WWDC iOS 7 Announcement from an Android User’s Point of View

WWDC iOS 7 Announcement from an Android User's Point of View


Even though I am not a regular iOS user, I still watched the 2013 WWDC keynote as much of the Gear Diary team did.  The blogosphere as a whole has had a lot to say about the similarities of some iOS features.  It’s undeniable that Apple has drawn from Android, WebOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 here, but unlike some Android users, I am not mad at all. In fact,  if I were Google, I would take it as a complement.

Apple recognized that they didn’t have some of the features that Android did, and they figured out how to make them work on their platform.  What they did may not have been unique, but it certainly make iOS 7 a much more pleasant experience if they want to attract users from other platforms; these improvements will also  make the experience better for those who already use iOS.  The biggest thing besides all of the eye candy, I feel, is the new Control Center.

My wife, who uses an iPhone, will love being able to quickly access things like WiFi and Bluetooth, as well as being able to easily turn them on or off.   Of course that will be an afterthought with her once she sees all of the eye candy delivered in the new OS, but it’s an important feature and one Android has had in some form or another for a while.

Why I’m Not Offended, and Why You Shouldn’t Be Either

I don’t care about what Apple has done by implementing some of Android like features at all; this is how innovation happens.  If Apple, Google, Microsoft and others didn’t draw on the same vault of technology and ideas that have come out over time, then they’d be making grave mistakes.  That doesn’t say I approve of out-and-out copying, which I’ve seen SOME companies do when it comes to both Android and iOS, but it means that, over time, certain features become expected.

For example, I am sure that some of the standards in cars were probably innovated first by someone who didn’t make the car you currently drive. Preston Tucker who designed the failed 1948 Tucker Torpedo was one of the first to have all controls within reach of the driver; he also introduced seatbelts and a padded dashboard.  These are all things we take for granted now, and every car has them now. So certain things, specifically the ability to turn off Bluetooth and WiFi within an instant may  seem like they were copied from Android, but that’s not necessarily true.  This natural evolution of iOS to what the people want is expected.  These are features that Apple did not have until now, but they are features we should take for granted on any smartphone.

Notifications, which aren’t new in iOS 7, really seem to BELONG on the top to me now.  Apple thought so too back when iOS 5 was released.  Android was one of the firsts, and Apple was second.  Eventually, everyone will probably adopt that as a standard — not because they are stealing from Android, but because it just seems to make sense.

These are two most often compared since the iOS announcement.  There are other features that were supposedly copied, but the argument is getting real tired.

But Android….

Rabid Android fanboys will say, “but Android did it first.” To that I say, “Who cares?”  I could say the same thing about the rabid iOS people who have the same argument for things that Android or Windows Phone took from iOS.  No one remembers who did these little things first; they remember who did it best.

Sometimes best is very personal.  For example, in my opinion Android did notifications best. But when I pick up my wife’s phone, I can use it and while I still prefer how Android does it, I can be comfortable with an iOS device.  While I still like Android notifications better, it’s really a wash on whether iOS or Android has better notifications from a functional aspect; they both do what they need to do.  Liking the Android notifications better is just a personal preference.

So what should Android people care about?

Instead of whining about what Apple stole from Android, I think Android users should take Google to task for the things that are wrong with Android now.  One of the biggest problems with Android is that manufacturers and carriers are still loading tons of crap on top of the standard Android interface.

Google has started to fix that by (soon) offering the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, and Sony’s Xperia Z with the standard Android interface instead of TouchWiz, SenseUI or whatever Sony used.  It still needs to be better.

For example, why can’t these devices be purchased directly from the carrier with a contract subsidy?   That’s one item we need to tell Google and the manufacturers: making standard Android available on more phones will fix some, but not all of the fragmentation issues and it will let more people see the best Android can be.

As good as the current Jellybean version is, the OS still will still bog down occasionally.  It’s night and day better than Android 2.3 and even 4.0, but my phone still bogs down on occasion.  Some of this could be the age of my Galaxy Nexus, but this still can happen on newer devices as well. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still very good when compared to the Android of old, but it can be and needs to be much better.

Some of the built-in apps could use some work.  As good as the calendar is, I still wish it had some features that it does not have.  For example, I’d love it if there was a way built into the app to find duplicate calendar events.  The corporate e-mail app could also use a lot of TLC.  There’s a whole host of little things that can be done to the default apps to make the experience much better.

We, as members of the Android community, need to PLEASE STOP saying things like, “well just load Cyanogen Mod“, when asked for a solution to Android issues.

Yes, that solution may work well for some, but it’s just NOT the answer we should be giving new users.  We should, instead, take Google to task for those things.  They, after all, manage the Android Open Source Project.  They, ultimately, are the responsible party.  Failing that, we should look for solutions that don’t require users to load a custom ROM.  

Don’t get me wrong, having access to custom ROMS is GREAT.  I got lots of mileage from my old G1 using various builds of CyanogenMod.  However, Android should just work well OUT OF THE BOX.  Changing to a custom ROM isn’t a solution; it is a hack that not everyone is able to perform.

What you CAN do, if you have the skills, is get involved with the Android Open Source project by submitting bug reports and source code or writing apps for Android.  Check out the Android Open Source Project FAQ  for details on how to contribute to making Android even better than it is today.


Every operating system has taken ideas from others; don’t get mad about it, because it needs to happen. If your OS had this feature before another, don’t get mad and don’t gloat.  Just take comfort in the fact that your OS has had that feature for a while, and it can get better now that others are doing the same thing.

After all, it’s all about making technology better for everyone which is what we should concentrate on; it’s much more important than quibbling about who stole what from whom.

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11 replies

  1. Excellent post, Joel – and your point is true. Without the iOS/Android competition we wouldn’t have come NEARLY so far so quickly. I always go back to handheld gaming – with minimal competition, Nintendo basically sat on the GameBoy from 1989 until 2001 for the GameBoy Advance, and 2004 for the DS! 15 years between generations’ …

    • Agreed! This is a great take on the whole design argument and it really nails what’s most important.

      • We’re coming to the point where you just can’t innovate with the smartphone (hence the wearable stuff coming out with Google Glass and watches). Most smartphones have everything they really need now especially when it comes to controlling the device. I hate to keep hammering on it but Control Center should have been there from the very beginning. DIgging through the settings dialogs to turn things off? Wow. Android always had some widgets for doing this but the way they do it now is much better.

    • That’s a bit unfair to the Game Boy Color :( Quite a few GBC games (<3 Wario Land 3) were beyond the capabilities of the Game Boy and Game Boy Pocket! And even if you ignore the GBC, the GBA was a massive advance–pun completely intended–over the GBX, so that's really only a 12 year difference.

      But okay, let's say that only the GBX, GBA, and DS count. When you think about it, tech just didn't move as quickly in the '80s and '90s. It took Intel almost 16 years to go from the 386 to i686 (486, Pentium, and MMX at their heart just being extensions to 386) to NetBurst (P3 not fundamentally differing from P2, or the Pentium Pro, for that matter), despite facing quite a bit of competition from Cyrix and AMD. A far cry from Intel's ~3 year tick-tock cycle these days…

  2. Great article, Joel! Intellectual property rights aside, one needs to keep in mind the old saw that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” :) Competition, as you and Mike have stated, really drives innovation.

    @loopyduck:disqus , this picture is for you. We got a few of these Pentium II OverDrive chips (~333MHz) that were for Pentium Pro OSes from the manufacturer to evaluate way back when…and a friend had given me his dual-Pentium Pro Zeos tower…it was a beast!

  3. Joel

    THANK YOU for addressing one of the things about hardcore Android folks that irritates me. The whole “cyangenmod” argument is, IMO, too dismissive. There are a LOT of people out there who are not comfortable rooting their phones and loading up a custom mod. As tech savvy as I like to think that I am, I had trouble on occasion rooting and loading mods on my Android devices. Of course, this was way back in the 2.1/2.2 days and things are likely easier now, but since I haven’t had an Android device in some time, I can’t really say.

    • Rooting or installing a custom rom (you don’t have to do both but a lot do) should NEVER be necessary to make a phone work as it should. Of course the power should never be taken away of course but the community needs to look away from customizing roms and actually put code into the project. If you have the ability you CAN do it. It would further Android if more did that instead of rolling their own ROM.

      I really don’t mind the custom rommers but I think they ALSO need to take the code and submit it upstream to Google as it wold make things so much better.

  4. Boy, do I agree with all you said about Apple, Android, and competition. It’s so tiring to read these “my system is better than your system” posts, articles, and reviews. Everybody “borrowing” good ideas from each other, and perfecting them for their systems, is the best way for us to move forward, with a healthy, competitive balance, with multiple platforms vying for our attention and dollars.

    As for the Google and Nexus experience commets, I think the best way to convince carriers and OEMs that they should offer better Nexus experience devices is for people to vote with their wallets. The problem is that this won’t happen in the US; far too many people just upgrade phones at the carrier store or web site, and care little about Nexus experience.

    The reality is that the OEMs want to differentiate their products from each other, so TouchWiz and Sense are the ways that they try to demonstrate how their phones (as a system – not just the hardware, but the hardware and software in combo) are better than the other OEMs. I don’t think that Google has sufficient power in this relationship to force the OEMs to offer Nexus experience devices. While they are able to get specific standards in order to allow Play Store access and Google account sync access, if they push too hard, the OEMs can either follow Amazon and use AOSP to build a custom build with their own online storefront, or even switch to another open source build.

    Remember that Google’s goal with Android isn’t necessarily to beat Apple, Blackberry and Microsoft at smartphones – though their market share appears to look that way – their goal is to get more people to use smartphones at all, and to prevent a company like Apple to dominate the market and force Google to follow their whims. Google makes their money not from hardware or Android and other software, but from online services that they can attach ads to, or at least learn more about user habits and interests to make the services where they can serve ads include ads that are more relevant and hence more successful to the advertiser, and then more valuable to Google.

    Anyway, perhaps the answer is for people to purchase Motorola phones at the carriers when they arrive later this year. Even Moto phones sold now, which were designed earlier than the Google purchase of the company, have “lighter” OEM overlays than Samsung, HTC, or LG phones, and the rumored “X phones” are supposed to be even closer to a Nexus experience.

    Anyway, here’s hoping that some of Apple’s announced innovations, such as the locking of lost/stolen phones at the OS level, makes it into a soon-to-ship version of Android!

    • I find the differentiation argument really tiring myself. Why? Because the software is not important. Look at Lenovo, Dell and HP. They have laptops that all run the same operating system out of the box. Usually Windows, of course. What the current mobile phone market is like now is like it was in the early 90’s with computers. Windows 3 interface was not all that good. So Packard Bell and others started loading their crap on top of it. Almost everyone turned OFF the stuff preferring the original Windows interface. And now all the vendors load are apps specific to the hardware. The differentiate themselves by look and feel. Lenovo’s Thinkpad line are built like tanks. HP makes theirs almost Apple like and shiney. SO that’s what Samsung, HTC et al should be doing. Why? Because smartphones aren’t new and unique any more. They are almost like PC’s are now…a commodity. They all do the same things. They just look different from the outside. Android makers should all look to that past PC experience and realize that they don’t have to layer their crap to have people differentiate between the vendors.

      They will learn a lot with the new vanilla project (for lack of a better term). The Galaxy S4, The Xperia and the HTC one all running vanilla Android should teach them something…unfortunately they aren’t going to be widely sold because who wants to pay 600 for a handset? Only us geeks trying to keep their unlimited data.

      • The problem is that for some, selling phones isn’t enough – Samsung, in particular, wants to be Google AND Apple. They want the hardware/software leverage of Apple, and to have all of the ‘destination apps’ like Google. Which is why they control the skin and preload everything with tons of their crap-ware and make sure their special features work best with their apps.

        • You know what? They should stop trying as it’s not working. Well, it kind of is for Samsung but almost every other manufacturer makes something else in addition to the phone. I just don’t get what their fascination with differentiating themselves with the software. For example, if everything was the same I’d pick a HTC One over the Samsung if I could get it subsidized and with vanilla Android. Why? Because I like the form factor better.