Apple has a long reputation of being an innovator in the field of technology. In some cases, that reputation is completely warranted — they helped create the entire personal computer market with their original Macintosh models, and the iPod and iPhone certainly revolutionized the markets for personal music players and smartphones, respectively. Even their iTunes store (and the App store) entirely changed the way people buy music and software.
However, Apple isn’t always the brilliant inventor it’s sometimes portrayed as. In some circles, they have a very different reputation of being a company that borrows (or outright steals) ideas from other companies or developers, and claims them as their own. In some cases, they make the effort to vastly improve the idea before launching their own version. In other cases, it’s more of a blatant theft. In the 10 years since the launch of the iPhone, the operating system (iOS) has changed dramatically, and for the better. However, not all of the improvements should be credited to Apple. Here are 16 iPhone features that were borrowed, copied, bought, or simply stolen.
16. Front-Facing Flash
Once the iPhone started having a camera actually worth taking pictures with, Apple made sure to include an LED flash on their rear-facing, higher quality camera. However, the front facing camera that was introduced with the iPhone 4 has never been given a flash to help with those dimly lit selfies. In a software update, Apple introduced a workaround: if you turn the flash on for front facing photos, the screen briefly flashes bright white, giving those selfies a bit of extra illumination. It’s not a true flash, but it does the trick. The only problem is that the white screen flash was previously introduced by Snapchat, the picture messaging app.
Many people still aren’t aware that this brilliant piece of software even exists. Originally developed by Michael and Lorna Herf, f.lux controls the amount of blue light coming from the screen of your computer. The idea is that too many people are straining their eyes by staying up late while staring at their screens. So f.lux will, at a pre-set time, dim the blue light from your display and replace it with a warmer orange-tinted glow. If you’ve never used it, you may be thinking that doesn’t sound like a big deal. But it makes a world of difference.
The devs ported f.lux over mobile devices, but Apple refused to allow in the app store. Shortly after, the tech giants introduced a feature called “Night Shift” directly into iOS — which basically does the exact same thing as f.lux.
If you thought Apple created Siri itself, you’re wrong. At least they didn’t directly “steal” this feature — they paid for it. Siri was originally an app, and even available for iPhone, before Apple bought the company that developed it, pulled Siri from the App Store, and integrated it directly into iOS. Since then, they continue to make improvements to Siri every year, including adding it to iPads and iPod touch devices, and porting it over to the Apple Watch and Apple CarPlay
Many years ago, Apple notifications for things like text messages and emails would just pop up directly in the middle of the screen, potentially interrupting whatever you may have been doing. It was annoying and, quite frankly, very inelegant — something that isn’t often associated with Apple products. Jailbreak developer Peter Hajas fixed the problem, releasing a tweak called Mobile Notifier. It was so successful, that Apple actually gave Hajas a job. Shortly afterwards, Apple officially added the Notification Center to iOS — which looked awfully similar to Hajas’ original tweak.
12. Control Center
iPhone users may take it for granted now, but the handy control center — used for quickly adjusting settings like WiFi, Bluetooth, and Do Not Disturb — never used to exist. All changes to setting had to be done through the stock Settings app, which was cumbersome if you were someone who needed to frequently change your screen brightness or turn WiFi on and off.
Jailbreakers quickly developed a tweak called SBsettings, which was basically an early version of Control Center. Like many jailbreak tweaks, Apple would see the potential and refine the idea into their own and bake it directly into iOS.
11. Full Featured Messaging
Apple gave iMessage a huge overhaul in iOS 10, adding stickers, GIF support, drawing, dynamic links, voice memos, and a handful of other gimmicky additions. Fancy, yes. Original, no. Many other messaging apps, from Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or even BBM, already had some or all of these features. Don’t get us wrong, iMessage is still a great messaging app. But Apple was really slow to add many features that competing apps were already using.
Jailbreak users are still pining for the days of BiteSMS, a full featured replacement to iMesssage that was insanely popular before being discontinued.
10. Hey Siri
When first introduced, Siri could be activated by holding down the home button. Later, Apple introduced a “Hey Siri” feature that allowed you to talk to the digital assistant without even touching your phone, although there was a requirement — your device had to be plugged in. Jailbreakers didn’t like this extra condition, and quickly made a tool that allowed “Hey Siri” to work all the time. Sure, the extra listening lowered battery life, but whatever — hands-free Siri was cool! Later, when the iPhone got physically bigger (and therefore allowed for a longer lasting battery to be stuffed inside), Apple also allowed “Hey Siri” to work without being plugged in.
Early versions of iOS had zero features when it comes to multitasking. If you wanted to switch apps quickly, you have to press the home button to go back to the home screen, scroll to find your desired new app, and press it. Want to go back to what you were doing in the first place? Repeat the process. It was tedious. So the jailbreak community turned to tweaks like Auxo, which allowed for fast switching between apps simple by double-pressing the home button. If that’s familiar, it’s because Apple would later add an almost identical feature to iOS to allow for easy switching between apps — great for when you’re trying to write an email, look up a recipe, and tweet about the football game, all at the same time.
8. Volume Button Picture Taking
It’s such a simple thing, yet it’s amazing how much easier it makes taking photos on the iPhone. But if you thought that using the volume button to activate the camera shutter was one of Apple’s brilliant ideas, think again. Multiple jailbreak tweaks allowed iPhone users to do this long before it officially became part of iOS. In fact, many of the camera features that Apple have added over the years started as jailbreak apps, including putting a shortcut to the camera on the lockscreen and even filming video, which the iPhone didn’t officially support until the 3GS.
7. Quick Reply
This is one feature that could still use a little work, to be honest, but it took Apple forever to implement it in the first place. Longtime iPhone users will remember the pain that was receiving a text message in the middle of playing a game or watching a YouTube video, and then having to exit what they were doing in order to open the Messages app in order to respond. No one wants to quit slicing up fruit or flinging angry birds around just to type a few short words in reply. So various jailbreak tweaks featuring quick reply were born (including BiteSMS), which allowed users to double tab incoming messages to bring up a keyboard for an instant response. Even better, whatever app was being used in the background would simply freeze until the user returned. Apple now uses a similar feature, where users can drag down a text notification to reply instantly.
6. WiFi Hotspots
Using your phone as a personal internet hotspot has long been possible, although Apple officially had it locked down and disabled on early versions of iOS. Additionally, many big mobile providers wanted to charge their users extra in order to tether their laptops or tablets to their cell phone data, even though data is data is data, regardless of which device uses it.
To counteract this, jailbreak developers created apps TetherMe and MyWi, which would allow the creation of WiFi hotspots even before Apple included it as a feature. Some people even continue to use these apps today, in an effort to not have to pay extra fees to their cell provider.
For the longest time, Apple refused to allow widgets in iOS. Meanwhile, the Android operating system was filled with neat widgets for everything from weather to news, sports scores to music players. A number of jailbreak tweaks made iOS widgets possible, before Apple finally relented and officially allowed widgets of their own — kind of. They are confined to the Notification Center, but they are customizable by the user. It’s not a complete solution, but a step in the right direction for anyone who likes total control over the look and functionality of their mobile operating system.
4. Sleep Analysis
Apple continues to work on adding to their health tech offerings, especially when users pair their iPhones with an Apple Watch, which can double as a heart rate monitor. They’ve also recently added a “Sleep” section to their Health app, along with a “Bedtime” feature to their alarm clock, which is supposed to analysis sleep patterns and help users make sure they are getting a consistent and proper rest every night. It’s a cool concept, but Apple is (again) late the party. Apps that analyze sleep patterns have been in the App Store for ages, and some will even monitor movement on your mattress to determine whether you had a restless night or not. At least Apple hasn’t yanked all those other apps, which all had the same idea earlier than Apple, from the App Store yet.
Copy and paste was always going to be a hard feature to make work on a touchscreen, but Apple definitely took their sweet time. Long before their clumsy copy/paste syetem appeared as a standard feature in iOS, jailbreak developers were creating their own tweaks so that their iPhones could have one of the most basic functions of computer typing. Sure, Apple was probably going to get around to adding this eventually, so maybe they didn’t outright steal this idea. But they definitely borrowed from some of the better jailbreak versions when they were designing their own copy/paste system.
2. Raise to Wake
Apple made a point to show off their “brand new” iOS feature, which they called Raise to Wake. Exactly what it sounds like, the feature causes a user’s iPhone screen to turn on by merely picking it up. It only really saves a single button press, but it’s a cool feature nonetheless. Again though, Apple “borrowed” this feature from the jailbreak community, who have been using a tweak called FaceOff to do the exact same thing since iOS 7.
1. Removing Stock Apps
The iPhone is one of the most popular mobile phones in the world for a reason — it has something for everyone. Whether you love to read the paper, play games, check stocks, or stream videos, the iPhone can likely help you. But not everyone needs all apps that come built into iOS. The two worst offenders are GameCenter and Newstand, along with the more recent additions of Tips and Home. For those who don’t play games or have any smarthome features where they live, some of these stock apps are useless. Jailbreak users have long been able to delete (or at least hide) the apps they don’t want, making their screens less cluttered. Apple finally took the hint, and some (but not all) stock apps are now able to be removed by iPhone owners.