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Apple vs Google: what their rivalry means for Android

We’re all familiar with Steve Jobs’ promise to wage “thermonuclear war” on Android, but many observers thought that Tim Cook had abandoned that strategy. Perhaps he had, but that doesn’t mean Apple isn’t still gunning for Google - and last week, it unveiled new ways to hit Google where it hurts. Read on to see what this rivalry means for Android and who is better in our Apple vs Google comparison.

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Apple's voice search assistant, Siri, dumped Google for Bing. / © ANDROIDPIT

Why Steve Jobs was so pissed at Google

Steve Jobs believed that by launching Android, Google was betraying Apple - and that the betrayal was personal because Google’s Eric Schmidt was on Apple’s board. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product,” he said.

Schmidt was persuaded to step down from Apple’s board in 2009, but when Jobs met Schmidt the following year he hadn’t mellowed. “I don’t want your money,” he told the Google boss. “If you offer me $5 billion, I won’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want.”

That wasn’t going to happen. For Google, Android was an essential insurance policy: it was clear that mobile would be much bigger than the desktop, and if Apple dominated that world it could easily crush Google by booting its services off Apple’s devices. If Microsoft and BlackBerry wouldn’t keep Apple’s world domination at bay, Android would.

Bad news for Google Play? Apple Music is coming to Android. / © Apple

Apple vs Google: the invisible war

Apple didn’t go after Android directly, at least not at first. It sent its lawyers after Samsung instead, because Samsung was the key Android manufacturer. But the strategy didn’t appear to work, with both firms spending enormous amounts of money for no apparent benefit.

When Apple stopped chasing Samsung around, many observers thought that spelled the end of the war. But it didn’t. Tim Cook turned out to be playing a much more subtle game. Apple bought up supplies of key components such as fingerprint sensors, making it difficult and expensive for other firms to get them. It pushed the iPhone into 64-bit computing, knowing full well that Android and its partners weren’t ready for 64-bit. It even block-booked airline freight so that Android firms would have to ship goods more slowly by land or sea.

And Apple started going directly after Google.

Apple and Google are now bitter rivals in mobile and in wearables too.  / © Apple

Apple vs Google: maps, money and music

The first signs were in 2009, when Apple blocked the Google Voice app for the iPhone. But things really got serious with iOS 6 in 2012, when Apple dumped Google Maps. It was a bold move, and it turns out that it was also a premature one: Apple Maps was pretty bad, hilariously so in some cases. But Apple didn’t change its mind, and in 2013 it made Microsoft’s Bing the default search engine for its Siri voice assistant.

The following year it launched Apple Pay, essentially Google Wallet done right (something Google seems to have acknowledged in its rebranding of Wallet as Android Pay). Apple started expanding its own search options too, with desktop Spotlight searching pulling information from the Web without any Google involvement, and in June 2015 it pushed that even further by publishing an API (Application Programming Interface) that will enable Spotlight to search iOS apps when iOS 9 ships in the fall.

The direction of travel is obvious: if you want to do it, Apple wants you to do it with an Apple product or service, not a Google one.

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Look Ma, no Google: Apple's API enables Spotlight searching of apps, just like Google Now on Tap / © Apple

Adding insult to injury: blocking Google’s core business

We’re sure this year’s WWDC had Google seeing red. Apple spent a lot of time during its keynote bashing other firms’ privacy policies, with fingers clearly pointing at the big G. It announced two new Android apps, one a rival to Google Play Music and the other an app to make it easier to switch from Android to iOS.

And then it announced that it’ll be supporting ad blockers in iOS 9 too.

To understand just how big this is, remember that Google makes almost all of its money from selling advertising on search results and on web pages. By taking Google out of iOS search and iOS apps, Apple bypasses the former - and by enabling ad blocking in iOS, Apple bypasses the latter.

In the US, the majority of mobile web users and the highest spending mobile users use iOS. If Apple’s play works, none of those people will be using Google’s search or seeing Google’s ads.

So what does that mean for Android?

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Do you think Apple's trying to get at a particular search company here? / © Apple

Apple vs Google: what it means for Android

To an extent, Android has ended up creating the very scenario it was supposed to be insurance for: it broke the friendship between Apple and Google. Now we’re in a situation where Apple is actively moving to keep Google off iOS and where you can spend your entire day using Apple equivalents of Google services, from smartwatches to sat-nav.

Apple and Google are no longer pals, but bitter rivals in multiple sectors. Whether that’s ironic or just shows that Google correctly predicted the future, we’ll leave to you.

But what it means for Android is that the mobile OS is more important than ever, because Google’s future depends on it - and in particular on stock Android, not the AOSP or forked versions that don’t include Google services. Google needs as many people as possible to use its services, because it’s in the business of selling information and targeting ads - and Android is the only platform where Google can be certain of its services being at the forefront.

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Is Google Maps better? Yes. Do more Apple owners use it? No. / © Apple

You can see how that’s likely to pan out on iOS by looking at maps. Google makes a great version of Maps for iOS, but it doesn’t dominate: Apple’s own mapping is now used by 3.5 times more people than what Apple calls “the next most-used mapping app”.

No matter how good Google’s apps are, Apple’s ones will always have a built-in advantage over iOS - so for Google the challenge isn’t about getting its apps onto Apple’s platform, but in getting more people onto Android. How it goes about that is going to be fascinating.

What do you think? Should Google worry about its enmity with Apple?


Write new comment:
  • Since Apple is now banning Google or anything to do with Google Android needs to focus on making devices better than Apple, what I mean is this: Yes Android is open source, I like that. Any update that comes on ANY ANDROID, everybody should have the same update, not just a handful of devices for example LOLLIPOP 5.1 I have a Droid Turbo that I got last week and STILL ON KITKAT 4.4. Verizon is holding the update and saying "LOLLIPOP 5.1 is still in the testing stages." I think it's pure bull that all the other Smart Phones are on LOLLIPOP and Verizon is bullying Droid Turbo users from it or holding it. I sincerely hope someone that has something to do with Google or Android gets my comment, the only way Android could get better and be better then Apple is ALL ANDROIDS GET UPDATED AT THE SAME TIME!

  • CJ Brown Jun 16, 2015 Link to comment

    I continue to be an Android smartphone user, while I have friends who use either Android or Apple smartphones, and it all comes down to what the consumer wants.

    The freedom to choose between Android, or Apple, must remain (I should include Microsoft smartphones, even if their OS isn't a significant % of smartphones in use) in order to preserve more choices for consumers.

    I personally prefer Android (open source), I like being able to choose from a variety of Android smartphones (more than one manufacturer), I am a bit disappointed that Android OS Lollipop 5.0 / 5.1 isn't really available for a large % of Android smartphones (and I think even more Android smartphones may not receive the Android OS M update).

    . I'm not going to heckle someone for having an Apple device, as I'd rather use that energy towards encouraging Google into offering better ways of sync-ing their smartphones + phablets + tablets + TV + game console + on demand device + fiber broad band.

  • your actually right, sorry my bad.

  • 40%-Android 60%-Apple? I don't think so.
    I'm sure it's more like 76%-Android 22%-Apple.
    Someone correct me here if I'm wrong.

  • Google is not only a corporation, its a corporation ran by ordinary people that are basically technological geniuses that take suggestions from ordinary people like us and try to make it a reality, isn't it what Google and Android are all about?

  • Dwarfer66 Jun 15, 2015 Link to comment

    Android means freedom, Apple means "we own you"

  • 40% of people using Android and growing and 60% of people use Apple, I say if people like App drawer and being organized use Google, if you want a clutter and inaccurate maps use Apple.

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