Five Android features I miss after switching to the iPhone 11 (and five I want to steal)

The grass is greener in spots.

Credit: Michael Simon/IDG

It's that time of year again--when I get to test the latest iPhone against the best Android phones. There are three contenders this year: the Samsung Galaxy S10+, OnePlus 7T, and the upcoming Google Pixel 4--and it's already shaping up to be a knock-down, drag-out fight even closer than last year's (when the iPhone XR eked out a win).

Beyond the major categories like the camera, battery life, speed, and design that I’ll explore in depth, there are several smaller things I’ve noticed during the past week that set the iPhone apart, some of which I love and others that I miss from Android:

Features I miss from Android

Manual screen rotation

Few things are more annoying than when you're lying in bed trying to read a story on your phone and your screen flips from portrait mode to landscape because you tilt your phone a little too much. Of course, the iPhone 11, like every other phone, includes a lock button that keeps your phone in whatever orientation you choose, but if you want to change it back, you need to go into the Control Center and tap the button.

android pie rotate screen IDG

On Android phones, you can manually rotate your screen even if you have orientation lock turned on.

Android 9 solved this problem. When you turn on orientation lock, your phone will still give you an option to switch temporarily if you need to turn your phone to watch a video or play a game. When you rotate your phone when orientation lock is on, a small icon will appear in the bottom right corner. Tap it, and your phone will rotate without needing to turn off orientation lock.

Control over notifications and a useful status bar

No phone has delivered a perfect system for receiving notifications, but the iPhone's is much less perfect than Android's. Even before you dive into the settings, the notification shade is far superior to Apple's full-screen notification center, and the tiny icons that appear in the status bar are way more useful than Apple's now-you-see-it-now-you-don't approach. On my iPhone, I either have to turn on badges for everything or dutifully check the notification center, neither of which is an appealing option.

Android also offers far better control over when and which notifications appear. While it's basically and on-or-off affair with iOS, on my Android phones, I get granular control over alerts via notification channels, smart grouping of silent notifications, and snoozing.

An app drawer

I've been banging this drum for as long as I've been using a smartphone. Apple still insists on littering home screens with every app you've ever downloaded, while Android let's you keep as few as you want, tucking the others inside an app drawer accessible from the bottom of the screen. Why Apple refuses to make this an option is beyond my comprehension.

An always-on display

The feature I miss the most from Android is the always-on display. On nearly every Android phone, you can see the time, date, notifications, and other information even when the phone is off, thanks to a low-power, mostly black-and-white screen that stays on. I've lost count of how many times I've looked over at my iPhone in the middle of the night only to see a blank screen staring back at me. (In fact, I've started keeping an Android phone on my nightstand just so I can see the time.) Even if it sheds a little battery life, an always-on display is tops on the list of features I want to see in iOS 12.

gs8 tips always on display Ryan Whitwam/IDG

An always-on display would do wonders for the iPhone's useability.

Smart Lock

Android has had a feature for years that lets you use earbuds, watches, Wi-Fi networks, and other Bluetooth devices to keep your phone unlocked. So, if you're wearing a paired smartwatch or are connected to a trusted network, your phone will stay unlocked. It might only take a second or two, but the savings sure do add up.

Features I want on Android

Face ID

Since Apple launched the iPhone X with 3D facial recognition biometric authentication, just a single U.S. Android phone (the LG G8) has attempted to replicate it. The upcoming Google Pixel 4 is rumored to be the second. That could start to change the tide, but the fact of the matter is, Apple is light years ahead of Android when it comes to biometrics. Face ID on the iPhone 11 is fast, easy, secure, and less finicky than before, and it pains me to have to go back to fingerprint sensors. Until Samsung starts focusing on the next-generation of biometrics, I’ll be over here pining for Face ID on my Android phone.

face id truedepth apple Apple

The iPhone 11's notch hides some killer tech.

Regular updates

It’s no secret that Android phones lag iOS when it comes to updates. As if to drive that point home, I’ve received three updates alone in the week I’ve been testing the iPhone 11 to fix various bugs and stability issues. That’s literally never happened to me on any Android phone, including the Pixel. Of course, Android fans will scoff at the need for two updates to a brand-new iPhone, but I’d rather have biweekly updates than bugs that stick round for far too long.

Thoughtful gesture navigation

I know what you’re thinking: BUT ANDROID HAS GESTURE NAVIGATION! True, it does. But it’s nowhere near as intuitive as it is on the iPhone. Android 10 has two different systems, while Samsung phones offer a completely different one. None of them are as straightforward or simple as the iPhone’s method: Swipe back to go back. Swipe up to switch apps. Swipe right on the lock screen or first home screen for widgets. It’s a system that’s as smart on the iPhone 11 as it was on the X, and it makes the home button method seem antiquated. On the other hand, Android’s method feels like a rip-off that’s at least two or three versions away from being finished.

android 10 gestures IDG

This ain't it, Google.

Messages

Where do I start? Messaging on Android is basically a mess. Modern features like encryption, typing prompts, stickers, and device syncing are all either missing or inadequate on Android phones. Messages on the iPhone is a well-oiled machine. It’s at its best when you’re texting other iPhone users, of course, but even if you’re texting a green bubble, the experience is vastly superior to anything Android offers.

Optimized performance

I’ll go into greater depth on the performance gap between iPhones and Android phones in my upcoming article, but I don’t need to run a single benchmark to feel the difference. It’s not just the A13 Bionic processor versus the Snapdragon 855. Apple optimizes the hell out of iOS, so every version feels much faster than Android on Galaxy phones and Pixels. Case in point: Right now I have 40 apps available in the App Switcher, while my Pixel 3 XL, which should be the best showcase for the latest Android software, shows just five. Quite frankly, the iPhone does more with 4GB of RAM than the Galaxy S10+ does with 12. And that’s not great. 

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Michael Simon

Michael Simon

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?