Have you ever wondered why Google sells hardware? After all, the search engine giant is an advertising company that sells ads, gives away free software in exchange for the rights to harvest user data (to Google, you’re a user, not a customer), and the company is forced to give away Android OS for free to smartphone makers just to compete with Apple and the iPhone.
Yet, with no track record of success, Google persists in making hardware that competes with its own Android-based smartphone manufacturing partners in a vain attempt to emulate Microsoft which sells Windows to manufacturers and then competes against those same partners with the Surface line of PC notebooks.
What does it all mean?
In this case, it means Google can do something Apple cannot do.
Leak new features to the public. Wait. That can’t be right. If Apple started to leak features about the upcoming iPhone 11 line, then people would stop buying the iPhone Xs, XR, and XS Max line and wait for newer and better features for the same price.
Think of it as a version of the famous Osborne Effect where company founder Adam Osborne announced new versions of upcoming models so long before they would ship that customers didn’t buy any Osborne PCs in anticipation of the new ones– and the company had to declare bankruptcy.
How is it that Google can leak new features of the upcoming Pixel 4 smartphone line while Apple cannot leak anything about iPhone 11s due in a few months?
Because nobody is buying Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL anyway.
Nobody? Mostly nobody. Researchers and analysts think Google sold less than 4-million Pixels last year– about what Apple sells iPhones in a week– so pre-announcing new features in a not-yet-announced new Pixel model isn’t exactly going to stifle already stifled Pixel sales.
Product marketing is all about differentiation so Google figures that one way to differentiate the upcoming Pixel 4 is to add a facial recognition scanner to unlock the phone but to add a gesture control so you can swipe the smartphone’s screen with a, well, gesture, instead of a touch.
Pixel 4 will see the first implementation of the Google Soli sensor, the compact radar that the ATAP team has been working on for five years. That monitors the space in front of the phone, tracking movement.
In this case, the Soli technology goes one step beyond Apple’s highly acclaimed Face ID and unlock the Pixel 4 without a touch.
With an iPhone, the Face ID system wakes up and starts looking for your unique facial fingerprint either when you pick the handset up, or when you tap the screen. Google, though, will use Soli to scan the area in front of the Pixel 4 even when the screen is powered off. That way, it can spot when you’re reaching for the phone and turn on the face unlock system even before you’ve grabbed it.
Is that something Apple could do or may do with upcoming iPhones? Sure.
What Google can do is tell everybody about it months before the new models launch because the Pixel 3 maker has nothing to lose, Osborne Effect notwithstanding. Apple can’t afford to do that. Google can do something with new features that Apple cannot.