Google likes to treat product reveals as a casual conversation between its engineers and tech-savvy viewers. Thursday’s minimalist Made for Google event stands in stark contrast to Apple events that rely on high production values and longer, more scripted information. The question is, does Google’s laid-back approach help or hurt devices like the Pixel Watch and Pixel 7?
Google launched its long-awaited first-generation Pixel Watch yesterday, but it only devoted about 7 minutes to it in an hour-long presentation. It’s spent nearly as much time on VPN software and twice as much time on Pixel 7 photography upgrades. It’s not exactly a conventional way to launch a new line of products you care about!
Google had good reason not to dwell on the hardware, given the controversies surrounding it. He used black-rimmed watch faces to hide the thick bezels. He didn’t mention the 4-year-old Exynos 9110 chipset or whether the 2GB of RAM and coprocessor helped it keep pace with the 1.5GB Galaxy Watch 5. And its 24-hour battery didn’t certainly never been used.
Instead, Fitbit CEO James Park very briefly outlined all the Google apps you can access through Wear OS 3.5 – YouTube Music, Google Photos slideshows, Calendar, Maps and Assistant – before explaining how Fitbit Premium will work on Pixel Watch, with behind-the-scenes showing how they’ve made health tracking more accurate.
And then… they went straight to the Pixel tablet! No more talk about Wear OS, no talk about the hardware you’re looking at…nothing.
Park’s presence on stage made it clear that the Pixel Watch is the improved successor to the Fitbit Sense 2; a Google fitness smartwatch first and foremost. The Pixel Watch costs a bit more and doesn’t have all the same sensors, but by trading off the battery life it offers a much smoother and faster interface.
I’ve complained in the past about how Apple and Samsung collect a ton of fitness data, but don’t have the algorithms to analyze the data and tell you how hard it is to work out; you just have to close your rings every day. Google will be the first to give an appropriate daily readiness score based on your workout data, and it’s arguably a game-changer that could help the watch grab attention beyond its sleek looks and sound. interoperability with Pixel phones.
Compare Park’s indescribable reveal to last month’s Apple Watch Series 8 and Ultra reveals, with Apple’s ultra-serious ads about lives saved and SOS sent. Not to mention the meme-worthy moments like Apple engineer Craig Federighi racing in slow motion towards a new product at WWDC 2022. I doubt you’ll ever see Google’s Rick Osterloh asked to do a similar stunt.
Apple Live Streams are cheesy and endless, memorable but mainstream. Google’s live stream really emphasizes niche innovations like AI improvements or better call quality — going beyond the basic phone info you’d find on a spec sheet. Google has barely explained why the Pixel 7 Pro is better than the Pixel 7 because it assumes its viewers already know that and don’t need the redundant information.
Google and Apple had very similar issues this year, in that Apple had to sell using the same A15 Bionic chip in the iPhone 14 and 13 as a good thing, and Google had to sell a “new” chip Tensor G2 which is almost identical to the original Google Tensor for the two Pixel 7 phones. Its two new Cortex A78 cores only beat the old A76 by 0.1 GHz, the two X1 only clock 0.05 GHz more fast and it still uses four A55 cores. So Google avoided talking about performance entirely and focused on the new TPU to improve machine learning. Again, the question will be whether this avoidance strategy pays off.
Google has set aside some time to poke Apple for its “new” features that Pixels have had for years, like always-on displays and crash detection, and criticize Apple for not embracing RCS. But like MKBHD (opens in a new tab) noted on Twitter, Google also added “new” features such as limited face unlock and motion blur that iPhones already had.
Not to mention that Google’s whole strategy with this event was to sell an interconnected line of Pixel products, which is of course the entirety of Apple. operating mode with its products. Google talked about the shared design language and reserved exclusive software for Pixels because it wants to lock you into its ecosystem at the expense of other Android phones.
Will Google’s strategy work? We know that only 27.6 million Pixel phones have been sold since 2016, which puts the company so far behind Samsung and Apple in sales that it could never catch up. These brands sell all types of appliances and the kitchen sink, and Google might be hoping to emulate their success by tempting Google fans with ultra-smart Tensor-backed AI running on all their devices and powering their Google Home.
In this situation, even minor sales figures by other companies’ standards would be a huge win. So even if Google adopts an Apple-like ecosystem, that doesn’t mean it should emulate its marketing strategy. It can afford to target a crowd of niche techies who don’t need a whole scripted production to see the appeal of Google devices. This crowd included most Android Central employees, all of whom found the live stream refreshingly simple.
I still think the event tried to neatly work around the shortcomings of Pixel 7 and Pixel Watch. Our pre-event wishlist included things like fixing the phone’s fingerprint sensor, promising more consistent Wear OS updates, and believing that Tensor G2 wouldn’t make the Pixel series look like 7 was last generation, which did not happen.
And Google is still the company that just killed off Stadia and the Pixelbook 2 last month, so what if the watch or tablet fails? Will Google remain attached to its entire ecosystem if the experiment does not immediately bear fruit?
But despite the concerns I have, I at least appreciated that Google didn’t try to overcompensate these products with flashy presentations and skits. He just told us what he was proud of in his new devices and let the press release do the rest. And I think the strategy will pay off, especially if the Pixel Watch turns out to be the best Android smartwatch available.
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