We love both Android and iOS, but the open nature of Android just means it can do things others just can't. Here are our favorite Android apps and features that you won't find on its Apple-clad brethren.
We didn't hold anything back in this list: rooting, jailbreaking, editing system files are all fair game. If there was some way to do it on the iPhone, we left it out. So, while there are a lot of great things about Android that don't come out of the box on the iPhone—like free turn-by-turn navigation or pull-down notifications—there are still ways to get those features on the iPhone. So here's our list of the ten features you just can't get, no way, no how, on a jailbroken or non-jailbroken device.
10. Alternate Keyboards
From text predictors like Swiftkey to the innovative 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.
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 customize their home screen quite a bit if they've jailbroken, they don't allow the kind of customization 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.
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.
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