Stephen Elop: Apple Created Android (Here We Go)


The amount of gold coming from Nokia’s brand new CEO lately is just staggering. Stephen Elop, at the Open Mobile Summit, stood up in front of hundreds, maybe thousands, of people and went on record to say what Steve Jobs probably really believes: Apple created Android. That’s out of full context, though. Consider the full quote here:

“Apple created Android, or at least created the conditions necessary for Android to come into being”

Naturally, I’m ready to burn Mr. Elop and state why this is wrong, showing a hint of fanboyism in the process. Unfortunately, Elop is right: Android was definitely influenced by the iPhone in the long run, even if Android was known to be in the works long before Apple announced the first phone that changes everything.

Those who closely followed the project before Google acquired Android remember how it used to look. It was a Blackberry-inspired operating system that wasn’t even designed to utilize touchscreens. The early emulator for Android had the physical dpad and selection button (which is essentially Blackberry’s trackball), exposed portrait keyboard and all. If you don’t recall, here’s a picture of what it used to look like a long time ago:

It evolved since then and adopted more of its own style, but it was still a bit of a Blackberry “copycat”. Then 2007 came and Steve Jobs found his new cash cow. The iPhone was a huge success and, to be honest, was both a technical marvel and visually pleasing in both hardware and software. Google found Android and Andy Rubin and adopted them, and while the name would stay the same, the software and vision would change dramatically.

The team envisioned Android on touch screens now, crafting the operating system to be sensitive to the touch. They eventually reached Android 1.0 and contacted HTC to make the first device based on it. Then the G1 was born and it was a bit of a Blackberry/iPhone hybrid – a device with a capacitive touchscreen, a trackball, and a physical slide-out keyboard in one.

Then came Android 1.5 (cupcake) and that added one very important feature – software keyboards. It seemed foreign to us at the time, but it would make it possible for HTC to make the Magic, aka the MyTouch 3G, the first Android phone without a physical keyboard.

That was the beginning, though. Fast forward to today, and yes, there are similarities between a lot of smartphone operating systems now. It’s called innovation and competition. Apple didn’t create Android, Google was just smart enough to move toward a technology model that seemed to be working for a different company. And it absolutely worked out well for Google in ways they probably didn’t imagine so soon.

But times change. As new versions of Android came out, it gained a lot of features that intrigued a lot of people. Widgets, live folders and more were innovative for their time. Let’s not forget that Android influenced a lot themselves. Look no further than, you guessed it, this week’s GDC news.

iOS 5 features such as a new notification system, multitasking, OTA updates, iCloud, Twitter integration and more were all a part of Android and other operating systems to some degree long before Apple implemented them. Need I remind people that the iPhone didn’t get MMS support until late 2009? This was a “feature” of dumb phones and it took Apple and AT&T two years to deliver.

The point I’m trying to make is that it’s foolish to call anyone in this industry a “copycat”, and it’s foolish to keep playing the chicken or egg game. It’s getting old, whether it be from Nokia’s new hotshot Windows-loving CEO or Steve Jobs himself. Yes, Android was influenced by the iPhone, but the cycle of innovation is full circle and Android, in some cases, is now the operating system doing the influencing. It’ll be that way as long as Google keeps working on it. Deal with it, Steve (the both of you). [Engadget]

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. OMG, it’s the HTC ChaCha in the emulator!  All it’s missing is an “f” button in an awkward position. :p

  2. ” Deal with it, Steve (the both of you)”

    I couldn’t have said it better. Lol.

  3. *shrugs* Why is he looking at Android instead of his new WP7 OS that was created via iOS AND Android? Does he think this is going to turn consumers towards WP7?

  4. Thank you Quentyn…thank you.

  5. Leave Steve alone! 

    We love you Steve! Get well soon!

  6. Quentyn,I’m impressed.  Being totally honest.  Really well written.  There is really not much more to comment on…you hit all the bases.  Home Run Dude!

    1. Agreed. I really enjoyed this article. We can all be guilty sometimes of letting our inner fanboy get out of control, but this article is proof that you don’t have to take orders from him. :)

      Great work! :)

  7. “Apple created ALL touch screen phones with icons, or at least created the conditions necessary for all touch screen phones with icons to come into being” is what he mean’t to say.

  8. Elop’s shenanigans are getting old. Though I really have to say it just makes him and Microsoft look stupid!

  9. In other news, current technology influences future technology.

    1. That’s how I see it.  When Android was originally being developed, BB was on top as the OS to “beat.”  Then things changed with the introduction of the iPhone which then led to a change in direction for the development of Android.  Both OS’s have continued to grow and develop as they compete.  Microsoft realizes they are behind, so they recreate their phone OS into something totally different.  Now iOS gets features that have been on Android…and so the story goes.  Competition leads to change, new ideas, new concepts, improvements, etc.  This is a very good thing for us consumers as it gives us better choices. 

  10. elop got it right, A is for apple pie, B is for blackberry cobbler, C is for cupcake, D is for donut… /sarcasm

    1. And with that analogy…see how quickly they get left behind?

    2. Holy crap, I never put that together… cupcake, donut, eclair, froyo, gingerbread, honeycomb, icecream-sandwich…. CDEFGHI. What was A and B?

  11. p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica}
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    The iphone revolutionized mobile platform.  I agree, but in a general way.  Like saying Ford Model-T created the Toyota Prius.  (Disclaimer:  I am an android user) 

  12. Quentyn u are Rocks.. thanks dude

  13. and…windows mobile created the condition for apple to exist.

  14. So Google and Apple created WP7?

    1. Take it to the logical conclusion that the bricks of the 80s are responsible for the iphone5.  

  15. In other words…WHO CARES.

  16. i really wish people wouldn’t take words out of context and slather them with a little ‘android fanboy spin’ and regurgitate them as news.  his words from the keynote were:

    “Apple created Android, or at least created the conditions necessary for
    Android to come into being. People decided they could not play in the
    Apple way, and they had to do something else. Then Google stepped in
    there and created Android… and others jumped on the Android train,”

    first off, the guy is right, through and through.  second, he wasn’t calling anyone a copycat; he was saying that apple’s restrictiveness helped android be as successful as it is.  does any true android fan – myself included – who values the platform for its comparative openness really want to disagree with that point?

    1. Hmmm… the only quotes I saw smattered around the interwebz was the first sentence. I’m not there, of course, so I wouldn’t know myself. Thanks for pointing that out. Point still stands, though, as this article was slanted more against Jobs’ belief, one that he seems to perpetuate (even if he doesn’t say so on record).


      1. i understand that you weren’t the one putting the spin on it, and i should have noted that in my post. 
        doing a quick fact check (a habit of mine) i found the same thing you
        did… that most places online only show the snipped “apple created
        android” headline.  a few extra clicks, though, and there are plenty of
        sources out there that detail the source of the quote – it came from a
        keynote at the open mobile summit in london.

        the problem is when stuff like this propagates across the android community, and you read what in effect become uninformed rants, it makes us look no better than any other fanboy-gripped community.

        1. Well.. the problem is it may be entirely justifiable to say “Apple created the conditions necessary for Android to come into being”. But that is in NO way analogous to “Apple created Android”. It’s just a bad statement, period.

    2. Thanks for this — it pretty much sums up what my initial thought was: Apple DID create Android, but only because the iPhone is so lacking (and *gag* wants me to use iTunes).

    3. Well if there was anyone who called someone “copycat”, that would be Steve Jobs. That’s why the new iOS5 notification is such a big LOL to Android fans.  Take a look: 

  17. I am not sure I disagree too much with this statement. We will never know how successful android might have become without Apple making smartphones a huge hit first.

  18. I completely agree with you that taking inspiration from other OS isn’t always a bad thing and that everybody has done it at one point or another but what really gets on my nerve’s is when Apple and their fanboys say that Android is just a copy of the iPhone. They then expect no one to make a fuss when Apple blatantly copies Android. Apple fanboys have criticised the Android OS for too long and they now need to sit back and take the criticisms that they themselves helped to inspire.    

    1. E X A C T L Y

  19. So then Apple copied HP’s large touch screen phone way back – the “iPaq” – anyone remember that?  Apple also copied Palm, etc. but let’s not get bogged down with the facts.  (Great article by the way)

    1. I remember when the Samsung I-300/330 Palm device came out on Sprint back in the early 2000s. Plus BBs have been around longer than that. Apple didn’t start anything new here, folks. Smartphones have been around for a while now.

  20. Nothing is ever created without being influenced by something else – some are just more blatant than others. Now where is my GS2, Bionic or even the Hercules (sorry, growing impatient)???

  21. I am a Mac guy. I’ve used every version of the Iphone, However I currently have the Droid Charge. There are things I love about IOS and there are alot of things I love about Android. Innovation can only go so far these days. I too am fed up with the countless baseless lawsuits by Apple. The only thing these companies can truly do these days is try to come up with a few innovative features. Everything seems to be based on everything else. I personally don’t mind. I’m just a fan of technology. I don’t get into the OS wars. I love them all. Well, not blackberry so much but that’s just me.

  22. You cannot create something from nothing, all creation from the beginning of time is the mixing together og ingredients that already existed. However, Apple’s biggest strength is their ability to fool millions into believing what they want them to believe…….

  23. great article Quentyn, well said. 

  24. Using this logic…Microsoft created everything.

    Apple doens’t do anything spectacular. They make a product and put an apple logo on it and people buy it. They make an ipad which is a giant ipod touch. People buy it…cause its apple.

    Apple is the best advertising company to have ever existed. They can make you believe you are rich, high class, cool, trendy etc. if you own something apple.

    1. Their bullshit doesn’t work on me, granted I think the iPod is the best portable music platform. I just have the standard 160gb one with the touch wheel, I don’t have a iTouch or whatever the he’ll it’s called.

      1. the iPod is the best sound quality music platform ever. Aha. Cowon is the best. Even samsung does sound quality better. the i family is clear at the bottom of the list.

  25. Great article.  However, when android was first being shown off, their were two prototypes.  One was the device pictured in the emulator.  One was a full touch screen device.  So to say early android didn’t use touchscreens is incorrect, they just had more options.

  26. Apple reinventing the phone DID set the stage for android and give google something to copy that wasn’t a shitty blackberry clone.

  27. Did I miss the part where actually addressed the quote and proved it wrong? Sorry but I am not a brainwashed Android fanboy and not tricked by spin.

  28. “Let’s not forget that Android influenced a lot themselves. Look no further than, you guessed it, this week’s GDC news”.

    I think that you meant “this week’s WWDC news”.

  29. Nokia + Microsoft = FAIL.  GUARANTEED!

  30. This from an admitted Apple fanboy: this is one of the most fair and balanced blogs I’ve ever read on this site….

  31. A very great article which sums up things quite well. There is no doubt that Android is a major power house and still has huge potential. I just hate all these other companies (Oracle, Apple, Microsoft, Nokia etc) trying to grab whatever money they can by underhand tactics. If they were all worried about patent infringement, why didn’t they file them when Android was first released? Why are they only filing them now when Android is making a ton of money? I really hope Google fight them all off in the courts so they don’t get a penny. While at least Apple seemed to be doing ok, I can see Nokia and Microsoft really losing the their mobile share completely (which I think is quite funny).

  32. Great article, BUT Google bought Android in like 2005. You made it sound like Google wasn’t interested until after iphone, which is not the case… Just fyi.

  33. Great read!

  34. Well written and there is no diplomacy favoring Jobs or Elops! I agree with the fact that Android is influenced by the iphone but, Google supporting the open source principle has made the Android over take Apple prdoucts. Come on Nokia get real and think of greater innovation to stay on par with your competitors!

  35. Thats like saying Microsoft created Apple.

  36. About that phone in the article, I mentioned Android has development phones that look similar to this day:

    That clip is from last year. That coulda been a development phone. There is no telling what Android was gonna look or act when it finally came out.

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