On Monday, Apple kicked off its Worldwide Developers Conference with some major announcements. First was the reveal of the company’s newest Mac operating system, OS X Yosemite.
With a cleaner look, an improved notification center, and cross-compatibility with iOS devices through Apple’s new Handoff feature, OS X Yosemite seems like a concerted effort to get more iOS users without Mac computers to make the switch.
Second, was iOS 8, the company’s update to its mobile devices. There are a lot of new, highly desired features–and even a new programming language–but there are many points where Apple seems to be aping the competition.
Some of Apple’s biggest announcements–third-party keyboard support, HomeKit, and iCloud Drive–have already been done by the competition, and in some cases, done better.
HomeKit vs Android@Home
Apple’s new HomeKit protocol will enable various home automation services like door locks and light bulbs to communicate with Apple’s devices and control them through Siri. It isn’t a new idea: Google announced Android@Home in 2011 at the company’s Google I/O event. Unfortuantely, there hasn’t been much said about the service since then. According to TechCrunch, bulb company LightingScience apparently scrubbed all mention of Android@Home from its site.
Apple’s marketing might will definitely help push the home automation further than Google’s attempt. With something like Apple’s “Made for iPhone” stamp on connected devices, it could bring home automation to the mass market without worrying about which version of Android you’re running in order to be compatible with your door lock.
Now, Apple has introduced two staples of Android keyboard functionality: Quicktype, and third-party keyboard support. Quicktype is Apple’s word prediction, and can guess your next word in a sentence, saving you a bit of time. It also learns how you speak based on who you’re speaking to. Quicktype will never suggest something like a nickname or slang you use with your best friend when you’re speaking with your business partner.
But Apple’s keyboard has essentially remained the same since its debut in the original iPhone, save for the introduction of dictation and emoji. Any attempts to modify the keyboard had to be done either through jailbreaking your device, or using an app with a modified keyboard. Android, on the other hand, has seen some incredible strides in how users input information with their fingers. Its customizable nature allows companies like Swype and Swiftkey to create keyboards that predict your next word, or let you spell by dragging your finger over letters, greatly increasing the ease of use and speed of typing.
iCloud Drive vs Google Drive
iCloud Drive is yet another attempt by Apple to gain a foothold in the cloud storage market. Its history in the cloud space isn’t exactly great; its MobileMe service (which replaced .Mac) was shut down after only three years, and replaced by iCloud. MobileMe was a disaster on all fronts, especially when compared to services like Dropbox.
Of course, it also falters when you actually try to get to the documents in your iCloud Drive. There is no iOS app specifically for iCloud Drive. Instead, you’ll have to go through an app that has access to iCloud Drive. And Apple only offers 5GB for free, where Google Drive offers 15GB at no charge. Of course, in the long run it may not really matter. Simply having the brand of Apple behind these big pushes could be enough to propel them into popularity.