Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5 (Updated)

Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5 (Updated)

Summary: iOS5 was announced today. In this article we run down the top 10 features of iOS5 and see how original and innovative they are compared to Apple's main competition: Android.

SHARE:

Today at WWDC 2011, Steve Jobs took the wraps off iOS5, the next major release of the operating system used by iPhones, iPod Touch, and iPads. According to Apple, iOS5 has over 200 new user features and 1500 new developer APIs. But how many of these are really new?

Apple is known for their innovation, and for suing other companies that copy (or as they put it, "steal") ideas from them. So we were curious to see how iOS5's features stacked up in the originality department. In particular, we looked at the 10 main user features highlighted during the keynote today and compared them to features in iOS's main competition, Android.

1. Notifications. In iOS5 notifications will appear at the top of your screen and you can drag the bar down to see all the notifications in one place.

Original? Definitely not. Android has had that since version 1.0. Recently they improved it in Android 3 so developers can make rich notifications that are more than just text and an image. So iOS5 notifications have caught up to Android 1.0 notifications. The only original part is integration of notifications into the lock screen. Some 3rd party apps provide that for Android but it's not built-in.

2. Newsstand. Now you can subscribe to magazines and newspapers and have updates downloaded in the background.

Original? So-so. Android relies on programs that are not part of the core operating system to view content, in order to allow 3rd parties to compete against each other. Android apps, including the Market, are still catching up on subscription and in-app purchases. But the OS has had background updates and sync for quite some time. The nice thing about the Android story is that the APIs for this are public.

3. Twitter. Apple has integrated Twitter into the operating system and its major applications. Whether you like it or not.

Original? Absolutely. Nobody else is stupid enough to do this.

Seriously, Android has these standard messages called "Intents" so that if your app wants to have a Share button it sends out an Intent indicating what it's trying to do. The OS will go out and find all the apps that can do Sharing and give the user a list of them to pick from. That can include Twitter, Facebook, SMS, GTalk, and whatever else you have installed. Even social media apps that weren't invented yet when the program was written can be supported.

iOS5 provides single sign-on for Twitter. Android does the same, but for any application. It lets the developer write an account manager for single sign-on for any service you can think of including Twitter, Google mail, Exchange, and more.

Continue reading: Browser tabs, wireless sync, and other "new" ideas >

What do you think? Join the conversation now.

4. Safari improvements. Safari now has browser tabs and a simplified reader view.

Original? Not really. Android 3's browser (as well as every desktop browser) has tabs already. Applications like Pulse, Instapaper, and Google Reader provide simplified readers.

5. Reminders. Get a notification at a certain time or location. For example get a reminder when you leave the conference building.

Original? Somewhat. Reminders based on times are not original (see Alarms and Calendars in Android). Reminders based on location have been done before in third party apps for Android, but it hasn't been as well integrated and packaged as in iOS5.

6. Camera improvements. There's a camera button on the lock screen, and you can use the volume up button to take a picture. iOS5 also adds easier contrast adjustments and simple edits.

Original? Yes and no. Some Android phones already have a dedicated shutter button so that's not new. But let's face it, the iPhone has a better camera app than base Android does. This change makes it even better. Second and third party camera apps fill the gap on Android to some extent but not completely.

7. Mail. Search mail, conversations, drag and drop addresses, indent, global dictionary, and rich text.

Original? Not where it counts. Google's GMail client on Android has had searching and conversations since the beginning. Other features like rich text are new to mobile in iOS5 but have long existed on desktops and web applications. The dictionary is something Android doesn't have (Kindle does) but I wonder how useful it will be.

8. PC Free. You no longer need a PC or Mac to set up or sync your iOS device.

Original? Hardly. You could do this with Android 3 years ago.

9. Game Center. See scores of your friend's friends, purchase and download games from Game Center, play turn based games.

Original? No. Third parties like OpenFeint and Zynga have been doing this for quite some time (on Android and iOS).

10. iMessage. Chat with your friends that have iOS5 without using your SMS minutes.

Original? Nope. Ever heard of Google Talk? AIM? And what's wrong with SMS anyway - it works on all phones (even dumb ones) not just iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Final thoughts After reading some of the comments in the talkback section (thanks!) I decided I needed to add a little context. In April, Apple sued Samsung, claiming its Android devices are copycats because they're rectangular and use icons. In October they sued Motorola claiming Motorola stole ideas such as multitouch. Last March they sued HTC for ideas like swipe-to-unlock. Steve Jobs wrote "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours".

As one commenter put it, "every new feature is just going to be copied, improved upon, refined, and reused". Everybody borrows from everybody else. That I don't object to. Standing on the shoulders of giants, and all that. The part I object to is to call it "stealing" when the copying is done in one direction but then say it's perfectly OK when done in the reverse direction.

So who's "stealing" from whom now? Let us know what you think in the talkback section.

More on ZDNet:

Topics: Smartphones, Android, Apple, Google, Hardware, Mobility

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

208 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Apple had these ideas long before Android did

    They just never implimented them until they where 100% perfected.
    :)
    Will Pharaoh
    • RE: Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5

      @Will Pharaoh
      LOLROFLMAO!
      pervleft
      • RE: Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5

        @Ed Burnette You don't understand. If Apple is announcing it, then it must be magical and revolutionary, no matter it existed years ago. iFanBoys will tell you that "the way" Apple has done all that accounts for a lot of originality.
        nomorebs
      • Unfortunately Android/HTC has the patents on these

        So I wonder what a Apple will do.

        Eventually they will be forced into one of the following scenarios:

        a) Pay up a lot of dough
        b) Cancel the IOS 5 release from all users (bad PR)
        c) Compromise and let others use their IP.

        None of them are good.

        This is Apple admitting defeat, recognizing Android is better. As they are now following the leader and not leading anything.

        Like I said before, Apple's system is two years behind the curve. To late to recover now.
        Uralbas
        • I can smell your bubblegum kid.

          Please, you have a warped sense of reality if you think that Apple, with 100x the profit of all the players combined in their space, is behind the curve.
          Sohrobby
      • Re: Unfortunately Android/HTC has the patents on these

        @Uralbas Google has fewer patents with which to menace Apple. Besides, using patents offensively is not in their DNA (at least not so far).
        Ed Burnette
      • RE: Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5

        @Uralbas

        If this were true, why would HTC pay Microsoft to keep Microsoft from suing HTC? HTC is one of the only hardware manufacturers to pay Microsoft for 'protection'.
        Info-Dave
      • RE: Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5

        @pervleft Regarding Twitter integration: "Original? Absolutely. Nobody else is stupid enough to do this." LOLROFLMAO ALSO!!!
        blueskip
      • RE: Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5

        But the OS has had background updates and sync for quite some time. The nice thing about the Android story is that the APIs for this are public. <a href="http://www.writinghelp.co.uk/essay/">essays</a> | <a href="http://www.writinghelp.co.uk/coursework/">Courseworks</a> | <a href="http://www.writinghelp.co.uk/assignment/">Assignments</a>
        jordanhawk
      • RE: Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5

        If Apple is announcing it, then it must be magical and revolutionary, no matter it existed years ago. iFanBoys will tell you that "the way" Apple has done all that accounts for a lot of originality. <a href="http://www.writinghelp.co.uk/dissertation/">Dissertations</a> | <a href="http://www.writinghelp.co.uk/thesis/">Theses</a>
        jordanhawk
      • RE: Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5

        If this were true, why would HTC pay Microsoft to keep Microsoft from suing HTC? HTC is one of the only hardware manufacturers to pay Microsoft for 'protection'. <a href="http://www.woodfieldhighschool.com/highschool/why-us.asp">Woodfield High School</a>
        alanhawk
      • RE: Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5

        Thanks for sharing this information, keep up the good work. <a href="http://www.life-experience-degree-facts.com/life-experience-institutes/wevac-university.asp">WEVAC University</a>
        alanhawk
      • RE: Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5

        If Apple is announcing it, then it must be magical and revolutionary, no matter it existed years ago. iFanBoys will tell you that "the way" Apple has done all that accounts for a lot of originality. <a href="http://www.lambodarsahu.com/the-truth-about-life-experience-degrees-get-your-degree-now/">Universal Degrees</a>
        alanhawk
      • RE: Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5

        @pervleft why they implimented before they where 100% perfected?
        http://kecioyun.com
        janesone
    • RE: Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5

      @Will Pharaoh
      now that's the funniest thing i heard all day. so not true.
      YeomanDroid
      • RE: Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5

        @YeomanDroid The fact it IS true is why it's so freakin' hilarious!
        blueskip
      • re: blakepedersen

        Organizing your closet for shoe storage can be quite difficult for people who own a lot of shoes. http://www.shoestorage.ca/

        Various lending companies and even colleges are offering short term loans for everyone who is having a hard time keeping up with their bills. http://www.shortterm.ca/

        When can we say that two or more things are similar? Basically, their similarity depends on several factors such as qualities, appearance, nature, meanings, characteristics, functions, quantities and a lot more. http://www.similar.ca/
        blakepedersen
    • RE: Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5

      @Will Pharaoh : Ya right. And my name is actually Steve Jobs. I guess the Google nlawers will be looking at the "new" features carefully see how many lawsuits they can start off with against Apple.

      What happened to Apple's innovation? They are now resorting to copying or catching up to others.

      Of course the typical fanboi or fangurl won't know that Apple copied Google on this and think it's actually unique to the iPhone.
      Gis Bun
      • RE: Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5

        @Gis Bun

        I agree.
        josh92
      • RE: Apple copies a bunch of features from Android, calls it iOS5

        @Gis Bun I like how it's news that Apple copied something when 90% of Android UI is ripped off of iPhone.

        I have tried Android many times. It's not that good. I would not blame iPhone users for not knowing how things are implemented there because they have no reason to look at it.
        junkieforsale