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Android features found in iOS 5 Beta, cause for more copycat talk

by Kristen Nicole

iOS 5 Beta was released to Apple developers over the weekend, giving Android developers a closer look at the competition. There are several additions to Apple’s mobile platform that hearken back to known Android features, such as the Notification Center, Apple ID reload and social networking integration. Even at the initial introduction of iOS 5 this past spring, it was clear that Apple would be applying many useful features long-present in Android’s OS. In some ways it’s a nod to Android’s own attention to usability and integration, but it’s also just one discussion point in a growing argument around mobile innovation.

Android rip-offs in iOS 5?

The notification center on Android was a far cry from Apple’s pop-up notifications when first implemented on a large scale in 2009, centralizing messages and alerts from a slide-down menu. And the Apple ID reload feature lets you back up device data, from your e-books to your calendar. It’s all reloaded on your next iOS device once you type in your Apple ID. Well, it also sounds a lot like the Android feature that lets us seamlessly move through four Android devices in two years. The social networking integration (specific to Twitter) will likely be one of the most effective updates for engagement on iOS devices, but Android’s “share” button has allowed you to send content across a variety of apps and social networks from day one. These were once major points of differentiation between Android and iOS, but Apple’s looking to beat Android at its own game, while giving users many well-developed features they’ve been craving.

Who’s copying who?

So who’s copying who? Entering the smartphone market nearly two years after the iPhone hit stores, Android had an opportunity to learn from Apple’s early mistakes, filling in feature niches that weren’t available on the iPhone. Now Apple is introducing many of the pragmatic functions that were so central to Android, given its pre-existing association with Google and its growing list of apps, from Search to Maps. Both companies are looking to leverage the cloud, changing the way phones, apps and end users interact with content and each other. This is a new battleground for warring operating systems, and Android is now placed in a defensive position.

Copycat court

With a coalition of anti-Android companies taking the war to the courtroom, Google and its manufacturing supporters also face a string of patent infringement cases for “copying” source code, handset design and much more. Google is distinctly under-armed for such patent wars, as it’s company mantra feels patents are burdens to innovation. Apple’s taken the exact opposite approach to patents, and is using its position against Google’s Android. The chips are stacking high against Google’s mobile platform, and a PCWorld article explores three scenarios in which Google loses the patent war.

1. HTC and Samsung would be ordered to pay ongoing royalties to Apple for every smartphone it makes.

2. The courts could issue an injunction banning infringing Samsung and HTC devices.

3. Apple could choose not to license its intellectual property to Android manufacturers.

All would gravely affect Android’s distribution and investments, and two of the three have already begun to play out in some ways. HTC and others are already paying licensing fees to Microsoft, while Apple and Samsung are steadily fighting to keep each other’s products from selling in various countries. But should Apple win a patent case and refuse licensing fees, what would happen to Android then? Let’s hope Google would think its way around this scenario as well.