Five years ago, when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, he said the software was 5 years ahead of what was on any other phone:
Now, software on mobile phones is like baby software. It’s not so powerful. And today, we’re going to show you a software breakthrough. Software that’s at least 5 years ahead of what’s on any other phone.
This is a tough thing to answer because you can’t just set iOS down next to Windows Phone and webOS and Android and make a clear cut judgment that yes they have finally caught up to iOS or that no they haven’t.
Dan Frommer takes a swing and writes some good thoughts:
So, was the iPhone really 5 years ahead of everyone? Have any of Apple’s competitors caught up to the original iPhone, let alone today’s?
Yes and no.
It’s true. If you were to compare feature to feature only, then Android and iOS come out pretty much even. They are both touch-screen operating systems. They both have scrolling list views, Web browsers, and email clients. And they both have an app store.
But in many ways, iOS and Android are on two different planets.
The user experience is certainly different between the two. And while Android is much more responsive in version 4.0, there are still no killer 3rd-party apps, and Android still feels a bit awkward.
And that is what I think Steve Jobs was talking about when he said that the iPhone was at least 5 years ahead.
For Steve and for Apple, software is not just about the feature set. It’s about the entire user experience. The fact that the original iPhone didn’t have copy and paste is a testament to how Apple sees the user experience as more important than the feature set. In that regard, 5 years later, iOS is still ahead.
You can use Apple’s ideas and you can copy their products, but you cannot copy the time and energy they put into those products, and you cannot copy their attention to detail. Those you have to do on your own. Five years later, some companies still haven’t figured that out.