Google went hardware crazy at its I/O conference this week, unveiling the Nexus 7 tablet, Nexus Q media streaming device and lowering the price for the unlocked Galaxy Nexus. A high-profile demo of Google Glass, a wearable computer that provides real-time data, showed that Google is serious about its futuristic product and hardware strategy.
Yet in many ways the star was Android, which was bumped up to version 4.1 (dubbed Jelly Bean). Sexy hardware combined with the slick Jelly Bean are giving tech enthusiasts more enticement to make the leap from iOS over to Android.The rising popularity of Chrome, Gmail, and Google Drive are scooping in users who want to stay tightly integrated within Google’s ecosystem. While Android is often characterized as an “open platform,” it is the lock-in to Google services that the company hopes will siphon users into Android. There is good reason for this: Keeping one’s tabs synced across devices and having easy access to files is a powerful method for productivity. The superiority of Google Maps on Android (which may be more noticeable when Apple’s maps app launches this fall)
Combine this with Google Now, the new search assistant in Android, and the platform is extremely appetizing for those who crave the latest in tech. If you want some serious geek cred, ditch the ubiquitous iPhone and grab a monster-sized Galaxy Nexus.
At least that is how Google hopes this week’s I/O attendees will react. Everyone received a swag bag that included a Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 7, Nexus Q, and Chromebox. Getting these products into the hands of tech press and developers is designed to generate the right kind of geek buzz that advertising money can’t buy.
The strategy is working well on me. My iPhone 4S, while stable and highly reliable, is beginning to look boring. I know it will work well, the apps are fantastic, and the camera is amazing. Yet the home screen is starting to feel static compared to the vast customization options with widgets and other live material in Android. Sharing in Android can be to any service or application, while iOS 6 is only finally adding Facebook as an option. And forget about setting something other than Safari or Mail as the default – iOS won’t allow it.
Previous to this, users like me were willing to put up with such restrictions because the iPhone overall offered a more complete and polished experience than Android. But Google has worked very hard to catch up. With few exceptions, Android now matches or surpasses iOS in almost every category.
I am looking very hard at making a Galaxy Nexus my primary device. While having Gmail and Chrome on an iPhone are cool, those apps function and integrate at a far deeper level on Android. It is an appealing option that is becoming more difficult to resist.