September 13, 2012

After iPhone 5, What Is Google’s Next Move?

The excessively hyped iPhone 5 event has come and gone. For iPhone fans there will be much to like: LTE connectivity, a taller screen, stronger internals and modest OS improvements.

So where does this leave Google? Android is still in a strong position, as Google vice president Andy Rubin conveniently tweeted on Tuesday that 500 million devices total running Android have been activated.

Yet while numbers and activations are one thing, the major battle over developer and consumer mindshare comes down to how iOS and Android excite these groups. This is where Google has a narrow edge at winning over those who have become bored with the decelerating development of iOS. When you compare iOS to Android on features and hardware choices, Apple no longer is above the field like it once was in the past.

For example, while Apple will push out Pocketbook in iOS 6, allowing users to store boarding passes and gift cards, there will be no NFC (Near Field Communication) chip for mobile payments. This leaves Samsung, HTC, and other partners who make Android devices with one advantage.

“We want you to be able to leave your leather wallet at home,” Robin Dua, Google Wallet’s head of product management, told a Web conference this week.

While that goal may be far off, those in larger cities may be able to at least leave their wallet in their pocket more. While using Google Wallet myself I have found it to be incredibly convenient to pay with my phone and organize purchases through the Google Wallet application.

Another major advantage of Android in the past couple of years, the larger screen sizes, isn’t going anywhere. The iPhone 5 will have a four-inch screen, clearly pushed in this direction by phones like the Galaxy Nexus, which sports a behemoth 4.65 inches. Other devices also have cameras and screen resolutions which offer strong competition to the iPhone.

Wednesday’s announcement speaks to the maturity of the iPhone’s product life. On its sixth iteration, the cycle has become predictable: devices leak out, certain features that are long overdue appear, yet there are enough new improvements to result in millions of sales.

Google must continue to innovate in ways that Apple is not. Android, especially Jelly Bean, offers a superior browsing and email experience with Chrome and Gmail. Google Drive users will find the Android experience more integrated than iOS. Google Now is a smart take that beats Siri in a number of ways.

Those undecided should see what Google’s next move will be. An improved Galaxy Nexus would make for a compelling alternative to the newest iPhone.

Image Credit: Apple

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