10 new features Apple borrowed, copied, and stole from Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and Fitbit
- 05 June, 2019 02:40
Apple's WWDC keynote was jam-packed with an array of new features, apps, and tweaks designed to make our Apple device prettier and more powerful than ever before. Come September, Apple devices new and old will have an assortment of new tricks to try in iOS 13, iPadOS, and watchOS 6, and to hear Craig Federighi and company deliver the news, they'll be nothing less than ground-breaking, earth-shattering, and straight-up revolutionary.
But while the new updates may indeed be as dramatic and delightful for iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches as Apple says they are, they're not exactly new. At least not for anyone other than Apple users anyway. Most of the marquee features Apple announced yesterday have already been done before, and as the crowd whooped and hollered at every obvious applause break, Android and Fitbit fans were likely smirking rather than clapping.
Yes, Apple delivered dark mode for the menu bar and Dock with Yosemite and expanded it to apps with macOS Mojave last year, but Dark Mode on smartphones is old hat. Google's has had a dark theme on its phones for years, and Samsung introduced a system-wide dark mode with its One UI redesign earlier this year. When Apple says Dark Mode is "thoughtfully designed to make every element on the screen easier on your eyes and is seamlessly integrated throughout the system" just remember that Galaxy and Pixel users had it first.
This feature is so overdue Apple doesn't even have a fancy name for it. In iPadOS, you'll be able to "see your active and recent downloads in Safari and access them easily from the new Downloads folder in Files," thanks to the existence of a bonafide downloads manager. Talk to any Android user and they won't be able to remember a time when they couldn't do that.
WatchOS App Store
The ability to search, download, and install apps on your wrist is a huge step for the Apple Watch, but it was a bigger deal when Google launched the Play Store for Android Wear watches back in 2017. And Google even let developers build watch-only apps back then too. Granted, the state of Wear OS and compatible devices leaves much to be desired, but Google can at least claim it reached watch independence way before Apple did.
iPad home screen widgets
One of the biggest WWDC announcements (aside from that $999 display stand that doesn't actually include a display) is the emergence of iPadOS. Long overdue and incredibly exciting for iPad fans, the new OS finally breaks the iPad free from the constrains of the phone-first iOS and gives the tablet a bright future as a true Mac replacement.
But while there's a lot that's new, the most striking visual change--widgets on the home screen—arrived on Android with Honeycomb way back in 2011. We won't discuss how sorry the current crop of Android tablets are, but hey, at least Google got one thing right.
Desktop browsing on iPad
At long last, the Safari browser on the iPad will no longer default to the mobile version of websites. Apple has finally realized that iPad users deserve the same internet experience that you get on the Mac, so it's opening up the full desktop version of Safari in iPadOS. However, anyone who's used a Chrome tablet will just snicker since they've had a full browser all along.
Alongside a ground-up rebuilding of its mapping data in the U.S. with richer detail and (hopefully) more accurate directions, Apple introduced a feature called Look Around, which lets you "explore cities with an immersive 3D experience that lets you pan around 360 degrees and move seamlessly down streets." If that sounds familiar, it's because it is. Google called it Street View and it's been around as long as the iPhone. And Apple's other big Maps feature? Favorites. Because, you know, we haven't had that in Google Maps since forever.
HomePod voice recognition
HomePod is an easy target for Google Home users, but Apple hasn't given up on making its smart speaker a viable option for your house. In addition to a new voice for Siri that speaks with nuance, HomePod will now be able to recognize who is talking and cater its responses accordingly. That's great, but it was even better when Google brought it to Assistant last year.
Apple describes its new QuickPath Typing as if it's a new feature you've never heard of before: "Simply swipe from one letter to the next without lifting your finger to enter a word. On‑device machine learning recognizes the path you draw and converts it for you, making one‑handed typing a breeze." Even if you forget about Swipe, which pioneered slide typing when the iPhone was just a glimmer in Steve Jobs's eye, Google has been using swipes on its Gboard keyboard since 2016 when it launched exclusively on... wait for it... iOS.
Female health tracking
The Apple Watch picked up a bunch of new health and fitness features with watchOS 6, but none are more important for women than the Cycle Tracking app, which lets users log period flow level and symptoms on their wrist. Fitbit launched female health tracking on your wrist, and period-tracking app Clue already offers an Apple Watch app. So while we commend Apple's efforts here, it's more of an it's-about-time feature rather than an innovative one.
One of the more touching demonstrations during the WWDC keynote was watching a Mac user in a wheelchair to effortlessly navigate his Mac, share photos, and send messages, all without a mouse. It's all part of Apple's new Voice Control feature that uses comprehensive commands to interact with apps and numbered labels to make selecting and clicking items on the screen easier. But while it's sure to be a life-changing feature for impaired Mac users, they could have been using it all along if they had bought a Windows 10 PC. Windows Speech Recognition (which has actually been around since Windows 7) is a robust and exhaustive way to control every inch of your PC without a mouse or a keyboard, and uses a similar numberings and grid method. So score one for Windows.