It’s Easier to Stay Close to Your Friends and Family When They’re Blue
“What do you think of the new Google Pixel? Pretty sweet, right?” I basically received that same message from 4 friends last week. I have some friends that use Android (yes, yes, I know. I also have friends who are BYU fans.) but they weren’t the ones sending me those messages. Nope. These were blue messages from iPhone wielding comrades who have never showed even remote interest in abandoning the iPhone before. Which begs the question, WHAT IS GOING ON HERE!?!
Before half of you stop reading because you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me do a brief summary. If you are also tempted to stop reading because you’re thinking to yourself, “This article is far too nerdy for me,” I encourage you to embrace your inner nerdiness and read on. Google announced a new phone last week called the Pixel. Available in two sizes and three colors, Google is claiming it is “the first phone they’ve ever made.” That’s only kind of true, but we aren’t going to get into that now. Point is, it’s a high end device that’s priced the same as the iPhone and runs pure Android. It takes amazing photos, doesn’t catch fire(yay!), and is the only phone to have Google Assistant.
I think there’s a good chance my iPhone friends who texted me about the Pixel may be interested because they saw this ad Google made. It’s a great ad. Very compelling. And it sounds like people seeing this and other Pixel ads are no fluke: I saw an article claiming Google spent $3.2 million on advertising in 2 days. So, back to my friends’ question, “What do I think of it?”
I’ve used Android. I haven’t used it religiously, but I own a Moto X and have played around with it over the past few years. Android isn’t bad. In fact, it’s really quite similar to iOS in many ways. And if I lived in an isolated world, there’s a good chance I’d use a device running Android. But the world we live in isn’t isolated, it’s connected. We are connected to friends, family, coworkers, and complete strangers. And with the iPhone, Apple has created a product that makes it easier to stay connected to the people that matter most.
Ivy is dancing around the room super cute and I want my Mom who lives over 1,000 miles away to see. I simply Facetime her. She didn’t need to install an app or figure out a login process. She simply answers the ringing phone.
Rockwell is born and we do a family photo shoot. We want the grandparents to see the photos but aren’t ready to share ALL the photos with the world on Facebook. We simply toss the photos in a Shared Photo Stream. Boom, instantly available to the grandparents in Utah and Arizona.
Hattie has headed to the airport and I want to make sure she arrived safely. To do so, I open up Find my Friends and can instantly see her current location, putting me at ease that she is safe and will make her flight. It’s all built right into the phone.
And finally: iMessage. There was actually a great article written by Lauren over at The Verge a few days ago. Give it a read. Bottom line: iMessage is better than SMS by far (those gross green text bubbles) and more convenient than Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, or WhatsApp. If you disagree, it’s probably because someone you communicate with doesn’t have an iPhone. And that makes things messy. But iMessage to iMessage is about as good as it gets. Encrypted, fast, reliable, and now, with iOS 10, fun. You have confidence that when you send a photo, video, gif, emoji, or sticker to a friend, that it’ll show up correctly on their phone. Send one of those to an Android phone and you better grab a rabbit foot and start rubbing it for good luck that your content is delivered properly. Similarly, try a group chat and you’ll never know if everyone is actually receiving the messages. As the headline says, it’s easier to stay close to your family when they are blue. And it’s true: it’s just easier.
My final thoughts here are on Google services. I love Google services. I use them every single day. And if they were ONLY available on Android devices, then the decision of which phone to pick would be a lot more complicated. But guess what? All the Google services I use are really great on the iPhone. Gmail, maps, docs, hangouts, calendar, and more. In fact, the apps are often better on the iPhone than they are on Android. If I go to Android, I lose FaceTime, Photo Sharing, iMessage, and all the other things that make the iPhone great. If I stay on the iPhone, I get to keep all those PLUS I get all the Google services. So why would I switch? The way I see it, there’s only one potentially compelling reason: Google Assistant.
Google Assistant appears to be Google’s new big play. It’s like Siri but probably faster, more accurate, and more capable. And guess what? It’s ONLY available on the Pixel. This feature IS the defining feature for the Pixel. You can’t get it on the Galaxy S7, Moto Z, or OnePlus 3. So to be clear, Google Assistant isn’t a reason to switch to ANDROID, it would be a reason to switch to the Google Pixel. And that’s what Google finally wants. As a services company, they don’t care what device you use. They make their money from advertising, and the more people that use the services, the more money they make. But we know from watching Microsoft in the 90’s and the first decade of the 2000’s, that if you simply rest on your laurels, you will get beat by someone else. Google knows technology and the market is always changing, and rather than waiting to respond, they are hedging their bets by moving into a product and services company now. It’s looking like owning the full stack (hardware and software) is going to be critical in a world that is becoming more and more dependent on AI. There’s a fantastic (and long) podcast by Ben Thompson on this that I highly recommend listening to. Here it is.
Do I think switching to the Pixel for Google Assistant right now is a good option? No. Not yet. It’s brand new and they are going to be working hard on ironing out the kinks and making it better. The thing is, I believe AI really is the future. Apple could very well make Siri compelling (it’s already compelling in my cases, but it often falls frustratingly short, as Walt explains in his latest piece on The Verge). If Google does figure this all out, everywhere from the car to Home to your phone, the Pixel could become a compelling alternative to the iPhone. But for now, it’s just a decent phone with green bubble text messages. So hang tight and keep iMessaging on. Your family and friends will thank you.
*A few bonus thoughts and caveats:
- Another feature of the Pixel is unlimited photo and video storage. Very cool! I don’t mind paying for iCloud storage, but as our libraries continue to grow, not having to worry about storage limitations or tiered pricing is really nice.
- I understand that there are lot so replacement apps that can do some of the things I mentioned above. But most require downloading apps, which requires coordinating with friends and family. Even ubiquitous apps like Snapchat aren’t a sure thing for lots of people you want to communicate with. Downloading apps and having friends do the same may not be an issue for younger generations, but it’s a legitimate barrier for grandparents and great grandparents.
- I use Siri a lot. I added bluetooth to my Honda Civic and for the most part, it does ok. But when it doesn’t work, especially in front of other people, it still feels embarassing. Not so much embarassing that Siri didn’t work, but that you as the user of the phone, was dumb enough to think it would work.
- For iPhone owners, phyiscal Apple Stores are a really nice “feature” of the phone. The Genius Bar is something Google doesn’t have and when people have issues, they’ll feel the pain of having to deal with some online method for support.
- Apple makes incredible hardware with a design finesse that is unparalleled. The new black iPhone 7 models are gorgeous. There are some features I wish the iPhone had: wireless charging, edge to edge display, longer battery life — but from what I can tell, the Pixel doesn’t have these. The only thing it has that I’m envious of is the fast charing. 7 hours of battery life in 15 minutes is awesome!