Everybody copies. Despite patents and intellectual property laws and defense, copying is the nature of the industry. Copying features and functions is rampant and there isn’t much that can be done. In a strange way, Apple copies, and competitors follow what Apple copied.
Do It Right
One of the more recent and blatant acts of copying is in Apple’s Touch ID, a handy security device that shows up in MacBook Pro models, as well as in every new iPhone and iPad. Simply put, Touch ID fingerprint sensor scans your fingerprint, stores it in a safe place on your device, then allows you to unlock your device with a quick touch of the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
Cool, right? Based on the way Touch ID works and how many of Apple’s customers use it, you might think Apple invented the fingerprint sensor technology. Nope. Not Apple. In fact, fingerprint readers have been around in various PCs and smartphones for many years.
The difference here is that Apple took the time to do it right; to do Touch ID in such a way that it provided vastly improved security and amazing ease of use. Touch and unlock. With few exceptions, it works every time. Most premium smartphones these days utilize a copied version of Touch ID, but with varying degrees of success.
Here’s another example. Face ID. This is the face scanner feature on iPhone X. Basically, your face is sprayed with tens of thousands of infrared lights which are captured by a camera and sensor to map your face, and, like the Touch ID fingerprint, the facial recognition print is stored on your iPhone. How it works is much the same way. Pick up your iPhone, look at it, and it unlocks. It’s easy, fast, and even more secure than a fingerprint.
What’s not to like?
So, in a generation of copiers where will Face ID go? Every premium smartphone maker already is working on some kind of 3D facial recognition system to mimic or improve upon Apple’s Face ID. Samsung has an iris scanner and face recognition. Few customers use it because, 1) it doesn’t work too well, and 2) it can be fooled by a photograph.
See what happens here?
It’s not that Apple is first to the party with some elegant new technology. If anything, Apple is reserved when new technology and capabilities hit the market. What Apple does is figure out the best way to implement new tech and it’s that level of usability which sets Apple’s devices apart from competition.
One can say that Apple copied from competitors, but what really happens is more of a modification and improvement.
Historically, Apple has been very good at recognizing the future of technology where it was invented by others but not exploited. The original Apple computer? Commodore’s PET came earlier. The Mac’s GUI? The original graphic user interface in a clumsy Xerox computer. The iPhone App Store? Handango’s InHand came first. iPad? Windows PCs had them years earlier but so did the famous Alan Kay back in the late 1960s. Music streaming? Apple was last to the party but now threatens the industry leader, Spotify.
Don’t think of Apple as the first to the technology party with any new feature, function, or component. What Apple is good at in this generation of copiers is to cobble together components in such a way that they work better than earlier versions. Remember, the pioneers get the arrows, the settlers in covered wagons get the land.