iPhone 7 Versus Google Pixel

Today, Google announced their new smartphone: the Google Pixel, priced identically to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. I've been trying to think of reasons why someone may choose to buy either device, besides purely Android or iOS preference. 

So, I made a list:

iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

£599 - £719

  • Dual Cameras: 2x Optical Zoom
  • Optical Image Stabilisation
  • Water Resistance
  • 3D Touch
  • Taptic Engine
  • A10 Fusion Chip
  • Stereo Speakers
  • 7000 Series Aluminium
  • Apple Stores in Every Major City
  • iCloud Backup
  • The App Store
  • Included Headphones
  • Software Updates on Day 1

Google Pixel and Pixel XL

£599 - £719

  • Unlimited Photo Backup
  • Fast Charging
  • Daydream VR Support
  • Headphone Jack

Quote of the Week: Bill Gates on Google Loon

From an interview by Brad Stone for Bloomberg Businessweek:

One of Google’s convictions is that bringing Internet connectivity to less-developed countries can lead to all sorts of secondary benefits. It has a project to float broadband transmitters on balloons. Can bringing Internet access to parts of the world that don’t have it help solve problems?

Gates:

When you’re dying of malaria, I suppose you’ll look up and see that balloon, and I’m not sure how it’ll help you. When a kid gets diarrhea, no, there’s no website that relieves that. Certainly I’m a huge believer in the digital revolution. And connecting up primary-health-care centers, connecting up schools, those are good things. But no, those are not, for the really low-income countries, unless you directly say we’re going to do something about malaria.

The TL;DR Google I/O Keynote Video

Great cut, from the recently launched Verge Video website.

A summary? Nothing huge happened, but (as usual), Google gave away hardware to every attendee which cost more than the ticket to attend. I have to wonder if doing that every year attracts “Google fans” rather than Google developers. This year it was a Chromebook Pixel ($1,299) for a $900 ticket.

Samsung Captured 95% of Android Profits in Q1

As a platform, Android is quite poor by a surprisingly large number of metrics: New version uptake statistics are very slow — which isn’t helped by carriers. The paid app business on Android is generally considered bleak, too — even more so when directly compared to iOS.

(And remember that Google makes four times more money from iOS than Android.)

Samsung’s Tizen: Is Ditching Android an Option?

From a BGR article about the Samsung Galaxy S4, Zach Epstein writes (emphasis mine):

My sincere hope is that Samsung takes advantage of its success and focuses its resources on refining the hardware, software and service experiences it presents to users. I want a more cohesive experience across Samsung apps. I want better services that lock users into the Samsung ecosystem for years to come. These are the things Samsung might consider working on as it develops the Galaxy S5 and other upcoming phones.

Samsung is a hardware company fighting its most important battle in an industry dominated by multiple software giants.

The kinds of integrated services Zach is hoping to see in a Samsung smartphone take incredible amounts of resources to put together: imagine the negotiations and business deals that happened in order for just the iTunes Store to exist — the same iTunes Store that recently had its tenth birthday. That’s forgetting the Movies, TV and App Stores and iCloud. If Samsung wants to play with the big boys, it needs to make one hell of a commitment.

Samsung is facing a tough decision: should the company continue to use Android in its smartphones, relying on Google to update and maintain the software and add these integrated experiences and services, take a more self-reliant approach, modifying Android so heavily that it becomes essentially a Samsung skin on an Android foundation, or — possibly outrageously (and in the style of Apple) — ditch Android altogether and create an entire phone OS from scratch? As shocking as this last option may sound, The Verge reports that a “High-end Samsung Tizen smartphone is coming in August or September of this year:

[A]ccording to [Samsung executive vice president of mobile] Lee [Young-hee] the upcoming phone will be “the best product equipped with the best specifications.”

This could certainly be pure marketing spiel. But it could also be a mysteriously vague announcement of the smartphone industry move of the year.

Let’s backtrack for a moment. In Q4 2012, Samsung recorded $4 billion in profit from its cellphone and telecom business. In the same quarter, Google recorded “just” $2.9 billion profit from all its businesses combined. Samsung is making significantly more money from Android than Google is. The question arises, does this huge reliance on Android and massive profit disparity cause tension between the two companies? And, if so, who has more to lose?

If Samsung takes the smartphone industry seriously — which I believe they do — making a bold move like ditching Android could potentially reap huge rewards for the company. If done right. But it’s a colossal undertaking and one very big risk: what if customers are more loyal to Android than they are to the Galaxy brand, rejecting any high-end device lacking the Android apps and Google services they’ve grown to love? How will Samsung launch an app store in 2013, when there are already established market leaders and competitors?

Back in January I pondered if Samsung leaving Android might just be the “story of 2013”. I still think it’s a pretty long shot, but I’m watching this space.

Apple Maps and Customer Feedback

Daniel Jalkut writes about one of the less often discussed, but still incredibly frustrating problems with Apple Maps — the “Report a Problem” feature not appearing to... well... do anything:

In order for Apple’s customers to continue “reporting a problem” with Maps, they need to feel that their reports are having some impact. They need to feel respected. Ideally, good reports would lead to timely corrections on a mass level that would benefit all other iOS users. Anecdotally, this is not happening.

I can confirm this to be the case here, too. On day one of iOS 6’s release, I submitted corrections to Maps for a few places in my local area. None of the mistakes I highlighted have been corrected.

Furthermore, back in February, Apple Maps directed me over an hour off-course, wasting valuable time when I was traveling to a music store just before closing time. When I arrived (almost too late), I mentioned this Apple Maps mishap to the owner of the company, who had actually been aware of the issue since day one. He told me that corrections had been submitted by him and multiple customers, all to no avail.

I haven’t used Apple Maps since.

What’s clear is that taking the time to “Report a Problem”, correct the incorrect information in the app and then hit submit is a non-trivial amount of work. Apple seems to be completely ignoring this wealth of user-submitted information, which leads to a very dangerous situation — the most valuable users (those who submit feedback) becoming alienated by the very company their (wasted?) efforts were trying to help.

“Did Apple even see my corrections?” “Haven’t I corrected this before?” “Why does nobody at Apple care that my road is incorrectly named?!” “Why do I even bother telling Apple about these problems if they’re not doing anything about it?”

Daniel has some smart thoughts about how to solve this incredibly frustrating problem — but it’s a difficult challenge to tackle. Even though it’s complex, Apple went ahead and shipped Maps knowing full well how many users they have: there is no excuse for not staffing appropriately to deal with customer feedback, especially when it helps improve your own (admittedly half-baked) product.

The best case scenario for Maps is every single piece of Maps feedback getting logged and checked, with the “true” reports being applied in one huge update. Is that likely? I’m not so sure.

Ex-Android Chief Surprisingly Active on Facebook, Not on Google+

Speaking of Facebook Home, it’s interesting that Andy Rubin, until recently head of Android at Google (with a “not amicable” departure?), is more active on Facebook than Google+.

I wonder what Google thinks about Facebook’s announcement today. And did Rubin know anything about it?

Google Announces New Service, App First

Google has always focused primarily on webapps.

Apple has always focused primarily on native apps.

After this announcement (and looking at Apple’s iCloud web control panel), I think it’s a reasonable assumption to expect the future of online services to encompass both native apps and web apps.

Still, it feels strange to me watching Google release a new service focused primarily around an app. Times are changing.

As for Google Keep itself, it looks a bit like Reminders coupled with a scrapbook. Looks a bit too disjointed for my taste, but I’m interested to see how it works.