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A Tale of Two OS Updates: Apple vs. Android in 2023

It's officially Autumn, which means it's that time of year when tech enthusiasts eagerly await the latest and greatest software upgrades to revamp their digital worlds. So, get your Pumpkin Spice Latte at the ready and join our ridiculously talented Support Manager, Joel, as he explores the exciting new OS updates on Apple and Android...


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Ah, the season of change is upon us.

The leaves are morphing into their Instagram-worthy autumnal hues, our window of daylight shrinks by the day, and there’s an undeniable nip in the air. But you know what else is in the air? The unmistakable scent of OS fresh updates for your trusty mobile companion.

Whether you’re team Apple or team Android, it’s that time of year when tech enthusiasts eagerly await the latest and greatest software upgrades to revamp their digital worlds. So, get your Pumpkin Spice Latte at the ready, and settle in as we embark on a journey to explore the exciting new OS updates on the Apple and Android fronts.

What is an Operating System? And what does it mean to update it?

An operating system is the software that your phone relies on to work. To the average user, it’s what the apps use to run. The important things that operating systems do are too many to name, but they control the periphery functions of a phone. Things like allowing apps to send notifications, and controlling background processes are functions of an operating system. 

Updating an operating system (OS) is just installing a new version of the OS to your phone. Generally, this is a drab affair where you can’t use your phone for 10 minutes, but OS updates do come with some new features too, which are fun to explore.

As a company that builds and supports mobile apps, this is huge for us. For an app to be installed and run, it has to interact with the operating system. The OS controls things like:

  1. Notification preferences
  2. Location permissions
  3. Calendar access
  4. Background processes

When the rules set by an OS change, as they often do when they are updated, this affects any apps that are installed on the device.

For instance, the American Red Cross Emergency App sends notifications to users about imminent disasters. If the OS changes the permission rules for notifications, and we didn’t account for these changes it may mean that people miss potentially life-saving notifications telling them to evacuate from a tornado.

Another project that this affected was the American Red Cross Blood App, where the Apple OS update caused duplicated notifications to come through for an hour! As an app development company, this is something that we need to fix in the app code, rather than petition the OS company to fix it.

For every OS update, every app needs to be updated to ensure we can maintain them. Not only does updating the OS cause unexpected issues to occur in apps but Apple and Google (the owners of iOS and Android) don’t allow app developers to release updates unless they are updated to work with the latest version.

Now that you’re well-versed in what an OS update is, let’s dive in and check out the shiny new features the latest update has given us…

The coolest features that have been added this year

Are you ready to delve into the exciting additions that both iOS and Android have graced us with this year?! I’m going to count down some of the seriously cool features that have made their debut. Now, keep in mind, these rankings are purely subjective, so feel free to check out the latest updates and discover what tickles your tech-savvy fancy!

The criteria for judging that I will be using are:

#1: how fun it is

#2: the usefulness of the new feature

(If you don’t agree with my ranking, shout us a holla and we can have the great OS update debate)

10. The hidden easter egg (Android)

What came first, the Taylor Swift easter egg, or OS?!

As ever in software development, someone always thinks it’s funny to add an easter egg to their platform. And it is. Thank you, Google for keeping up this long-standing tradition. This year’s edition means you can drive an arcade game-style rocket ship, it’s good for a few otherwise boring minutes. Don’t let your boss see! You can see it here.

This only comes in tenth because, although it’s fun, it has no practical utility.

9. Facetime comes to Apple TV (iOS)

One of the more horrifying updates (for people who don’t like video calling) coming to iOS 17 is that Facetime is now supported by Apple TV, using your phone as the camera. You can now relax in the knowledge that you’re on the big TV on someone’s wall, rather than just on their phone screen. How many people can see you? Who knows?! Isn’t this just great!

Jokes aside, this is a god send for people who use technology to enhance the lives of the less technologically literate. For instance, this would be great for people who live abroad and the only contact they have with elderly relatives is a Facetime call with assistance from a more tech-savvy relative.

This feature scores well for practical utility even if it is terrifying to think of myself on the big screen. 

8. Swipe right to reply (iOS)

This has been a long time coming. Gone are the days that you have to long-press on a message to select “reply” from a cumbersome menu. On Apple devices, you now get the opportunity to swipe right on a message and it will allow you to reply in a thread, Brilliant! If that hadn’t already been around for years on other apps, I would be impressed.

This feature again scores highly on practical utility but isn’t “fun” or “cool”. Eighth place.

7. App pairing (Android)

A genuine innovation from Google comes in the form of app pairing, which is where the device can be running two different apps at the same time. One at the bottom of the screen, and one at the top. As phones are getting bigger and bigger, the screen size shouldn’t be an issue. What caught my attention is that Google are confident that Android 17 devices will have the processing power to simultaneously run two apps. This would signify an increase in processing power on the phone’s part, and an overhaul of background processing on the OS’s part.

Very cool to see a genuinely new feature at play, especially when it’s backed by such an overhaul in the phone’s hardware and software. However, I don’t see any practical use for this, unless you want to scroll TikTok as you trade NFTs. Seventh.

6. Facetime voicemail (iOS)

The most annoying thing is when my girlfriend never picks up when I Facetime. I only want to ask which brand of yoghurt she wants. Now, however, when she doesn’t pick up I can record a short video of what I would have said and she can get back to me about the yoghurt (hopefully before I’ve made it the whole way around Aldi).

This is a handy tag-along feature for Facetime and comes with a raft of voicemail improvements (more on that later), but is not that cool. Sixth place.

5. Customisable backgrounds (Android)

With the new Android version (14), they have made it possible for you to create a background from scratch. I’m not a creative person, I’m not artistic and I don’t possess any skill in UI or UX, so I’m excited to see what other people do with this, but I’m sticking with a picture of a Mark 1 Austin Healey (Frog Eye) Sprite as my background.

I think this has some utility, and is a good form of creative expression for those who will use it. A well-deserved fifth place.


4. Stand by mode (iOS)

Groundbreaker alert. iOS has turned its lock screen into a heads-up display. A new iOS feature is that, if a phone is placed on its side while locked and charging, the screen goes into “standby mode”. This is a black-background screen with configurable widgets so you can have things like news headlines or sports scores on your phone while it’s on charge.

While I cannot see a use case for this – while you’re working and your phone is sitting on your desk maybe – I always love a new feature, especially if it’s customisable by the user.

This single feature represents a lot of software development. An impressive fourth-place.

3. Contact posters (iOS)

Huge advancement for lovers of pictures of themselves. On iOS you now have the opportunity to add a contact poster for yourself. As iOS’s image editing software is extremely intuitive, it’s quite easy to make a fun one even for those with little creative talent (like me). Here’s mine (below) to give you an idea of the fun you can have.

This is a fun feature that’s also got utility, certainly deserves a place on the podium, but only third.

2. Voicemail subtitles (iOS)

This is the best feature in terms of accessibility on this list. On iOS 17, if you receive a voicemail, instead of having to listen to it, you can read it. This has obvious advantages for deaf users, but also people who would simply prefer to read the information. This is a great step forward for accessibility, where people have the option to choose between information inputs. Hopefully, this catches on.

This is an exciting development with a cool-looking UI (what else can you expect from Apple). Second place.

1. AI message prompts (Android)

Sound the buzzword klaxon. Jump on the bandwagons. Stand up in the river. An AI chat prompting tool has come to messages on Android. While this is very exciting and is deservedly first, I can’t help but think that it may be AI washing, as in, it isn’t actually AI-generated prompts. I mean, emails have had this functionality for a long time, and we never call that AI. It is cool that it can rewrite your messages in a different tone though, I can think of a few people who could benefit from AI making their texts less direct.

On balance, I think this probably is driven by AI. Who am I to be a naysayer to Google anyway? Very fashionable feature, certainly deserving of the top spot simply for the use of AI. This is the coolest feature in the OS updates in my humble opinion and stole the crowning #1 spot!

Closing thoughts

While this blog was a fun excuse to check out the latest and greatest to come from the update, in no way, shape, or form am I some kind of an avid fan of mobile operating systems.

It has been my job within 3 Sided Cube to project manage the updating of our supported apps to work with the newer OS versions for the last 2 years, but I am not passionate about camera permissions or background processes, no matter how much knowledge I have about them now. In this ambivalence that I feel, researching for this blog post has been a source of some joy, because it brings to life a project where the highlight was otherwise “we need to move the ID field out of the APS payload on iOS”.

Having said that, I have found that Apple is generally much sharper in terms of their marketing, where they put the “jazzy” updates front and centre, full of images and videos. Google on the other hand has a web page that looks like a Google Sheets doc that lists all of the changes in plain text. In researching for this blog, the Apple features could be found all on one page in about 15 minutes, the Google features took at least two hours and I’m still not sure I’ve exhausted the list.

Personally, I’m firmly in the Apple camp and will be there for the foreseeable….atleast until Google comes out with something that blows my socks off.

Again, this is all very subjective, but don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to chat all things OS updates!

Published on October 20, 2023, last updated on October 20, 2023

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