abilities. (Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo)

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But when it comes to Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android offering the same features, it’s a tale of two platforms attempting to keep up with one another. While Apple and Google may have similar abilities within their respective operating systems, there’s always a bit of a difference between the two — enough that you might be asking yourself if the phone you have in your hand is truly the one you want to wield.

Apple debuted iOS 16 this week at its developer conference. It’s coming with a wealth of new features, like a new Lock screen and widgets. I couldn’t help but see similarities between what Apple was showing during its keynote and what I’ve been using on Android. Let’s look at some of the so-called “copycat” features in iOS 16 and why Apple might have figured them out a little better than Android.

Pretty new Lock Screen

Image: AppleImage: Apple

The first thing I said when I saw this pop up during the keynote was, “Why isn’t Material You like this?” There is a polish to Apple’s iOS 16 Lock Screen that doesn’t yet exist on Android 12 — or the Android 13 Beta that I’ve been playing around with for a few months.

On iOS 16, you can customise the font type, add compact widgets (they’re much smaller than the ones you’d place on the Home Screen), and even choose a cool Portrait Mode effect for your wallpaper.

Invite people to your iCloud Shared Photo Library

Image: AppleImage: Apple

Apple announced a new iCloud Shared Photo Library feature would be available within its ecosystem in the next software update. You’ll soon be able to share photos with friends and family by simply adding them to a photo library.

I’ve been using this feature on Google Photos since my daughter was born nearly three years ago — the shared album features iPhone and Android users. Like Google Photos, iCloud will let you choose to share both new and existing photos. And just like Google’s photo suite, everyone in the folder will have access to add, delete, edit, and favourite select photos and videos.

Track your activity without an Apple Watch

The New iOS 16 Features that Android Had First

You can still track your walks without the Apple Watch in tow, but iOS 16 will also let you track other activities using the Fitness app and the iPhone’s built-in motion sensors. The iPhone can track your steps, distance walked, and any workouts you do within compatible third-party apps, and they’re all tallied toward your daily fitness goals.

The Android ecosystem hasn’t had the best track record with smartwatches. The best thing we have right now is Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4. To its credit, Samsung has enabled third-party apps like Strava and Google Fit to allow you to track activity, along with its proprietary Samsung Health. You don’t need the watch to do all that, though, or to aggregate fitness data within Google Fit.

Track your sleep with your Apple Watch

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I was surprised to learn the Apple Watch hasn’t been the best sleep tracker since I’ve spent all this time doing so with a Samsung Galaxy Watch. (I used the first-gen Galaxy Watch Active when I was chest-feeding my newborn to wake me up every three hours and track whether I ever hit a REM cycle in between feedings!)

WatchOS 9 will upgrade the sleep tracking feature on the Apple Watch to take stock of sleep stages. You’ll be able to see how long you were awake when you hit a REM cycle and if you managed to hit deep sleep throughout the night.

I’d love better medication tracking on Android

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One quick detour here: I want to point out how badly I’d like medication tracking built into Google Fit or Samsung Health for Android watch wearers. Apple announced a new medication tracking feature that will come as part of its Health app. It’s a feature that’s egregiously missing for Android users. I’ve tried countless third-party apps to do the deed, and the lack of native integration makes it hard for me to stick to it. What’s more: Apple will tell you when you’re not supposed to be mixing medications.

Set up multiple stops in Apple Maps

Image: AppleImage: Apple

I’ve been flirting with Apple Maps now that I use DuckDuckGo for most of my web searches, and it defaults there when I look up an address. This new feature will be beneficial if you have never installed Google Maps on your iOS device.

Apple Maps will now let you add multiple stops to a route before setting off for the destination. You’ll be able to add up to 15 stops on the Mac or iPad and then send it off to the iPhone for navigation. This is the same way it works with Google Maps, and it’s nice to see the option finally added for Apple users.

Dictate punctuation and emojis as you’re yelling

Image: AppleImage: Apple

There is nothing more enraging than trying to get the point across through text and having the autofill completely botch what you were trying to convey. Fortunately, Apple’s improving its Dictation experience in iOS 16 so that if you are yelling into the microphone, at least you can choose punctuation that doesn’t make that obvious. I’ve been doing this with my Android phone for a while.

Now, the keyboard will stay active as you’re dictating into a message or email on your iPhone. You can also dictate punctuation and emojis to help add to the message’s mood without additional formatting.

Too many screens in the car

Image: AppleImage: Apple

I’m not sure that I want to laud the fact that Google’s Android Automotive was up to this kind of thing first. The industry has been moving heavily toward a screen-first approach in the car, and Apple plans to be a part of that with CarPlay.

A feature out of Gmail’s playbook

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Remember Inbox? Yeah, Google killed it, and then rolled up some of its most popular features into Gmail. This includes the ability to snooze emails and prompts to follow up with important threads.

You’ll be able to do the same in iOS 16 with Apple Mail. The app will get the option to resurface a message with Remind Later, and it can ping you later with Follow Up suggestions if you’re falling behind on some correspondence. Mail is also getting a revamped search feature, so you’ll be able to find specific documents and links embedded within messages a little easier.

Always-on Display might be on its way

Photo: Florence Ion / GizmodoPhoto: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Last but not least, this wasn’t announced during Apple’s WWDC keynote, but it’s a fun one. There is some buzz about the potential for an always-on display on the next iPhone 14 Pro lineup.

If this does happen, it would be a direct feature parity with a host of Android devices already sporting always-on displays. Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones offer the feature, including its foldable models, not to mention I’m looking at the time on the always-on display of the Google-made Pixel 6 Pro as I type this. An always-on display isn’t a game changer, but it is a nice-to-have.