Steve Jobs once said, “good artists copy, great artists steal” (attributed to Picasso), and followed up by admitting: “We’ve always been shameless about stealing great ideas”.
It’s perhaps one of the most misunderstood quotes in the technology industry. It doesn’t mean to find something good and then clone it, but to look around, immerse yourself in the best of what’s out there, and then figure out a way to do it better.
Of late, Apple has certainly been accused of doing quite a bit of stealing, notably with iOS; the ‘flat’ design has been likened to Windows Phone, and there’s clear Android inspiration in various components, including Control Center.
Of course, you’d be pretty deluded to consider this one-way traffic, given the industry’s predilection for using Apple as a kind of giant outsourced research and development company.
If anything, we wish Apple would ‘steal’ more, especially from Android, which has some really great ideas that we’d love to see in the next version of iOS:
1. App installs from the web
Apple grudgingly provided an online App Store of sorts with iTunes Preview, but it merely offers app information and screen grabs. By contrast, Google Play enables you to install apps to your devices from a web browser. Perhaps Apple considers its stores within iTunes and iOS apps safer or simpler, but it’s maddening when someone points you at a great iPad app or game and you cannot buy it from your iPhone.
2. App installs from anywhere
We’re not stupid — we know vanilla iOS will never allow apps to be installed outside of the App Store (excepting the odd corporate product or ad-hoc test build), but it’s something we’ve grown to love about Android. This isn’t about piracy either, but enabling devs to create apps gatekeepers won’t allow through, or indies to provide direct sales and offers via their own websites or the likes of Humble Bundle.
3. Typing suggestions
When you’re typing in iOS, there’s the usual autocorrect shenanigans that help you to avoid making any miss steaks. The thing is, it’s a bit opaque, and not obvious enough how to override, hence all those wonderful typos from your iPhone-owning friends. Android offers a similar autocorrect feature, but also attempts to anticipate what you’re typing, be it the current word or the next one in your sentence. The system is extremely intuitive and can hugely speed up fashioning emails on your smartphone. iOS feels comparatively prehistoric.