Google Tracker: Keeping Its Frenemies Close

25. September 2017.








The lines are blurring between competition and collaboration as Google reaches across enemy lines to partner with Apple. Or, if “partner” is too strong a word, then at least to cooperate for the greater good. The search engine giant extended not one, but three olive branches to the luxury tech-maker this week, but could it all be part of a grander plan on Google’s part to take the tech giant’s place? Plus, Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2 details and images have leaked, and Google teamed up with a classic denim designer to create a whole new kind of wearable tech — all in this week’s tracker.

OK, Apple — Listen Up

For a product that’s all about sound, the first Google Assistant-enabled headphones hit shelves in a surprisingly quiet manner last week, appearing on shelves at Best Buy with little fanfare.

Critics seem underwhelmed by the new capability, which debuted with the Bose QuietComfort 35 II noise-cancelling headphones ($350). So, users can leverage all the same functions on their headphones that they could have gotten by asking their phones or Google Homes — what’s the big deal?

A 9to5Google reviewer tried the new headphones and concluded that they are, in fact, a big deal. They do calls, of course, and the Voice UI (VUI) can both read and respond to notifications, with no “OK Google” wake phrase required. The Assistant can also audibly remind the user about upcoming calendar appointments.

But, potentially, one of the greatest aspects, at least according to the reviewer, is that all the same features are available to owners of Apple devices — opening the floodgates for a community of users who, until now, have never heard a voice in their headphones other than Siri’s.

Another Bite Of The Apple

To improve the consistency of its mobile user experience, Apple has switched its default web search provider from Bing to Google. Now, when users ask Siri a question she can’t answer and she must fall back on a web search, web links and video results will be powered by Google — just as the results are within Safari if the customer chooses to type the search instead of speaking it. The only exception is images: For now, these will continue to be powered by Bing, TechCrunch reports.

It will be interesting to see how consumers respond to this. Apple searches and results are encrypted and anonymized, while Google tracks everything. Sticklers for privacy may not be big fans of the change. Users will also begin seeing ads on video results, since those will now be channeled through YouTube (which is also owned by Google). There is some revenue to be generated by Google in all of this.

Do You Dream Of Jean?

Where will wearables go next? Just in time for fall, Google and Levi’s are revealing their joint venture: a connected jean jacket designed with bicycle commuters in mind. It can even be washed just like a regular jean jacket, just be sure to remove the flexible snap tag from the sleeve first.

The jacket allows cyclists to handle calls and messages, adjust volume, navigate with Google Maps and start or stop their music — all with simple gestures such as touching the jacket’s cuff or swiping or tapping the sleeve. Haptic feedback and lights alert the wearer when a notification comes in.

Like those fancy Bose headphones, the smart jacket works with both Android and iOS devices. Also, like the Bose headphones, the application may be a bit niche. But, for those who are always in a rush to try the latest and greatest tech, $350 doesn’t seem like too bad of a price tag.

Friends Or Frenemies?

The Verge claims “Google is going to war against the iPhone.” Sensationalist, or hidden in plain sight? As Apple gets serious about services — like Apple Maps, Apple Music and iCloud, which directly compete with Google services like Google Maps, Google Play and Gmail — Google is getting serious about hardware, having recently acquired HTC’s phone design and engineering teams for $1.1 billion.

Sure, the two tech giants seem to be working together or, at the very least, Apple has lowered some of the compatibility barriers with the aforementioned connected devices. Plus, Google produces a whole slew of apps for the iOS system. But, if the Verge is to be believed, then all of that is just a foot in the door for Google to oust the competition and take control of the smartphone industry.

So, while it’s great for iPhone users that their devices are now compatible with more of the truly innovative tech coming out of Google lately, Apple may want to be careful about allowing too much compatibility. It could be a slippery slope.

Pixel 2 Leaks

The Independent sums up some of the most recent leaks surrounding Google’s next generation of the Pixel smartphones, the Pixel 2 and the Pixel XL 2, slated to launch on Oct. 4.

With both new phones, Google reportedly put the most energy into improving the camera and battery life. Some reports say both new phones will feature squeezable sides like the HTCU11. The smaller handset is rumored to have been built by HTC and comes in the two-tone color schemes Just Black, Clearly White and Kinda Blue. It will supposedly retail for $649 — the 64GB version — to $749 (the 128GB version).

Meanwhile, the XL 2 is supposedly made by LG and comes in Just Black or Black and White. According to the Independent, it starts at $849 for the 64BG version and maxes out at $949 for the 128GB version.

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