I wish Android 14 inspired as many app updates as iOS 17 did

Whenever Apple releases a major OS update, as it did last Monday with iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and watchOS 10, developers — both big but especially indie — rush to support the latest platform features on day one. Releases many updates.

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This year’s capabilities include:

  • Interactive widgets on iPhone and iPad
  • Standby widgets on the iPhone, which are smart display-esque in nature and could easily serve as the basis for Apple’s Nest Hub/tablet competitor
  • Smart Stack widgets on Apple Watch, as well as broader wearable app updates to support the new UI

I understand how the Android update model is inherently different from Apple’s. That is, updates begin rolling out only to Google’s Pixel phones, which have a relatively small market share, while Samsung’s larger share of Android phones are typically weeks or months behind. Third-party Android developers have no incentive to update on day one because most of their users won’t get the new OS for quite some time.

Additionally, there aren’t always a ton of new platform features for app developers to adopt. The last major visual change that required an update was the media player redesign introduced with Android 13. When that OS launched, core first-party apps like YouTube, YouTube Music, and Chrome were already updated to support the new layout. However, it took almost four months for Spotify to update its app for Android 13, and other big streaming services took even longer.

When Android 13 first launched for the Pixel, updating would have been the best thing to do as a good citizen of the platform, but considering the user base at the time, you can’t blame the developers for not making it a priority. In comparison, adoption of iOS updates is immediate for many iPhone generations.

However, the counterargument is that Android users don’t exactly suffer for new features from their apps, especially first-party ones. Various Google apps are updated more frequently through the Play Store and introduce new features without being tied to OS releases. I’d argue that Android users get more functionality this way than iPhone owners. Then there are the new platform capabilities introduced through Google Play Services.

Models vary, with Apple able to make big splashes two or three times a year with annual major updates (like 17.0) and a few minor updates (like 17.1). I would say that users of Google services will get new features in one of their apps on an almost weekly basis.

I love the constant trickle of additions, but I can admit how Apple’s annual big OS release is an exciting moment for apps and new features.

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