To those not paying attention, Apple’s announcement of iOS 9 and OS X “El Capitan” might possibly have been the only takeaways from WWDC. El Capitan passes without comment – it’s an incremental change in the vein of previous incremental changes and will probably do just fine. No, it’s iOS 9 that’s hilarious.
Because never before in the great Apple versus Android battle has a game of catch-up been so blatantly obvious. Because despite the “playful” jabs at Windows and Android thrown about in the keynote, here’s what Apple’s iOS 9 is really trying to do:
1) They’re still trying to catch up to Google Maps
Misplacing cities isn’t enough: Apple Maps now does public transit directions – detailed directions to bus stops, train station, showing train lines and so on.
Which Google has been doing since 2011. This service on Apple Maps is available in Baltimore, Berlin, Chicago, London, Mexico City, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Toronto, Washington D.C and another thirty cities in China. Google Maps has some 18,000 cities covered.
Apple Insider stated: “Like competing transit directions from services like Google Maps, Apple gives users a number of transit options when they search for a location.” Competing is not the word to use there. Competing implies that Google must actively struggle against Apple Maps. This is not competition: it’s more like comparing an ant to a fire-breathing dinosaur.
2) Split-screen – been there, done that
Split-screen multitasking is really cool when done right, and Apple’s implementation of it on the iPad looks good. It was greeted with cheers and claps from the audience. The audience was shown an iPad Air 2 running two apps, side by side, with the user using both apps simultaneously and switching to one at will.
You know who else did this? Samsung. In the Note 2 (a phone released in 2012). In fact, do you know what else has the exactly same visual implementation of split multitasking that iOS 9 now boasts? Windows 8 on a tablet. Even the gestures are similar. For a company notoriously aggressive about their ideas being stolen, they really haven’t had so many qualms ripping off others.
3) “Proactive” Siri and Spotlight
I’m sorry, you must mean “Google Now”. Or “Microsoft Cortana”.
No, seriously: as Alex Fitzpatrick points out on Time.com, it really is a good thing that Apple is catching up. But that’s precisely it – ‘catching up’. It seems they’re no longer ‘revolutionizing’. Siri can now detect when you’re traveling. It knows the time of day. Slow clap.
And what of Spotlight’s contextual suggestions for applications and locations? Doesn’t that sound surprisingly like Yahoo’s Aviate launcher for Android? Yes, it does.
It really is hard to talk about news apps, because there’s so many of them. Flipboard, for example. Google News, for another. However, Apple’s inspiration for this News app is probably HTC’s Blinkfeed. We’re not entirely sure why this is even big news, given the ready availability of so many news applications. It’s a bit like a car manufacturer announcing that they just made a tire exactly like all the other tyres on the market right now.
5) Low power mode
Well, here’s something special: a power savings mode. It limits network activity – like cutting down on email fetching and dimming screen brightness. Apple, being Apple, isn’t really going into the details.
But yes, Android, being Android, has supported power savings for … well, nobody can really remember because it’s been that long. Samsung devices had it for ages. Android – the stock version – has definitely had it since Lollipop.
6) A lowercase keyboard
Or, as Vlad Savov put it for the Verge, “The magical and revolutionary innovation of showing lowercase letters when typing in lower case.” He was being ironical. After 8 major OS revisions, it’s only now that Cupertino gets around to displaying lowercase letters.
Someone should get a medal for this.
Quite a lot of Apple fans don’t seem to be noticing this, and that’s mostly because Apple does a really good job of convincing people that this is how things should be. It’s a bit like Pavlov’s dogs, really. After a while, they salivate even when there’s no food involved.