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On the shoulders of giants: Great gadgets that couldn't have happened without...

The Gadget Show  Thursday 20 March 2014

On the shoulders of giants: Great gadgets that couldn't have happened without...

Apple’s much revered designer Sir Jonathan Ive hit the headlines this week, sharing his opinion of other companies copying Apple’s designs in a new interview. While Ive is miffed about the idea, calling it “stealing”, it’s not always so black and white. There are many fantastic gadgets out there that simply couldn’t have happened without standing on the shoulders of giants, taking inspiration from existing products and ideas and turning them into something bigger and better.

It doesn’t have to be about stealing ideas or designs, but looking at tech that exists and finding ways that it can be improved. We take a look at some of the best gadgets that simply couldn’t have existed without other companies getting there first.

No Apple iPhone without Sony Ericsson P910

The original iPhone revolutionised the smartphone industry, making a large touchscreen the thing to have. Apple made the experience so much easier than other phones, not least because of the fantastic onscreen keyboard.

It wasn’t the first to make a touchscreen smartphone though – not by a long shot. The Symbian-based Sony Ericsson P910 offered similar features several years before the launch of the iPhone, for instance, and it’s difficult to imagine the iPhone existing without Apple following in the footsteps of other innovative thinkers. We’re glad they did though, as it really forced manufacturers like Samsung, HTC and Nokia to up their game.

No Flappy Bird without the Helicopter Game

Love it or loathe it, Flappy Bird is easily one of the most popular games of 2014. It’s oh-so-simple, with just the screen to tap, yet infuriatingly difficult! Yes please, we’ll just have one more go…

However, if you played online games as a kid back in 2001, it might seem like there’s something remarkably familiar about Flappy Bird, and it’s not the Mario-esque graphics. Some of us spent most of our education ignoring teachers and playing the Helicopter Game. It may not be as pretty as Flappy Bird, but the gameplay is near identical, right down to the single screen press and infuriating addictiveness. All it needed was a powerful, portable device to play it on.

No Samsung Galaxy S without the iPhone 3G

It’s easy to see Apple as both trendsetters and followers in this roundup. By the time Apple moved onto the iPhone 3G, other manufacturers were catching up, and there’s more than a passing resemblance between Apple’s handset and the Samsung Galaxy S that followed.

The design looked very similar, but the Galaxy S is also a fantastic example of evolution in action. Where the iPhone 3G had a 3.5-inch, 480×320 display and 2-megapixel camera, the Samsung Galaxy S crammed in a 4-inch, 480×800 screen, a 5-megapixel camera with flash and additional storage via removable microSD cards. It was also a sign of things to come, with the Galaxy S range going on to become serious iPhone rivals, and helping Android to overtake iOS in the popularity stakes.

Check out our GoPro Hero 3 review!

No GoPro without Flip Video

When you’re filming on the move, the default choice these days is GoPro. Great video quality, a compact design and a wide range of accessories help to make it ideal for action clips, but go back just a couple of years and Flip Video was the device to have.

Flip Video revolutionised the camcorder market, giving people the option to switch from bulky and expensive camcorders, to something a lot more compact and affordable. By the time it evolved into the Flip Ultra HD, however it was more expensive and the market opened up for rivals like GoPro.

No Surface keyboard cover without Apple’s smart covers

The Microsoft Surface has changed the way we view tablets, with its clever super-thin keyboard cover turning it from a device designed for reading or watching videos, to something that can genuinely be used for work.

The keyboard cover wraps around the tablet in a way that will be familiar to Apple iPad owners though, with the screen on both devices automatically turning off as soon as the cover clips shut. Microsoft has also improved on the original concept, with that clever integrated keyboard.

What gadgets do you think couldn’t have happened without standing on the shoulders of others?

The Apple iPhone 5s: The latest of a long line


GoPro, Flip Video, Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, flappy bird, Helicopter Game, Sony Ericsson P910, Feature

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