It doesn’t matter if Android got there first: It is because Apple has done something that makes it significant

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Following last night’s iPhone 6 announcement, there has predictably been a reaction from many of “But Android was doing that years ago!”. And to be fair, this claim sounds pretty plausible: NFC has been a staple feature of many Android phones for years – and smartwatches have been around for over a year now, before Apple waded in. Unfortunately, it is also wildly missing the point.

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The difference is that when Apples does something, people take notice.

Take NFC payments for example. Though the technology has existed for several years, it hasn’t taken off in a truly big way. Sure, there’s lots of talk about it being the future and retailers are beginning to support it, but it hasn’t revolutionised how we pay for stuff. Mostly we still wave our cards – phone payments are only an emerging technology.

And now Apple has come along with Apple Pay. Even looking aside the fact that the company has clearly thought about the user experience more than others (passbook and taking photos to import cards is very clever), suddenly Apple will be putting millions of devices into the hands of consumers that work in a consistent way – with a consistent name: Apple Pay.

Unlike Samsung, HTC and maybe even Google, through strength of brand Apple has the power to make technologies mainstream – and garner enough publicity to educate the public in how it will work. Apple has solved the “chicken & egg” problem: the new technology needs enough users for shops to bother supporting it, and for users to want to use, they’ll need shops to support it. Now every iPhone 6 sold will have the technology built in.

Crucially too, Apple will force the hands of competitors to get their act together: No longer will we see half-baked payment systems from players who don’t have the clout to make them work. All of the major Android developers and mobile networks now have the motivation to work together to come up with a viable competitor. So expect to see Google Wallet getting some operating system-level support very soon, then.

Don’t be surprised if the next generation of Android smartwatches all contain a “digital crown” style scroll-wheel, for similar reasons.

This happens time and time again with Apple, because of the position the company holds as one of the biggest, and one of the most influential in the world. Remember how touchscreen phones didn’t really take off until Apple came along with the iPhone? At the time you could have argued that touchscreens are nothing new – yet the power of Apple’s brand and design revolutionised the phone industry.

Apple may not be on the bleeding edge – but it is the company that makes new technology change the world.

James O’Malley

One thought on “It doesn’t matter if Android got there first: It is because Apple has done something that makes it significant

  • yes, it does matter. Apple stole some features from Android for iOS8. Android is much more customizable then iOS and is available on dozens of devices whereas iOS is only on Apple devices.

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