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September 14, 2017

Here are 6 old technologies Apple wants you to think are revolutionary

by John_A

We know, we know. Apple takes its time to do new technologies “right,” not “first.” But if you watched Apple’s September 12 announcements for the iPhone 8, iPhone X, Apple TV 4K and Apple Watch Series 3, you might be wondering just how long it takes to perfect an animated 3D turd.

While Apple acolytes inside the newly minted Steve Jobs Theater breathlessly applauded new “features” paraded on stage by Apple VPs, the rest of us were feeling a wave of déjà vu. OLED screens, wireless charging, 4K … haven’t we seen this stuff before?

Yup. Even by its own standards, Apple dredged up some almost embarrassingly dated technologies for its latest round of refreshes. In case Tim Cook’s teary-eyed reality distortion field threw you for a loop, we thought we would provide some perspective on how long Apple’s new features have existed in competing devices. Put on some Black Eyed Peas, because we’re going back to a time people took seriously.

We’re still dying to get one of LG’s monster “wallpaper OLED TVs” for our living room, but in the meantime, OLED screens on phones are old news. Really, really old news. Amazingly enough, Nokia was first to market with one on the N85 in 2008, and Samsung’s Galaxy line has sported them since the very first model, in 2009.

Apple gets some freshness points on its edge-to-edge screen, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that Xiomi’s Mi Mix did that first too back in 2016. We called it “the smartphone of the future” at the time, but “iPhone X prototype” would have worked, too. And it wasn’t the last Android phone to hop on the edge-to-edge bezel-less train.

OLED phone display
(Nokia N85, 2008)

Soaking up electricity through the air may still seem like magic, but it’s pretty simple technology, and the Palm Pre had the same ability out of the box way back in 2009. That device is now an obscure relic, but Samsung’s Galaxy phones have had it built in for generations, third-party manufacturers have been cranking out wireless charging accessories you can get for as cheap as $20, and Starbucks has even offered wireless charging since 2015.

Wireless charging
(Palm Pre, 2009)

The iPhone X does away with the classic Home button and Touch ID, so Apple introduced FaceID as a way to unlock your phone just by looking at it. Cute. But Android owners were unlocking their phones with Face Unlock on the Galaxy Nexus all the way back in 2011. Unfortunately, so were non-owners, since that version was easily fooled by a photograph. We’ll give Apple credit for staying away from that generation of technology, except Microsoft nailed it with Windows Hello back in 2015, when Apple was just getting around to patenting its own facial-recognition technology.

Face unlocking
(Samsung Galaxy Nexus, 2011)

Our entire office cringed when Eddy Cue took the stage to explain the benefits of a strange and mystical new technology called 4K, as if the entire audience had just awoken from cryogenic sleep they entered in 2010. In reality, the first consumer 4K TVs started coming out back in 2012, and today it’s harder to buy a new TV without 4K than one with it. No wonder fans have been clamoring for Apple TV to add it for years. If you own a 4K TV, chances are you already gave up and bought another box to watch 4K content by now, like Amazon’s Fire TV, which has been doing it since 2015 for just $100. Meanwhile, the late-arriving Apple TV goes for $179.

4K in a set-top box
(Amazon Fire TV 2015)

You can get a call on your watch while you’re surfing now! As proud as Apple was to unveil this next level of life-interruption technology, LG did it with the Urbane LTE Android Wear watch back in 2015. We liked it.

LTE in a watch
(LG Watch Urbane LTE, 2015)

Look, I’m a puppy! The iPhone 8 and X can now digitally apply augmented-reality masks to your face in real-time … but the phone in your pocket probably can, too. Snapchat has been doing it with Lenses since 2015.

Augmented-reality masks
(Snapchat, 2015)

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