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opinion 125 Shares 11 comments

Who said Android had to be innovative?

Android has been accused by many, including some here at AndroidPIT, of not doing enough to innovate. Perhaps it is the case that Apple is outplaying Android when it comes to innovation. Maybe Google needs to do more. Or maybe Google's progress is simply flying under the radar in the form of technological evolution.

Innovation is dead; long live evolution

I believe the main reason for the perception of Android as slow or reluctant to innovate is mostly down to the way Google implements new features. It does it through a primordial ooze of betas that creep towards an infinite horizon of completion. Apple, on the other hand, tends to release new features in a more digestible, rounded way, in a state that, at the very least, appears complete.

AndroidPIT android N vs iOS 10
Both operating systems continue their relentless march of progress, but where to? / © AndroidPIT

However, many of these features, both from Apple and Google, are things most consumers and smartphone aficionados would be reluctant to call innovative. Nothing in the past few years could be thought of as the Next Big Thing (shut up, 3D Touch). But then this isn’t so much a fault of Google or Apple as the natural pattern of the plateau. Smartphones have little room left for innovation, and if there is to be a Next Big Thing, we probably won’t see it coming.

In this environment, I argue that creeping innovation, or evolution, should be the primary focus, and it’s what Google excels at.

Creeping innovation

Google Now was first released over four years ago, Popular Science named it Innovation of the Year almost three years ago, and now it’s morphing into Google Assistant, an advanced AI capable of two-way dialogues.

While Google Now and Google Assistant could well be considered innovative, they have been in development for a long, long time, and they’re not the astonishing slap in the proverbial face that people associate with innovation. They're a prime example of creeping innovation, and Google is lightyears ahead of Apple, and any other company for that matter, when it comes to machine-learning algorithms and their practical applications.

AndroidPIT google now voice commands 1
Google Now is the world's leading AI assistant. / © AndroidPIT

Google Wallet began its life five years ago, two years before Apple Pay, and it saw Android Pay born out of it in February 2015, as a more direct competitor to Apple’s service.

Google Wallet and Google Pay both represent a form of evolution, taking a service we have had and relied on for a long time – bank cards – and translating it into something less cumbersome and more practical.

And Google is making huge strides in other areas too, such as augmented reality, through Project Tango.

Google is the creepy king

In this game of evolution, played out at a glacial pace, Google reigns supreme. Through a slew of betas and refinements, Google's various strange and wonderful subdivisions are coming up with and developing some of the most interesting features smartphones have ever seen, and are also beginning to extend their utility towards the internet of things through Google Home and Android Auto.

Google i o Home 00
Google Home is more than a little creepy, but surely we will all have a version of one in the future. / © Google

Try not to mistake a slow pace for a lack of ambition. We all love the narrative of the world-changing spark of genius, but this is a desperately rare thing, if it's real at all, and it's certainly not worth waiting around for or lamenting for its inexistence. If it is to happen within our lifetimes, we certainly won't be expecting it. What we can count on, and what Google deserves credit for, is its patient pursuit of projects that grow into the crevices of our lives gradually like the snuggly form of a digital kitten.

Even the baked-in support for VR in Android Nougat, through a platform called Daydream, is a long-in-the-works outcome of years of development and the natural maturation of a technology. Virtual reality, and augmented reality along with it, could well be the Next Big Thing we permanently believe that we need, but it won't come suddenly: it will come because Google has built the groundwork and found ways to make these things merge as seamlessly as possible into our everyday lives.

Do you agree that Google is doing more to push the evolution of smartphones than any other company?

Readers' favorite comments

  • Sherzod Abdujabborov
    • Admin
    • Staff
    3 months ago

    well innovation can be of two types - radical and incremental. I agree with you that it is quite hard to make innovation leaps at the moment due to the limitations mobile phones impose. I believe that both companies are doing a great job at incremental innovation. The business and strategic challenge they are facing is that they both are getting increasingly similar as to what they can do, although they both represent two different worlds when it comes to the freedom allowed within the ecosystem.

    However, often it seems that users and consumers are getting too demanding and unappreciative of all the amazing technological advancements both companies achieve. Whether it is AI or augmented reality or cross-device IoT solutions or use of big data to help us live healthier lives - mobile phones are doing things that we could not imagine simply 10 years ago, maybe only in the sci-fi books.

11 comments

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  • I agree to that Google attracted more buyers with Android as Apple did, that of course due to the price range as well, but no doubt the security level of iOS is way higher than Android security level or may be Android apps are easy to develop and distribute than iOS apps, not sure but the war between Google and Apple will continue though

    • Security level is relative. AOS is open source so it's up to the user to have a brain whereas there is not such requirement for iOS.

  • I agree that this quarter will be a blow out, and what will be blown out is Apple's ginormous share of the Smart Phone profits - that's really what matters anyway.

  • Sherzod Abdujabborov
    • Admin
    • Staff
    3 months ago Link to comment

    well innovation can be of two types - radical and incremental. I agree with you that it is quite hard to make innovation leaps at the moment due to the limitations mobile phones impose. I believe that both companies are doing a great job at incremental innovation. The business and strategic challenge they are facing is that they both are getting increasingly similar as to what they can do, although they both represent two different worlds when it comes to the freedom allowed within the ecosystem.

    However, often it seems that users and consumers are getting too demanding and unappreciative of all the amazing technological advancements both companies achieve. Whether it is AI or augmented reality or cross-device IoT solutions or use of big data to help us live healthier lives - mobile phones are doing things that we could not imagine simply 10 years ago, maybe only in the sci-fi books.

    • I agree. I think it feels like Android isnt continuously changing because the design changes are not as drastic as they used to be. I personnaly think that Google has actually done a lot to improve Android in the last 2-3 iterations, just under the hood and not as present for the user. Those under-the-hood-improvements can be just that much more important in terms of improving the user experience than most people might think.

  • Mark 3 months ago Link to comment

    I think Google is moving to fast. I would rather see older devices get updated to the newer versions, than them punching out a new version every year. Lollipop just recently took over first from KitKat. Manufacture skins should be separate to the base OS so updates can come straight from Google. Not have to go though the manufacture, or require the manufacture to do it in timely a fashion. Updates should last at least for 5 years for all devices.

    • Well from the user perspective, yea I agree. From the business persperctive, hell no. There is no way manufaturers will support phones for 5 years, they simply would not make enough money with most phones for that to make financial sense.
      Googles approach has its up and downsides, everyone can whatever the heck they want, but Google has basically no chance to get full control back. Companies like Samsung would simply jump ship and start pushing their own OS, Tizen in this case. And Samsung does have the reach and power to make that happen in such a case.

    • Dazzler 3 months ago Link to comment

      Even Google Nexus devices are only guaranteed updates for 2 years. I agree though, it would be good to get updates for my S7 Edge from Google rather than Samsung. That thing has 4gb of ram and 8 core processor, I would be happy to use it for 5 years provided the battery stays good but Samsung will be very slow to update it after 2-3 years.

  • i believe google is always steps ahead of apple but i cant understand one thing that why cant google's android keep the customization and optimisation at the level of apple like android cant keep the hardware more alive as the IOS does and an iphone 6s with a dual core processor and 2 gb ram can outperform an android device that on paper has double or even four times the capacity the iphone offers

    • this is only optimization.

    • imutau 3 months ago Link to comment

      It isn't the fault of the Android OS it's the fact that their OS runs on Hardware Google does not control. I would say you'd have a point if say Google owned Samsung and having both software and hardware under the same roof couldn't out perform Apple that more or less develops both hardware and software in house.

      Having to have something that runs as good as it does for multiple manufacturers phones is a tribute to what Google and Android phone manufacturers can do even when they are not developed along side one another.

      This also includes Nexus phones as ultimately Google does not control the hardware but just requests a set of specs to highlight it's latest OS features.

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