Today Google hosted its annual Google I/O event to showcase its latest offerings across hardware, software and services. But the one thing that really stood out is how Google is trying to replicate Apple’s ecosystem.
*This is not a complete recap of everything Google announced but serves to highlight the product overlap with Apple
One of the most apparent indicators that Google has been studying Apple’s homework was the announcement of the revamped Google Wallet. No longer confined to just storing payment information and store cards, it has been expanded to be able to store all kinds of things. From driving licences, vaccination status cards, student IDs and more. Apple wallet has of course been able to store things like other things aside from payment information for years now for example boarding passes and event tickets. And last year with iOS 15, Apple expanded its wallet app to include driving licences, vaccination status cards and wait for it…student IDs! Oddy though the app is launching for Wear OS devices only. At least for now until a broader rollout takes place in the future (though when is unclear).
Other features of note that overlap with Apple’s include:
- A new privacy and security settings page
- Apps will now need to ask permission to send notifications
- You can now restrict access to just certain photos on a per-app basis
- Emergency SOS
Remember that story about an unreleased but very high profile tech product that was left in a bar just before the announcement? No, I’m not talking about the iPhone 4. I’m talking about the new Pixel Watch that has now been officially unveiled.
The Pixel watch features many of the hallmarks of the Apple Watch. Notably a proprietary, swappable band system and a crown for navigation akin to the digital crown. It features a stainless steel enclosure and a round face enclosed in a glass dome. Google hasn’t specified if this is sapphire crystal like the higher end Apple Watch or standard glass like Apple’s entry level models.
The device will ship with Wear OS 3 though the company has stayed muted as to which chip is contained inside it. But one thing they did announce is a new tentpole feature with major integration with FitBit. Google owns FitBit and it makes sense to integrate the popular algothrm. But this time, the device won’t play ball with iOS. For iOS users that also enjoy FitBit devices, the Pixel watch is a no go. No word yet on availability and pricing.
Pixel Buds Pro
Hey AirPods Pro! Google wants active noise cancelling (ANC) too! Today they announced the Pixel Buds Pro feature ANC with 7 hours of battery life for $199. One notable feature is Bluetooth multi-connect which allows you to connect the buds to several devices at once. A bit like AirPods fast switching. You can pre-order them on July 21st in Black, Red and Green.
Google wants back into the tablet club. For a while now they’ve been working hard to improve Android on tablets, most notably with Android 12L last year. And this year Google has continued to build on that with many new tablet-specific features for Android 13. That includes a split-screen interface that is very reminiscent of the iPad’s own. But what is more interesting is that Google is making its own tablet hardware once again.
You may recall that Google launched the Pixel Slate back in 2018. But it failed in large part due to running Chrome OS with poor implementation of Android apps. Put simply, they just didn’t scale well. But now that Android is working to fix tablet support once and for all, Google is once again entering the foray. The company announced a Pixel tablet containing its Tensor system on a chip. The device won’t be available for a while with Google providing a vague date of 2023.
As expected Google has announced the Pixel 6a. And while you might be wondering how that overlaps with Apple, well for just $449, the device will ship with Google’s latest Tensor SOC. That mirrors Apple’s strategy with the iPhone SE of offering its latest chip and most of its software experiences at a much lower price. The 6a also sports a comparable build quality with aluminium rails. But it perhaps goes further than the SE with a more modern design language that sits in very comfortably with the rest of the Pixel family. Though like the SE, it doesn’t ship with the latest camera hardware as found on its flagship siblings.
The AppleTLDR take
It isn’t surprising to see Google follow suit on some of Apple’s product strategies. Apple is the most successful company on the planet and its ecosystem is highly desirable. Google wants in on that action and it isn’t hard to see why. But as far as I can see at the moment, most of the exciting announcements at I/O from a hardware point of view, retread old ground or are playing catchup. Hopefully, as Google fleshes out more details, it’ll become clearer how the products differentiate themselves from Apple’s offerings. Competition is good for everyone.