Google has finally taken its first steps to compete with Apple’s tightly interconnected ecosystem. At I/O, the search giant’s developer conference last week, the company revealed a bunch of premium devices: the long-rumored Pixel Watch, the Pixel Buds Pro, and the Google Pixel 7.
The Pixel 7, and before it the Pixel 6, was Google’s way of bringing people to “pure Android” – the combination of hardware and software that made Apple’s iPhone so popular.
“We’ve developed a good fan base for the phones we’ve built so far, and every phone we’ve launched over the past six years, it’s gotten better and better,” said Mike Sullivan, Google UK head of consumer marketing. independent. “With the Pixel 6, we saw little change as it became the first complete Google phone with the software and hardware chip”
Until then, Google’s main way to compete with Apple was through third parties. The most unique Android experience came from Samsung devices, and so did the most attractive premium Android watch. But besides Apple, both companies lacked a level of control.
Last year, Samsung and Google announced a partnership for Wear OS on the Galaxy Watch 4, but only in February did the smartwatch get Google Assistant support. In comparison, the Apple Watch has always been the best-selling wearable in the market, outselling the entire Swiss watch industry.
Google’s announcement could be the first step to changing that — someone focused on the Pixel 6 the way Apple built its iPhone dominance. “The phone itself is the gateway to the ecosystem. The watch is a really cool build in the ecosystem as well. I think people who see there is a choice of everything will help,” Sullivan said. “It convinces people to join the portfolio and build devices they own other than just a phone.”
However, hardware is not always the most convincing factor; The program is too. Apple’s ecosystem has proven so popular because its best features only work with other Apple devices, which are managed through the grip of user data Apple keeps over its users via their iCloud account.
The Android platform has qualities that set it apart from Apple that some find preferential to Apple, but to Google, its best features are exclusive to the phone, not the ecosystem.
“Google is a software company first and foremost, so I think the intelligence that comes with the phone is the thing that sets Google apart, and I think Magic Eraser is the perfect example,” Sullivan says, citing the ability to seamlessly remove people from the background of photos using machine learning, It is an exclusive tool for the Pixel group.
However, the company faces challenges in two ways: One is that Magic Eraser has been a long time coming, and was first mentioned in 2017. During that time, other companies have rolled out similar tricks. Huawei’s P40 phones have a “passersby removal” mode, while Samsung has its own “object eraser” tool. For some customers, Google’s long wait between announcing a feature and launching it may disrupt them. “We tend to reveal things early to help develop them,” Sullivan says, adding that Magic Eraser is the most searched feature for the Pixel, followed by Live Translate.
The second is that Android is an open platform – something Google takes pride in, arguably better for consumers, but doesn’t help grow an ecosystem the way Apple does. iMessage is one of Apple’s “killer apps” – especially in the US, where rival platforms like WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram are less popular.
“The ability to access multiple devices gives consumers more choices. It gives consumers more choices, and I think that’s a good thing,” Sullivan says. “Ultimately, if it’s good for consumers, it’s good for the people who give it to consumers.”
This philosophy is questionable. As revealed by court documents filed as part of the legal battle between Fortnite publisher Epic Games and Apple, the iPhone giant could have made a version of iMessage that worked on Android devices but chose not to.
Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering and CEO of iOS, rejected the idea. iMessage on Android will simply remove [an] It’s an obstacle for iPhone families to give their kids Android phones,” he said, adding that it would be a “horrible idea” to “make it easier for someone to transition away from our platforms.”
What is good for customers is not necessarily what is good for business. Apple’s walled garden is strong enough that incorporating features between devices could accidentally wipe out competitors like the Duet Display, which has been replaced by Sidecar — a move more convenient for Apple’s end users, at the expense of the competition.
In turn, Android’s openness means that Microsoft – which should be Google’s natural partner against Apple – can completely circumvent Google to offer Android apps through the Amazon App Store, rather than the more popular Google Play Store.
“All stores [and] All apps are welcome in the Microsoft Store,” said Windows Chief Product Officer Panos Panay independentHowever, neither company responded to questions about why they weren’t working together. “This is not my area of expertise,” said Mr. Sullivan.
Google appears to be keeping its open philosophy firmly, with Mr. Sullivan revealing that the Pixel Watch will work with iPhones – though he says he doesn’t know the “complex details” about whether there’s a feature for Android users. Until then, Google still has to compete with itself because Fitbit, which the company bought in 2019, will still work with hardware products and services — some of which will also be included in the Pixel Watch.
Ultimately, smartphone software and hardware descend into a de facto duopoly – between iOS and Android or Apple and Samsung. Meanwhile, Google’s Pixel currently has a 2 percent market share.
It’s not clear if a more tightly controlled Google ecosystem that could properly compete with Apple and perhaps Samsung’s Galaxy range would be better for customers, or if maintaining an open platform would provide an option for Android users but allow Apple to compete. Basically without restrictions is preferable. Whatever direction the software giant decides it wants to take, one thing is certain: it has a long way to go to grow its ecosystem.