Steve Jobs famously said that great artists steal, and the company has often taken that mantra to the extreme over the years. Some would say that much of Apple’s current software bears more than a passing resemblance to some of its competitors’ products.

Take iOS 5’s Notification Center, for example. You’d need to be blind to say that it does not look eerily similar to the same notification system that Android has packed since day one. Some would argue that there are only so many ways you can handle something like a pull-down notification window. Some would call it stealing.

Apple has even taken some cues from its own App Store. Mobile Safari now sports a “Reading List” feature that offers a similar service to that of Instapaper, the famous web app that also has a popular iOS app in the App Store. Instapaper’s developer, Marco Arment, doesn’t seem too concerned, but others were not so happy…

With Apple’s history of taking features from the very developers who make the App Store so strong, I got to wondering about what app could be next.

One app that may be a little concerned is Instagram. Already hugely popular amongst iOS users – and iOS users only, no Android version here – Instagram’s biggest draw is the way it can add filters and boarders to our photos before sharing them in a photo-only social network. It seems that people really enjoy turning highly detailed photos into something that resembles a Polaroid shot from the 1980s.

Apple has already added a HDR feature to its Camera apps. It is, theoretically, a small step from there to adding a selection of filters that could be applied when taking a photo, ready to be shared on Twitter or Facebook.

Many will be reading this and shouting at their screens. “But it’s the social aspect that makes Instagram special!” you’re all declaring, and I’d agree. But if you can instantly upload images to Twitter (or Facebook, if iOS 6 adds integrated Facebook support, just as iOS 5 added Twitter) from inside the Camera app, do you really need another social network?

Apple has already proven that people will use its built-in features instead of third-party apps when given the choice. We’d wager that HDR apps don’t do so well now that their big feature is part of iOS itself. It may not be the best HDR out there, but it’s the one that’s attached to the Camera app that is front and center on all iOS devices. It’s the one people use.

Who knows, Apple may even decide to make its own photo network, but we all know how its effort at a music network turned out with Ping, don’t we?

It’s not just Instagram that should be worried, either. Proper podcast handling in the Music app would negate the need for specialised podcasting apps like Instacast. Would you use a third-party instant messaging app if Apple bundled its own? You already don’t need to because we have iMessage.

Apple must be careful. If it continues to borrow/steal/liberate features from App Store apps it risks alienating the very developers who have made the iOS platform so strong over the years. Those huge app figures and download numbers Apple likes to tout at its media events? Third-party app developers make that happen.


  • Anonymous

    I don’t believe or have any evidence that Apple has ripped off any of its developers. This is merely your opinion and not an established fact – Which makes it extremely difficult to argue. I won’t shout at my screen at what appears, for now, to be coincidental.

  • Anonymous

    And for the record, Reading List is nothing but a fancy name for bookmark. It functions the same as a bookmark does. And you have access to it across all of your OSX and iOS devices – And you can delete it at anytime, just like you can a bookmark. BTW, I’ve been using Apple’s bookmarks since dotmac – long before I heard of instapaper.

  • Anonymous

    Steve Jobs must be glad he passed away, so he wouldn’t witness Apple’s downfall.

    iOS 5 is a goddamn cancer, and it’s killing Apple slowly. “Four years of work in the pipeline”, MY A**.

    • Anonymous

      I believe if apple does a complete rip of an AppStore app I’m sure they would pay the developers more then they would ever make on the AppStore.

  • Anonymous

    If Apple did an Instagram app it would have maybe a half a dozen effects, half of which would be lame.

  • Jon Garrett

    Here’s another rare moment when I’m on apple’s side with this. first, there’s no such thing as stealing an idea. if you made chicken soup and the main ingredient is chicken do you really nobody else will use chicken in their recipe?

    If anything, I feel apple is obligated to include these features into iOS. for those of us who know how to jail break and tweak this kind of news might be shocking but you have to think of the average user–people who never even heard of jail breaking and these people are the ones who appreciate things like putting apps into folders. they don’t now that this idea came from the JB community and they don’t care. same goes for Android’s notifications, they don’t know it came from Android and they don’t care.

    also I need an app like instagram. I have that feature already built into Android OS.

    • “no such thing as stealing an idea” Yeah right. Tell that to Apple who would sue you for stealing their chicken soup recipe.

      • Jon Garrett

        how many ways can you add 1+1 and get 2? there’s only one way and its not stealing. how many ways can you use a touch screen phone besides touching it? its not steeling.

        if you copy someones code, line for line and only change say–the gui then yeah, Id say that’s stealing.

      • My comment was meant to be funny. Apple is king of the Intellectual Property Lawsuits. If they thought of it they think it should belong to them, and only them. However, they basically copied Android’s notification center, and what is Google saying? Nothing. But if Apple had done it first they would have sued Google within a week of it being released.

      • @john apple did win the multi touch patent so who knows

  • Simon Reidy

    Excellent article. I’ve thought this for a long time. It’s ok to be an Apple fan and still have a grasp on the fact that Apple steals ideas from both App Store developers and jailbreak developers. In fact I would argue that a lot of the tweaks we jailbreak for that become popular are usually integrated by Apple in their next OS release. For example the current default notification centre is ugly (why use the same dated cloth texture underneath the springboard AND on top?) and while a big improvement over their previous notification system, its still very lacking in features or customization options. LockInfo or IntellisreenX and the plethora of notification centre tweaks out there will allow Apple to pick the ideas they like the most, and then release them as their own for iOS 6. Exactly the same thing happened with iOS5. Those that remember the tweak “NotifiedPro” will know what I’m talking about.

    I guess the truth is that capitalism on such a grand scale can’t be driven by imagination alone. Apple has a history of buying up businesses and then incorporating their technology. Just look at Siri. This isn’t singling Apple out though. Google and pretty much all companies with shareholders do exactly the same thing. It’s called business. Take anything great you can that isn’t patented, change the style a bit, and call it your own.

    I love Apple products and I also think they bring many original ideas to the table, but I also recognize that they are just as good at stealing ideas as they are at inventing them. Where Apple kills the competition is slick implementation (usually) and superb marketing.

  • Rasheed Samite

    Well I believe this is something true, and we have seen this since the introduction of iOS 5.

    We got:
    WhastApp vs iMessage
    Android vs Apple – Notification Center
    Read it Later vs Bookmark
    iCloud vs Dropbox
    Siri vs Voice Actions, Vlingo, Dragon Search/ Dictation.
    FaceTime vs Skype, Tango.

    Jailbreak Tweaks:
    Take pics with the volume buttons vs CameraButtons
    Notification Center vs LockInfo
    Albums with photos vs PhotoAlbums
    … for example

    And whats next ??
    Maybe Settings like SB Settings (knowing we already have a app for this)
    iSound vs SoundHound (working all over iTunes)
    Better Notification Center vs IntelliScreenX
    Siri in all iDevices vs Android Siri
    Better Safari vs Safari Download Manager, GridTab Safari…
    Multitasking vs Zephyr, Activator
    Better Messages vs BiteSMS

    So yeah, would all this and more come up?

    • Anonymous

      Awesome comparison post. Agree completely.

      • Anonymous

        Sure, the comparison is great, but how do you know how Apple comunicates with the certain developers, whos ideas they now implement directly in to iOS. Perhaps they pay them, perhaps they hire them, perhaps they rewrite the code completely… I don’t really know, but something tells me they don’t just copy/paste it. Plus – all in all it only gets better for us, end users.

      • Rasheed Samite

        Do you really think Apple had pay, hire or whatever to the developers from WhatsApp??
        You just have to see the step that WhatsApp Inc. did when iMessage came out.
        FREE APP for a week!

        Do you really think Apple had pay, hire or whatever to the developers from Jailbreak Tweaks like CameraButtons?
        Don’t thinks so.

        Im not going to say if its good or bad, and of course, if we have all in one it will be great.

        I promese you that we will see huge things come out on the next iPhone and many ideas will not come totally from Apple developers.

        (Idea) – If any developer is reading this, please come out with a App Alarm that could stop the noise with the sensor of the phone. Just by passing the hand over the phone the noise will stop.

        Thanks for the comments and the thumbs up.

  • hmm but its gud wen they steal and make it better i guess

  • i think that if apple decides to use some features from other apps, then the devs should be payd extra or something like that…

  • i think that if apple will use some features from apps, then the devs should be payed for their idea

  • I said it once, I’ll say it again. YES!
    OK, that sounded rough but developers do need to understand that they should protect their applications by creating licence agreements.. not sure how will Apple be stopped from “stealing” features through that but as patenting of innovative design or functionality takes ages, that is easiest way to do it at the moment.. Any other thoughts?

  • I think Apple doesn’t only steal. Apple buy everything and everyone too. The developer of “NotifiedPro” works for Apple, now. This is an established fact and could be considered an example of the way in which Apple “pay” developers of AppStore to “steal” their ideas too.
    Anyway from jb and from cydia, Apple took its best ideas.
    Hotspot, multitasking, backgrounds, NC, mirroring on tv, taking pictures with the “VolumePlus” button and above all the most famous and important Apple and iOS feature:
    APPSTORE! (from the installer..)
    Anyway there’s one thing I think: every android user says that iOS is a very closed system. But the iOS we use now is made with our favorite features, taken from cydia and redeveloped by Apple. And iOS grows up over the time becoming not a “closed” system but a system always “closer” to us!
    We make iOS.
    And I love Apple for this too.

  • Anonymous

    Comment deleted… Oh right, now I remembered every comment made against Apple or Steve Jobs’ methods is considered as an act of aggression in this blog. Gotta love censorship!

  • Anonymous

    Talking in Apple language, I’d say BiteSMS is a “must-copy”.

  • Anonymous

    I think there is some confusion over what Apple tends to gripe about/sue about. The basis of MULTI-touch technology, yes. The framework for the design of a tablet yes. These are two things we constantly hear Apple vs Samsung and so on. However, and I could be wrong, but we’ve never heard Apple gripe and complain about other companies stealing components of how the software works. For example, they’re not saying that emailing a photo from a touchscreen device is their intellectual idea or that having a mp3 player with displayed album art is a violation and so on. So for them to steal the idea of a notification center or the idea of filters for your camera, I think somehow that’s different. I have an android and iOS device and as far as notification centers go, android is pretty bad and iOS needs work but it’s definitely prettier and more functional than android.

  • The more Apple implements, the less the consumer has to rely on third party, the better the product works right out of the box. This will also force third party to innovate and the cycle continues. In the end it’s a win win for both parties.

  • Antonio

    I do not believe that Apple is stealing from its own App Store. However, I do believe that with the release of iOS 7, Apple is stealing tons of great features from the jailbreaking community, while they claim that jailbreaking is bad.

  • Khoren Katklian

    If Apple hasn’t made iPhone or IOS then there were no such a thing like android, jailbreaking, developers who put their apps in the app store and even smartphones with touch screen