Android 15 sounds pretty dull compared to iOS 18 — but that's ok

Android 15
(Image credit: Future)

We’re approaching the point in the year where Google and Apple reveal the first details of their next big mobile software updates — this year’s being Android 15 and iOS 18. Though typically, by the time announcements happen we’ve already been inundated with leaks, rumors and previews that reveal a bunch of things to expect. This year is no different.

What we know about iOS 18 has been limited to various rumors and reports about the kind of updates we will see. Those reports claim that iOS 18 may be one of the biggest software updates Apple has made, with addition of brand new AI features and possibly even giving iOS a design overhaul.

Android 15’s developer previews have given us an official glimpse at what’s changing, and it seems a lot more muted in comparison. So far it seems that, while Google is offering a bunch of new features like Satellite connectivity, the main focus is on smaller, behind the scenes changes. Helpful ones, but not the sort of thing people are going to get excited about. 

But that’s not something to be worried about.

 iOS 18 sounds like a huge upgrade

Apple isn’t the type of company to jump on a bandwagon for the sake of it. So it’s no surprise that Apple didn’t race to start adding legions of AI-powered features to the iPhone the way Google has. There’s still plenty of machine learning going on behind the scenes, but you won’t find things like Magic Editor or auto-transcription on an iPhone. 

Not yet anyway, because iOS 18 might be about to change all that. Apple has been hyping up its AI ambitions for a while now, but so far there are no AI-enabled features that iPhone users can actually use. So the fact they should be coming to iOS 18 is a big deal in itself. But there have been reports that iOS 18 could be one of the biggest iOS updates in Apple history — suggesting there will be so much more on offer.

As for the AI itself, rumor has it that AI will be added to a bunch of different apps already on your phone. Examples we’ve heard about include AI being able to automatically generate playlists in Apple Music, or create slides for Keynote. It’s also been rumored that Apple is using large language models to train the Spotlight search feature.

Examples we’ve heard about include AI being able to automatically generate playlists in Apple Music, or create slides for Keynote.

The idea being that this new Spotlight can answer more complex questions and toggle between specific features between apps — rather than simply launching apps and performing basic web searches.

There’s been word that iOS 18 could get a partial redesign, adding transparent design elements used in VisionOS and the Apple Vision Pro headset. While the rumor claims that this won’t be a total redesign of iOS, it could be the start of a wider visual change that could debut in 2025 or 2026. Considering the last time Apple made a major visual change to iOS was over a decade ago on iOS 7, it’s about time Apple did some redecorating.

Other big updates we’re expecting to see include a new and better version of the Siri voice assistant, which is also long overdue, RCS support in the messages app for more secure cross-platform messaging, better home screen customization, Hearing Aid Mode for AirPods and more.

Needless to say there’s a lot going on, and so far we may only be scratching the surface of what iOS 18 might have to offer when it arrives.

Android 15 feels a little more muted in comparison

There’s nowhere near as much buzz behind the launch of Android 15. And while that may be down to Apple’s inherent popularity over Google’s, it’s also because Android 15 doesn’t seem all that exciting at this early stage.

There are some good things coming to Android, least of all is satellite connectivity. That’s one of the key areas Android phones have fallen behind the iPhone, which is closing in on two years with that feature. Since Qualcomm’s attempt to launch its own satellite SOS system completely failed, it’s up to Google to fill in the slack — and the sooner the better.

Things like the overdue Find My Device network or the rumored return of lock screen widgets are other examples of Google playing catch up with Apple. While these things will no doubt be useful, Apple still managed to get the edge in these areas.

Closeup of Find Device icon in Android.

(Image credit: Future)

But beyond that the most exciting Android 15 upgrades that we know about right now are pretty meager in comparison to what iOS 18 might have in store. Behind the scenes touches that ensure better privacy and security, or superior app efficiency, more improvements for foldable and flippable phones, and other smaller tweaks like new notification cooldowns and forcing app developers to offer edge-to-edge display as standard.

These are definitely not bad updates to have. In fact better security and app efficiency could be a major help to everyone able to upgrade to Android 15. But they’re hardly the most exciting upgrades in the world. Certainly not compared to something like the possibility Apple could launch its own generative AI image editing software — akin to Magic Editor.

But behind-the-scenes quality of life updates are just as important as big flashy features. Possibly more so, since the time and resources are being spent ensuring the software is running as optimally as it possibly can. Or at the very least making sure it’s running better than Android 14.

But Apple’s updates feel more like catch up

As big as iOS 18 is, there’s one thing you can’t really ignore. A bunch of the features we’ve heard about are already available on other products. Or, at the very least, Apple’s rivals have something similar — even if they aren’t completely identical.

Android’s last big UI redesign was in 2021 with the launch of Android 12, while Google has spent many years updating and altering how Google Assistant works and what it can do. That often means adding extra features, and in recent years a bunch of those features have made use of Google’s AI development — especially on the Google Pixel series.

To say Google has invested a lot in AI is something of an understatement. While its efforts have definitely increased over the past couple of years, as chatbots and other user-facing AI tools gained popularity, Google is essentially starting its new push from second base. It hasn’t made it back to home base yet, but it’s in a better position than someone still in first or hasn’t even had a chance to bat yet.

The fact is, if Apple hasn’t spent so many years ignoring certain parts of iOS—Siri is a fantastic example—then iOS 18 wouldn’t seem as impressive as it sounds right now. Though that’s not to say Apple might have invested resources elsewhere instead. We’ll never actually know.

Bottom Line

Google Pixel 8 and iPhone 15 which is more valuable

(Image credit: Future)

If you believe the rumors, iPhones could gain a heck of a lot after upgrading to iOS 18. Meanwhile Android phones may just be trucking along as normal, with users barely noticing much of a difference unless they specifically go looking for them. 

But that doesn’t necessarily mean Android is set to have a bad year, especially when you consider Google is already ahead of Apple in a bunch of areas like AI. To the point where Apple is said to have been in talks to use Google Gemini on iPhones, and may not be ready to release an Apple-made chatbot anytime soon.

So long as Android 15 doesn’t release and turn out to be a complete disaster, then it doesn’t matter how feature rich the software actually is compared to iOS 18. Sure it would be nice to get a bunch of features Android is missing, plus some new ones, but that isn’t the kind of thing we need to be constantly fed. Especially if you’re a Pixel owner that can take advantage of the regular feature drops from Google.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.