It was yet another big Apple announcement. The company announced its three newest iPhones, the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus. They have a bunch of cool new features that the company demonstrated at its big product launch (with only one major facial recognition hiccup). Everybody oohed and aahed and began debating whether paying about $999 for the iPhone X was ridiculous or perfectly reasonable. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus cost less but are still a hefty $699 and $799, respectively.
While you’re considering whether to fork out the big bucks for one of these new smartphones, consider this: Nearly every gee-whiz feature of the new iPhones has existed in one or more Android phones for a while now. If you’re in any doubt, check out the helpful Facebook video by The Verge’s Circuit Breaker blog.
That bezel-less screen everyone loves? The Sharp Aquos Crystal had it in 2014. Wireless charging? The Samsung Galaxy S6 had it in 2015. So did the Google Nexus 4 in 2014 (and ever since). Facial recognition goes all the way back to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) launched in 2012. Even selfie portrait mode which sharpens the face and softens the background and was made for the Snapchat generation didn’t originate with Apple. This feature, which uses dual lenses to take a sharply focused portrait against a slightly blurred background is already available on the Huawei P10 launched earlier this year.
Later but better?
But wait, does Apple really want to be first? As the Circuit Breaker video notes, while Apple may not have done any of these things first, it seems to have done them really, really well. As one commenter on the video put it, Apple waits to get things right while other companies churn features out to make themselves look cool. Certainly, the 2012 version of facial recognition was far from flawless. Although, so is the notion that facial recognition is needed in a world where most smartphones already have fingerprint readers.
It wasn’t always so. The iPhone itself is a great reminder of the innovator that Apple used to be. Before Apple, no one had ever imagined making a phone without a keyboard. No one had made a tablet with a touchscreen. No one had created an app store for mobile devices. In fact, going back a bit further, no one before Apple had thought seriously about making a computer that people would want in their homes. That was the company Steve Jobs created and ran.
Apple did bring one piece of completely new innovation to the iPhone X, 8 and 8 Plus: face-tracking animojis:
So–yes–if you truly desire a smartphone that can translate your facial expressions onto the face of an animated unicorn (or the infamous poop animoji), well then that might be a good reason to shell out $700 or more for one of the new iPhones.
If you do, I suggest a moment of silence first, though. In memory of what innovation at Apple used to be.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.