Android 11 and iOS 14: A comparison of privacy features


Android seems to have lost its new-found focus on user privacy. Whereas, Apple has yet again proved their worth when it comes to consumer privacy.

August 23, 2020
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  • Operating System
  • Android
  • iOS

  • Apple and Google both are set to launch new versions of their mobile operating system this year. Apple will launch iOS 14 whereas Google is launching Android 11. Stable versions of both of these OS are expected to release in September. These new versions certainly pack a bunch of new features and enhancements, but in this article we will only be focusing on privacy features.


    Apple is well known to prioritise user privacy over features in all of their products. Google on the other hand works to introduce more features and focuses less towards their privacy, this certainly does not mean that google lacks way behind its competitor in terms of privacy but they just aren't good enough like Apple. Those of you who are thinking that apple is being favoured over Google here then I would ask you people to just take brief look in App Store of iOS and Play Store of Android then you will understand what I meant by privacy and features earlier. (Apple's app store has relatively less apps because all the apps on App Store have to go through a rigorous screening process before they are published)


    Recently Google has also been focusing on privacy with their Android OS. We saw some cool privacy features in Android 8, 9 and 10 and as one would expect we were also hoping to see some more cool new privacy related features in Android 11 but sadly we are a little bit disappointed this year. When Google announced Android 11 and its features earlier this year I was like, yeah great they are introducing some great new features, that was until I watched WWDC 2020.


    At the Apple's worldwide developers conference this year, which was held online due to the prevailing situation, Apple unveiled a bunch of new products which included a new version of their iPhone/iPad operating system which is called iOS 14. Although iOS 14 copies some features from Android but they really did set the bar high in terms of privacy related features. In fact, iOS 14 completely redefines the term user privacy.


    No lets discuss privacy features of iOS 14 and Android 11 in detail.





    Privacy features Android 11


    App Permissions:

    App permissions have always been an issue when it comes to Android OS. This time around developers at google have introduced a new feature "One-Time App Permission" meaning now you can give permissions to a certain app for only once, such app would ask for permissions again when you you re-run it. Although this doesn't look like a great feature, I mean seriously if you want to use an app you will end up giving it all the permissions either way but this feature will be certainly helpful when an app asks for access to things like location, camera, microphone, etc. rather than accessing them directly. At least the user will be notified that his/her camera, location or microphone is about to be accessed by a particular app.


    Background Location Access:

    No more access to location in background by apps. This is a really cool feature as apps won't be able to access a users location without a notice. This feature has been around for quite a while on some custom android skins provided by some Chinese smartphone manufacturers like on ColorOS(a skin on Oppo devices), RealmeOS(a skin found on realme devices), MIUI(A skin found on Xiaomi devices), etc. And it was about time that Android itself had implemented it.


    Resetting unused app permissions:

    Is there any app on your Android phone which you haven't used for months? We all can relate to such apps. Well now if you gave an app different permissions and no longer use it, Android will automatically revoke all the given permissions to that app and when you re-run that app you will have to re-grant all the permissions. This feature is helpful in a sense that those apps which you have forgotten but still exist in your smartphone won't be able to try something funny behind your back.


    Limited storage access:

    Among all the privacy features introduced by Android 11 I must say this is the best and the most important one. In earlier versions of Android (ie. 10 and below) one app had the ability to access data of other apps due to storage read/write access. But in Android 11 all apps will be provided a separate container to do their tasks. This will prevent them from poking into other apps business. So, no app will be able to steal data or sensitive information from other apps.




    Privacy features iOS 14


    App Tracking:

    If an app tries to access your behaviour and activity across the iOS and other apps it will ask for your permission first and will only be able to proceed if you allow it. This feature will help iOS users know that which app is trying to monitor their daily iPhone using patterns and behaviour.


    Approximate Location:

    Every app these days require your location access in order to serve you personalised content. For example weather and news apps require your location in order to serve you local content. But in past whenever these apps accessed your location, exact coordinates were sent meaning they used to get your exact location, which in this case was obviously redundant as these apps can also work by getting an approximate location. In the latest iOS 14 version now such apps will be given an approximate location in order to protect a users privacy.


    App Store Report:

    This feature is not new for Android users but is certainly a forgotten one. Do Android users remember that in old versions of Android whenever we used to download an app from Google Play Store a confirmation box with all the app's required permissions used to popup. This was really a handy feature as it used to give a brief overview of what the app would be accessing if it was installed. But I don't see this feature anymore on Google Play Store, I guess it was removed in newer versions of the Play Store. Well now Apple has implemented something same. Now iOS App Store will include a privacy section on the page of every app that will provide a user details about an apps privacy practices before downloading it.


    (P.S. I guess Google should also bring back this feature as it was really helpful in deciding which app to download and which to ignore. What do you think? Leave a reply in comment section below)


    Recording Indicators:

    One of the most innovative privacy feature ever although not new but still a great one. Now users of iOS will be able to see a indicator in the form of small dot in the status bar whenever an app tries to access camera or microphone in the background. This feature is really, really helpful as unlike the past now we will know when app is trying to record us discreetly in the background. When I mentioned that this feature is not new i meant that some Chinese manufacturers in past had already added this feature in their custom Android skins. But in stock Android this feature is not available.


    Local Network Access:

    Now apps will require your permission in order to get access to other devices found on your local network. Some multiplayer games use this feature to connect with other devices found on your local network. But now they won't be able to connect with them unless you allow them to. It seems that even Facebook uses this feature, which is obviously suspicious as it doesn't make sense as to why they need access to other devices found on the local network?


    Controlled Photo Access:

    Almost every social media or video editing app accesses our phone's gallery. Now whenever we grant access to these devices, they can read all of the images present in the gallery which is obviously not safe. But now you can give controlled or limited access of photos to an app which is trying to access your phone's photo gallery.


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    ( Above, all the major privacy features related to latest release of Android and iOS were mentioned, some minor features were ignored as they really don't make a difference on user's privacy. )


    Conclusion:

    This article was in now way sponsored or funded by any company. Everything discussed here is completely unbiased and is based on facts and figures. If readers of this article think that it was more in favour of Apple's iOS then they should know that as an author of this article I myself use Android phone and am really a big fan of it but this doesn't mean that I can't criticise them. Simple said "What is wrong is wrong!". Google really needs to up its game when it comes to user privacy and the company should not lack behind the competition as billions of people use Android as their daily OS and they deserve a proper privacy practice from the company.

    About Author


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    Malik Talha

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    Malik Talha is the system admin of "Fiction Bytes", He is the person who developed this platform. Professionally, he is just an Under Graduate Computer Science student. Personally, he likes to code, eat, watch tv shows and sleep. Follow him on social media if you're interested to know more about him.

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