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WWDC 2024: All the new Apple iOS 18 features that were already available on Android phones

iPhone 15 Pro Max in hand, rear view, in front of some trees

Apple announces new iPhone features, including joining the AI race, but it offers little that wasn’t already available on Android

At its annual WWDC developer conference, Apple unveiled a slew of new features set to arrive with iOS 18 later this year. As tends to be the case with these announcements, I couldn’t help but be struck by a certain sense of deja vu, as Tim Cook and co waxed lyrical about the amazing advancements coming to iPhones in the next few months. 

The thing is, every time Apple has some exciting new features to announce for iPhones, they’re almost always things that have been available for so long on Android phones that I no longer think of them as any kind of advancement – they’ve very much become just part of the furniture. This year’s announcements were particularly notable for this, so I decided to run down my favourites:

1) Gaps between home screen apps and widgets

The most galling example from the 2024 WWDC showcase was that Apple is finally allowing users to arrange apps and widgets on the home screen with blank spaces between them, whether that be to avoid completely obscuring a wallpaper image or bump most frequently used apps into thumb range. This has been the norm on Android for years now, so it really was about time that Apple caught up.

Two iPhones sitting side by side on an outside table, displays on showing their home screens

2) Game mode

And then there’s Game Mode, which minimises background activity to allow for smoother and more responsive gaming. Android users, of course, don’t need this explanation – they’ve had some variation on the feature for a while now, with the official Android game mode launching on select devices with Android 12 back in 2021 before rolling out fully with Android 13 in 2022. That’s not to mention that OnePlus, Samsung, Xiaomi and others have had gaming modes on their phones for even longer.

3) App security

One that isn’t quite as common on Android phones is app security. iOS 18 will allow users to lock specific apps behind FaceID or a password. This is not a new idea. Samsung used to have app locking before removing it a few years ago, and you can now achieve the same effect by moving your apps to a Secure Folder. Older members of the team can also remember this being a feature on phones going back to the dawn of the smartphone age.

iPhone 15 in hand, side view

It’s less common nowadays and only a handful of other Android phones offer this kind of security as standard now, so it’s not as egregious an exclusion as the others. However, if your choice comes down to Apple vs Samsung – and the flagship market so often does – there’s a clear answer as to who has been offering users app security for longer.

4) And the rest

Those are the biggest changes that caught my attention but we also have some smaller improvements to talk about. 

  • RCS messaging will finally update iMessage, allowing users to more securely chat and share higher-quality images with Android owners. 
  • Apple Photos is getting a design overhaul that looks similar to Google Photos, with a simplified grid view and carousel of daily highlights. 
  • Siri will respond to text as well as voice commands, and will even apparently understand your intention if you stutter or change your mind mid-sentence.
  • Finally, and this is admittedly more of a MacOS addition, Apple is finally allowing users to mirror their iPhone onto their Mac screen, something that Samsung users have been able to do with Windows PCs for some time now.

The new AI features – labelled “Apple Intelligence” – aren’t quite as ubiquitous as the rest of these features mentioned here and will only be arriving on the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max to begin with; devices equipped with an A17 Pro chip inside, in other words.

In this arena, at least, Apple isn’t too far behind the curve: the Samsung Galaxy S24, Galaxy S24 Plus and Galaxy S24 Ultra only launched with Galaxy AI earlier this year, and the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a are still yet to receive their Gemini Nano update, leaving the Pixel 8 Pro as Google’s only fully AI phone right now.

iPhone 15 Pro in hand, rear view

As for what exactly Apple Intelligence entails, it’s a similar suite of fun features to what we’ve already seen from Samsung and Google. Audio recorded in the notes or phone apps, for instance, can be transcribed and summarised, with the AI plucking out the key points. Image Playground is your generative AI workshop, allowing users to quickly magic up images in one of three styles: animation, sketch and illustration. This carries over to the Apple Pencil too, with Image Wand allowing you to glow up a rough sketch into something more polished.

It wasn’t just iPhones getting some new-old features, either. iPadOS was confirmed to be in for some interesting improvements, but sadly not the one that we wanted from it. The iPad will also be getting its own version of a feature that I can’t believe has been missing until now, with the addition of a native calculator app. Similarly, the update to MacOS will finally allow users to quickly snap windows to the sides and corners of the screen, as you’ve been able to do on Windows for years.

iPhone 15 Plus sitting face up near the edge of a table

In the interest of fairness, it is worth pointing out that iOS 18 is bringing some new features that aren’t currently matched by Android, including messaging via satellite – although rumours suggest Android isn’t far behind on that one. And there’s the deep integration with other Apple devices that’s more difficult to achieve when Android encompasses so many different manufacturers.

There’s no doubt that iPhones are regularly some of the best smartphones on the market. Which makes it all the more frustrating that Apple is consistently so behind on the software front. When one of the most prominent phone manufacturers in the world gets up on stage and crows about exciting “innovations” that the competition has been quietly enjoying for years, it feels a little disappointing.

Still, I do have some hope when it comes to Apple Intelligence. Notwithstanding the fact that Apple is withholding these features from non-pro iPhone 15s and earlier, the fact that it’s introducing AI features in the same year as Samsung and Google augurs well for the future. We look forward to giving them a whirl.

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