I say: Rip 'em all.
After having read a lot of tech reviews, smartphone feature lists and opinions (trollin' and whatnots) about the current state of feature-replicating, patent-war-monger, fanboy-crying behavior in each and every single related product release; I have come to a conclusion that is soothing as it is also controversial.
Let 'em be ripped off.
If you come across a technology that somehow standardizes itself to the point of total ubiquity, you shouldn't sit around and just wait to coax patent benefits from it. Instead, take advantage of your momentum to improve in each and every single aspect of the technology you know they will try to copy/emulate/ripoff, in order to maintain your edge.
It's very hard to think about, say, natural gestures and try to protect your product from other players that saw how fitting the idea of treating your handheld device contents as actual sub-objects was, thus deciding to put the same functionality on their devices. It kinda reminds me of those secret handshakes certain gangs couldn't part ways with and wouldn't allow others to copy.
The purpose of these devices is to assist us in an ultra-connected world that depends so hard in these technologies that it seems to create a kind of sect of followers. This constant 'mine's better than yours' attitude, reminiscent of childhood games like 'I can pee farther, spit higher and climb that tree faster than thou', only helps to aggravate and further deflect the problem from where it should be addressed: The companies that make such devices and their policies when it comes to "innovation" are responsible for developing underachieving products in order to protect their patent portfolio and to perpetuate the programmed obsolescence.
What I'm most annoyed about, is that every single platform-defendant (fanboy) cries foul when they see their favorite feature being emulated or compensated anyhow in another, probably rival, platform.
I CELEBRATE THIS. Think about it: you now have a choice. A new or older device that has earned (ripped) an old time favourite (for eg. pulldown notification screen in iOS, which attracted a lot of comments everywhere) means that you can now have even less trauma when you migrate from that device you love, to the device you might have to use because of some twist from destiny. Say, work.
I would love to see the swipe gestures from MeeGo, N9's hardware design, the code polish of iOS, the versatility and power prowess of Android and the simplicity and social integration of WP7, all in one god-like device. But it won't happen, primarily because of the insane double speech of "is innovative only if I come with it first, and only I can bring it further"
A lot of people is missing the point that there once was a world without pinch and zoom. Now that feature is an expected and natural gesture that your fingers are waiting to do when browsing, or looking at pictures. There were alternatives, of course. HTC's Touch Diamond introduced a spiral gesture (you circled the area you wanted zoomed, and it took you there). I LOVED that gesture. But it faded away because of the traction capacitive multi-touch tech gained over the years (months) after it was presented.
Every single feature that sticks to mindshare is bound to be replicated. Period. It's futile to fight it. You present a new, innovative or evolutionary feature that rocks the consumer world and hell, they'll even put it in a business oriented phone like the Blackberry.
Let's wrap it.
If something is to learn from Apple's road of success being as late to the game as they were and still getting a more than respectable market share is that it's not good enough to be FIRST, you have to be the best also.
And Apple itself should remember that they weren't first, they only did better. For a time.
So I think we should stop trollin' around in a 'my device had it before yours' stravaganza and start demanding our products to be a little more cohesive with what we think is only natural to have in such devices.
The patent wars are being fueled indirectly with our whining about getting ripped.
I say: Rip 'em all.
PS.: This is my first contribution to this excellent site. Sorry for my english.