The big news in technology this week is an old story. Just over a decade ago Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. Critics and competitors laughed and howled but customers loved the iPhone’s ease of use; the first for a so-called smartphone.
One of those who did not publicly criticize Jobs or Apple or iPhone was Andy Rubin, co-founder of Android Inc. in 2003, a company bought by Google in 2005. Once Rubin and his team saw the iPhone they knew where the smartphone future was and started over on Android OS– basically a copycat of Apple’s fledgling iPhone.
One can argue the merits of Android smartphones vs. iPhone, but one thing should be obvious to all. Android is a copycat, which makes co-founder Andy Rubin a copycat. When iPhone was introduced to the public, Android’s engineers started over and the end result was a copycat iPhone.
Sure, copycats are everywhere in technology. One feature here shows up on a device over there. But few such inspirations were as blatant as what Google and Rubin did with Android.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs:
I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this
That was then and this is now. Steve Jobs is gone. Android is the world’s most used operating system. Apple’s iconic iPhone, which inspires most smartphones these days, captures almost 90-percent of the entire industry’s profits.
After a few years of languishing as a copycat engineer and executive, Android co-founder Rubin left Google and eventually came up with another idea. Copy Apple. Again. Rubin created a company called Essential which just launched its first product. An iPhone copycat.
So why did I create Essential? Well, my hardware engineers wanted me to talk about how we are bringing real passion and craftsmanship back into this category. My software engineers wanted me to talk about our vision for making all devices, even those we don’t make ourselves, play well together. My partners wanted me to talk about how we are using methods that could change how successful technology companies are built forever.
If you saw an Essential smartphone lying on a table it would look like most smartphones of 2017 and it would be easy to mistake it for a Samsung Galaxy S8 or iPhone 7 Plus or any one of a dozen such devices.
Yes, I’m going to dismiss both what Rubin says about Essential and the device itself. Move along. There’s nothing new to see here.
Apple’s iPhone changed the entire smartphone industry from cluttered and complicated to simple, elegant, and usable. Since then, iPhone and the copycat Android smartphone industry have improved beyond the basics with more capability and functionality than anyone pre-2007 could have envisioned. Even Steve Jobs himself didn’t see the value in iPhone applications.
All Google, Rubin, and Android did was to copy what Apple did. Rubin left Google a few years ago and his new Essential phone is just more of the same exercise in copycat design that Android smartphone makers have been doing for years.
Just as today’s small, thin, light, and powerful notebook PCs all look much like the MacBook Air from years ago, so, too, does Essential look much like a dozen premium smartphones.
Trailblazing design? No. Industry disrupting functionality? No. That’s not Google’s style. That’s not Andy Rubin’s style. That’s not what you find in Essential. It’s another expensive Android-based smartphone with iterative improvements here and there– thin, rounded corners, big screen, fingerprint sensor, dual cameras, blah and blah– any one of which will be overshadowed by the next iPhone or next Galaxy S-whatever.
iPhone’s copycat invented another iPhone. Again.