Google Inc., which took over Android Inc. in 2005, has led the Android platform to scale new heights, making it the best-selling platform worldwide in 2011. Also, the Android platform is making the traditional players like Apple Inc. sit and copy the features.
Apple has had its share of success with its innovative approach in the form of iPhone and iPad. While Apple was proud to have reinvented the smartphone, the iPhone lagged behind the competition. But the competition in the smartphone market has generated a lot of innovation and many features found in the iPhone today were first seen in some form in the Android.
What Windows did to Mac OS in the 1980s seems to be the way forward, as Android is expected to do it more convincingly to iOS in the coming days.
Usually, the belief is that Apple innovates and everyone else copies, but the recent unveiling of iOS 5 shows a different truth altogether. There are quite a few features that are directly lifted from the Android to iOS 5. Here is a look at the cool features that already existed in Android phones before they came to the iPhone.
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The top gray bar on the Android screen displays important information about the Android phone. The Android notifications have always appeared in the top bar of their operating system. It shows time, battery state, network state, Bluetooth and GPS, among other icons. Android also shows icons in the notification bar when there is an update about a text message, email or voicemail. One of the biggest advantages of the notification bar is that one can pull it down by touching the bar and then swipe one's finger at the bottom of the screen to stretch and open up the bar, just like a window shade.
The recently unveiled iOS 5 also has a "notification bar" enabled in it. This is perhaps the most blatant copy of an Android feature to the iOS. The recently added "notification center" in the Apple iOS will help users get all their alerts in one place. Now, users who buy the Apple iPhone or iPad will get new email and text notifications, stock ticker, friend requests and weather updates, among other things, all in one convenient location, just by swiping down from the top of any screen to enter the notification center.
In fact, the biggest advantage of having a notification bar is that notifications don't interrupt you, and the bar disappears quickly.
The main idea of the cloud synchronization is that your notes are synced using a web server, so you don't need to be near your PC - You can perform the synchronization anywhere you have access to the Internet.
Today, more and more people are relying on the cloud sync option, mostly because users can store large amounts of data (in the gigabyte range), perform word processing and computationally intensive work. Before Cloud Syncing became a reality, the users had to ensure that data was secured somewhere, like in an external hard drive, and then copy it back onto a phone's SD card. One of the biggest advantages of using cloud technology is the ability to access one's data on multiple devices.
The list of popular cloud applications include Acrobat.com, Animoto, Google Apps, Dropbox (service), Google Cloud Connect, Google Docs, Google Fusion Tables, MobileMe, LiveChat, Evernote, OurGroceries, Amazon's Cloud Player, Gmail, Google Music Beta and Kindle etc.
On Android phones, when a user signs into his or her Google account, it syncs all of his or her personal data using Google's popular services.
When the user changes phone, it restores apps, settings and personalized features like desktop wallpaper.
Now, iPhone users are all set to enjoy most of the sync benefits which Android users have been enjoying for long. iOS 5 is expected to bring iCloud to users. Apple Inc. announced the launch of its cloud service at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 6, 2011.
The iCloud service enables users to store data such as music files for download to iPhones, iPods, iPads and personal computers running Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows on computer servers owned by Apple. It also replaces Apple's MobileMe program, expected to be discontinued after June 30, 2012, acting as a data syncing center for email, contacts, calendars, bookmark, notes, to-do lists and other data.
In fact, iCloud is just the latest branding of Apple for its cloud computing services. It has previously been branded as iTools in 2000, Mac in 2002, and MobileMe in 2008.
Android-powered phones, with support from third-party apps, have allowed users to sync their music, movies, tasks, bookmarks and contacts wirelessly between the phone/tablet and a PC/Mac for a long time.
In fact, Apple never allowed third-party apps in the App Store. But during their iOS 5 introduction, Apple said one of the features included among 200 new features was WiFi Sync. Users will be able to wirelessly sync their iOS device to their Mac or PC over a shared WiFi connection. Every time an iOS device is connected to a power source, it will automatically sync and back up any new content to iTunes.
The Honeycomb tablet came with the tabbed browsing option when it was launched. However, Apple was dependant on alternative browsers for the iPhone or iPad. Recently, Apple announced that its Safari browser would feature the tabbed browsing option.
Google remains committed to the advancement of voice control in its operating system. Voice search is a pillar of the service, with most Android devices sporting a dedicated button bringing up the search dialogue. Google envisions a future of accurate text-to-voice translations and is already testing out that functionality in the beta version of Google Translate.
Meanwhile, Apple is working on a fully integrated voice control feature called Assistant for the iOS 5. In fact, Apple purchased the voice control app Siri in 2010. Siri uses items stored on your phone like location data, calendar information, music metadata and contacts to help satisfy verbal requests. Assistant, which will presumably be built using Siri's technology, will also use this information to serve the user in a similar way, not as a standalone app, but built into the iPhone 5.
iOS 5 brings a cool split keyboard for easier typing with your thumbs. The user just has to swipe down with four fingers to reveal it. The virtual keyboard customization is already offered in the Android OS.
iMessage lets people communicate in real time, just like the Blackberry Messenger on Blackberry devices. Users can send text messages, photos, videos, contacts, group messages, and more, from any iDevice. This information can be sent via WiFi or 3G from iPad, iPhone or iPod touch to anyone. It all works using the push notifications infrastructure built by Apple.
Most of the Android phones are able to receive updates over the air without syncing to a computer. Rumors say the iPhone 5 will also finally offer over-the-air updates. In simple terms, rather than plugging the smartphone into a computer to update its operating system, users can do the same wirelessly over the Web. New iOS versions are pushed directly over the cellular network without any need for iTunes synchronization. There is no need for a pesky USB cable or a computer running iTunes.
Apple announced that it is bringing deep Twitter integration to all of its iOS-based devices and to many of its own apps, including Camera, Photos, Safari and Maps. That integration also, of course, extends to Contacts, where you'll be able to link your contacts to their Twitter handle and keep their information updated accordingly, much like Android. You'll also only have to sign into Twitter once (in Settings), and then simply share those credentials with any app that requests them.
Android has offered multitasking from version 1.0, unlike the iPhone. Before iOS 4, multitasking was limited to a selection of the applications Apple included on the devices. Apple worried that running multiple third-party applications simultaneously would drain batteries too quickly. Starting with iOS 4, on 3rd-generation and newer iOS devices, multitasking is supported through seven background APIs (which include Background audio, Voice over IP, Background location, Push notifications, Local notifications, Task finishing and Fast app switching).
One of the best functionalities in Android is the ability to have 'widgets' on the screen. Widgets certainly make a lot of difference to have a quick snapshot of information without having to open the apps on weather, Stocks, News and similar other services.
Android also comes with the beta Google navigation (where available) that makes the phone a very handy companion when traveling.
For people who think some of the innovations mentioned here are trivial, the answer is simple: Apple took up these innovative practices to remain relevant. Apple is the market leader for good reason.