iOS 5: Great artists steal [the competition]
So Steve Jobs and Apple today previewed iOS 5 at WWDC in San Francisco. As with all iOS releases, it’s an impressive one, but we can’t help but look at a lot of what they added to the OS as being copied from other mobile competitors.
Notifications were an interesting one, where Apple lifted from both Android and webOS. iOS 5 will have a drop-down notification drawer from Android, and lock-screen notifications from webOS. Unlike webOS, however, you can act on those notifications without unlocking the phone, and in the exact opposite of webOS, you swipe the notification to act on it in lock screen, instead of tapping. It’s bound to be confusing for anybody who uses both devices – swipe to activate in iOS, swipe to dismiss in webOS. We might be biased, but we’re thinking that the webOS way makes more sense. At least iOS has finally has ditched the modal notifications, and we’re very happy for them.
Android and iOS aren’t alone in the borrowed-from camp: iOS 5 lifts from Windows Phone 7 as well. You might be wondering what they might be taking, as Windows Phone is about as different from iOS as a mobile OS can be, but here it is: the camera button. While the iPhone 4 hasn’t magically gained a new camera button (and no iPhone 5 was announced), the volume up button will be able to be used in iOS 5 to snap a photo instead of having to rely on the on-screen shutter button. This isn’t quite as great as Windows Phone’s actual camera button (which you can just press and hold to turn on the phone and launch straight to the camera), but it’s nice to have. Apple has added a camera button to the iOS lock screen, so you can hit the power button and tap that, which isn’t bad. That said, we’re torn between amused and galled that Apple implemented this in iOS after chastising one of their app developers for implementing similar functionality in their own app. And yes, there’s a patch for both the volume buttons and for horizontal unlock launching the camera for webOS.
The big one that we’re surprised it took so long to copy steal implement is cable cutting. iOS 5 rolls in the over-the-air “delta” (only the updated code) updates system of webOS and the PC-free setup of every modern non-Apple smartphone OS. Plus automatic back-ups to the cloud on a daily basis, where they've taken what webOS does and made it better: iOS 5 backs up your apps, music, photos, app data, and more. There’s also Apple’s new “iMessage” service which is essentially BlackBerry Messenger for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch. It works over data, has read notifications and “X is typing” messages. It’s BBM on the iPhone.
iOS 5 does have plenty of new features, including the all-encompassing music-, photos-, email-, documents-, apps-syncing iCloud. Granted, there are a number of services that iCloud emulates in individual concept, but the seamless nature of iCloud, not to mention the fact that it handles all of that automatically, puts it ahead of the others in the pack. iCloud is impressive, and right now the only competitors that stand a chance of approaching its comprehensive status are Google and HP. Google has a head start, but suffers the problem of all its services operating somewhat independently within Google, not to mention not having a popular and rapidly growing desktop OS to tie into. HP, on the other hand, has been snapping up companies left and right to complement their purchase of Palm. We’re expecting to see some of that integrated with webOS 3.0, but HP still has a ways to go.
Apple has also managed some impressive Twitter integration in iOS 5. Not only can you log in once and give Twitter access to all of your apps (on an app-by-app approval basis, we’re sure), but a number of core apps have also received Twitter integration. For example, you can now send a Twitter post about what you’re reading straight from Safari, no third partiy apps or patches needed. There’s also Safari Reading Lists (think Instapaper or Read It Later), tabbed browsing in Safari for iPad, basic photo manipulation and selective optimizations when taking said photos, among many other things.
Head over to our iOS sister site TiPb for the full scoop, and keep in mind that quote that Steve Jobs borrowed from Pablo Picasso: "Good artists copy, great artists steal." Apple’s managed to pick some of the best features of their competitors’ products, and where they could tried some improvements. Whether that results in a better OS is still up in the air, as iOS 5 isn’t due until sometime this fall… see, HP’s not the only one that does ambiguous seasonal launch timeframes.