Where Apple 'Got Inspiration' for 7 of its Big WWDC Ideas

By Chris Mills on at

This year's WWDC was arguably the most action-packed ever, with new feature following new feature until we were all left shell-shocked and reaching for the Nurofen. It has to be said, though, that not all of Apple's new announcements were exactly novel. In fact, some are point-blank rip-offs.

iCloud Drive: Dropbox

The big update to iCloud, dubbed iCloud Drive by Apple, brings seamless document sharing across iOS and OS X, bringing shared documents right into Finder or your iOS device. Which is all fine and dandy, but it's exactly the same thing that Dropbox -- and, for that matter, Google Drive and Box and god knows who else -- have been doing for years.

QuickType: Swiftkey/Touchwiz

Apple made a big deal of its new, predictive, 3-column keyboard, spending a good minute talking about how the prediction could leverage Apple's world-leading language database or something. It actually looks quite swanky and useful, but it's also a fairly blatant nick from Swiftkey and Samsung's Touchwiz keyboard, to name but a few.

While it's kinda-accepted practice for companies to 'borrow' each others' UI successes here and there, such an out-and-out copy -- and a copy dressed up as an amazing new feature, at that -- is pretty bold.

Of course, there's also Apple's decision to allow third-party keyboards to be installed on iOS -- but that's more of a long-overdue relaxing of rules than copying.

Interactive Notifications: Android

After taking the Android-style banner notifications a few versions of iOS ago, Apple's introduced interactive notifications with iOS 8. Basically, you'll be able to swipe down on notification banners, and be able to respond to texts there and then, or reject your auntie's invitation to tea without breaking a sweat.

Problem is, that exact feature was introduced in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, a good two years ago, and it's been floating around in various Android (and iOS) hacks and tweaks even before then.

Revamped iMessage: Snapchat

In addition to a handful of cool new SMS integration features, iMessage got the ability to integrate voice and video messaging. That's nothing impeachable on its own, but one of the features they just casually mentioned -- "of course, all these videos and messages vanish after you're finished with them" -- is rather reminiscent of a certain Silicon Valley startup. Considering that Snapchat's entire purpose in life is built around vanishing messages (or the 'ephemeralnet', in Silicon Valley-ese), you imagine their lawyers might have something to say.

SMS On Your Computer/In-Browser Calling: Android/Skype

These ones are a bit more excusable, as they come under Apple's broader theme of 'Continuity', providing a seamless transition between iPhones and Macs: basically, SMSs and phone calls from your iPhone pop up on your Mac. Although you could say that it's a logical step to take, given the iCloud and AirDrop integration that was also unveiled, you could also say (if you were the cynical type) that it's a copy of what MightySMS has been doing for years for Android, and which Motorola baked into its Moto X handset. But of course, you're not cynical, so this is of course a totally fresh development from Cupertino.

Hey, Siri: OK, Google

Another feature that Motorola/Google released with the launch of the Moto X was always-listening voice command: say "OK, Google" to a Moto X, and it'll activate the Google Now voice commands, letting you search stuff or get your phone to call your mates. Siri's now got the ability to do the same, with the command being "Hey, Siri". Totally different.

Reactive Desktop Windows: MS Windows Vista

Earlier in the evening, Tim Cook chastised Android users for running an OS that's "ancient history". A half-hour earlier though, his software guy Craig was running around on stage waxing lyrical about translucent desktop windows in OS X 10 that react to the desktop background behind them.

Sadly for Timmy, translucent windows was the headline feature on Windows Vista, a desktop OS that's nearly a decade old. Not quite outside-the-box thinking.


From OS X Yosemite to iOS 8, here's everything Apple announced at WWDC