Android fans like to joke about how Apple is bringing features to the iPhone long after they were available on other platforms. There is one area where iOS Android is clearly ahead, and the gap is only widening. Let̵
Privacy has been a concern with smartphones for some time now, and Apple has filed a lawsuit against tracking. New app tracking controls in iOS 14.5 made companies like Facebook quite upset. That’s a good sign that Apple is doing something right.
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Many of iOS’s new privacy features have to do with “permissions.” An app needs to be “permissioned” to do things like access your location, use your microphone, and more. Android has come a long way in how apps can request permission, but iOS continues to go beyond that.
Location permissions is a big area where Apple has really pushed Google to improve privacy in Android. iOS 13 brought several new location permission options, including the ability to restrict an app from using your location only once or only when you’re actively using the app.
Apple and Google were actually on the same page with this feature. Android 11 and iOS 13 were released at about the same time and both include the new location permission options.
However, Apple didn’t stop there. iOS 14 was released in June 2020 with the option to disable “precise” location. That way, you can still use apps with location features without sharing your exact exact location. Android 12, which is expected to be released in the fall of 2021, will get the same feature.
Another example is the privacy indicators added in iOS 14 in September 2020. A small orange or green dot appears in the corner of the screen when an app uses the microphone or camera. Android 12 also gets a very similar feature (although you don’t have to wait).
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Permissions is just one of the areas where Apple is taking the lead when it comes to privacy. We mentioned that Facebook isn’t happy with some of Apple’s new policies, and that has to do with a scary term nobody likes: “tracking.”
iOS 14.5 caused a stir by forcing apps to ask users if they wanted the app to track their activity. This type of tracking is traditionally used by apps for advertising purposes. Obviously, if given the choice to be followed or not, most people choose not to be followed. Hence the complaints from Facebook.
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On the Android side, this is not something that is even remotely possible. Apps don’t have to ask for permission to track you and every Android device has an ‘Ad ID’. Users can reset this ID and opt out of personalized ads, but they must do this themselves. It’s not a choice. (Google, however, promises more control over ad tracking for Android users by the end of 2021.)
Much of Google’s business relies on selling ads. Not Apple’s. In a way, this is a win-win for Apple. The iPhone is becoming more appealing to privacy-conscious people, while Apple is also venturing into companies that rely on tracking to sell targeted ads.
Clearly, privacy is Apple’s current battleground. It’s a common theme in many of the company’s marketing campaigns. More people are realizing that privacy is something they should care about. Apple is doing its part to take advantage of that.
Google may be lagging behind in this area, but it’s also clear that it understands the importance of privacy in the eyes of consumers. Android has been steadily improving, with better permission requests and following Apple’s lead in location tracking.
Apple wants new smartphone buyers to think about privacy, and right now the iPhone is the clear choice. Google has a lot of catching up to do if it wants Android to be seen in the same way.