Top 10 Awesome Android Features That The iPhone Doesn't Have

We love both Android and iOS, but the open nature of Andorid just means it can do things others just can't. Here are our favourite Android apps and features that you won't find on its Apple-clad brethren.

A note on flame wars: We love iOS, and obviously it has many of its own things going for it. This post isn't meant to flame or troll the iPhone; it's more of a "If you've decided to go Android, make sure you're taking advantage of these awesome exclusive features, since they're part of what makes Android great" post. Please keep the flame wars to a minimum in the comments.

10. Alternative Keyboards

From text predictors like Swiftkey to the innovative ideas like Swype and the downright adventurous like 8pen, you have a lot of different keyboard choices on Android. Typing on a tiny phone keyboard isn't anyone's idea of fun, so it's great that Android provides so many options to make it as painless for people as possible, and super-easy to install. The iPhone has other keyboards, but they're usually separate apps that require you to import text to another program—it's just the kind of system-level functionality that's hard to get around.

9. Automation

One of the most powerful, useful Android apps around is Tasker, the automation program that lets you turn your phone into a superphone. You can turn settings on and off for certain applications, by location, time of day, and pretty much any other condition you can think of. With the right commands in place, Tasker can access the deepest and darkest settings on your phone, which is something you just can't do on other platforms. Be sure to also check out our second list of Tasker setups, three handy Tasker profiles from our readers, and how to roll your own "Find my iPhone" for Android. Similar apps like the battery-saving JuiceDefender would also fall into this category.

8. Custom Home Launchers

While iPhone users can customise their home screen quite a bit if they've jailbroken, they don't allow the kind of customisation that you can get on Android with custom home launchers. Third party launchers can add all sorts of extra features to the home screens of your device, like gestures, different kinds of shortucts, and even low-level settings that can help speed up an older phone. Whether you're using the super-fast LauncherPro or the insanely customizable ADWLauncher, third-party launchers add a ton of configuration to your device.

7. Widgets

Sure, they take up a bit of space, but there's no substitute for the convenience of having a big weather widget right on your home screen, or a music widget to show you the currently playing track. Even more useful are the to-do list widgets, that take an "in your face" approach to productivity, which is not only effective but necessary from people, as they don't require you to actually look for your to-do list—they're always reminding you of what you need to do. If you've jailbroken, you can get widget-like apps for the iPhone, but you can only put them on your lock screen—not the actual home screens that you're always swiping through.

6. Removable Storage and Battery

It isn't part of the Android software, necessarily, but Android's open nature allows for quite a few hardware advantages too—namely the ability to take out, swap, and upgrade your battery and SD card. If you find that you've maxed out the storage on your iPhone, you're pretty much out of luck, whereas with an Android phone you can pop in a new SD card and have gigabytes more storage to play with. Similarly, you can swap out a spare battery for longer trips or even get an extended battery that'll help your phone go longer without charging. Photo by Hiroyuki Takeda.

5. Wireless App Installation

Browsing for and discovering new apps should be fun, not a challenge to make it through a tiny app store with your sanity intact. The App Store and Cydia App Store aren't exactly fun to browse on your phone, but you either have to download apps on your phone or plug it into iTunes to sync them all over. With the new Android Market, or with third-party sites like AppBrain, you can find a cool app, hit the install button, and it'll be on your phone the next time you pick it up. It doesn't get much more convenient than that.

4. Custom ROMs

While there are a lot of third-party apps that give you advanced features on Android, one of the coolest parts about the entire OS being open source is that people can take it, tweak it all over, and install their version instead of the one that comes with your phone. Whether it's the feature-filled CyanogenMod or the interface-overhauling MIUI ROM, there's little limit to how much you can tweak your Android experience. As with launchers, these give you a lot of system-level tweaks that you just wouldn't be able to get this easily on other platforms—and it puts them easily within users' reach. Whether it's tweaks that speed up your phone or features like FM radio, custom ROMs are without a doubt one of the biggest advantages to Android's openness around.

3. Controlling Your Phone From Your Computer

This one's a little more out there, but we've featured quite a few apps that let you actually control your Android phone from your PC—whether you just want to send texts from Chrome or access any of its other functions right from a web browser. iOS has apps like TeamViewer, which let you access the phone itself, but it's only a screen-sharing app—it doesn't actually let you access the phone's baser functions from another interface, which can be a very overlooked convenience.

2. Flash

Say what you want about Flash, but it's everywhere you go, and when you're forced to view the web without it, you realise how much you actually rely on it day-to-day. Whether it's accessing fully Flash web sites, watching Flash videos, or playing games like the ones on Kongregate, having Flash installed on your phone and tablet let you access a lot of things you otherwise couldn't have. We may grimace when we hear its name, but it's too prevalent to go without. It just feels like you don't have the whole web at your fingertips.

1. True App Integration

Google Voice may finally be available for the iPhone, but the experience will never be the same as it is on Android. Other iPhone apps always direct you to the default dialer and visual voicemail apps, so even if you want to use Google Voice full time, you have to manually navigate it to yourself. On Android, apps like Google Voice integrate directly with the operating system—if you want to make calls with Google Voice, every call you make from the phone's dialer goes through Google Voice. When you click on a phone number in your browser or in Google Maps, it goes through Google Voice instead of sending you to the wrong dialer. True app integration like this makes using custom phone, SMS, voicemail, and even browser apps absolutely seamless on Android, which is something you won't find on the more locked-down iPhone platform. (And that remains true even when Google Voice itself isn't available globally — the principle matters even when the features vary.)

We do love the iPhone here at Lifehacker, but we also love tweaking and hacking our phones into oblivion, and Android just does it better than any other platform. These are just a few of the many tweaks you can make to an Android phone, but they're certainly some of the most special. Got any of your own favourites that weren't featured? Be sure to share them in the comments below.


Comments

    No Google Voice in Australia... naturally!

      That's not entirely true. We can make outgoing calls via Google Voice in Australia, we just can't receive incoming calls, since you must already have a valid US phone number to get a Google Voice number (and even then, the Google Voice number will be a US number, so it would cost everyone a lot to call you).

        You do need a US phone number, yes - but getting one is trivial (even free). You can then route your google voice calls to wherever you want using SIP.

    #5
    #3

    LOAD OF BULL

      lol what do you mean load of bull?? I use these all the time on my Desire... i think you might be misreading the post...

      Unfortunately it's all too true.

      I certainly install apps on my iphone wirelessly all the time without being jailbroken so i agree with you on that one. I'm not sure how much i want to controll my phone from a browser either so i partially agree on that one.

        Just pointing out that the 'wireless' install being talked about is using your computers to locate and install apps which then automatically install on your phone -- the post isn't saying you can't install directly on the iPhone on 3G or WiFi, which is how some commenters are misreading it.

          As I read this item I knew it would confuse people. I love browsing the Market on my PC and find it one of the best Android features that I can just click "install" in my PC browser and my phone starts installing it immediately. It could be in my pocket or anywhere.

    "they’re always reminding you of what you need to do. If you’ve jailbroken, you can get widget-like apps for the iPhone, but you can only put them on your lock screen—not the actual home screens that you’re always swiping through."

    This is completely untrue. I have several interactive widgets on my iPhone 4's springboard pages. You can add them via an app called "PerPageHTML+" or "Dreamboard" and there's an awesome new opensource app coming up called "Widge" that will take creating iOS widgets to a whole new level.

    PerPageHTML+ : http://modmyi.com/cydia/package.php?id=40941

    DreamBoard: http://modmyi.com/cydia/package.php?id=41345

    And info about the upcoming widge app here: http://www.iphonedownloadblog.com/2011/05/12/interview-with-peter-hajas-mobilenotifer-beta4-and-widge/

    I agree that there's plenty of things Android can do that iOS can't, but as far as widgets go, the jailbreak community are creating new ones all the time.

      I see your point, however the comment still stands as this is available out of the box on Android. it's sort of like saying my VW can run a 12 second 1/4 mile if I modify it. Not really a benefit of owning a VW.

      Yes, I've never had to root an Android phone to get what I wanted. Defeats the "just works" mantra that iPhone users repeat to themselves again and again. Also, aren't you tired of Apple trying to erode your rights? Did you know they are trying again this year?

      http://www.redmondpie.com/jailbreaking-soon-to-become-illegal-again-act-now-to-help-keep-it-legal/

      They clearly don't want you jailbreaking, so all that brand loyalty BS flies right out the window. Apple is not your friend.

    Does iOS have live wallpapers? (I really don't know)
    Does iOS have USB hosting? (Yet another)
    I love android software as well as the hardware differences. Powerful processors, HDMI, NFC, and everything. It gets updated much more often too.

    Can you please confirm that teamviewer on the iPhone allows you to control(screen share) your iPhone FROM your computer? As far as I am aware you can only use it the other way around similar to other apps like logmein.

    3. Controlling Your Phone From Your Computer

    This is the only feature id really wish my iPhone 4 had. Its currently plugged into my stereo playing radio from TuneIn. I have 2 text messages. I have to go all the way over there to it, pull it out, lose the music playing, reply, put it back in, press play go back to here. Gets annoying after a while...

    The best bit is that, aside from number 4 (custom ROMs), all of these things can be done without the need for root(/jailbreak) or any trickery what-so-ever.

    While iOS may be able to replicate a small number of these items in some way, none of them apply to "out of the box" configurations.

    Also, what's it going to take to get Google Voice here in Australia? I'm keen as mustard to get on board :(

    2 words: wireless syncing.

    dammit i hate plugging my iOS devices in to sync, when they all have wi-fi, SO annoying!!

    I use Samsung Galaxy S i9000 and i totally agree to this post but one advantage of iOS is they have more accessories than android phone.
    I can't find accessories like the belkin truecast for my phone that i can listen to my songs while driving.

      You need to look for much more generic accessories - there's a whole raft of generic devices that you plug into a headphone socket...

      But yeah, there are thousands more accessories for iStuff

    Agreed with most of this post. I am an avid iOS user, howver flash has never ever been a problem for me. About the only time I run into something telling me I need to get flash is sometimes on lifehacker and gizmodo, and its for an ad, which isn't exactly gonna make me want to get flash even if I could. So many sites I use now are switching away from flash, and I'm pretty happy about this

    OK, I'll admit I'm an iOS fan and reading through this I get the feeling that the writer really has no idea what the common, less tech savvy user really wants. They don't care about widgets on their home screen automation or custom keyboards. iOS definitely can install apps over 3G (and the 20MB limit is something that in countries where 3G data is expensive is a feature that can save the unaware customer from expensive data charges). iOS also has voice control, but honestly, who uses it, i'd be surprised if there is more than 5% of users on Android who rely on voice control or plugging their phone in to a computer to control it.
    Sure, not having the ability to add additional storage to your phone is a limitation, but practically speaking, even once an Android phone user plugs in that MicroSD card would they ever change it.
    Custom ROM's are extremely annoying and one of the things that causes fracturing in support for new versions of Android on different hardware, oh and all the different hardware also causes issues with stability. Take a look at Windows and how hard it is to get that environment stable where the Hardware is NOT manufactured by the software developer.
    One thing that should be noted when using Android over iOS is the ecosystem your buying in to. I have more confidence in buying an app from the iOS App Store and having it work (I also don't advocate Jail breaking, having done it I find it causes more problems than it solves). They're also easier to find and a lot less confusing than the Android app stores.
    I have seen many people who have converted from Windows to Mac and Android to iOS and have never looked back, it's all about the user experience and the large majority of users are not Tech aware, or care about how much the hardware can do, as long as it does what they want and does it well. I am extremely technical but find that a curated environment, as offered by iOS, in a busy life is much more satisfying.

      Interesting argument...

      BTW, you'll find half of the hardware in an iDevice is not actually manufactured by Mac...

      Touch screen - Balda
      Main microprocessor and memory chip - Samsung
      Other communications chips - Phillips, Texas Instruments, Linear Tech...

      and the list goes on: http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jul2007/tc2007072_957316.htm

        Actually, nothing in an iDevice is made by Mac; A Mac isn't made by Mac and an iDevice isn't made by Apple.

        Apple does a lot of R&D and then gets someone else to supply and put it all together; then Apple sells it. And in the industrial world, it isn't uncommon to source from multiple suppliers. But this isn't relevant and is definitely off topic.

        It's brilliant that Android has features that others don't. It helps build competition and innovation that benefits all users no matter what the device.

      I strongly disagree Biggle, my wife might be described as a less tech savvy user but she loves her Facebook widget, weather widget and her address book widget. on top of that, what could be better for a non tech-savvy user than being able to install apps from your PC browser without having to plug your phone in? Just browse for the app and click install. and BTW, you didn't need to mention that you were an iPhone fanboy ;)

    I have nothing against the existence of the iPhone or Android phones but why is it that almost everyone seems to want to deny the existence of WP7?

    My WP7 phone can do all of the things mentions and a number of other as well.

      Really? Really? installed a new launcher without jailbreaking your phone? put widgets on your desktop? (real widgets, not a blue box with limited info, try a scrollable email widget, facebook widget or contacts widget). How about browse the WP7 market on a PC, find an app and click install from your PC, then your phone starts installing it straight away, be it in your pocket or somewhere else? Automation... No offence but maybe you should understand what this one means. Installed Swype lately, or any third party keyboard that completely integrates with the OS? Have any issues swapping out SD cards yet? And these are just the ones in the list. WP7 is ok, but I think your reasoning is flawed. and yes, I've seen a WP7.

    That fact that these are the '10 best reasons' (Gizmodo's words) is why I continue to recommend iOS.

    Many of these are of little value because the problem they solve is so tiny. Most people like the iPhone keyboard, it doesnt need replacing. Most people like the iPhone UI, it doesnt need replacing. Most people make calls without 'using Google Voice after having been redirected by another third party application directly'. I could go on.

      Actually, sales figures show that "most people" don't like the things you mentioned, hence the reason most people now buy an Android ;)

      I detest the iPhone keyboard. And im not saying that because i'm an android fanboy, I'm saying it because there is an entire website dedicated to its annoyance. Particularly spellcheck

    Hey LIFE HACKER, you forgot to mention viruses and malware. iOS doesn't have that either =)

      Actually... Umm yeah they have had quite a few. From the use of Safari as well as the Jailbreaking Rickrolling you got last year (Granted not out of the box) Apple has had malware apps as well. (So has android) But when the security for the pin got broken or the sidestealing apps (Hence the sandboxing in IOS4) were causing issues.

      So really they have had a lot more than Android. An that is even with Flash enabled and an open appworld.

    ^
    Wow, the iFans are out in force today. Must defend Lord Jobs at all opportunity I guess.

    LOL at the fanbois arguing against customization of your own phone. Are you returning your phones back to Jobs when you've finished renting it? He does seem to have control issues over what he sells.

    I'll preface this by saying that this does require jailbreaking (so it's not built in functionality or something you can get in a stock iOS setup), but most of that functionality is possible on iOS.

    10. iKeyEx provides you with all the custom keyboard layouts you would want. It doesn't allow for new functionality like Swype, so it loses a point there, but the keyboard, generally, works pretty well.

    9. MyProfiles from Intelliborn can handle this functionality.

    8. Gestures are fully supported through Activator. You can get various tools to disable certain features on older phones, but Apple usually does this anyway - normally people are looking for ways to _enable_ features on older phones! Extra tools like Infinidock and such give you access to extra icons on your dock, and plugins like Overboard give quick access to all your apps in an easy to use interface.

    7. Refer to Simon Reidy's post above, he's covered this one better than I can.

    6. This is one where Android does have a one-up on Apple. That being said, having a single storage location has it's benefits from a user interaction point of view. You never need to worry about where something is being saved, or where something is being installed (although with iOS that's a moot point anyway, you don't get a choice). Replaceable batteries would have been a nice option though; I'll concede this point.

    5. I wasn't aware of this feature; I'll concede this one as well as I'm reasonably sure there isn't an equivalent in the iOS world. That being said I've never really had a time where I've thought I'd needed something this, but it may be one of things you don't think you need until you have it.

    4. This is questionable; lots of hardware manufacturers try to lock down adding in custom ROMs to their hardware (this is getting better at least), and there is always the chance of lessening the security of the platform by doing this (do you really trust the person who made that ROM?) The biggest argument I've seen for custom ROMs is getting new functionality into the phone ahead of manufacturers releasing it (please correct me if I'm wrong here). This is something iOS shines at (assuming you're on either the latest or the last model of course); if you have a supported device, you'll get the update.

    3. Veency; control your iOS device using VNC.

    2. There's a few different options for this on iOS (Frash, Skyfire, etc), but there is no universal support for Flash. Apple's approach to this has forced a lot of major sites to upgrade their content to HTML5, but there will still be gaps, obviously. Personally I haven't found it to be a problem, but I guess I just don't browse much Flash content.

    1. Again, no universal solution for this, but it can be done. Most SMS apps (such as BiteSMS) have the option to replace the built in Messages app. Phone is a bit harder, but there are plugins now to integrate Google Voice directly into the Phone app (meaning it will use GV automatically). Getting integration into other SIP clients is harder though. Default browsers can be changed these days with another plugin so links launch in Skyfire or Atomic for example. Overall it's fiddly, but it can be done.

    I just want to say here that whilst I personally use iOS devices, I've played with Android phones and can see that they can do basically everything an iOS device can do, and visa versa. Each device has things it's better or worse at, and there is no clear "better" device at this point in time, at least from my perspective.

      No offense meant, but I really don't think you understand what tasker (9th item) is capable of doing. Totally reasonable, because just that section would have been longer than the entire article if they had even begun to give you a real idea of what tasker can do. Tasker, when setup properyl, can controll every single funtion of your phone. Every single one. For instance: you could set up tasker to monitor what cell tower you are on periodically then, when you are in range of the closest tower to your house, have it turn on your wifi antenna, which will then connect to your home network as soon as you are in range. or, you could set it up to automatically silence all text and notification ringers after a certain hour, and send reply messages to anyone who tries to contact you, explaining that you are sleeping...unless they include the word "emergency" in their message, in which case your alarm goes off. You can use it to run any task your phone is capable of with almost a limitless variety of triggers, and tasks are stackable...meaning you can use tasks, themselves, as triggers. An online buddy of mine wrote an app that he can use to open his garage door, using a simple command to his network, which he connected a servo and controller to. Using tasker, he could have it monitor his cell towers, then connect to his wifi, when in range, and as soon as it does, send the open signal to his door...or better yet, pop up a notification asking if he wants to open the garage door. And with the home integration technology being mentioned at Google IO, the number of things you will be able to do with tasker is...astounding.

        MyProfiles doesn't work on any iOS version later than 4.3, and it only works well on iOS versions 4.1 and earlier. Activator helps but doesn't have user actions available for wireless bluetooth headsets. It will only work with wired headsets. I've exausted my search for something that would work.

        I've also concluded the NexusOne is still the best phone ever manufactured even as of today.
        7/18/2012

        Apple please get it together. My god.

    Probably something else to consider is the cost of switching; if you're already on Android, you're more likely to keep using Android. Likewise, if you're already on iOS, you're more likely to stay on that platform. Why? Investment of apps. The previous generations of phones never had people buying as much software for them as we do today on iOS and Android, and if you do decide to jump ship (either way) you're likely looking at an additional cost to repurchase all your applications you need, whereas if you stayed with your current platform you wouldn't.

    If Android came up with a way for me to download all the iOS apps I've purchased that have an Android equivalent, then perhaps you'd see me consider switching for my next phone.

    thats all quite sad really is that the best android has to offer lol

    and Nokia phones could do all this before there was iOS or Android

    Wow. Read the thing in italics at the top, won't you?

    this is turning into a ford vs holden battle :P

    Apparently people can't read the big fucking disclaimer right at the top. Someone writing about the pros of a certain platform FOR users of that platform shouldn't be a personal attack on your taste, idiots.

    You are all wrong.

    Maemo 5 is the best :D

    Using all of these things on my Desire. If I had to choose one thing out of all of them, it would be Tasker, best app ever.

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