Oh Look, Apple Copies Android, And That's Not A Bad Thing

from the copying-is-okay dept

While a lot of the attention on today’s Apple announcements were around the cloud stuff, there were a bunch of changes to iOS announced, too, and what was striking was how many of them really looked like Apple scrambling to play catchup to Android on certain features — with the pull down notifications being a key such feature. That feature is standard on my Android phone and has been for some time, and it looks almost identical to the Apple iOS implementation.

Of course, this is only fair. Google has clearly copied many of the features of iOS, in building up Android. In fact, I think most people would reasonably agree that Android owes a far greater debt to Apple than Apple owes to Google for features. But the point is that this sort of innovation goes both ways. Whenever we hear about complaints about “copying” or “ripping off” features, people seem to ignore the fact that everyone does this, and it pushes everyone to do more in the future. It increases the pace of innovation. If Android didn’t have such a notification bar (which is quite effective), Apple might not have realized what a disjointed mess its old notifications were. Thus, this ends up improving Apple. Not only that, but it gives both parties reasons to think about making the notification effort even better, going forward, to continue to differentiate.

Now, some might claim that if Google had been able to block such copies via patents, Apple would have had to “invent around” this and create something different. But would that really have been useful or efficient? Doesn’t seem like it. Under that scenario, one party is inventing something new for the sake of inventing something new. Under the way it is here, everyone has incentive to create something new, only if it really improves the offering. That seems like a much better path to innovation.

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Companies: apple, google

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Comments on “Oh Look, Apple Copies Android, And That's Not A Bad Thing”

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Zacqary Adam Green (profile) says:

My beef isn’t with Apple copying Android; it’s with the press ejaculating all over the place about it (in both senses of the word) as if it were the most magical and revolutionary and magical and paradigm-shifting and magical new development in the world.

Every inconsequential thing Apple ever announces is an earth-shattering, cancer-curing event to an enormous swath of the tech press. It’s getting really, really tiring.

Luis Abreu says:

Re: Response to: Zacqary Adam Green on Jun 6th, 2011 @ 3:04pm

That’s indeed annoying.

But the thing with Apple is that they know how to sell their products, and it’s not about features, never about features, its about experiences, creating desire, which is something Google doesn’t even try to achieve.

The notification bar isn’t a good example, but Android is a very flexible platform and technically allows for everything else Apple showed today, the data sync for example, or photo roll, why doesn’t google sync the Camera pictures back to picasa? The default Picasa sync is only one way as far as I remember, Picasa -> phone, it’d be so easy to implement full sync.

Same goes for docs, Android is almost in version 4.0 and there isn’t a proper Google docs client bundled with it.

And why don’t we have a google media hub? Google services feel like a bunch of Lego pieces scattered all over the web.

It’s all these little things that Google could do and Apple does and very well in a fully integrated experience and with total control over the quality of hardware, software and infrastructure.

Sincerely I’m pissed at Google for letting this opportunity slip.

Designerfx (profile) says:

Re: Re: Response to: Zacqary Adam Green on Jun 6th, 2011 @ 3:04pm

apple doesn’t sell quality. They’re quite literally a company of trolling, not unlike the majority of people who buy their products. Not a single product is as it seems, and it just has a lot of polish up front along with a ridiculous amount of hype. Apple has amazing PR, not so much anything else. Good PR will sell just about anything.

Samdroid says:

Re: Re: Response to: Zacqary Adam Green on Jun 6th, 2011 @ 3:04pm

Slip? Android has 39% of the market share to Apples 18%.
People can wake up from the hype and realize that they dont have a great phone. I did, I love how my 3G dont Have a video camera. The S2 is so hyped right now it may take the iPhone 5 in sales. either way Androids market share is rising and Apple’s is going down. Apple is the one who let the opportunity slip.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Any examples of Android copying Apple? Poor example of writing an article. Great example of Apple “Fanboyism” or as I’d like to call “iDiots”.

There are a ton of examples, starting with the very concept of the single glass screen (multi-)touch interface for a smartphone. On top of that, there’s the scrolling bounce, the pinch-to-zoom, etc.

What amazes me is that I’m *constantly* berated as an Apple hater, and yet here, you’re accusing me of “fanboyism”? Do you have anything to back that up?

Truth is that I’m neither. I just write about what I find interesting. I also tend to avoid Apple products because I don’t like their closed nature. Not sure how that makes me a huge Apple “fanboy” other than in the minds of some anonymous commenter.

Anonymous Coward says:


Unconcerned by who is “copying” whom. It’s *all* engineering and design. Which means every single little thing has built upon stuff that came before.

Apple and Google. Nothing comes from nowhere. Apple was not the first phone company or computer company. Google was not the first search company, or cloud service.

They incrementally build on others work.

I wish droid was more like IOS. And I wish IOS was more like droid. And guess what, market forces are producing that result.

Anonymous Coward says:

Your assumption is that what happened in android is somehow unique or new. It is not. Pull down or pull up menus and notifications are pretty old tech, back to the fake desktop software of the early mush dos computers.

You focused on something that neither of them can lay claim on. Do you need some more straw for your arguments?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The assumption is that Google could have somehow gotten protection for a very old idea. The assumption is that if Android wasn’t some open source magic, than this sort of innovation by duplication would not happen.

It’s creating an issue where none exists, and pointing to it as some sort of justification for open source or how bad the patent system is. It’s just not really an issue here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“The assumption is that Google could have somehow gotten protection for a very old idea.”

No, the argument is merely that Google was likely copied and that there is nothing wrong with that.

and you act like the USPTO has a shortage of bad patents. The majority of patents don’t even make it to product (at least not by the patent holder) and every patent that doesn’t make it to product is a bad patent.

You’re assuming that the patents that Apple sues others (ie: Samsung) over are any better than the necessary patents that would protect Google from being copied. The point is that they’re probably not.

Nick (profile) says:

It’s times like this that I look at the latest gaming console generation’s controllers to see how “trademarks” or “copyrights” “improves” the experience. Nintendo must have struck gold with the original D-pad (the cross-shaped button used for 8 way directional input). Since Nintendo owns the shape as a button, the other two large competitors have to use their own version, neither of which I believe surpasses the original plan:

Sony uses 4 separate buttons, arranged in a shape and configuration that is similar, but are technically separate buttons.

Microsoft invents a D-pad-like disc, which has the cross shape on top, but the whole thing sits on a large, ugly disc. It allows basic use, but any arcade fighter gamer knows it is inaccurate and prone to mis-presses, a killer when it requires precise control.

Are we, as a whole, better off with Nintendo owning the original? So far, I’d have to say no. It got Microsoft and Sony to innovate, but their results are NOT improvements or good alternatives. Sometimes, there really is only one way to do something, and owning the rights to that one way stifles it’s use to users everywhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What you have done here is made the exact case why patents, trademarks, and the like cause companies to innovate.

Sony and Microsoft could have easily just duplicated the winning solution from Nintendo. Instead, they have to come up with their own solution for that particular feature of their machines. So what we have now is 3 different solutions, rather than the same solution 3 times.

Innovation is just when you copy something.

Shane says:

Apple is plays an Amazing Con Game

What was so interesting about todays announcements from Apple was the fact that it was an announcement of NOTHING! They have used this showcase for years to “change the game”…and even bringing Steve Jobs back from deaths door didn’t prove they had anything worth holding this event to announce.

Borrowed, inspired, ripped-off, etc. what Apple announced today is simply a repackaging of what others are doing…what others are doing better…and what others are doing on their platform already. Apple has long worked to attract start-ups to their platform and has a history of just taking their hard work, copying it, and then pushing them off their platform (and often out of business).

Amazing things were announce last week and this week, but a press event to announce nothing but packaging others “inspiration” and claiming they are the first and they have patents they will defend. The new media was all over this non-event helping them create and maintain more cult of Mac followers.

I like what JoeB of Windows Phone had to say:

aikiwolfie (profile) says:

Being Delusional is "BAD". Not Copying good ideas.

I have criticised Apple in the past for copying their competitors. Not because copying is “bad”. But because Apple likes to pretend it invented everything and refuses to share when in fact they were shown how to build a GUI at Xerox PARC. Without being handed that innovation on a plate, Apple simply wouldn’t be the company it is today.

In a similar sense Apple has taken a lot from the open source world. So it does sting quite a bit when Apple acts in such a hostile manner to open source competitors just because they’re doing a better job.

Speaking of which Apple have invented a revolutionary new innovation in GUI design. Full screen applications! Apple in it’s infinite wisdom in it’s finite bubble universe has realised “it’s just better to use some applications that way”. Really? Wait a minute. Haven’t we seen that idea somewhere before?

Samdroid says:

Apple copied the iPod from Kane Kramer, copied the MacOS “dock” from Acorn computers, Was sued by Burst.com and settled for the technology used in the iPod and iTunes, copied the iPhone from LG Prada, NeoNode, and Samsung F700, copied parts of iOS (like swipe to unlock etc) from NeoNode, Sued by Nokia and settled for patents related to GSM and UMTS standards as well as 802.11 WiFi technologies, Sued by Cisco and settled for using the “iPhone” name, copied the Finder icon from a Picasso painting titled ?Two Characters?, copied the App Store from Jailbreak/Cydia, Sued by Personal Audio and lost for patents related to playlist implementation on the iPod. Personal Audio was awarded $8 million. Was sued by Mirror Worlds and lost for patents related to Cover Flow, Time Machine, and Spotlight features found in Mac OS X and iOS. Apple was ordered to pay $625.5 million to Mirror Worlds. And copied Android features that include Notifications, Wireless syncing, Tabbed browsing, New split keyboard, Open apps from the lock screen, and Over the air updates. He is not innovative guys

Brandon says:

Response to: UndergroundWire on Jun 6th, 2011 @ 4:11pm

Any examples of Android Copying Apple? Use your wonderful Google to search through the thousands of things that Android has Copied from Apple. There wouldn’t even be an Android OS if there wasn’t an Apple OS to guide the way. You are the only troll here.

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