Home / Opinions / Apple WWDC vs Google I/O 2016: The winners and losers

Apple WWDC vs Google I/O 2016: The winners and losers


Apple vs Google

OPINION: With another year of WWDC and Google I/O conferences in the books, it’s time to declare the victors in the perennial battle between tech’s big two. Chris Smith sat through the best and worst of both software showcases.

Mobile OS – iOS 10 vs Android N

iOS 10

The respective mobile operating system updates always take centre stage, but prior to each keynote it appeared that both Apple and Google were seemingly running out of scope for big improvements without reinventing the wheel.

Apple brought 10 new headline features to the dance within iOS 10, but as my colleagues James and Max point out, only around half of them actually really matter. The redesigned lock screen comes with richer notifications, expanded 3D Touch capabilities, and quicker interaction with apps – all big leaps forward. Opening Siri up to third-party apps such as Uber and WhatsApp, too, may finally make the voice-assistant an essential tool.

However, there’s a little too much "me too" about everything else. The Messages app is now a Snapchat and Facebook Messenger inspired monstrosity. I’m disgusted with Apple for resorting to this gimmicky rubbish.

The new Apple Maps, meanwhile, borrows heavily from Google Maps. The new Photos app returns features from the defunct iPhoto app for Mac, while also borrowing from Google Photos and Flickr. A new lick of paint for Apple Music, plus larger emojis isn’t cutting it for me either.

This year, there appeared to be a far greater number of instances of Apple announcing "new" features that have existed within other apps and operating systems, treating them like a big deal – which is not a good sign.

RELATED: The iOS 10 features you should care about


Android N

Google arguably made a larger leap with Android N thanks to the unveiling of the Daydream VR platform, which promises to take the hugely important Cardboard platform to new heights. Vulkan support should aid that quest. Android N will also bring the Google Assistant into play, which is like Google Now on steroids and speed. Imagine pointing your camera lens at something and asking Google: “What is this?” Oh, and getting an accurate response. Amazing.

The rest of the changes are more subtle, but multi-screen support on Android is welcome. Picture-in-picture – another Galaxy Note-inspired feature – also arrived. While MacOS Sierra users will get it in Safari, there’s no such luck for iOS users. Video-calling and messaging apps Allo and Duo also look like they’ll round out Android N quite nicely.

WATCH: Android N hands-on

WINNER – Android N

If for nothing other than that horrific, pandering-to-the-lowest-common-denominator copycat iOS 10 Messages app, Android gets the nod.

android n name 13

Smartwatches – Apple watchOS 3.0 vs Android Wear 2.0

Apple watchOS 3.0

Arguably, watchOS was Apple’s most impressive launch announcement of the day. As a self-professed yogi, I love the Breathe app, which offers up a collection of breathing and relaxation exercises based on your heart rate. It may sound a little ridiculous, but there are so many times I wish I could bring more yoga breathing into my daily life.

The new Dock finally makes it easier to access your favourite apps, while the Control Center brings one of iOS’s best features to the Watch. Everything is faster and accessible in fewer taps. Features such as Scribble, which enables handwritten replies to notifications, are simple, but are better suited to the wrist.

The improvements really bring the Apple Watch into its own. Yes, it's arguable that these features should have arrived sooner, but that's just the Apple way. Personally, I’m closer to taking the plunge than I have been at any point in the past 15 months.

Android Wear 2.0

Google’s rather forgotten wearable platform received some much-needed improvements at I/O. However, standalone apps already arrived with watchOS 2 and, while there’s also better support for iOS and more ways to reply to messages, did we really need a tiny keyboard added to the mix?

Winner – Apple Watch 3.0

If only Apple had launched this version of the software to begin. Whether it will be enough to bring aboard naysayers who’ve been unimpressed until now remains to be seen, but Android Wear continues to verge towards irrelevance.

RELATED: Apple watchOS: 5 features that make the Apple Watch worth using

apple watch

Smart Home – Apple Home vs Google Home

Apple Home app

Having a core Home app within iOS 10, from which all compatible connected products can be commanded, might finally help everyday iPhone users realise HomeKit is actually a thing.

Considering the IoT platform is now two years old, and it's receiving support from a greater number of accessory makers, a proper way to control it is long overdue. Integration within the Control Center suggests Apple is serious this time round, and that with this the company is again opening up Siri to third-party developers. In other words, we could be voice-commanding our compatible smart lights, locks and thermostats in no time.

Google Home

Perhaps the star of this year’s I/O, the Google Home device looks like the smart home hub we’ve all been waiting for – and it’s all thanks to the amazing new Google Assistant. The rival to Siri and Amazon Alexa promises to offer a huge leap due to its ability to understand contextual, conversational requests, the power of Google Search and the ability to integrate with all of our existing Google services. There are few devices this year for which I have higher expectations.

Winner – Google Home

A really strong showing from both companies in the smart home category this year, but Google edges it thanks to what promises to be a true game-changer with Assistant and the Google Home speaker.

RELATED: Why Google Home will kick Siri and Alexa to the curb

Google Home

Desktop OS – Chrome OS vs MacOS


Apple finally dropped the OS X naming convention to offer synergy across its brands. Our OCD certainly feels more comfortable with the neatness. But there’s a lot more on offer here.

Apple Pay has hit the web and authentication through Touch ID on a nearby iOS device is a lovely addition. Picture-in-picture video in Safari would have made it far easier, for example, to watch that keynote and work at the same time. I’ll use this no end, although probably for watching sport when I should be working.

I’m also excited about the Universal Clipboard feature, which will make it easy to copy something on my phone and paste it on my Mac. Hooray, no more emailing stuff to myself! Of course, Siri has finally made it to the Mac too, but I can’t help but think that I’ll spend more time hitting that accidentally than on purpose.

RELATED: All you need to know about Apple Pay in the UK

Chrome OS

The operating system for Google Chromebooks took a backseat at I/O 2016, with Google relegating news to day two. However, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a hugely newsworthy announcement.

The arrival of the Play Store and Android apps is probably the best reason to buy a Chromebook yet. The ability to run all Android apps with full touchscreen, mouse and keyboard integration is huge. Chromebooks are now outselling Macs, and this is likely to make that gap grow ever more wider. Is Google looking at a Microsoft-esque merging of the two platforms?

Winner – MacOS

While Android apps on Chromebooks are a big plus, it just feels like Apple had much more to offer this year than the recent incremental OS X updates. What’s in a name? In the case of MacOS, quite a lot actually.

RELATED: 7 best macOS Sierra features Apple unveiled at WWDC

macOS Sierra

Overall show – Apple WWDC vs Google I/O 2016

WWDC has felt like an old show trying to make itself look and feel young again. The format and setting seem tired and uninspiring. While the attempts to diversify speakers have helped, it’s still overwhelmingly dominated by grey-haired white men telling Dad jokes. While it may not have landed among a prudish audience, WWDC could do with a few more younger folks from varied backgrounds attempting to rap with the audience.

Contrarily, Google I/O 2016 felt fresh, young and cool. The outdoor, open-air stadium setting and the great use of multiple big screens made it feel like a super-hip electronic music festival rather than yet another tech keynote.

In a year when Apple and Google both impressed and disappointed in various ways, Google’s excellent presentation breaks the tie.

Final Score – Apple WWDC 2; Google I/O 3

Winner – Google I/O

WATCH: Google I/O 2016 highlights

Do you agree with Chris' scoreline? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Glenn Gore

June 14, 2016, 10:58 am

I would definitely give the award for iOS v. Android to iOS, if for no other reason than iOS 10 will be on around 80% of capable devices within 6 months of launch, giving those users access to all those new features he notes. I would also note that the new features of iOS are FAR more useful in daily life than VR, but that's another discussion.

Currently Android Marshmallow, released a YEAR ago, is only on 11% of capable Android devices. Hardly any current Android user is seeing any of the features that were introduced in Marshmallow! In my opinion, I think that's just ridiculous. These new features of Android N the author notes will never been seen by any Android users until and unless they buy a new phone, which is just sad, and is the reason iOS should get that point.


June 14, 2016, 7:54 pm

The real discussion is that even an a android device that is 2 generations behind has had 85% of the features announced for iOS today for 2 generations lol. I own both an iOS device and an Android device, but geesh, this year's WWDC really showed in how far behind iOS is. Don't get me wrong, I still prefer my iPhone, but only because 3rd party apps tend to be of higher quality and because Android manufacturers frustrate me, not because iOS is by any means better than Android as an OS. Siri is by far my biggest disappointment for me with Apple, Google Now has wiped the floor with it for so many years now. I really hope this year's MacBooks actually provide something new, else I'll start to lose my faith in Apple

Glenn Gore

June 15, 2016, 1:22 am

Apple is never first to launch functions, they are better at refining those functions after watching others take the first steps, that isn't anything new. A lot of those features turn out to be useless, so it's better that Apple did not waste time on them.

Personally I don't feel any need to change all my icons, the launcher, or anything like that the instant I take my phone out of the box. Some people do and that's fine, to each his own. What I do expect is to have the ability to have the latest software my device can run installed on that device within days or weeks of its becoming available instead of waiting months or years, or never getting another update beyond what the thing shipped with in the first place. I expect that and don't want the phone manufacturer or carrier to have the final say as to whether or not I can have that software update. Rooting is irrelevant, that is not something the vast majority of users ever do.

Those 85% of functions, I wont' quibble about that number, it's probably a guess, but whatever, those 85% probably were available 2 years ago, but what percentage of Android devices could USE those updates at that time? The Android OS situation was even worse 2 years ago, the majority of phones probably had Gingerbread on them, so they couldn't use the features you are talking about.

Updates are the key and Achilles heel of Android right now. I just saw a review of the new One+ on this site today. It looks like a great phone, but it ships with Marshmallow and there is absolutely NO guarantee that it will ever be upgraded to Android N or anything beyond that. None. And that is what is really sad.


June 15, 2016, 5:15 am

I don't disagree with you, lack of updates and the shitty skins that Android manufacturers put on ARE what causes me to be frustrated with the Android ecosystem, and I noted that in my OP.

My point is that what Apple has put out recently isn't innovative in any way and doesn't even really compete with what they're trying to imitate. Google Maps and Photos trash Apple's versions. The News app is a blunt way to make money without providing anything new. Apple Music is not up to par with Spotify or even Tidal. The messenger app is a gimmicky copy of existing messaging apps. None of those things which they've been taunting and dumping resources on are more 'refined' than what's out there - instead Apple has been both behind and when they finally come out with features they don't compete with what exists.

Oh, and don't get me started about Siri. Google Now is miles ahead, I'd go as far as saying that Google Now was more useful two years ago than what Siri is now.

Look, iPhone is my daily driver, and it's not because Apple has developed a better OS and corresponding system apps. Android as the software is significantly ahead, but like you said, anything other than Nexus phones I can't recommend to others because unfortunately Android manufacturers waste resources on shitty software like TouchWiz or HTC's Sense, actually making the OS worse and delaying updates. I'll keep using iOS for the amazing 3rd party developer community and because nothing compares to Apple care. But not admitting that Apple has been stagnant is a diservice to all of us, we need to demand better.

Jack Smith

June 15, 2016, 11:18 am

Think your love for Apple might have skewed your analysis. Apple has four different operating systems while with Google you develop once and can deploy to PC, smartphone, tablet, TV, etc. It is easy to let each group go their own way. But it hurts the business.

Google then announced their new VR platform. Apple has NONE. Google announced Android apps running native on Chromebooks. Why on earth can't Apple pull this off? Heck Google does it hardware agnostic so buy ARM or X86 and no problem.

Google biggest announcement was instant Android apps. They have Android apps now composable.

Something is wrong at Apple. Apple fans like yourself need to call it out or it will NOT change.

Glenn Gore

June 15, 2016, 7:56 pm

I am not a bit surprised that Apple did not announce anything in the VR area. In the first place, WWDC is a software meeting, a developer conference, not the place to launch a whole new hardware category. Therefore, the entire event revolved around their OS's. That's fine. Second, I wonder how many of the current VR systems will still be around a year from now. Apple is right to sit back, let the others do their thing, take notes, and then launch something great later on if they want to. Personally I don't see VR being a huge thing in the long run, but that's my personal opinion and nothing else.

Why should Apple put their apps on Chromebooks? I don't get that one at all. Apple has iOS and their developers have done a great job putting versions of their apps on both platforms already.

Glenn Gore

June 15, 2016, 8:00 pm

As I said above, WWDC was a software event, not their usual hardware event held in the Fall. I agree that there hasn't been anything new and great for a while now, but the entire computer industry has been a doldrum for quite a while now when you look at the overall picture. Google has Chromebooks, which are a REALLY expensive browser that will run web apps. Great, that's its use case. Microsoft has their Surface line, a "laptop" replacement that you can't use AS a laptop because I guarantee you it will fall off your lap if you so much as even flinch one muscle. Moore's law has just about maxed out and there just isn't anything too exciting to be made right now. Apple will come out with new models eventually, and I will probably buy something when they do, my iMac is starting to show its age, still working fine but it's time for a new one. And on & on.


June 15, 2016, 9:42 pm

See now your just detracting from what we're talking about: iOS and Android as software. I don't disagree with your judgements about the surface and chrome books (though I'd also say MacBook Pros have been ignored for a while now, not even on a one year old CPU generation yet). But back to the OSes, Google has actually made some really nice advances unlike what Apple has put out. The smart linking between native apps is a very significant step (and fromimplemented a year ago) and one of my pet peeves about iOS. And now with composeable apps it's taking it even a step further. The OS apps have also been better for a while, like I said, Google Maps and Photos are leagues above Apple Maps and Photos. Google Now, including Google now on tap, are actually incredibly useful and well integrated. Google has been innovating (AND putting out refined, well made software) with Android much more than Apple has. That's has and is my point. I think Apple still has the edge in having a better ecosystem in terms of having a better coalescing of hardware, OS, and 3rd party developers. I hope you can agree with me and find fault where fault is, it's better when consumers can be critical but fair.

Glenn Gore

June 17, 2016, 12:46 pm

There is nothing wrong with finding fault at all, I do agree with you on that. We must wait another few months to find out whether or not the new software versions really do deliver on the promises Apple made the other day. I discount the beta versions that have been released, as it is normal for Apple or Google both to leave out functions and leave out the interface changes, and elements of the look and feel until the actual release from the beta versions. Therefore, yes, Apple's Maps app is far behind Google at the present time, but we will have to wait until fall to determine if that is still the case. That could change and I hope it does. I find Apple's Maps app to be FAR better than it was when it was launched. Maps should have been better when it was launched, FAR better actually, but it is a classic case of them trying to improve on an app that already existed, and they have done that. At least we have the capability of running both Google Maps and Apple's maps on the same device so we can make comparisons between the two.

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