Apple vs Google. iOS vs Android. These are mainstay debate topics within the tech world and for good reason. Apple and Google are after all, two of the biggest tech entities on the planet. iOS and Android are after all, the two biggest mobile operating systems on the planet. In many ways, the only mobile operating systems. So it stands to reason that comparisons will be drawn, debates between them, had. However, now we are starting to see debates and comparisons being made between the likes of the just-announced Apple iPhone X and the upcoming Google Pixel 2. To be frank, this a non-starter debate.
To draw parallels between the two is not only nonsensical, but downright naive. While you can compare and contrast Apple and Google, or iOS and Android, you cannot and should not do the same with the iPhone X and the Pixel 2.
Don’t Ignore History
While Google and Apple are established companies and do work within the same industry, and on similar products, that is largely the extent to their similarities when it comes to making smartphones. In fact, Google does not even make smartphones yet. Yes, the company has recently embarked on a ‘made by Google’ campaign - but that is all it is...a marketing campaign. The truth of it is that Google does not make smartphones at all. Even its Pixel line is the sum of parts and components sourced from elsewhere. While we have discussed the importance of Google bringing to market a premium device, that is far different from the company actually making that premium product itself. Which in turn is a far cry from Apple and its relation to its phones. To put this further into perspective...
Don't Ignore Experience
So iPhone X has these features, this sort of display, this type of camera. While Pixel 2 will have these features, this sort of display, this type of camera. While it is natural to make these comparisons, as we all do with every phone that hits the market. The iPhone and Pixel lines are not only vastly different products, but they are also at vastly different stages of their product line maturity. The iPhone X is the sum of years of smartphone-building experience while the Pixel 2 is literally the sum of a new approach and at times, more of a marketing exercise than anything else.
The first iPhone came through in 2007, the first Pixel phone came through in 2016. Since the first iPhone (including the first) there has been no less that 15 renditions over the course of 6 generations. Note the number 6, as we are not even including the just announced models. If we do then that figure rises to 18 phones over 7 generations. By contrast, the Pixel line so far consists of two models - which in reality are the same phone. So arguably, there has only been one model of the Pixel and if you want to bring the iPhone down to its core versions (excluding all the “S” ‘C” “Plus” “SE” models), we have as many as eight - iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPhone 6, iPhone 7, iPhone 8, iPhone X. Therefore, if you really must make a comparison between the phone products of both companies, make a comparison between Google’s first phone and Apple’s first. At least the basis of that comparison will have a common denominator.
Don't Ignore Product Purpose
To compare the iPhone X to the Pixel 2 is to suggest that they are designed to be similar products. That they are designed to cater to the same customers. When they are not. To clear this up once and for all - Apple sells phones, Google sells software. That is it. iOS largely exists to sell phones for Apple, while the Pixel line exists to sell the Android operating system. Although Google would undoubtedly like to sell more of it's ‘made by Google’ phones, that is not the end goal here. A lot of criticism has been leveled at Google for the Pixel line - and in particular, its dated look and being behind the times in terms of features/specs. Criticisms that are already starting to be leveled at the Pixel 2 by all sections of the media, including us. But the reality is that the Pixel Line (as well as the Nexus line) is first and foremost designed to highlight Android. So while other Android-related phone manufacturers look to introduce the best in class hardware, the most up to date specs, the earliest beta features, the Pixel line does not. It looks to explicitly highlight the Android version related to the release of the device.
So there is no confusion on this, here is a tangible example. The OnePlus 5 offers 8GB RAM. If you asked OnePlus, this would likely be to ensure a fluid and smooth user experience regardless of the load placed on the smartphone. Therefore, its RAM count is one of its major selling points. The same selling point OnePlus has used with its previous phones as well. The Pixel line on the other hand will arrive running on Android 8.0 (Oreo). It has been widely documented that Android Oreo is an under the hood upgrade - which is very true. Another way of viewing Oreo is that this upgrade includes a number of features (for example 'Background Execution Limits') that are purpose-designed to limit the impact of the operating system on a phone’s hardware. In other words, with Android Oreo you don’t need as much RAM anymore - as the RAM is under a lesser load by default. Arguably, packing the Pixel 2 with 8, 10, or 100GB RAM would completely negate this particular selling point with Oreo. In fact, Google probably could include 2GB RAM in the Pixel 2 and this would be more than sufficient, and would even further highlight the system-level benefits of Oreo. On a side note, why do you think iPhone versions have always came with significantly less RAM than their Android counterparts?
Although, from an Android marketing perspective including 2GB RAM in a premium device would be a no-go as no one would pay the asking price. Therefore, packing the Pixel 2 with 4GB RAM (which, whether you like it or not is the current industry standard) is exactly what the Pixel 2 should (and likely will) come with. The best way to sum up the Pixel line is that ‘you get what you need.’ A sentiment which can be extrapolated out to the cameras (single vs dual), the display (bezels vs bezel-less), and just about any other criticism you could level at the Pixel line. It is the sum of the needed parts, not a shopping list of parts that the company can then boast about.
And this is just when we are talking about Oreo as a product. As we have yet to even touch on the additional software aspects that Google is also selling - Google Assistant, Google Lens, Google Photos, Daydream, ARCore, and the rest. All of which will not only be present on the Pixel 2, but will be deeply tied-in with the Pixel experience. To reiterate, Apple sells phones, Google sells software...and services.
Don't Ignore Forward Direction
In reality, Product Purpose and Forward Direction are largely interchangeable. However, it is worth addressing them slightly differently. As Product Purpose largely focuses on why you should (or should not) buy the Pixel 2 or the iPhone X, while Forward Direction (in this context) looks to use the current products as indicators for where the company sees itself going in the future. Although, the end result remains the same - Apple sells phones, Google sells software. And the iPhone X is a prime example of Apple’s Forward Direction. As this is in reality being positioned as an expensive proof-of-concept device. Not only will it cost you north of $1,100 but it was announced along with the iPhone 8 - which is more of the current ‘now’ smartphone. So if you want to know where Apple is going in the future - look to the iPhone X. While if you want to know where Google is going in the future - do not look at the Pixel 2.
For example, the key selling points noted during Apple’s announcement including the bezel-less display, Face ID, the dual 12-megapixel rear cameras, the A11 Bionic processor, and the inclusion of wireless charging. All aspects which are deeply tied to the hardware. While some features (Face ID, wireless charging, the camera experience) also rely on software tweaking, make no mistake, it is the hardware being sold here. Apple is selling the sex appeal of the iPhone X. Just watch the launch video to see how the entire selling point is how stylish the design is.
In contrast, the original Pixel (and the upcoming models) will focus much more heavily on the software experience. While Google will be quick to tell you that the Pixel 2 comes loaded with a Snapdragon 835, 4GB RAM, a larger aperture, a water-resistant body, Google will be much quicker to tell you about how the Pixel 2 can be used to not only take great images, but store those great images at full resolution through Google Photos. How Google Lens will not only capture images, but actually change the way you engage with those images. As they will no longer be images that you just view, but images you interact with. How Google ARCore will allow Pixel owners to engage with the world around them like never before. How the Google Assistant is smarter than ever before and how it is much more closer entwined with the Pixel user experience, as well as other non-Pixel devices.
Which very clearly demonstrates the core emphasis (and by association the forward direction) of each company. Apple uses software improvements to highlight hardware selling points. While Google uses hardware improvements to highlight software selling points. While the two have many software experiences that are somewhat alike - Apple Pay and Android Pay, Siri and Google Assistant, ARKit and ARCore - they are not equal alternatives. Google has invested much more in the development of its alternatives as a means to bring those features to the masses, while Apple has invested in these technologies to bring them to iPhone users. Apple’s ambition and forward direction will continue to be to sell iPhones, Google’s will continue to be to sell its services. Which neatly brings us to the next don’t.
Don't Ignore Market Share
Market share it what matters and is the biggest indicator of where a company is going (forward direction). Which in turn is the biggest indicator of what devices are coming from that company (product purpose). When it come to market share, Android is king. This is undisputed. While the numbers do fluctuate and this does lead to at-the-time wild headline assumptions, the difference between iOS and Android have remained fairly static over time. The below graphic provided by IDC in May of 2017 highlights the gulf in difference and shows how IDC has seen the fluctuations change over the year (Q1 2016 to Q1 2017).
While iOS worldwide market share has dipped as low as 11.7-percent and as high as 18.2-percent, Android’s worldwide market share has never dipped below 81-percent during the same time-frame. Which as a low-ball figure, represents four-fifths of the entire market. Again, over the course of the last year - that is the lowest market share noted by IDC for Android. That cannot be ignored. Google’s Android is substantially more important to Google than any hardware products it may or may not release. By contrast, those 11 to 18-percent figures noted for Apple are an exact approximation of the number of hardware products (not just phones) that the company has directly sold. Apple sells phones, Google sells software.
On the topic of market share, there is the other issue that Google faces - its ‘partners’. After all, Android is not a Pixel thing and if Android was dependent on the Pixel (or the Nexus line when it was current), then Android would not have survived. The reason it is what it is, is due to just about every phone maker other than Apple. That is where the sales come from and is the foundation of Android. To again draw on data from IDC (helps with the consistency and in relation to the previous IDC mention), as of May 2017 and during the same period as the last data set (Q1 2016 to Q1 2017) Apple saw a worldwide smartphone market share which dipped to 11.7-percent and hit a high of 18.2-percent. Those numbers sound familiar? Same as those noted for the OS market share. By contrast, Samsung over the same period saw a low of 18-percent (almost the same as Apple’s highest point) and a high of 23.8-percent. Huawei a low of 8.4-percent and a high of 10.5-percent. OPPO a low of 5.9-percent and a high of 7.5-percent. VIVO a low of 4.4-percent and a high of 5.9-percent. The always-ominous ‘Others” saw a low of 39-percent and a high of 45-percent. The common denominator between all those non-Apple figures, Android of course. Arguably, some of the “Others” might not be Android, but any amount that is not Android, is negligible.
The point here is where does anyone realistically expect Pixel to lodge. To suggest that the Pixel is Google’s answer to the iPhone and that Google needs to ‘up its game’ and sell more to be like Apple, is ridiculous. Samsung, Huawei, OPPO and VIVO (who here are credited with the biggest non-Apple impact on the worldwide smartphone market) are companies who largely focus on smartphone manufacturing, invest hugely in advertising those mobile products, and most importantly to this conversation - have a wealth of experience. To expect Pixel to not only start selling in the tens of millions, as well as to unseat these already-established companies is not a realistic expectation. Not to mention, this is without taking into consideration the fallout between Google and its partners that would manifest in the aftermath of any massive Pixel uptake. For example, besides the frosty relations, such a move would only serve to inspire those third-party companies to rethink their own OS ambitions. So Android, and by association Google’s software and services, are deeply reliant on these third-party companies. Which arguably could be one of the reasons as to why Google prefers to turn to third-party companies to produce its ‘made by Google’ phones. After all, Google has the money and the manpower to bring out its own smartphone. But to reiterate the point, that is not the end goal with the Pixel line.
So here it is. While it is understandable that some will make comparisons between the likes of the Pixel 2 and the iPhone X, it is not helpful, or even realistic. These are both phones from major tech companies and arguably, users do have the option to choose one over the other. But they are fundamentally different devices, designed to cater to different users. So the buying decision should not be one based off which phone is better, but more so, which phone resonates more with what you want from a smartphone - hardware or software. For those that do need to compare the iPhone X to an Android alternative, then here you go. After all, that is why we have Samsung, righ