About a year ago, we told you about Greg Hughes, a British university student and iOS developer. Hughes created the jailbreak app Wi-Fi Sync (US$9.99), which gives your iPhone the capability to "wirelessly sync with iTunes at the touch of a button." The app was turned down by Apple last May, at which time Hughes was given very little explanation as to why his app would not be making it into the App Store. Wi-Fi Sync has had very good success in the Cydia jailbreak store, with Hughes reporting in an interview today that the app has chalked up over 50,000 sales.
Now fast forward to the WWDC keynote on June 6, 2011. Apple announced a number of new features that will be available in iOS 5 this fall. One of the big features is something called ... wait for it ... Wi-Fi Sync. Guess what it does? According to the description on the Apple website, Wi-Fi Sync in iOS 5 lets you "wirelessly sync your iOS device to your Mac or PC over a shared Wi-Fi connection."
OK, so maybe Apple was working on this capability in April of 2010 when Hughes first submitted Wi-Fi Sync to the App Store. But is it a coincidence that the Apple Wi-Fi Sync icon is almost identical to the one that Hughes had a designer create for him last year? Check out Hughes' icon below at left, and Apple's new icon at right. Interesting...
Personally, I like the Hughes icon design better. This isn't the only case of Sherlocking -- the apparent appropriation by Apple of features previously available in third-party apps -- that we've seen this week. Many features that were available only through Cydia apps in the past are now going to appear on iPhones in iOS 5. It seems to me that Apple, particularly in the case of some rather amazing "coincidences" like Wi-Fi Sync, would want to reach out to the developers who brought features to iOS well before the company did. Apple should reach out and reward the developers for showing the foresight and skill to demonstrate powerful new features, even if the company didn't "borrow" those features. Unfortunately, that's probably not going to happen.
If you aren't opposed to jailbreaking your iPhone and want the Wi-Fi Sync capability before iOS 5 appears this autumn, be sure to reward Hughes by purchasing his app. Sales of the Cydia Wi-Fi Sync app are sure to plummet when iOS 5 finally arrives.
So, TUAW readers, what do you think? Was Apple working on Wi-Fi Sync a year ago and that's why they turned down the Hughes app? Or did Apple borrow freely from his work? Leave us your observations in the comments.