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8 mobile OS features you saw on Android first

Armando Rodriguez | Oct. 22, 2013
If your phone has free turn-by-turn navigation, LTE, or multitasking, you should thank Android.

Plenty of third-party apps now use the native speech-to-text engine as an alternative means of input. The underlying technology has helped to make features such as Google Now a success, and you can even see its capabilities in the Moto X's always-on listening feature.

Folders

Nowadays iOS users have folders so they can better organize their apps, but Apple "borrowed" the feature from Android. Although Android's original folders weren't as pretty or as easy to make, they let you organize your apps any way you wanted and made keeping track of what you did and didn't have installed on your phone significantly easier.

When Google launched Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, it took a page out of Apple's book by making folders simpler to create and giving them a much-needed visual makeover. If you're one of those people who have a home screen covered with apps stuffed in folders, you a) are a hoarder and need help and b) can thank Android for making it easier to sort through your ever-growing collection of apps.

Notifications

Android didn't invent notifications--we've had those for ages--but on mobile devices it did invent the way to do them right. Rather than bugging you and taking over your screen with the arrival of every new text or email message, Android relegates all of its notifications to a discreet notification shade hidden in the status bar. You can then check all of your notifications in one convenient place, instead of having to go from app to app to see which one keeps making your phone beep.

The Jelly Bean update made alerts even better by letting you take action on a notification directly from the notification shade. Now you can respond to or archive email messages, read full text messages, and return phone calls without first exiting your current app. How's that for multitasking?

Multitasking

Speaking of multitasking--yup, Android got that right, too. To be clear: Android pioneered actively running multiple apps in the background, while other operating systems froze or paused apps once you went back to the home screen. The feature may have been a battery-life killer in the early years, but letting apps run in the background helped Android get a head start on having true multitasking on mobile devices. Some devices, such as Samsung's Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3, even permit you to run two apps side by side, just as you would on a "real" computer.

Bloatware

Not all of Android's advancements have been positive. Due to the platform's open nature, bloatware and unwanted carrier modifications have become the norm for smartphones everywhere. Unless your phone is made by Apple, chances are good that your carrier has tampered with the device in some way, either by removing features or by installing apps. What's worse, you can't uninstall any of the junk without rooting your phone and voiding your warranty.

Of course you could always get a Nexus ... provided that you're on one of the two carriers that support it and you don't mind breaking your contract to get a new phone.

 

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