Apple still 5 years ahead? Probably where it counts the most.

Once upon a time Steve Jobs made a claim:

Now, software on mobile phones is like baby software. It’s not so powerful. And today, we’re going to show you a software breakthrough. Software that’s at least 5 years ahead of what’s on any other phone. Now, how do we do this? Well, we start with a strong foundation: iPhone runs OS X.

Apple enthusiasts have been discussing this claim in length for a number of years. However, this year makes the most interesting year of all. Because only just this month that 5 years is ‘up’.

The conversation isn’t just about where Apple was ahead back then, we’ve seen Android, WebOS, Windows Phone 7, and other competitors in their run to catch up with the features, and concepts of the original iPhone.

Among the phones I’ve got here in my office right now are a Nexus Galaxy and a Lumia 800 — state-of-the-art phones representing two competing platforms. I also have an original iPhone running iOS 2.2. Web pages scroll the smoothest on the iPhone.

Was everything about the original iPhone five years ahead of the competition? No, no way — especially in terms of hardware. But some aspects of its software were more than five years ahead.

I’m not sure that I side with Gruber on this one. I have a Nexus S in my hand right now, and moving from the app list, to app list, to bookmarks, and other settings screens is as smooth as I could imagine on my iPhone. There are certainly third party apps, and webviews that could use some smoothing, but I think Google has done a great job of catching up with the original non-juttery scroll experience for native views.

The conversation instead should likely be shifted to then where Apple is ahead today – if you could argue that point. Dan Frommer seems to think so:

If anything, where Apple is the most ahead of Android today — perhaps even 5 years ahead — is on the business and customer experience sides.

I wrote an article last week about Android, and how it once stood for an open industry, where the power is taken from the carriers, and put back in the hands of the consumers.

My favorite argument for Apple being ahead in this regard? Watts Martin said:

And if you don’t agree with Siegler’s assertion that Apple, for all their warts, has more of the end-user’s interest in mind than Google does, I’d just like you to do one simple test. Go into an AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint store and set out a few Android models along with an iPhone and maybe a couple “none of the above” smartphones they sell. One and only one of those phones is going to be entirely free of the carrier logo. Don’t be under the illusion that’s merely an aesthetic issue.

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