Earlier this week, we listed out the top 5 features Samsung stole from Apple. Since this sort of thing often goes both ways, we’ve also compiled a list of features that Apple shamelessly stole from Samsung.
To qualify for our Wall of Shame, a feature needed to be significant, or to represent a significant change to phone manufacturing. I considered and rejected the idea that Apple copied facial unlocks (as one example) for several reasons. First, biometric authentication has been hideously insecure up until Apple’s Face ID (and Face ID isn’t perfect). Second, Apple put serious effort into Face ID, building an entire new suite of cameras to enable 3D depth mapping. It’s a similar concept to what other companies have rolled out before, but by all accounts a vastly superior execution.
Even with these constraints in mind, there are more than a few places where Apple shamelessly borrowed work from other companies. They are, in no particular order:
Apple Pencil/Samsung S Pen
The Galaxy Note debuted with a stylus all the way back on October 29, 2011, while Apple didn’t introduce its own variant until the iPad Pro launched in 2015.
Samsung has refined its initial stylus design since it initially debuted, while making the stylus part and parcel of its pitch for Galaxy Note devices compared with the Galaxy S family. Apple, in contrast, has kept the same design since 2015. The only major “innovation” (as is typical for Apple) is the price. Samsung will sell you a stylus for $30. Apple thinks it should cost $99.
I’m willing to give Apple a bit of credit on this point. There was a long period of time where OLED technology frankly wasn’t as good as LCD. Anybody nostalgic for Pentile displays with sub-Retina resolution on two of three color channels? Didn’t think so. When Tim Cook bashed OLEDs as inferior technology back in 2013, he was telling the truth.
As OLEDs matured, however, the quality gap between Samsung’s display technology and Apple’s first shrank, then reversed. Apple’s LCD panels are still fine — I’m quite happy with the iPhone SE I upgraded to last month over the iPhone 5c I was using — but again, Samsung led with OLED from the beginning and it iterated the technology until it offered best-in-class performance and visual characteristics.
Both Samsung and Apple have shrunk their bezels over time, but Samsung eliminated the side bezels on its devices with the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge/Edge+ back in 2015.
Apple’s iPhone 8, in contrast, only devotes ~70 percent of the phone’s body to the display and retains small bezels on the sides to boot. The iPhone X is the first Apple device one could actually refer to as offering an edge-to-edge screen, and it only took Cupertino 30 months to copy the feature. Well done!
Qi Wireless Charging
Wireless charging is another feature that wasn’t necessarily a showstopper in 2015, but has evolved and improved with successive phone generations. Samsung debuted support for the Qi wireless charging standard with the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge in 2015, while Apple added it only with the iPhone 8 in 2017.
Dual Camera Optical Image Stabilization
Samsung added OIS to both of its rear-facing cameras with the Galaxy S8 last year, six months before Apple rolled it out to the iPhone X. Apple’s decision to gate-keep certain features for its highest-end luxury device resulted in the iPhone 8 not being as attractive as it could’ve been, and sales, by all accounts, have reflected this.
Samsung, Apple, and other phone manufacturers will continue to raid each others’ good ideas for as long as smartphones are manufactured. But some companies go to greater lengths than others to portray their additions and capabilities as fundamentally new breakthroughs. Apple, to be sure, has had plenty of genuine firsts — just not as many as the company would like you to believe.
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