After buying an iPad Air a couple of months ago, I was curious about Google’s service experience on iOS. Over the past few years, I’ve often heard of features rolling out to Google’s apps on the competing platform before creating it for their own operating system, so I wanted to dig into the biggest Google apps and services to see if they offered something new on iOS that we have not seen on Android. My investigation showed several examples, seven of which are quite important, plus a few other less significant ones.
We’re been hearing about Chrome’s upcoming Read Later-like feature for a year, but we̵
However, the reading list is already live on iOS and has been for many months. Thanks to it, you can add any open page to your list or tap and hold any hyperlink on a site to save the linked page for later.
The functionality is limited with only the ability to mark pages as read or delete them from your list, but it is the simplified offline reading mode that makes all this worth it.
Once a page is saved, it is available online and offline, and everything superfluous is removed, leaving only the main content of the article with only text and images. It is perfect for storing a few articles you can read and enjoy when you are away from a connection.
Map and search incognito gesture
Many Google apps on Android allow you to swipe up or down your avatar image (top right) to switch between different online accounts. We really love the feature, which is also available on iOS, but with one extra sprinkle on top.
If you press and hold the avatar instead of swiping, you switch to incognito mode, so you can use the app without any activity being tracked or linked to your account. This works in both the main Google app and Google Maps on iOS.
Gboard dot shortcuts
In general, Gboard is miles ahead of Android compared to iOS: It’s smoother, offers a handy clipboard processing and the amazing emoji combinations we love so much, among other extras. But there are two unique features that you can only find on Gboard for iOS now. The first is Dot shortcuts, a way to quickly insert preset emojis, GIFs and stickers by simply typing a dot (period) followed by a keyword.
You can enter as many keywords as you want, but they are limited to six characters in length (this is why my popcorn keyword is ‘corn’), and search and select three suggestions, which can be mixed and matched between emoji, stickers and GIFs. Given how clumsy it is to put these on iOS, the shortcuts are very welcome on the platform, but they will also be very useful on Android.
Comprehensive Gboard theme
The other Gboard feature that you only find on iOS is the ability to customize any theme to your liking, down to the smallest detail. You have to tap the pen icon (edit) at the bottom right of any theme you choose, and you will be taken to a new page with all the settings you can imagine: background transparency, text and background colors on plain and non-text keys, frames around each of these, pop-up text and background color, and even swipe path color and length.
This really allows you to customize the look of your keyboard to your liking, from something extra dark suitable for night use (or vampires) to something as funky as what this blue, green, yellow and red retinal blend is.
Google Drive privacy screen
It still confuses me that Google does not allow you to set up a biometric lock for many of its sensitive apps on Android. However, it offers it for Drive on iOS. The function is called Privacy screen and can be activated when you switch from Drive, immediately, after 10 seconds, 1 minute or 10 minutes. When you try to return to Drive after the preset timeout, you must unlock it with your Touch ID or PIN. This is a great security tool to keep everyone you do not trust away from your sensitive documents.
Google app incognito mode privacy
Besides Drive, you can also lock the Google app behind Touch ID, but only for tabs in incognito mode after 15 minutes of inactivity. It makes a lot of sense. If you have started an incognito search, you probably do not want it tracked back to you, either by Google’s algorithms or by individuals who may have physical access to your device. After switching from this for 15 minutes, you have either forgotten it or been tracked on the page, so it’s just convenient to see it locked and requires your biometric authentication to show the contents.
It can also save you from seeing some sensitive content if you open the app when there are people nearby and you’ve been inactive for a while and you’ve forgotten what you did on it last time.
Google app multiple tabs
Every week there are at least five or six times where I want the Google app on Android to allow me to perform a new search without closing or overriding the existing one. On iOS, the Google app has a tab button that allows you to perform a new search or open another recommended article while keeping it (s) open.
Switching between searches and articles is as easy as selecting the thumbnail, and you can set open tabs to close automatically after a day, week, or month.
A few more
Simple Chrome multipurpose
It is possible to open two side-by-side windows on Chrome for Android, but you must first enable multiple windows and then tap and hold any link on the current open page to open it in the second window. It’s pretty hidden and not very nice – I’ve been digging into Chrome features for years and only learned about this a few weeks ago.
On iOS, the process is much easier. You can tap and hold any link to open it in a new window without having to trigger multi-window mode first, or you can use iOS gestures. Lett peasy.
Chrome recent tabs in the switch
Another minor Chrome enhancement on iOS is the handy tab switch that lets you move between open tabs on your current device, but also see a list of recently closed tabs and each tab you’ve kept open on other devices. These features are all available on Android, but they are not as easily available as they are on iOS through the tab switch.
Gmail snooze settings
On iOS, Gmail lets you customize your snooze settings in the app, saving you from having to open the web interface to change them. Smaller, but why not add it to Android as well?
Hide illustrations in Google Calendar
I love Google Calendar’s cute illustrations for events, but they may not be to everyone’s taste. If you prefer to keep your calendar serious and functional, you can disable monthly and event illustrations in the Calendar app on iOS through two switches not available on Android.
And just like that, your calendar gets boring again with only calendar colors drawing the schedule.
Limit Google search results by time
Search tools were added to the Google app on Android last year, and mysteriously disappeared never to be seen again. However, they are available on iOS, so you can narrow your search results by date (anytime, last hour, 24 hours, week, month or year). It is confusing to find these filters online (desktop and mobile) and in the iOS app, but not the Android.
Widgets, as well
Google still offers the outdated Today Extensions (iOS 13 and earlier) for some of its apps on iOS. Although these are not official “widgets” yet, they offer a lot of functionality that could easily have been implemented as an Android widget. Unfortunately, we do not get any of these on our favorite platform.
Among the most interesting options are some quick actions for Chrome (including QR scanning), suggested sites you visit often, and a smorgasbord of interesting Maps widgets for local traffic, departures nearby, travel times home or work, and suggested actions from Local Guides. All of these will be welcome on Android.
Many Google apps offer feature parity across Android and iOS, but some (like Chrome or Assistant) are still more powerful on Android. However, it’s curious to see that the opposite is true in a few cases, and that Google’s iOS team is rolling out some features to Apple’s platform before offering them on Android. Sure, none of these are crucial, but several are quite cool and useful, and would be more than a welcome addition to our mobile experience.