3 fea­tures Ap­ple should bor­row from Google

Google un­veiled a lot of new hard­ware re­cently and there are some fea­tures that the Cu­per­tino-based com­pany could im­ple­ment.

Macworld (USA) - - Contents - BY DAN MOREN

For ob­vi­ous rea­sons, we spend a lot of time fo­cus­ing on Ap­ple here, but let’s take a mo­ment to turn our at­ten­tion to an­other tech com­pany (yes, there are oth­ers!) that com­petes in many of the same spaces.

In mid-oc­to­ber, Google in­tro­duced a slew of new de­vices, from new smart­phones ( go.mac­world.com/pxl3) to a tablet ( go.mac­world.com/pslt) to a smart home speaker with a screen ( go.mac­world.com/ ghub). And while there will al­ways be those who pre­fer one com­pany’s prod­ucts to an­other’s, it’s im­por­tant to have com­pe­ti­tion in this space in or­der to drive all com­pa­nies—in­clud­ing Ap­ple—for­ward.

To that end, here’s a look at a few fea­tures that Google an­nounced in its

prod­ucts that many users of Ap­ple de­vices—in­clud­ing yours truly—would wel­come with open arms on Ap­ple’s own plat­forms.

A BROADER SELFIE CAN­VAS

Ap­ple started adding more lenses to the back of its iphones with the iphone 7 Plus ( go.mac­world.com/7pls), a trend that’s con­tin­ued with the iphone X ( go. mac­world.com/aipx) and XS ( go.mac­world. com/ipxs). This not only al­lows the com­pany to of­fer an op­ti­cal tele­photo lens for shoot­ing far-away sub­jects, but also en­ables more com­pli­cated com­pu­ta­tional pho­tog­ra­phy by us­ing in­for­ma­tion cap­tured by both cam­eras.

Google’s Pixel 3, on the other hand, es­chews a se­cond rear-fac­ing cam­era. But it does in­clude a se­cond front-fac­ing cam­era for the pur­pose of tak­ing widean­gle self­ies. This is, ad­mit­tedly, a bril­liant choice. As Google’s own mar­ket­ing ma­te­ri­als point out, how of­ten have you ac­ci­den­tally cut some­one out of your selfie, or blocked the back­ground with too many peo­ple crowded in? As some­one with long arms, I of­ten get drafted as the group selfie taker, and while I do my best to get ev­ery­body, I can only do so much with­out pulling a mus­cle. (And if you’re about to say the words “selfie stick,” you can just stop now.)

Ob­vi­ously, Ap­ple’s al­ready got a lot go­ing on in the XS and XS Max’s True Depth cam­era sys­tem and cram­ming an­other lens in there might be tricky. But the re­sult would prob­a­bly be worth­while for those of us who take group self­ies which, let’s face it, is most of us.

SHOW, DON’T TELL

Smart speak­ers have proved to be a pop­u­lar mar­ket, but the jury’s still out when it comes to adding a screen to these de­vices. I have a first­gen­er­a­tion Echo Show, and it has never par­tic­u­larly im­pressed me, al­though I could see the po­ten­tial in hav­ing a dis­play at­tached to such a de­vice. Google’s Home Hub like­wise seems like it could of­fer some handy ca­pa­bil­i­ties, such as show­ing search re­sults, dis­play­ing timers, and even play­ing videos.

That brings to light one of my least fa­vorite parts of Ap­ple’s Homepod: the “dis­play.” I get that the com­pany wanted the speaker to look like an at­trac­tive item that you could put any­where in your house, but the screen on the top is the worst of both worlds. It pro­vides lit­tle in the way of use­ful con­trol or in­for­ma­tion for the de­vice, lim­ited to dis­play­ing any­thing other than too-small vol­ume con­trols while play­ing au­dio or an un­du­lat­ing mass of col­ors to in­di­cate that Siri has heard you. I al­ready pre­fer phys­i­cal con­trols to touch ones, but if you’re go­ing to have a touch­screen, you might as well em­brace its full ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

I find it un­likely that Ap­ple will be putting a screen in the Homepod any­time soon; again, I think it’s a mat­ter of aes­thet­ics and de­sign for the com­pany. But given that the com­pany makes such fan­tas­tic screens on its other de­vices—and makes such good use of the lim­ited dis­play space on prod­ucts like the Ap­ple Watch—it’s dis­ap­point­ing to see the Homepod left out in the cold.

LOOK­ING FOR AN AN­GLE

Since get­ting an ipad Pro and Smart Key­board, I’ve found my­self us­ing Ap­ple’s tablet much more than I used to. It’s a de­light­fully light and com­pact de­vice for writ­ing—in fact, I write most of my Mac­world col­umns, in­clud­ing this very piece, on it. But the com­bi­na­tion does

have its lim­i­ta­tions, most no­table of which is an er­gonomic one: there’s only a sin­gle an­gle at which you can use the key­board.

Don’t get me wrong: if you had to pick a sin­gle an­gle at which to fix the ipad, the op­tion Ap­ple has cho­sen is prob­a­bly the best choice. But the big­ger ques­tion is why choose just one? I was im­pressed by the key­board that Google showed off for its new Pixel Slate tablet, which in­cludes an ad­justable dis­play an­gle and con­verts into a fo­lio, though it ap­par­ently still can’t be used in the lap eas­ily.

It’d be great to see Ap­ple take a page from this book and add more ad­justa­bil­ity to the ipad’s Smart Key­board. While I don’t nec­es­sar­ily want my ipad to turn into a lap­top—i’m still pretty happy with my

11-inch Macbook Air, thanks—i do like the idea of a more ver­sa­tile typ­ing de­vice.

The good news is that one ru­mor sug­gests the next ipad up­date will in­clude a new type of mag­netic con­nec­tor which could hint at an im­proved Smart Key­board.

I’m not about to jump ship from my ipad for a Pixel Slate any­time soon, any­more than I would trade my iphone XS for a Pixel 3. But hey, maybe adding a Google Home Hub to my apart­ment wouldn’t be too bad. ■

Google says its widean­gle front cam­era of­fers 184 per­cent more screen con­tent than what Ap­ple de­liv­ers on the iphone XS.

The top of the Homepod is a touch­screen dis­play.

ipad Pro with Smart Key­board.

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