There Was Already an App for That: How Apple’s iOS 8 Plays Catch-Up

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) may have had a lot on the software side to show off at its Worldwide Developers Conference — notably, it introduced OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 during the conference, much to hubbub about for developers and Apple fans alike – but while Apple touted its software, the matter of the Cupertino company playing a lot of catch-up became more and more apparent.

Though Rutgers University media professor Aram Sinnreich claims it’s hard to definitively say who was first to come up with an idea – especially when “they’re basically converging on the same place, and they’re always borrowing features and design tweaks from one another,” reports MarketWatch – it would still appear to many that Apple’s updates borrow features from other apps or simply play catch-up rather than being true, original innovation. Here’s a look at some of the features Apple introduced that stand out as matters of catch-up or borrowing.

In the home automation category, Apple introduced HomeKit during its keynote speech on the first day of the conference. The platform is aimed at helping developers make apps for iOS that will better enable Apple devices to control things like lights, thermostats, and door locks. For anyone that’s dabbled with home automation on Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android, there are plenty of wild automation options possible, especially considering the already wide customizability of how Android work. Google also already had a head start in home automation with its acquisition of Nest, which developed smart thermostats and smoke detectors.

Apple’s second kit, HealthKit, was a delve into the health monitoring field, and the company explained plans to gather all recorded health data in one place. This would make it easier to track and analyze, since otherwise individual apps would only have access to the data they collected and couldn’t compile the information. People watching Samsung (SSNLF.PK) lately will likely have noticed that it already had been going hard in health with S Health, which tracks that kind of information collected by its phones, and the company is also working on a project called SAMI which appears aimed at solving a similar issue to what HealthKit plans.

One of the more impressive features for Apple aficionados who have a full suite of hardware from the company is the new continuity between all devices, allowing for tasks and more to jump from iPhone to iPad to Mac and back. They can start writing a text on the phone, finish it on the computer, and run off to send it on the tablet. There are already plenty of continuity options outside of Apple’s ecosystem, though. A draft saved in Gmail on one device is readily available on another. Google Docs are also on hand on whatever device you use. Keeping things stored in Dropbox or other cloud storage apps allows for the simple enough syncing of files between devices. Mashable reports that Samsung and Motorola have both already made SMS and calls available through computers.

In one of the more simple cases, Apple upgraded Siri to keep an ear out for her name. Saying “Hey Siri” activates the digital personal assistant. Of course, Google already had “OK Google” and “OK Glass” as activating commands for its Chrome OS and Glass, respectively. Other third party assistants in Android have also been able to active simply by being called out. Microsoft also went the ears-open, attentive route with its Xbox One, which watches and listens for all sorts of commands from users.

Chatting was an area where Apple particularly appeared to be borrowing ideas. It added into its stock messaging app a feature for sending temporary video messages and voice messages, combining features from apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat, and China’s WeChat. Being able to share location data doesn’t sound very different to what Facebook Messenger now offers or Line has offered for years. WhatsApp’s creator had this to say about Apple’s messaging upgrades:

 

 

A few more things that wouldn’t impress anyone who has toyed around with Android for a while: predictive typing, third-party keyboards, widgets, and in-notification response capabilities. The new iOS will suggest the next word while typing, a feature available for many Android keyboards, though it will also have different suggestions depending on the recipient and will read messages to suggest responses that answer questions. Touchscreen typing can be tricky, and having different keyboard options lets us all choose how we want to type, but Apple didn’t have that option for a long time. Allowing third-party keyboards is a glaring move to catch-up, albeit one that defies Apple’s normal directive of keeping its products very controlled. Being able to receive a pop-up notification and respond to it without opening up the actual application its from has been around, but Apple has just now added it. Lastly, widgets could be placed all over Android home-screens for quite some time, but they’re just now being allowed to squeeze onto the iOS screen.

All in all, there’s a lot of “been there, done that” surrounding the new features in iOS 8. Though they are definitely improvements for the operating system and will give users a much better experience, grand innovation appears to be lacking.

Follow Mark on Twitter @WallStMarkSheet

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