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Grand Theft Apple: 10 OS X and iOS Features That Were ‘Borrowed’ from Google and Others

Daniel Bean
Editorial Assistant
June 3, 2014

The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs once quoted Pablo Picasso when he said, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.”

By this logic, we’d have to say that Apple came away from Monday’s round of WWDC software announcements looking very much like a good — possibly even great — artist.

Updates to both Apple’s OS X and iOS brought feature additions that seem hauntingly familiar. In fact, there were so many “Where have I seen that before?” moments during the live unveiling that we decided to collect the most notable ones into a single list.

Here are 10 new OS X and iOS features that Apple “borrowed” from peer companies.

1. Apple finally completed the visual overhaul of its desktop software platform, dropping all of OS X’s depth and visual realism for a flat, simple design. Though this type of software interface is in vogue right now, let’s not forget that Microsoft took a similar track with the ill-fated Zune four years ago and continues to push this UI style forward with Windows 8 and the Xbox. Apple flattened the look of iOS last year to catch up to Google and BlackBerry; now OS X Yosemite has been similarly leveled.

Apple’s OS X Yosemite (above) and Microsoft’s Windows 8 (below). It seems flat is where it’s at. (Apple and extremetech.com)

2. Another new iOS tweak, actionable notifications, reeks of Google, too. While Apple lets you do more — such as send responses to text messages from within the Notification Center — putting action buttons on notifications is old-school Android. So, for that matter, is the pull-down Notifications Center, which Apple lifted from Google some years back. 

A new alert notification with action buttons on Apple’s iOS 8 (left) and an event alert with a snooze button on Google’s Android 4.4 (right). (PBS and Google Android)

3. Many smartphone fans have been wondering when Apple would get into the app widgets game, seeing as Android has had them since 2009. On Monday, Apple unabashedly announced support for iOS widgets for iPhone and iPad — at least in the Notification Center. Soon iPhone fans should be able to do things like scroll through tweets from the Notification Center, just like Android owners can do on their home screens.

4. With its “new” predictive text features, Apple’s iOS keyboard is finally catching up to Google’s Android software keyboard — or, for that matter, the BlackBerry 10’s. Like those older mobile operating systems, iOS will be able to make an educated guess as to what you’re planning to type next — like, for example, suggesting the word “features” after you type “stolen.”

Apple’s new QuickType keyboard on iOS 8 (left) and Google’s Android keyboard (right), each now capable of autocorrect and text prediction. (The Verge and Google Android)

5. You say you don’t like Apple’s new predictive keyboard? You, iOS owner, are now free to use whichever third-party software keyboard you like — an option available to Android folks since the very early days. You can expect versions of previously Android-only keyboards like Swype, Fleksy, and SwiftKey to be in the iTunes Store in no time.

6. Apple’s cloud-storage service has a new arm called iCloud Drive. In addition to automatically backing up your photos, music, and whatnot, iCloud now allows iOS and OS X owners to upload files into cloud folders, accessible right from the Mac’s Finder app, even. These files automatically sync across all devices connected to the same account. Can you say “Google Drive” or “Dropbox”? We knew that you could.

The new iCloud Drive gives Apple a cloud-based file folder system (above), something services like Dropbox (below) have had for years. (The Verge and tipsfor.us)

See also: How Apple Sees the Cloud: Not Like You Do

7. Sharing between apps, an Android staple for some years now, has made its way to iOS via this latest update. Makers of iOS apps can now allow you to share links or files from their products to other iOS apps — for example, you could share photos from the Camera app with third-party social network apps, or send notes to the email app from Evernote. In the past, this type of app-to-app communication was limited only to handpicked companies that were working with Apple. Now any iOS app can talk to any other, just like Android apps can. Talk about innovation!

8. New improvements to Spotlight search let OS X owners sift through not only their system’s apps and documents, but also social media services and sites like Wikipedia. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the free Alfred Spotlight replacement app has let you do the very same thing for years. Fans of the now-obsolete Alfred are quietly weeping. 

Apple’s new Spotlight (above) will allow for the searching of websites and system apps, something Alfred (below) has been good at for years.

9. Apple’s iOS 8 features an “always listening” Siri, which can be called upon at any time by simply saying, “Hey, Siri.” On the mobile phone side, this is something Motorola and Google packed into last year’s Moto X, with “OK, Google” being the hot phrase there. Google has done the same for Web search on desktop with “OK, Google” for Chrome, and the foundation of controlling Google’s Glass headset is the phrase “OK, Glass.” Everybody OK with Apple copying that?

10. OS X and iOS now offer self-destructing audio and video in iMessage, features that mobile apps Snapchat and WhatsApp more or less pioneered. WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum wasted no time letting the world know his feelings via Twitter: 

Koum’s salty tweet, by the way, has not yet disappeared.

Any of this sound like Grand Theft Apple to you? We have to think that Steve would be quite proud.

Have questions, comments, or just want to tell me something funny? Email me at danbean@yahoo-inc.com.