Every year, the three largest tech companies (Microsoft, Google and Apple) hold their developer conferences – typically all at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, although Google opted to return to Mountain View this year. Apple was the last to hold their developer conference this year, which kicked off this past Monday. Their keynote was jam-packed with all sorts of announcements, although no hardware debuted at the keynote. Google, on the other hand, held their developer conference last month. During their keynote, they announced a slew of updates and new products too. While they did unveil some new hardware, they didn't actually make it available, or even show it in person to the press that was there. Now that we have both Google and Apple's developer conferences for 2016 under our belt, who's was better? Let's break it down and find out.
We'll start with the desktop platform. For Apple, they announced that Mac OS X was being renamed to macOS to coincide with their other platforms. They also detailed the next version of the desktop OS, which is named Sierra. Apple brought in a ton of new features with Sierra which is available as a developer preview now with the public beta starting next month. Most of the features that Apple announced only really affects those that use a Mac and an iPhone, like Universal Copy and Paste. A cool feature, which allows you to copy something from your iPhone and then paste it on your mac, or vice versa. Pretty cool, actually. What did Google announce for Chrome OS? Not much. The only real announcement from Google I/O in regards to Chrome OS was actually the fact that Google Play is coming. Which means that about a million Android apps are making their way to Chrome OS. It's a pretty big deal, and it's going to make Chrome OS a much better platform overall.
Then there's Android vs iOS. Google actually announced Android N fairly early, as far back as March. But they did detail quite a few changes to Android N that weren't already mentioned. Android N is in beta form now and will be available in Q3. We've covered Android N extensively already, but some of the bigger features include multi-window support, revamped notifications, keyboard themes, better performance and new emojis. Just to name a few of the features in Android N. With iOS 10, which Apple showed off this week, we got a lot of features that Android has actually had for quite some time. Apple revamped the lock screen, allowing you to see your notifications on the lock screen now. They are also putting out an updated iMessage, which has a lot of features from Allo which Google debuted at Google I/O last month. Siri also got enhanced, we got a new Apple Music app and much more.
Over on the TV side of things, Google was actually pretty quiet. The only real announcement from Google I/O was actually the Xiaomi Mi Box which will be launching at some point this year, and running on Android TV. Apple, on the other hand, put out a few changes to tvOS which runs on the Apple TV, but they were mostly small ones. Arguably the biggest was Single Sign-On. If you've ever used an app like WatchESPN where you need to login through your cable provider, you know how much of a hassle that can be when using the app on a Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV set-top box. Now that's all changed. You just sign into your cable provider once and it's all set for every other app on the Apple TV. It's a "small" feature, but definitely one that is going to be popular.
Then there's the wrist. Google announced Android Wear 2.0 at Google I/O, which brings a ton of new features. With Android Wear 2.0, Google brought standalone apps to your wrist, as well as basically an entire redesign of the interface. But there was also handwriting. So you can easily handwrite a message onto your wrist. Google also got a bit more into fitness this time around with Google Fit. Apple announced basically the same things for watchOS 3 and the Apple Watch. So the Apple Watch is getting handwriting later this year with watchOS 3. Additionally, Apple announced the ability to unlock your Mac from wearing your Apple Watch. Sounds a whole lot like the Smart Unlock the Android has had for almost two years now. Like Google, Apple also is improving the fitness features of their watch in watchOS 3.
In respect to all of the developers and engineers at both Google and Apple, these updates and changes are in no way "small". But they both just seemed like "me too". Especially when it came to the smartwatch front. Where Android Wear 2.0 and watchOS 3 seemed to be basically the same, aside from different terminology used on each platform. Admittedly, Apple did do quite a bit more when it comes to the living room, but we'll likely see more out of Android TV later this year with the Nexus hardware announcement. iOS also added a ton of features that Android has had for quite some time. However, when it comes to the desktop, Apple definitely has Google beat. Where macOS is definitely much more advanced than Chrome OS – even before Google I/O and WWDC took place this year – and it also is seeing a much bigger update. Sure Android apps coming to Chrome OS is still a big deal, but it's just apps, really.
So who had the better developer conference? That's tough to say. Each ecosystem got plenty of updates that are going to keep their users happy. But since this is an Android site, we'll have to side with Google here. The one thing that Google had over Apple, is Google Assistant. Sure Siri saw a few updates come its way at WWDC, but Google Assistant is still so much further ahead than Siri in almost every aspect. Additionally, the Google Home product that Google unveiled is an area that Apple basically skipped out on, at WWDC – although that may get announced with new hardware later this year.
While Apple's WWDC did seem like it featured a bunch of "me too" updates to their platforms, it was still a pretty big conference for them. Google had a bunch of those updates too though. Nothing that either company announced was particularly "new". It just goes to show that the tech industry has hit a plateau, and no company really knows where to go next. Virtual Reality seems to be the "next big thing", and it's something else that Apple also skipped out on entirely. However, Apple's mantra isn't to be first, but to release a new product when they feel it's ready and when they feel the market is ready for it. Take a look at the iPhone or iPad, they weren't the first smartphones or tablets, but were arguably one of the best in those categories (remember the T-Mobile G1, aka the first Android smartphone, launched a year later) when they launched.
Neither developer conference was really all that spectacular, but they had something for everyone. It's important to remember that these are "developer conferences," so the majority of the announcements here are going to be geared towards developers. Hence the reason why we haven't seen much in terms of hardware at WWDC or Google I/O in the past few years. Even Microsoft's BUILD has been pretty quiet, in terms of hardware. It's a place where these companies update all of their platforms and release developer previews. Having said that, the battle between Android N and iOS 10 coming later this year, is definitely going to be an interesting one, with new Nexus hardware and iPhones coming as well.