After nearly 10 years struggling to make a profit with the Android OS juggernaut; the world’s most used operating system, and with a number of attempts to design and build a credible smartphone that people might buy but didn’t so much, Google just introduced the iPhone 6s.
Say what? Apple shipped the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus last year, right? Well, from everything I can see, Google’s new Pixel smartphone– heralded as yet another iPhone killer– has just killed the iPhone 6 and goes head to head against the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.
Not that long ago I had a few fits of drool while looking at the specifications for Samsung’s then new Galaxy Note 7. I read the details. I held it and used it. Fortunately for me, this drool worthy device– Samsung’s new flagship– began exploding and catching fire before I could be tempted to buy it instead of an iPhone 7 Plus.
Samsung’s problems with the Note 7 made me a more cautious customer, so I looked at Google’s new Pixel and Pixel XL (ostensibly XL because Plus was already taken by a competitor) with a more skeptical eye. Early reports called Google’s Pixel something of an iPhone killer with the world’s best smartphone camera. In reality, Google just invented the iPhone 6s.
There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been. And we’ve always tried to do that at Apple.
Investor Warren Buffet:
In waiting for the comfort of good news, they are ignoring Wayne Gretzky’s advice: ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.’
You get the idea, right? There are two ways for a company to move forward and Apple employs both. Disruptive innovation and incremental innovation. With the Pixel smartphone Google chose to skate to where the puck was last year.
Here’s what I mean.
First, Pixel looks just like iPhone 6 (and 6s and 7). Apple was castigated for iPhone 7’s similar design but when Google copies it on a near per atom basis, technology wonks call it wonderful. Pixel still looks like an iPhone 6.
Second, Pixel has a big AMOLED screen with rich, vibrant colors. iPhones use LCDs. Of course, it’s a screen that is indistinguishable from perfect, so there’s that.
Third, the basic iPhone 6s vs. Pixel models are similar in size and weight, but iPhone 6s has one third more colors and the devices are available on more cellphone carriers. Even with storage the Pixel tops out at 128GB; same as last year’s iPhone 6s. Pixel runs the latest Android 7.1 Nougat while most iPhone users on the planet– even those with much older iPhones– run iOS 10 (it’s true; look it up).
What about that great Pixel camera? It’s the best that ever was, right? That depends. Most comparisons are done with the entry-level Pixel vs. iPhone and not the larger models where iPhone 7 has dual cameras and a wider aperture. These days, all the premium smartphones have good cameras and great photos. Pixel did not raise the state of the art or skate to where the puck should be. Pixel’s batteries are larger but usage time is typical Android; not much different than last year’s iPhone.
Even the price is, well, not the same. Pixel is priced the same as Apple’s iPhone 7 line but $100 more than last year’s iPhone 6s which it most resembles. In fact, there is no optical image stabilization on the Pixel XL but there is on last year’s iPhone 6s Plus. Pixel does not have stereo speakers. Just like last year’s iPhone 6s. Pixel does not advance the state of the art for sound, either. It features the basic headphone jack that’s been around since last century. Just like iPhone 6s.
Many of the online comparisons you’ll read compare the latest Samsung smartphones (not the flaming ones) against iPhone 7 and 7 Plus vs. Pixel and Pixel XL, but the real comparison could just as easily be last year’s iPhone 6 and 6s Plus which the Pixel most resembles in many ways.
This somewhat tongue-in-cheek comparison should tell us something. iPhone 7 and 7 Plus is the state of the art. After working on Android for more than 10 years, and after flirting with a few Nexus models which did not sell too well, Google introduced a smartphone that looks, feels, and performs– with a couple of notable exceptions– more like an iPhone 6s than an iPhone 7.