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Three features I'd steal from Android Oreo for iOS 11 — or 12!

I hope you like talking about dessert-themed technology, because Google's latest mobile operating system, Android Oreo, launched on Tuesday. Its rollout is, like all Android updates, somewhat fractured, though Pixel and Nexus owners can get a taste of the new update right now.

My Android experience largely begins and ends with my Pixel (which, I'll be honest, mostly lives in a drawer), but I like to keep tabs on the mobile operating system space all the same — just because I prefer iOS doesn't mean that other companies won't have good ideas now and then.

Android Oreo is mostly designed to improve the security and functionality of its devices, and it takes quite a few cues from iOS in doing so — Oreo focuses on limiting what apps can do in the background, gives apps tools for creating adaptive icons, adds wide-gamut color support for third-party apps, audio and WebView enhancement APIs, and more.

But outside of these keynote features, there are also a few unique-to-Android features I'd love to see come to iOS in some form.

Picture in picture on a phone

Picture-in-picture (PiP) mode on the iPad is, frankly, awesome: It gives users flexibility and multitasking options in a way that full-screen video never can. With Oreo, Android smartphones will be able to take advantage of the same feature, though as with iOS, it depends on how third-party apps and services implement it. (YouTube, for instance, restricts PiP on Android to YouTube Red subscribers, and doesn't offer it at all for iPad Pro users.)

It's past time for the iPhone to get some PiP lovin': The iPhone 7 Plus (and honestly, even the iPhone 7) have big enough screens that having a smaller video playing in a corner won't detract from the overall experience, and the upcoming iPhone rumors point to an even more functional screen in that department. Let's put the days of full-screen mobile video behind us, and put our kitten video watching preferences in our own hands.

Notification channels

Oreo introduces an alert feature called Notification Channels, which essentially let you more thoroughly customize certain types of notifications from an app. Want Slack DMs to get the full sound and vibration alert matrix, but regular Slack group channel messages just to appear on screen with no fanfare? With Oreo, you'll be able to individually adjust each channel's alerts (though, of course, it's up to the developer to implement).

iOS has a variation of this for some of its stock apps: Photos, for instance, has separate notification controls for Memories and iCloud Photo Sharing, and alerts can be limited to contacts only for that latter option. But there's been no move to let third-party developers provide more granular notification options — which means every Facebook friend request gets the same weight as your best friend writing on your Facebook wall.

With custom third-party notifications, users get more control over what's important to them. Moreover, Apple could use machine learning to help create initial settings for you, based on the notifications you frequently interact with or dismiss.

Autofill APIs

Autofill is a pretty common sight for all mobile operating systems at this point, but Google's going a step further, allowing third-party apps to register as Autofill services. When a password form appears, users will be able to choose the Autofill service they prefer — whether that's Google's default password manager or a third-party service like LastPass or 1Password.

Apple's iCloud Keychain does a great job at storing and providing password and autofill data in iOS, and the upcoming iOS 11 update will even let it do so inside apps. But third-party apps aren't as easily selected: Apps can custom-build in a link or action extension to an app like 1Password, but it can't yet be done at the system level (pressing the same Autofill button as you would to fill iCloud Keychain).

Obviously, the security here needs to be ironclad for a feature like this to roll out, but it'd be a great addition to continue eliminating the need for lengthy, obnoxious passwords.

Snoozing notifications & notification timeouts

Yes, I'm highlighting another notification-based improvement — no surprise, given Google's past success in creating notification features for its mobile OS. This improvement takes a page from numerous Mail apps, allowing users to "snooze" any type of notification for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour, or two hours.

Apple already has snoozing built in to Reminders notifications, but a snooze feature for other alerts would be equally great — sometimes you don't want to stress about email during lunch, but you'd like to see it later in the day. iOS 11 offers one solution to this by storing your old notifications off your initial lock screen (so you can catch up on them even if you accidentally dismiss the screen), but that can get quickly cluttered; having specific snooze buttons for individual alerts allows them to pop back up — and, if necessary, stay present on the screen — for you to deal with them.

On a related note, Oreo also offers notification timeouts for third-party apps: This lets a developer send a notification that automatically expires after a certain time period; for instance, a Facebook event alert for an evening concert that automatically expires 30 minutes after the concert starts.

I've frequently dismissed alerts like this en masse on both my iPhone and Apple Watch because I didn't check them in time; it'd be a small, but nice improvement to see certain alerts fade because they don't make sense to display any longer.

Anything you want to steal from Android Oreo?

Have you read anything about Google's new operating system, iMore? Any other Android features you'd like to see come to iOS in the future?

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

43 Comments
  • Implementation of icon packs and the ability to place apps where i choose if i want. I know this is not an Oreo feature but it is an aesthetic feature I greatly enjoy in android
  • I really am not a fan of the concept of icon packs; Although I like how Android O is trying excel Android icons by letting developers create their icon in many different shapes wich the user can then choose from. This lets the user create unique look while still using an original icon.
    And yeah I really can't come up with a reason why apple wouldn't let users place apps at the bottom of the screen where you can actually reach them 🙃
  • I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but at least the option should be there for anyone to chooseif they so please. Doesn’t really hurt. . apps like photos, settings and iTunes Store don’t tickle my fancy. At least with icon packs you have a choice. It’s the only way I can live with a Samsung phone as my daily driver
  • I've been complaining about not being able to place the apps starting from the bottom instead of the top on iOS forever. Icon packs, meh... that's kind of unnecessary. But even if they don't want us to put icons anywhere because of some aesthetic persnickety-ness on Apple's part, they could at least make an option that auto sorts apps from the bottom rather than top. That would be an improvement in usability for some who don't need lots of icons and want an easy one handed thumb reach.
  • This best part about both of these features is that if it does not affect the day to day use if its not something you fancy. Don't care where your icons are on the screen? no problem let the default settings take over. okay with the stock icons? Then do nothing!
  • Two years after happily switching to iOS from Android I still miss 'timed silence.' I know you can basically calendar silence quite laboriously in settings. In Android, it's just a tap that says 'right now, make it silent' for 'x' amount of time. I used it all the time going into meetings; I'd silence it for well in excess of what I needed but I was confident that eventually my sound would be back on. Now, I'm always forgetting that my phone (in my purse) is still on silent. Yes there are some workarounds I've tried, timers, reminders, but they all depend on your hearing the reminder--which you can't, becaue you're on silent!! I'll never get over the shock from learning there was no iOS equivalent.
  • What about "Do Not Disturb" in Settings? You can schedule quiet time fairly quickly there.
  • What feinfam want is not auto DnD, but instead, auto un-DnD.
  • with DND, you can set the time, when, how long, you want to turn on the DND, when the time is up, your phone is back to normal,
    i use DND everyday, for bed time, in the morning, it will auto off, so all notif will be back to normal.
  • That's a good way to describe it! I do know all about DND but that's not the mindless, 1 tap from the home screen that just silences for the next x hours, starting now.
  • Yes, good point. Would love to see this in iOS because sometimes I also forget to switch the little silence switch back.
  • Uninstall app from Spotlight search. Sometimes it's hard to find the app to uninstall in hundreds of apps on homescreen. What isn't this implimented already?
  • I'd be happy if Apple implemented the notifications from Lollipop, nevermind the fancy ones in Oreo.
  • Android has always been ahead of iOS in the Notifications department, both on the hardware (colored LEDs - just copy this already Apple) and software side.
  • I would like to see an always-on display that shows notifications
  • Oreo does that.
  • Hence the name of the article :)
  • That's because Android is made to work on many different phones, some of which use AMOLED or OLED screens where this is possible without killing the battery. So iOS not having an always on screen was more because the iPhone itself didn't have a screen that could do that at all. Now that the iPhone 8 is rumored to have an OLED screen, it will be likely that a future version of iOS might implement some always on icon or something on the screen. In other words, this was a hardware limitation, not a missing feature in software in the iPhone's case.
  • That's true. I'm hoping the iPhone 8 will have an OLED screen and get this feature either when it's released or in the near future. This is something I want to see on both the Apple Watch and iPhone before I upgrade either of them
  • I used to think this way after switching from an Android phone to iPhone, but then realized this LED would most likely be constantly flashing since there's almost always some notification I have yet to get to. Unless you really don't have many contacts or have most notifications turned off, it might lose it's purpose if it's just flashing all the time (and wasting a bit of battery).
  • Are you talking bluetooth or Apple CarPlay? If it's the former it's likely to be the car or head unit that is causing this, not the phone.
  • Correct. It's the car doing it.
  • I was thinking that, since my car does play my music from my iPhone straight away
  • "Android Oreo takes a lot of inspiration from iOS" You tried very hard to make it seem like that but you did not have a lot of stuff to work with. Picture in picture has been available on Android even before Android O, Google just added better support and made a default feature of the OS. O my phone I have an app called Stream which streamed youtube videos in pip mode even when I was on android 5.
    Implying that Google fully adopted this features because of iPads is quite an exaggeration. Whit Notification channels Google simply made their notification system on stock Android better and more flexible. It was already better than ios anyway. Also some of these things were already available on custom skinned Android phones. Why would ios with a few limed options inspire them here? It doesn't make sense. Autofill app worked no problem even before Android O, Google just made it better. iOS is behind even android 7 so it's hardly an inspiration. Whit Snoozing notifications again they simply improved their notification system. Snoozing notifications was already possible on Android through 3rd party apps and I think some phones supported this feature through their custom roms. What this article shows is how behind iOS is in comparison to Android in general.
    Even if I have a lower android version I can still use most of the features introduced with Android O and if iOS has similar options they are limited and people can use only bits of those features on android.
  • Never mind Andriod, I would like ios to copy more of the features of the Palm Pre. Their notifications, gestures, general operating system, app integration, and even charging was superior than both platforms. And it is some 11 years later. My biggest pet peeve with iOS is that it doesn't default the contacts or messaging app to a start screen. Why is it that every time I go to the messages app I see the last person I texted? Making me then have go back to the contacts to send a text to someone else. Additionally why is the last action what I see in the phone app. Why can't it default to my favorite contacts? For those that have only had iphones you dont know how nice it is to not have to double click to perform common actions, but these are simple usability issues that I hope get fixed eventually.
  • iOS apps remain in the state that they were when they were closed, it's not a bug and I don't think it's going to change because it's the core design of the OS. If you want to go back to your contacts on messages just swipe from the left side of the screen to the right. Everything that you want it to "default" on is literally one tap away
  • I think you’re reading comprehension skills need some improvement. She wasn’t implying any of those things were borrowed from iOS. She was saying that iOS should borrow those ideas. The ways she specifically mentions android borrowing from iOS were more security focused. Also the app icon dots seem to be borrowed from iOS.
  • Yeah, all of those features should be borrowed from Android. Oreo takes a page from iOS in the security department (limiting apps' behavior in the background, for example), which was my point.
  • Good article, Serenity. I always look forward to hearing your point of view.
  • No it doesn't take a page from iOS.
    You are quite a newbie(you admired yourself you don't know much about Android).
    Limiting apps in the background is not for security but to improve battery life and performance.
    Also you have to understand of what background apps means for Google.
    To put it in a simple way there are closed apps that have absolutely no impact on the user of the device, no background services activated by the user. This is different from foreground apps that do have an impact on the user of the device.
    So bassicaly for the user's perspective nothing changes, the phone will run the same, only apps that are completely closed and not in use in any way will not activate by themselves periodically to see the connection status or activate themselves when there is broadcast change(activating deactivating mobile data etc).
    To people that don't understand what Google is actually doing it looks like they follow Apple, but if you read about the changes you see that it just a way to optimize the OS. These changes don't limit Android's functionality and Android O it's still more capable when we are talking about services and apps you want to run in the background/foreground.
    I've even seen Apple fans confuse this changes in Android O with: limiting multitasking, which is an absurd interpretation. It looks lie most of you are not interested to read about this change on Googles developer page.
  • It seems you can neither read nor type, but it's always nice to see the Android Defense Force drop in. Android never borrows anything from Apple, we all just misunderstand it. Got it.
  • LOL! Yeah, so much tying about how great Android is, who cares.
    99% of users don't give a crap and won't use any of that nonsense. Apple focuses on the useful things people love to use and generally make it simple, Android focuses on geeky things 1% of users can understand or exploit. I've got better things to do with my life, just want a phone that gets updates and great support. All these phones do 99% the same stuff, it's splitting hairs on how and what minor granular differences there are.
  • All of the features are discussed in the article are features that are natively supported in the OS. With that said: Android did not have PIP mode natively. Please point me to a reference where Android was doing this natively before N or O. I will admit that Android has some notification features I’d like to see on iOS (snoozing) but that doesn’t mean that it’s worlds better. TO BE FAIR, iOS had this for a while natively but it was limited to the Reminders app. Auto fill works on iOS through third party apps like 1Password. Now iOS is trying to make it a native feature using the keychain. Please point me to a reference where Android was doing this natively before O. Maybe we are not as up to date with Android as you are. This is an Apple related site after all. So please, enlighten us.
  • Your thought is correct. PIP was something Samsung implemented into their interpretation/skin of Android years ago, but Android O is the first time to see it natively. Similar to split screen which, again, Samsung did years ago but wasn't native to Android until N.
  • What does natively mean here?
    PIP was very much possible and supported in Android and it run the same it runs now in Android O only now it's a default option and more apps will implement it because Google is encouraging the use of this feature, basically its a more visible option now. You also have floating windows and floating dots in Android as multitasking options which I bet that you the writer and a lot of ios users don't know about.
    Auto fill 3rd party apps are limited on iOS where on Android they are not. Whit Android O Google makes it possible to set the 3rd party auto fill apps you want as system default, just like I ca set as system default the Gallery app I want or the video app I want or the browser app I want, the music player I want etc.
    Please show me where in iOS is this possible.
    Also I see that even the writer admits she doesn't know much about Android in general. In this care I would suggest to not try this hard to make assumptions and interpretations about things she doesn't know.
  • Natively means that the OS provides the functionality, and not a third-party app. Android hasn't supported PIP until Android O, sure third party apps can create their own PIP, but that's not Android that's the app. You can't say what features Android has based on what apps can do, because on Android apps can literally do almost anything to your phone, however there's usually performance/compatibility limitations when these features are not implemented natively into the OS
  • You're both partially correct. Android is just the OS for manufacturers. They still write programming on top of that code. Using Samsung as an example and the back button. Google suggests that the back button always go in the bottom left, but Samsung always places that button on the bottom right in their programming. That function is part of the OS, but implemented differently in their interpretation. PIP has been available for years for sure. It wasn't in the OS natively, but programming written by the OEM. So, yes, Samsung could offer that feature across their devices and others not have it at all. Google saw that feature and decided to add it natively in Android O, just like they did with split screen and N. That feature will now be available across any device, natively, that runs O.
  • I rest my case.
  • No you're pointing to things specific phone manufactures had on their modified versions of Android. So what if you don't like the handset Samsung makes and prefer LG or the Pixel? Guess you're not getting PIP (until Android O)! That's the point. It's wasn't natively supported in Android, which means only the handset manufacturer's skin/mods can have it if they implement it. If Android natively supports something, then every single phone running that version of Android technically should have that feature and you're free to buy from LG or Samsung or a Pixel, etc.
  • Yup. There is a disconnect in how enthusiasts think about the OSs. Android can do almost anything, having "anything" added to the base OS is a convenience, but there are few restrictions to what the OEMs or a regular application can allow you to do. People kind of know this, but unless they are Android enthusiasts, they don't really understand. That is why new Android features don't usually excite me as much as performance and security advances. On IOS it's really more about the new features, b/c the only way to get a lot of those features is for Apple to allow you to have them.
  • Thats my point about Android. Enthusiasts will say "Android had this years ago..." but really android didn't! The OEM's skin did. Thats the reason why the features differed so widely sometimes between OEMs. Hence, when Google does decide to implement the feature everyone is basically yawning because they've seen it before. And you're right. The only way an iOS user sees a new feature is when Apple decides to add it the OS. Which is not entirely bad. Essentially I view OEMs as people who are authorized to tinker with the OS. Similar to jailbreakers only, they're clearly violating Apple's intended use of iOS.
  • Just in general, I would like to see more granular notifications in iOS.
  • How about just some control over the home screen. I wouldn't even mind if the Today screen was the default view when unlocking, if you could have the dock on the bottom. Maybe a two row dock?