Three features Apple should borrow from Google’s I/O announcements

Spring has sprung, and with it comes the onslaught of tech companies announcing the latest updates to their products. This week, it was Google’s I/O keynote that took the main stage, as the Mountain View company catalogued all of the new devices, features, and promises it had targeted for 2019.

Many of the features that Google talked about were a clear attempt to catch up in areas where Apple already excels: privacy, for example, or distribution of security updates. I’m not about to suggest that Apple needs to crib from anybody, but the whole purpose of competition is to drive innovation.

With that in mind, I’ve laid out three areas that Google touched on during its keynote where Apple might benefit from following the lead of one of its most prominent frenemies.

Assist me assist you

google io assistantGoogle

Google introdiced some impressive new features to Google Assistant.

One place where Google has focused a lot of attention in recent years is the development of its virtual assistant titled, aptly, Assistant. During its I/O keynote, Google spent a lot of time demonstrating its “next-generation Assistant” that greatly increases the speed of queries on a smartphone.

While that speed is impressive on its own, it’s even more so when combined with the already existing “continuous conversation” feature that lets you make several queries in a row without having to use the “Hey Google” wake word multiple times. Speed and lack of interruption is crucial when it comes to a virtual assistant, but so too is another choice that Google made here: unlike Siri, Google Assistant doesn’t co-opt the entire smartphone’s interface when in use.

Siri on iOS right now is modal, like those old dialog boxes in the classic Mac OS. When Siri is working, you can’t do anything else with your device. This can often lead to the use of Siri feeling adversarial to using the rest of your smartphone, since you have to choose one or the other—and users often end up choosing their smartphone screen, because, frankly, it’s usually faster and more efficient.

But the future of virtual assistants is, as with human assistants, multitasking. Two brains are, after all, better than one, and if your virtual assistant can be handling a task—for example, as Google demoed, looking up flight information—while you continue whatever you were doing, then we move the needle farther towards the technology being a help and not a hindrance.

Smart home hub with screen

nest hub agendaGoogle

Google intrduced the Nest Hub Max, a smart hub with a screen, at Google I/O.

On a whim, I recently picked up a Google Home Hub, and I’ve found myself remarkably impressed by the device. It’s Google’s first smart speaker with a screen, and it’s proved to be a well-designed device that uses its screen to good effect, unlike other entries in the space. The visual displays of weather, calendar info, and timers are often a better way of presenting the information and, in its spare time, the Home Hub really does make an attractive digital photo frame. Google apparently agrees, too, as it this week announced plans to roll out a larger version with a camera in the coming months.