Android fans love to joke about how Apple brings features to the iPhone long after they’ve been available on other platforms. There’s one area in which iOS is firmly ahead of Android, and the gap is only widening. Let’s talk privacy.
Privacy has been a concern with smartphones for a while, and Apple has been leading a charge against tracking. New app tracking controls in iOS 14.5 made companies such as Facebook quite upset. That’s a good sign that Apple is doing something right.
A lot of iOS’s new privacy features have to do with “permissions.” An app needs to be granted “permission” to do things like accessing your location, using your microphone, and more. Android has come a long way in how it allows apps to request permission, but iOS continues to go above and beyond.
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 to use 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 included the new location permission options.
However, Apple didn’t stop there. iOS 14 was released in June of 2020 with the ability to turn off “precise” location. That way, you can still use apps that have location features without sharing your exact precise location. Android 12, which is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2021, is getting this very same feature.
Another example is the privacy indicators that were added in iOS 14 in September of 2020. A little orange or green dot appears in the corner of the screen when an app is using the microphone or camera. Android 12 is also getting a very similar feature (although you don’t have to wait).
Permissions is just one of the areas where Apple is leading the charge on privacy. We already mentioned that Facebook isn’t happy with some of Apple’s new policies, and that has to do with a scary term that no one likes: “tracking.”
iOS 14.5 made a big stir by forcing apps to ask users if they want to allow the app to track their activity. This type of tracking has traditionally been used by apps for advertising purposes. Obviously, if given the choice to be tracked or not, most people will choose not to be. Hence, the complaints from Facebook.
Over on the Android side, this isn’t something that’s even remotely possible. Apps don’t have to ask for permission to track you, and every Android device has an “Advertising ID.” Users can reset this ID and opt out of personalized ads, but they have to do this on their own. It’s not a choice. (However, Google promises more ad tracking controls for Android users in late 2021.)
A lot of Google’s business relies on selling ads. Apple’s does not. In a way, this is a win-win for Apple. The iPhone becomes more appealing to the privacy-conscious, and at the same time, Apple takes a shot at companies who rely on tracking to sell targeted ads.
It’s clear that privacy is Apple’s current battleground. It’s a common theme in many of the company’s marketing campaigns. More people are coming to the realization that privacy is something that they should care about. Apple is doing its part to take advantage of that.
Google might be lagging behind in this area, but it’s also clear that it sees the importance of privacy in the eyes of consumers. Android has steadily improved, with better permission requests and following Apple’s lead on things like location tracking.
Apple wants new smartphone buyers to think about privacy, and at the moment, 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.