Apple Should Be Very Worried About Google’s Pixel

by Ian Hamilton • October 4th, 2016

Pixel looks like an iPhone, minus the “unsightly” camera bump, takes amazing photos and videos like an iPhone, offers unlimited storage for those images and looks like it does good VR.

These facts have me considering jumping ship from Apple seriously for the first time since 2007.

I’ve been an iPhone owner since the first generation, but over the last few years I’ve purchased Samsung phones for VR too. While I’m deeply embedded in the Apple ecosystem, Pixel tempts me more than ever before to consider leaving Apple behind completely. Just how embedded am I with Apple? I basically didn’t talk to my family for a week during a recent outage caused by my need to repair the iPhone because our iMessage chat group didn’t port over to Android. If I ever want to jump ship, I have to convince my family to use a different app to chat with one another.

And it’s a jump I’m thinking about making, made more tempting by the promise that if I do decide to “switch,” even my iMessages will come over to Pixel.

Overall, the big draw for me is two-fold.

  1. Google is claiming Pixel has a better camera than the iPhone 7 (though they didn’t mention the 7+) and it is pairing that camera with unlimited full resolution storage of photos and videos shot with the device.
  2. Google is releasing Pixel alongside the Daydream View reference VR headset that will offer experiences to compete with Samsung’s Gear VR.

Google knows running out of storage on an iPhone is one of the most annoying moments for an Apple owner, and it already solved that problem through Google Photos. You get unlimited storage for free when you use the app on an iPhone, and the photos are easily searchable so it is easy to find your images again. Unfortunately, the photos aren’t kept at their full resolution. Instead, Google stores “high quality” versions said to be “good for typical printing and sharing.” Not the same with Google Pixel. Google says it will store all videos and photos shot with the phone at full resolution, including 4K videos.

pixel-specs

Overall, with this one device and its supporting services, Google has completely eliminated concern about how I’m going to store, or find, my photos and videos. Simultaneously, the company is reclaiming that storage space for apps and VR experiences — the things that make phones so alluring. By giving my phone an unlimited camera roll, Google has also given me a blank slate to install all the software I want on a single device.

I’m not saying I’m jumping ship immediately — but Google Photos has been far and away a better product for storing photos when compared with Apple’s own “optimize iPhone Storage” option, which moves full resolution images off the device to save space. When I’ve wanted to find photos using an iPhone that have been moved to Apple’s cloud, I found it took too long to view that full resolution image again. Google’s cloud is simply faster, and that matters when trying to find a photo quickly that’s buried in the archives.

In Pixel, Google has taken the most exciting things about phones — the images they capture and the apps they run — and made them complementary. You don’t have to choose between taking a photo or installing an app anymore, and if you’re getting the $80 Daydream headset for free, that means you’ll have that much more space for storage-eating VR apps.

Pixel appears to hit Apple squarely where it counts most today — photo quality.  The phone will succeed or fail on this feature alone. But Pixel is also the leading device in a push for a number of Android VR phones that could draw developer attention to the new medium. For years people have been drawn to iOS because of its quality apps alongside the quality of the camera, but if developers start investing time and money in Daydream VR apps instead of iOS because they see a promising new market, it could mark the beginning of a reversal to that trend.

daydream-view-lenses

Eventually more impressive VR devices than Daydream will arrive powered by Google, like an all-in-one headset that doesn’t require a phone or an HMD capable of inside-out position tracking, and when that happens these early efforts with Cardboard and Daydream could pay off handsomely. If that shift occurs, Google would own a major head start versus Apple in offering a library of VR content for the new medium. That’s why Apple CEO Tim Cook needs to worry. The company’s focus on the long game might be running out of time.

Of course, Facebook and Samsung are also playing this game and we still have yet to see what they will announce at Oculus Connect 3 later this week.

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  • AcroYogi

    I try out the latest and greatest Android device every 3 years thinking they’ve finally crushed apple. Every time is the same: first 5 minutes : WOW! This kicks Apples ass! first 7 days : OMG, this thing is a little buggy. after 30 days : smash it and throw it in the trash, re-activate my iPhone.

    Why? Apples seamless integration of the hardware, the OS and the software. iPhone has a totally seamless and performant experience that is end-to-end, fairly flawless, fast and smooth. After installing 100 apps or so, my Android devices were crashing almost daily, and also had screen glitches, or moments where it took 1-2 seconds to interpret my input. The perfect example of this is the touch-ID. My Samsung was about 60% accurate and took regularly 1-2 seconds to fingerprint unlock… not even mentioning the AT&T graphic permanently glued to my lock screen. Apple TouchID is 95% accurate and sub-second unlock. Across 200+ unlocks a day, this is a significant difference.

    So today, I have my Galaxy for VR dev, and my iPhone for real phone / app use. And for the forseeable future.

    • Sabih Ijaz

      The difference is that the Pixel uses the Apple strategy of one company designing the hardware and software. It’s completely managed by Google and not bogged down by other manufacturer skins or design philosophies. It’s pure Google. When you mentioned that you have a Galaxy, I realized the problem right away. Samsung is notorious for changing a bunch of stuff about Android unnecessarily, and I personally dislike them a ton.

      • AcroYogi

        Then it could possibly work. Google should be the carrier, too. Because between the Samsung Apps and the AT&T apps, it was a nightmare. Like, there were 3 mail apps and 2 phone apps! One from Google, one from Samsung, one from AT&T.

        • Doctor Bambi

          Yep, it’s frustrating as hell. I ended up purchasing the Nova launcher so I could hide all those unsightly apps. But I can still see their background processes running and my eye starts to twitch.

          On the other hand, Gear VR has been really great for me, and they very well might unveil some new features at OC3 this week that drag me back onto the Galaxy ship.

          If Apple announced a partnership with Oculus to bring Home to iPhone I wouldn’t even think twice about switching to an Apple device.

        • Sabih Ijaz

          That’s the thing about Google. They’ve done it with Nexus phones, they’re doing it with Pixel phones, and they’ve even convinced HTC to do it to an extent. Apps like mail, phone, etc. that Google already has are used by default and nothing else is installed as an alternative. There is no clutter, no carrier apps, nothing. It’s barebones the stuff you need, and if you want more, you install it from the Play Store at your own discretion. It’s refreshingly simple and capable of becoming more complex, as opposed to Samsung’s way of it being complex and you having to jump through a hundred hoops to simplify things.

    • throwaway73

      Were any of these Android devices Nexus devices? Not trying to troll, but Samsung’s Touchwiz adds so much bloated garbage, it’s not even close to the pure Android experience. My 1st Android device was a Galaxy Nexus, so I had a better idea of what other vendors add on to the OS when I switched to HTC, Sony and Samsung.

      HTC and Sony made it their own with some nice enhancements, but holy balls — Samsung is a shit-show. So bad that I switched back to an iPhone6. Two months ago I switched to Google Fi and a 6P and I couldn’t be happier.

      As long as there’s a reference Android device + OS, that’s what I’ll be using going forward.

    • Rash Windborn

      it takes 7 days for you to get that feeling? i just bought a nexus 6p for work and was thinking of using it for a year to get check out the android scene again, but after using it for a few days, hell now. haha.

    • James Friedman

      I usually loved my Android for the first year. Then the phone slows down considerably and the battery life turns terrible. This i usually because they release a new version of Android that the phone was not built for and running it is always a bad decision. You upgrade because you want the new shiny OS but it’s just a terrible mistake. I am using my first apple device and I’m almost through 2 years and haven’t had one single issue with the phone. As much as I am tempted to go back to Android I just don’t think I can.

    • That is the problem, you keep compareing it with samsung, samsung sucks, you have to do a equal comparison with any smarphone with android stock, as apple has iOs stock for its devices

  • Haven’t tried Google Pixel and I’m sure it’s awesome, but I don’t agree with you. People choose Apple for brand at first and so every discussion about features has little sense. Then they choose it because it’s very easy to use, ecosystem working flawelessly… and being Android, I think this will not guarantee it. VR is not a true matter… at the moment, VR is for nerds like us and Apple people are mostly not nerds. The only important point is photos sinchronization… but I think that this will not be enough for most of people. All of this IMHO