When Apple announced iOS 5 at the WWDC keynote on June 6, many people were quite pleased with it (myself included). The update brought a slew of new features that customers have long been asking for. Two of the biggest crowd pleasers were the new notifications system and the ability to sync a device over wifi. However, as many of you probably know, both of theses features have been available for some time – at least, for those willing to jailbreak their devices.
Often the case with iOS products, when there is a feature that a large group of people want, but Apple is unwilling to provide, a developer will create it and offer it in Cydia (the jailbreak App Store). This was the case for the two features in question.
As far as notifications are concerned, a developer named Peter Hajas created a jailbreak app called MobileNotifer. This application was a complete re-write of Apple’s notifications system. Instead of annoying blue popups, texts would come in as a little banner on the top of the screen, and would all be aggregated in a notifications dashboard. Sounds a lot like Apple’s version, right? Well it is. In fact, aspects of the two are almost identical.
Now, I haven’t really heard anyone complaining about the similarities between the two. This is because customers get an awesome new notifications system to use on their iDevices. But, you’d think that Hajas would be a bit pissed that Apple stole his idea, right? Well yea, that’s what Apple thought too… that’s probably why they hired him. About a week before WWDC, Hajas went to work (officially) for Jobs&Co.
I’m happy for Hajas. He created something great, and Apple recognized it. He deserves to be working there. However, the story behind WiFi sync is a little different. You see, an application remarkably similar to Apple’s already existed in the jailbreak world, but the developer behind it didn’t get the same treatment that Hajas did.
Greg Hughes, a college student in the UK, developed an application called Wi-Fi Sync that allowed users to sync their iPhones over WiFi, instead of plugging it in to a computer. The app was rejected by Apple (citing security reasons), so Hughes took the app to Cydia where it was incredibly popular. However, Apple did take note of Hughes’ work. A rep even called to congratulate him. So, you can imagine Hughes’ surprise when he heard that Apple not only unveiled a feature he has been offering for over a year, they did it using the same name and logo as Hughes!
In an interview with The Register, Hughes said he was fairly shocked.
“I’d been selling my app with that name and icon for at least a year. Apple knew that, as I’d submitted it to them, so it was surprising to see that.”
So now the question is, how much did Apple really pay attention to the Wi-Fi Sync’s jailbreak counterpart when developing their own system, and why did they extend a job offer to one jailbreak developer and not the other? It hardly seems like the Wi-Fi Sync situation can be a coincidence, but, judging by Apple’s list of legal battles at the moment, they really don’t imitators. The whole thing is very strange.
What do you think about all this? Did Apple blatantly steal Wi-Fi sync, or is the whole thing a misunderstanding? Share your opinion in the comments down below, or let me know on twitter.