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Apple vs. Google: the debate rages on, only amplified by the recent WWDC and ongoing Google I/O conferences. With the introduction of Apple’s iOS 6 and Android’s Jelly Bean 4.1, which showcased new products, improved features, and a few surprises, users are even more divided. It’s the Giants vs. Dodgers all over again. Both titans announced some pretty drastic changes to their products and operating systems, but will Google be able to kick Apple out of its top spot in the mobile sphere?
With Apple’s explosive introduction of Siri late last year, voice recognition has become a bigger focus than ever for Google—as it should be if the Mountain View-based company plans on staying neck and neck with the competition. Siri’s received a lot of slack from users for not living up to the standards the cute Zooey Deschanel advertisements promised, and Google’s now jumping on the opportunity to create a worthy adversary. Yes, voice recognition has been a part of Google’s technology for a while, but it’s finally receiving a much needed revamping, and possibly one that users will actually use.
Now, Google has enabled voice recognition to work even when disconnected from the internet, allowing users to dictate an email through speech, respond to general search inquires, receive map directions, and more amidst poor connectivity or while offline. Additionally, Google is improving functionalities for existing languages, while adding 18 new ones and support for Braille.
On the other hand, Siri is coming to an iPad near you. With improvements in “eyes free” maps (for instance, turn-by-turn voice navigation for select car models), and knowledge in sports, movies, restaurants, and Facebook/Twitter apps, Siri has received a substantial update in her education.
Looking back at the 90s, if someone wanted to listen to music, take photos, talk on a phone, watch a movie, and go shopping, there’s no way they’d be able to bring everything they needed to do so on the go. Now, we can do all of that and more with only our smartphones. Much like Tom Waits, NFC technology, or Near Field Communication, has been Big in Japan for years. NFC allows users to pay using their mobile device - so they can ditch the heavy wallets and use their phones as a credit card. The technology was released in the U.S. years ago, and implemented by Google via Google Wallet shortly after. Though it has yet to become mainstream, Google is now rolling out the app in both the Nexus 7 and Nexus Q.
Apple hopes to combat this with their own version, called Passbook. Passbook enables users to digitally store boarding passes, movie tickets, coupons, and loyalty cards. The downfall: Passbook isn’t supported by NFC, so while it’s incredibly useful for day-to-day activities, it won’t replace your wallet this summer. However, have no fear Apple lovers; Apple isn’t too far behind on this one. If there’s one brand that can convince the country to trade in their wallets for an app and convert a few million people to do something—it’s Apple.
In an effort to eradicate Google Maps from its phones entirely, Apple created its own Maps app. However, most of the features of Apple Maps are similar to the newly revamped Google Maps. Apple showcases spoken navigation, Flyover (think the interactive 3D views of Google Earth, but better), and a local search to explore nearby businesses, replete with Yelp reviews. Both offer assistance with traffic by calculating your route to work or home and adjusting it based on total time, both for car or public transit.
The key differences: Google lets you use maps without internet and its interactive view includes Compass Mode, which acts as a virtual tour inside nearby businesses.
Both Apple and Google are incorporating what are essentially text message versions of busy signals into their OS in an effort to save users time and simplify everyday tasks. Google has redesigned its already awesome notification features by allowing users to send preset emails in response to calendar invites straight from the notification window, explaining if they’re running late to an appointment or simply need to contact all attendees quickly.
Apple takes things one step further here. When ignoring a call, users can also send pre-written texts and set an alarm to remind them to return the call when free. The alarm can be set by time or by Geofacing, which determines when one user leaves their location (presumably where they were busy). Additionally, Apple is adding a “Do Not Disturb” toggle to silence and deluminate phones during sleep. However, repeat calls can be allowed through, so users can still be woken during an emergency.
When you examine all of the updates in this arena, Google’s notifications UI still rules, but Apple’s allows you to do more.
Google gave its Play store a major facelift back in March, and it’s continuing to offer users more and more. For the first time, users can buy (rather than just rent) movies and TV shows--something that Apple’s offered for quite some time. Google is the largest eBook carrier, and it consistently strives to enable users a positive movie viewing experience on their mobile devices, though there aren’t any current statistics on how many people use their Android devices to watch movies. And while Google proudly proclaimed on Wednesday that users have installed over 20 billion apps from Play’s 600,000 apps deeps market, it’s still a far cry from Apple’s impressive numbers.
Apple is also undergoing a moderate remodeling in iOS 6, improving functionalities by syncing all items in iCloud plus added convenience to purchase music and more without navigating away from the app in use. Even without these extra features though, it’s hard to dethrone Apple in this category, as its store has simply had far more time to develop than Google’s.
While we can get all riled up about who’s copying who, it’s important to remember that it often seems like it's Apple versus the world when it comes to patents and copyright infringements. Eventually, all the manufacturers will be able to get their hands on the technology behind each of these cool features (as well as whatever the future rolls out), so it’s not necessarily a matter of who’s doing it first, but rather whether which company is responding to their user's needs.