Playing with Apple iOS 7, I could not help but notice how with each generation its User Interface is starting to look more and more like Android. The most useful feature of the new iOS 7 User Interface is the Command Center. Command Center gives you access to some frequently used settings, like flight mode and rotation lock. Android users would refer to this as Quick Settings. The similarity are so obvious, you will come across many articles on the net comparing the User Interface of Android and iOS. Business Insider has a good set of screenshots comparing the two. One particularly scathing visual comparison was made by 9GAG.
Android and iOS implementation of “Quick Settings” are still different. To invoke Quick Settings in the Android User Interface, you swipe down. To invoke the Command Center in the iOS User Interface you swipe up. Android launchers will allow you to access the Quick Settings by swiping up, too. You cannot customize Command Center. Android allows you to customize Quick Settings. I do suspect you will see the ability to customize the Command Center come with iOS 8.
Still, you cannot credit Quick Settings to Google. Quick Settings was available in HTC Sense and Samsung Touchwiz User Interface long before it became part of stock Android. Actually, Apple’s implementation of Quick Settings comes closest to how Samsung implements.
Similarly, iOS 7 task switching now looks eerily like Android. Both User Interfaces display thumbnails that can be selected with a tap, or swiped away. iOS 7 displays them horizontally with a vertical swipe to dismiss. Android displays them vertically and a horizontal swipe dismisses them. Actually, the implementation of task switching on iOS 7 looks pretty much the same as the HTC’s implementation on Sense 4.0 and above. Although, if you are looking at who should take credit for this innovation, it would be WebOS.
There are other features now where iOS 7 feels distinctly more Android-like from multi-tasking, to dynamic wallpaper and the ability to swipe anywhere from the lock screen. I suspect that Apple will go the Android route in terms of system-wide file sharing in the future.
These User Interface changes, follow previous areas where Apple OS has become more Android-like. The most notable of which was the notification panel. Looking at it from the other way around, you will find areas where Android has become more Apple-like with the four or five customizable icons on the lowest panel.
Who copied who, and whether the two copied someone else is for a more diligent researcher. You will have to go back to Symbian OS, Symbian UIQ and Blackberry OS. It looks like, there are only so many ways to design a User Interface. At some point in time, they all seem to look more and more alike.
Windows Phone really needs to be given credit for taking the mobile User Interface to a new direction. Both Android and iOS have followed Windows Phone’s lead in some respects, with the flat interface. Google went with the flat interface with Ice Cream Sandwich. Now iOS 7 goes the same route. On the other hand Windows Phone also took some cues from the WebOS User Interface. In fact, rumor is, Windows Phone is coming out with a Notification Center in its next update.
There are still areas where each operating system is unique. These relate to fundamental differences in the operating systems. Android is designed as a stand-alone device which can interface with other devices. Apple iOS is tied to iTunes. Ultimately, the iPhone and iPad are designed to be used in conjunction with a laptop or desktop. Android allows for more customization. Android is designed to allow the user to select what apps he or she would prefer to use as default apps. The Apple system is more controlled. Certain areas like the keyboard being exclusively the province of Apple. The iOS default Web Browser is always Safari. These aspects will probably not change. It goes down to the fundamental difference between open and closed systems.
A year or two down the road, the only thing separating how Android, iOS and Windows Phone look might be widgets, live tiles and icons. I guess the question has to be asked: Are we seeing the end of innovation in the user interface, or is there really one best way of doing things?