Apple and Google don’t have spy ninjas who lurk in the shadows of test labs, racing back to HQ with stolen secrets to integrate into their own company’s devices. Boringly, clever people come up with similar ideas.
However, having watched Google’s Pixel 8 event, and despite thinking the new iPhone 15 Pro Max is the best iPhone ever made, I couldn’t help wishing Apple would steal some ideas from the new Pixel 8 Pro for next year’s iPhone 16. Because some of them are really good.
Phones that last
Google now says its Pixel phones will get seven years of OS updates. Far be it for me to suggest Google doesn’t always make good on promises, but let’s say it does this time. Seven years is a big deal for Android – and even ahead of iPhone, which typically gets five years of meaningful updates.
Add in an iFixit partnership and Google’s right to argue “no major smartphone brand offers this committed level of support and longevity”. I hope that statement makes Apple bristle and kicks off a sustainability war. In a few years, we can then beam as Google says “our latest Pixel will outlive YOU”, only for Apple to counter that the new iPhone will survive the heat death of the universe.
Phones that simplify writing
Mobile devices have long integrated spellcheck. Google’s taking things further, smoothing over the ineptitude of your tapping thumbs by way of grammar and punctuation assistance.
Elsewhere, Recorder builds on live transcription (which the iPhone Voice Memos app bafflingly lacks), with concise summaries of business meetings or your attempts to dictate an entire novel into your Pixel while on the train.
That all sounds great. Well, as long as the Pixel doesn’t summarise your efforts by saying: “Don’t give up the day job. Unless writing is your day job, in which case totally give that up.” Otherwise, Apple, steal this!
Phones you can chat with
In this bit, I’m not suggesting phones you gossip with. (What is Mrs Miggins at number 48 doing with that chainsaw?) More that Google is using ‘AI’ to better Siri (artificial, not so intelligent) and integrate a properly intelligent assistant.
The Call Screen feature is being ramped up to take calls you don’t want to deal with, and will let you tap a button to provide your entire reply. Natural-language text input will surface home security videos or advise regarding why today’s run was below par. (And it’ll politely likely recommend more sleep rather than say “because you ate an entire family size bag of Doritos before you started”.)
The pixel can also make sense of complex asks, such as a grocery list for a party, where you want to go “heavy on the snacks” (despite that run) and add smoothie ingredients (due to snack guilt). Although, having used Bard, I’d say to be wary of accuracy. That list might include popcorn, fruit, yoghurt, fire, gravel, and a 1987 Ford Fiesta.
Phones that remake reality
Finally, everyone fakes reality. Your social feed is more smiles, beaches and sunsets than snaps of horrible commutes, stubbed toes and explosive baby nappies.
Google wants to enhance your faked memories, in ways Apple should totally steal. Filters are yesterday’s news. Now you can switch someone’s entire face if they’re gurning during a group shot. Or, unlike iPhone, where you can lift subjects and turn them into stickers, Magic Editor in Google Photos will let you remove objects completely – or resize and move them.
It’s reminiscent of science fiction, doubly so when you compare Zoom Enhance to Rick Deckard faffing with a photo. Let’s just hope the AI infused into Google’s new devices doesn’t take a tip from Roy Batty and decide it wants to live – and since we’re filling its time with busywork that we all need to be ‘retired’.