9 Things You Mistakenly Thought Apple Invented
Think Apple was behind all our favourite features on smart devices? Think again.
BY Luke Johnson | Apr 6, 2016 | Opinion
Yes, Apple's behind some of the best tech going, but it's definitely more of a marketing master than an out-and-out innovator. Which is probably why all of these breakthroughs are all-too-regularly mistakenly attributed to them.
1 | MP3 Players
The iPod catapulted Apple to stratospheric heights after a number of years in the relative wilderness. It's a device that defined a generation and spawned hundreds of copycat products, but it was anything but the original MP3 player. People had ditched their Walkmans, Discmans and even minidisc players long before the original iPod dropped in 2001. Heck, digital storage of portable music had been around for years.
What Apple did was wrap it in a nicer, easier-to-use package and, importantly, pair it with iTunes, a simple digital shop where you could actually download music rather than having to go to the hassle of ripping all of your CDs.
2 | Tablet computers
No, without Apple there probably wouldn't be a major tablet market right now. But that doesn't mean they were the pioneer of devices that aren't quite a smartphone, but aren't quite a laptop either. In fact Apple was pretty late to the tablet party - about 20 years in fact, unless you count the Newton "personal digital assistant".
Early tablets like the EO Personal Communicator were miles away from the original iPad, with clunky monochrome displays and temperamental styluses. The iPad might have reinvented an industry, but it didn't create the in-betweeny form factor.
3 | Fingerprint scanners on smartphones
Where Apple leads, the masses follow, right? Well, yes and no. Since introducing its TouchID sensor on the iPhone 5S back in 2013, every new smartphone worth its weight has added a security-improving fingerprint scanner.
They've landed on the front, back and sides of phones, been hidden within buttons and are heading under screens. But Apple got there first, right? Wrong. Smartphone biometrics had been around for years before Apple joined the fray. Again though, Apple made the whole process a lot slicker and now even lets you use nothing more than your finger to approve in-store purchases via Apple Pay.
4 | The mouse
Apple's magic mouse
It's true - before the days of the 1984 Apple Macintosh, computers were a thing you needed a keyboard and a degree in coding to control. But while Apple made the mouse popular, it didn't invent it.
Xerox – yes, the same one that makes your office photocopier – pioneered the computer mouse three years earlier. Steve Jobs reportedly saw an early demo while touring Xerox's offices and decided to pinch the idea, the scoundrel.
5 | The graphical user interface
Like the mouse, Apple's early computers stood out for their, at the time, stunning graphics that shunned endless lines of code for a more picture-heavy user experience. But credit for the graphical user interface needs to be dropped at Xerox's door once again.
The 1981 Xerox Star introduced the GUI to the general consumer. It wasn't until three years later that the original Macintosh dropped and introduced itself – literally – in graphically superior form.
6 | Touchscreen phones
Would touchscreen phones have taken off without the iPhone? Yes, obviously. It's a superior means of device control than the traditional button array, and had already been around for some time when Apple entered the smartphone race.
While the original iPhone might have been the first touchscreen phone you wanted to own, it certainly wasn't the first to hit retailers' shelves. It was slicker though, not requiring you to force the display to recognise the presence of a finger or two. Multitouch is another Apple biggie that wasn't invented by Apple.
7 | Retina displays
Touch isn't the only display tech that Apple's passed off as its own – its easy-on-the-eye Retina panels were pinched too. Well, sort of. While it's true Apple invented the Retina display, that's only because a 'Retina' panel is just a marketing term for a higher resolution screen.
The iPhone 4 streaked ahead of the competition in terms of visual clarity when it dropped, but these high-res panels had been floating around on larger products for some time. Now, with the iPhone 6S still sporting a 1334 x 750 pixel Retina display, Apple's smartphones have gone from visual pioneers to lagging behind the leaders.
8 | Video calling and facetime
FaceTime finally made video-calling acceptable to the masses when it was introduced back in 2010, but it certainly wasn't the first video-calling service. The ability to have digital face-to-face conversations – even on your smartphone – had been around for a couple of years. FaceTime was just a marketing-friendly name for a technology that had been around – and widely ignored – for years. Sorry Skype, we know you got there first.
9 | Smartwatches
If you saw last year's Apple Watch unveiling, you'd be forgiven for thinking Apple hadn't just invented the connected wearable, but all wristwear, ever, too. Merging technologies developed by rivals in recent years, the Apple Watch gave it all a bit of a polish to make nerd-wear widely acceptable.