Android to iOS: Where Google 'inspired' Apple

iPhone and iPad aficionados like to cite Google's copying of iOS features -- but the reverse happens, too

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There's no question that many of the fundamental capabilities and user interface approaches in Google's Android bear a lot of resemblances to what's in Apple's iOS. In some cases -- such as the basic gestures, the use of app screens, and email client layouts -- the method has a history predating both products, while in others it's easier to see direct imitation, such as in the use of the app store and the .com key.

But Android is not merely a clone of iOS; it has its own unique capabilities and interface elements, such as its voice-based Web navigation. And in some cases, Apple has been, shall we say, inspired by Google's previous choices. The inspiration in both cases is not limited to each other; both borrow from Windows and Mac OS X, as well as from the defunct WebOS (which also borrowed from the same sources).

Still, as the two big mobile OSes, Android and iOS are what most users see and compare. Herewith are the iOS capabilities that trace back clearly to Android.

Notification tray

The most obvious Android feature copied in iOS is its notifications capability. Android has a pull-up tray of recent notifications, and iOS 5 has a similar feature called Notification Center. Although iOS 5 won't be released until Oct. 12, preview images from Apple's own website show the similarity.

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Message flagging

The ability to flag messages to find them easily later on is not a Google invention, but Android had the feature a good year before Apple added it in iOS 5.

Online settings backup

It's no surprise that as a cloud-oriented company, Google would include cloud-based backup of settings and some user data in Android. After all, Google wants your data in its cloud. iOS 5 takes a cue from Google here with its iCloud service. iCloud does much more, but its features include backing up settings and user data -- like Android before it.

Tabbed browser

Tabbed browsers are old news on the desktop, but Android was the first to bring them to tablets. HP's short-lived WebOS-based TouchPad followed, and now iOS 5 joins the party. (But Android earlier lifted iOS's thumbnail page of open websites for its smartphone OS, so turnabout may be fair play here.)

Voice-based search

A long-standing Android claim to fame has been its support for speech-to-text Web searches and text entry using Google's voice-transcription cloud service. The new iPhone 4S's Siri technology does something similar (shown at right, using an image from Apple's website), though it's really a voice-front-ended "intelligent" assistant service, not a text-entry front end as in Android.

Over-the-air updates

Android has supported over-the-air updates of the operating system, not just of applications, from the get-go. iOS, on the other hand, required users to download OS updates to their computers and manually sync them to their devices via iTunes over a USB tether. In iOS 5, Apple joins Google and the rest of the mobile world in supporting over-the-air OS updates, as well as over-the-air initial setup.

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