How to Make Your iOS Device Feel More Like Android (and Vice Versa)

CIO.com mobile apps reviewer James A. Martin shares apps that give iOS users a taste of Android and let Android users peep into Apple's walled garden.

Google iOS app

Some iOS users probably wonder what life is like on the other side of the smartphone fence. The same is true for Android users — plenty of them are undoubtedly curious about the iOS life.

With the right apps, both camps can get a taste of how the other half lives. Here are a few to get you started.

The Android Look and Feel on iOS

Google recently updated its Google Search iOS app. Now called simply "Google," the app features Google's new Material Design interface. Material Design builds upon the Google Now card look and feel and is key to the new look of Android 5.0 "Lollipop." So iOS users who install the Google app will get at least some feel for what Lollipop looks and feels like. It's a nice interface that is easy to navigate and highly functional, with cards presenting you with relevant information related to your location, searches, appointments, the date and more. Not surprisingly, the app makes searching by text or voice particularly easy.

The Google iOS app also now takes advantage of the bigger iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus screens; it includes a new "Google" button that sits at the bottom of the screen, ready to help you search; and it integrates more deeply with Google Maps, so you can easily explore destinations on a map.

A side note: The new Google iOS app also integrates with Nest home thermometers.

The iOS Look and Feel on Android

There are several Android apps designed to give users a taste of iOS, especially in the "lockscreen" category, but their quality varies widely. For instance, HI LockScreen (freemium) gives your Android an iDevice-looking lockscreen. The app promises a Control Center-like panel, which you swipe up from the lockscreen bottom to access, but it didn't work on my Android devices. Also, many features are only available if you upgrade to the $3 premium version. A similar app, OS 8 Lock Screen, is free but full of annoying pop-up ads.

Control Center Android app

Control Panel – Smart Toggle does a good job of mimicking the iOS Control Center panel. The app is free, and a "pro" version is also available. However, the app doesn't specify how much it costs, and the benefits — "remove recommended app link," "support CPU usage info" and "will support more pro feature later" — seem dubious at best.

The most intriguing prospect for giving Android users a taste of iOS is a Columbia University Department of Computer Science project called Cycada. The idea behind the "operating system compatibility architecture" is to enable iOS apps to run on Android devices using a different approach than traditional virtualization. It's a bit complicated, and it's not clear when (or if) a product based on this will be available. In the meantime, you can read how it works on Cycada's Web page.

For the moment, I'd say Google's app is the best way for one smartphone OS to get a taste of the other dominant OS — aside from buying a second device, that is.

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