I recently had a conversation with some friends of mine where we discussed Apple and the innovations they have brought to the market. There were many differing opinions and there was a lot of hearsay going around. Some of us were in the anti-Apple camp, some of us were in the pro-Apple camp, and some of us were sitting on the fence. I was probably pegged as being the most anti-Apple person in the group. The truth is that I’m not anti-Apple. There have been many times that I have actually recommended an iPhone to someone! What I am against is the religion of Apple. I am not a fan of the way that people worship Apple and I hate the fact that people have raised it to an almost god-like status.
I like to give credit where credit is due, and I have to say, Apple is very good at what they do. A big part of what they do is marketing, and they are very, very good at marketing. I will say that there is no other company in the world that sells itself and their products better than Apple.
Another area where they excel is at playing it safe. Apple will never be the first to roll out a crazy new feature (although they like to tell you they are). They like to make sure that their devices have the very best of everything. They have whole teams of people who analyze the market and see what features are playing out well. After seeing what is doing well, they then put those features into their devices.
Apple is also a great improver, especially when Steve Jobs was at the helm. They take all those features from their competitors and they give them a polish that they are sometimes lacking. Then they take the concept one step further and often make it easier to use.
Today we hope to debunk some of the myths that surround Apple, their innovations and their inventions.
The Headphone Jack (or the removal of it)
Apple likes to market itself as an innovative and courageous company. The truth of the matter is that they are neither one. One of the features (or flaws depending on your point of view) they are touting right now is the removal of the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. A lot of people think that Apple was the first to do this. I can name several instances of devices that were lacking a headphone jack, the first that came to my mind was the HP Veer. The HP Veer was an update to the Palm Pre. The Veer was so small that HP removed the headphone jack in favor of Bluetooth (it also came with a weird dongle adapter). More recently Motorola did the same with the Moto Z. And those aren’t even the only devices!
Another feature often touted by Apple lovers is the touchscreen. Everyone likes to say that Apple made the smartphone era the way it is today because the iPhone was the first smartphone to have a touchscreen. The first smartphone with a touchscreen was actually the IBM Simon and it came out in 1992. It became available to the public in August of 1994. The IBM Simon was capable of making calls, checking email and even running third-party apps. The iPhone came out a full 15 years later! In fact, the first usable touchscreen came out in the 1960’s! Long before the iPhone and even the IBM Simon.
After debunking the touchscreen myth I am then reminded that Apple invented multi-touch. Unfortunately, this is also not true. Multi-touch was born in a very rough form in 1982 at the University of Toronto. Eventually, multi-touch became good enough that it was introduced as part of a tablet using capacitive touch. Oh yes, the iPad wasn’t the first tablet either, but we’ll cover that in the next section.
Fingerworks was a company that took early touchscreens and developed many technologies that used multi-touch in the early 2000’s. Apple acquired Fingerworks in 2005. In 2006 Steve Jobs famously told the world that they had “invented a new technology called multi-touch, which is phenomenal. It works like magic!” They went on to use Fingerwork’s multi-touch technology in the first iPhone two years later. Yes, Apple was the first company that put multi-touch in a smartphone but they definitely didn’t invent it.
As we mentioned earlier, Apple likes to claim that they invented the tablet. There are many other tablets out there and it is debatable which tablet started the current tablet fad. Apple has definitely been more successful at it than most other manufacturers, but again they weren’t the first. Part of this misconception comes from Steve Jobs, “[the] iPad is something completely new, we’re excited for customers to get their hands on this magical and revolutionary product and connect with their apps and content in a more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before.”
The first iPad was released on April 3rd in 2010. The first touchscreen tablet came out in 1989, it was the GRiDPad. The GRiDPad ran MS-DOS, had a touchscreen and a stylus.
Adding insult to injury, they didn’t even come up with the name “iPad.” That came from a company in China in 2009. Apple ended up paying the company $60 million USD just so they could use the name “iPad” in China.
The Mobile Fingerprint Scanner
Another feature that Apple is often given credit for being first, is including a fingerprint scanner on a mobile device. This is another area where unfortunately people are misinformed. The iPhone 5S was the first iPhone to come equipped with a fingerprint scanner and TouchID, it came out on September 10th of 2013. The first Android device to come with a fingerprint scanner was the Motorola Atrix 4G, and it came out in February of 2011. And that wasn’t even the first! The Toshiba G500 came with a fingerprint scanner as far back as 2007!
Apple didn’t even come up with the technology that they used. They paid $356 million USD to acquire the company, AuthenTec. At the time of the acquisition, AuthenTec had already created the core technology that ended up becoming TouchID and the fingerprint scanner on Apple devices.
Another of the products that Apple likes to tell you they invented is Siri. Siri has been around for a long time, but even before Siri, there were many other virtual personal assistants that we could talk about (think Clippy…). True, Siri is much more advanced than they were. But again, Siri is not really an original Apple product.
Back in 2003, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contracted the company, SRI International, to build them a personal assistant for military commanders. The project was originally known as “Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes,” CALO for short. Shortly after, the founders of SRI International started a new venture, Siri.
In 2009 Verizon and Siri entered into a contract to create a Siri app that would ship on all Android phones that Verizon released. In early 2010, they released Siri as a stand-alone app on the Apple App Store. A few weeks later, Steve Jobs called them to set up a meeting. That started the ball rolling and Siri was quickly acquired by Apple for around $200 million USD. It goes without saying, Apple quickly canceled the Verizon contract.
The MP3 Player
At this point, if you are an Apple lover you might find yourself thinking, “Well at least Apple invented the iPod and MP3 players!” Sorry, they didn’t do that either. The first patent for an MP3 player was filed in the UK in 1979! The concept didn’t really catch on until 1998 with the Diamond Rio. The iPod didn’t come out until October of 2001.
Now, these here are just a few of the highlights and are in no way an exhaustive list of things that Apple claims to have invented. I don’t fault Apple for their products, nor do I think they are necessarily bad products. As I said earlier, they do make good devices. I may not particularly care to use them for myself, but they are not bad. My biggest gripe with Apple will always be the false pretense that they are better than everyone else. I don’t believe they deserve the status symbol that we have awarded them. They may make good products, but they are rarely, if ever, the first at anything.