The 6 Ways Apple Should Copy Google

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Image credit: Brian L. Frank/WIRED

It feels like Apple is falling way behind. But I don’t think that’s true.

I believe Apple puts enormous brain power and good judgement into envisioning the Next Big Thing. It takes them a long time to get it to market. But once it’s there, they iterate to perfect the original vision.

In the year or two after Apple launches an iPhone or an iPad, everybody falsely believes Apple can do nothing wrong.

But then, as we get further away from the last launch and closer to the next one, everybody falsely believes Apple can do nothing right.

Completely separate and unrelated to false perceptions about Apple, Google lately has been on fire. And lately they’ve been kicking butt not only in their traditional role of algorithm-based Internet services, but also in Apple’s sandboxes—namely design and hardware.

Apple has never been the kind of company that copies out of a lack of vision. Nor have they avoided copying.

What’s great about Apple is that they develop an ultra-clear vision about how to maximize the user experience, then they make that experience happen regardless of whether the solutions have to be invented, copied or—most commonly—Apple’s own unique spin on something invented elsewhere.

There are many ways in which Apple should not copy Google. But there are six ways Apple should copy Google and, in doing so, make Apple a better company with better products.

1. Make Siri on iPhone hands-free like the Moto X

Google Now was already better than Siri. But now, on the new Motorola phones—including and especially the Moto X announced this week—Google Now is hands-free. You talk and the phone responds—even when it’s in a deep, battery-preserving sleep.

Could you imagine how great it would be if Siri worked like that? A hands-free feature isn’t for the lazy. The whole point of Siri is to be a human-like entity that chit-chats, jokes around and understands regular, everyday language. You don’t have to press and hold a button to talk to your friends, do you?

Apple should just copy this.

2. Build the iPhone in the United States like the Moto X

We reported this week that Apple is being hammered yet again over labor abuses in Chinese manufacturing plants.

This is never going to end for Apple. The ugly truth is that the culture of manufacturing in China is rife with abuse, toxicity, cheating and corruption. And because Apple is a successful industry leader, Apple will always be blamed for China’s woes no matter how hard Apple works at improving conditions.

The solution is for Apple to go big—AND go home. Build iPhones in the United States.

Of course, the Moto X isn’t global, so it won’t have the numbers that iPhone has. On the other hand, those phones are custom-designed by users in a state-of-the-art Foxconn facility in Texas.

That customization suggests massively automated construction processes.

Apple needs to do something similar—re-invent the phone factory using robots and automation on an unprecedented scale.

3. Make the iPad mini Retina-quality like the Nexus 7

Obviously.

4. Make Apple TV super cheap like the Chromecast

Google did something brilliant with the Chromecast dongle—a limited-use device that enables some Internet programming to play easily on TVs.

Yes, Apple TV is more polished and has more features. But the Chromecast is so cheap that it’s a no-brainer impulse buy. The benefit for Google is rapidly growing marketshare, which can then be translated into clout over negotiated deals with content creators.

Apple can continue making a few bucks on Apple TV hardware—or, it can subsidize the hell out of the Apple TV, make that product an impulse buy as well, and grow its industry power as Google is doing.

Once Apple has massive market power, it can liberate users at last from the tyranny of Hollywood and the cable companies.

5. Launch a social network like Google+

Apple’s lack of a social network is hurting the company in multiple ways. First, Apple isn’t harvesting the social connections and user data that will enable Siri to compete against the future version of Google Now.

Second, it’s forcing Apple into a relationship with Facebook, Silicon Valley’s pop-collar douchebag. Facebook sharing, along with Twitter sharing, is the default method throughout Apple products.

Every naked privacy violation, every ugly interface upgrade, every shameless advertising scheme that Facebook rolls out taints Apple.

It’s time for Apple to part ways with Facebook. And having its own social network would help a lot.

6. Spend some of that cash on moon shots like Google X

Companies that are in the innovation business and find themselves sitting on dozens of billions of dollars in cash are in a unique position to try crazy things that might help the world.

Google’s epic self-driving car project could save millions of lives. Their Project Loon balloon initiative could bring the Internet to the remotest parts of the planet. Google’s Fiber initiative and even Google’s recently announced Starbucks takeover will seriously improve the lives of people lucky enough to get access to these ultra-fast connections.

It’s time Apple stepped forward to do something expensive that nobody else can do.

For a company that lionized “the crazy ones” and talks about “changing the world,” Apple sometimes looks a lot like a company that just wants to make as much money as possible and keep it all to themselves.

Come on, Apple. You’ve got $146 billion in cash. Do something insanely great that doesn’t bring you immediate profits for a change.

Related
  • Whodakat

    1) Agree, but if you have to pull out the phone to talk to it, its already a loser. How can there be interaction between yourself and Siri with her stuffed into a bag or your pocket? Only one way and thats some type of headset. Today’s headsets are losers so Apple will have to work some magic in this department (like the headsets they used on the other side in Fringe). Driving down the road, “Siri, whats the price of tea in China.” Bam answer. Its cool to tell your phone to snooze when its on the table next to you, but its half baked really. That being said, this is the first Android feature that I’ve truly been jealous of. The concept anyway, not necessarily how Moto has implemented it.

    2) Sure why not.

    3) Obviously. But they shouldn’t sacrifice form or battery life to do it. If that means a year of losing some sales to the Nexus 7 (it won’t) then so be it.

    4) $99 is cheap for what you get. I honestly don’t think it would increase sales at all. People love the AppleTV because its cheap already and you can grab one just to have. Of course then you start using it and it grows on you. I can get a refurbished unit for $75, and Best Buy is giving them away with macs. Plus I don’t see the dongle as being that appealing for the masses.

    5. Absolutely not. Tried and failed. Thats like saying Apple should go into the night club business. Here today, gone tomorrow. Facebook is big now, but my kids are already done with that. Now they love instagram and vine (at least for a few weeks). Pretty soon it will be something else. Facebook will always have appeal to the older crowd because thats what they know now, so if Apple wants to buy Facebook, ok, but nothing short of that. Their current strategy is perfect.

    6. Thats like telling Apple to fundamentally change who they are. They have skunk works projects related to what they do, but they aren’t going to bring flying cars to market.

  • scophi

    Interesting article, but I disagree with some of your points.

    1. Siri is hands-free, except for it’s activation button, which you only have to hit once. I’d rather have that than a device that is always listening and that makes me repeat a passphrase. Doing so gets tedious and sounds unprofessional. (By the way, Siri does have an option called “Raise to Speak” although it doesn’t work that great.)

    (This brings up a deeper concern I have with always-on devices, like Xbox One. I’m not sure I want to always be watched or recorded or listened to. Ripe for abuse. I want to choose when to interact with technology, not always be monitored.)

    2. I was under the assumption that Apple was beginning to bring manufacturing back to the US. (I may be wrong on that.)

    3. Already happening…or most believe so.

    4. Nah. Apple hardware has never been cheap. Dropping the price won’t change much. Apple TV appeals to people already in the Apple world. It’s not a gateway device. Purchases of Apple TV has more to do with whether shoppers are already an Apple user than the cost of the device.

    5. Not enough Apple users to create a social network. Everybody has tried this and only a few have succeeded. When it fails, they look foolish for trying. MS has tried this time and again and they always end up with egg on their face. Apple should definitely stay out of this.

    6. Doing something crazy with their money makes no sense. It’s not in their mission. Just because they can doesn’t mean they should. Apple has changed the world time and again with their products. I believe this is something on your wish list, not theirs.

  • thealexwhittaker

    Sounds like you should just switch to Google. They are doing some great things no doubt. Apple makes a quality product that is for those who WANT a quality product. Google’s hardware comes nowhere near Apples – because they don’t make any excluding Motorola now. Apple needs to do what they do best – make great hardware to complement THEIR software to work best with their devices. Google is spread much more thinner than Apple…and the social network thing doesn’t make sense because if you remember Google still is what it started as – a search engine. They are working on connecting people based on content other than a unifying device. The other thing Apple guarantees, more than Google does, is that their product is refined when it comes out. Google has cheap hardware all around, but if you have ever used any you know they just are not as refined. Finally lets be honest here…Apple is what they are because it isn’t for everyone. It is for their cult following and people who really know what Apple is about understand this.

  • GeekLogan

    Correct me if i’m wrong but #1 and #2 are ways they should copy MOTOROLA, not Google. Also, Apple is slowly bringing back manufacturing to the US so #2 is invalid.

  • TylerHoj

    1. Who cares, stop being lazy.
    2. Many other writers have already broken down the cost of producing an iPhone in the US and it’s astronomical and highly unlikely Apple would spend billions upon billions of dollars just to put ‘Made in the USA’ on the back of a phone. Put your patriotism aside for two minutes and realize that’s a horrible business decision.
    3. That’s a given.
    4. Sure, why not make it cheaper – they always consider it a ‘hobby’ anyway.
    5. They did, it was called Ping! and it blew chunks.
    6. I wish corporations weren’t money laundering whores either, but don’t we all?

  • josefferguson

    1. Who cares, stop being lazy.
    2. Many other writers have already broken down the cost of producing an iPhone in the US and it’s astronomical and highly unlikely Apple would spend billions upon billions of dollars just to put ‘Made in the USA’ on the back of a phone. Put your patriotism aside for two minutes and realize that’s a horrible business decision.
    3. That’s a given.
    4. Sure, why not make it cheaper – they always consider it a ‘hobby’ anyway.
    5. They did, it was called Ping! and it blew chunks.
    6. I wish corporations weren’t money laundering whores either, but don’t we all?

    1. It has nothing to do with “being lazy”. It’s an efficiency and safety thing. Driving down the highway with my MotoX in the passenger seat and a BT in my ear, I could say “OK Google Now, call home” and be instantly connected without taking my eyes off the road. Sitting at my desk working on a paper and the MotoXon the shelf to my left, I can say “OK Google Now, search for Washington DC sales tax” and do my research without stopping writing. If you can’t see the benefit of that kind of technology, you’re being intentionally obtuse.
    2. Yes, and it was cheap to build the pyramids since all they used was slave labor. Doesn’t make it right.

  • Shane Bryson

    Yet another article that shows that Mike just really loves Google and shouldn’t be writing for Cult of Mac.

    1) Eh, not really that important. Hasn’t impressed me in the least yet. Apple and Google alike are having a tough time getting people to actually use Siri and Google Voice Search/Now, so focusing efforts on more voice control is almost counterintuitive.

    2) It is mathematically impossible to build the iPhone in the US and be able to meet demand. There just isn’t the labor force here to meet the need. Never mind the fact that it would shoot the price up on a device that people already love to complain is too expensive at current.

    3) I’ll give you that one, and it’s coming. Rest assured.

    4) You get what you pay for. Compare a features chart between Chromecast and Apple TV and you will very quickly realize why Chromecast is so cheap and why Apple TV is the better value.

    5) Google+ is a wasteland and it’s only useful feature is hangouts. The last thing the world needs is another social network. It will not be adopted easily. Apple doesn’t go into flooded markets, it creates markets.

    6) If you think for one second there aren’t some really crazy projects going on behind closed doors at Cupertino, you can’t really call yourself a journalist (which I wouldn’t call you in the first place).

    Seriously, it blows my mind the tripe you post.

  • Shane Bryson

    Correct me if i’m wrong but #1 and #2 are ways they should copy MOTOROLA, not Google. Also, Apple is slowly bringing back manufacturing to the US so #2 is invalid.

    Well as much as I hate this article and think it’s crap, you are pretty wrong on both of these counts. Motorola is controlled/owned by Google and many key players on the Android team were HEAVILY involved in Moto X, so no, it’s not a Moto thing, it’s surely a Google thing. As for bringing back manufacturing, Apple is making one, ONE Mac in the US. By making, I mean assembling, not manufacturing. That’s probably as far as it’s going to get with bring things back to the US. I am almost positive that was quiet down some criticisms, so it’s a pretty valid point to make, if overseas manufacturing is a problem for you.

  • plaztiksoundz

    The amount of idiocy is so overwhelming that it’s hard to even start commenting on this. So after 15m i stopped trying…

  • TheWalrus123

    This should be called “six additional things Apple should copy” from Google

    1 – Yes, and Apple will
    2 – Too expensive. Maybe they should build in the western hemisphere. Bring production to Mexico and help our neighbors develop instead of enriching an enemy.
    3 – Launching the mini without retina was stupid to begin with
    4 – Chromecast clearly has incredibly more value than Apple tv. What people don’t realize is that any app will be able to ‘cast’ onto the TV now. You don’t need an awkward remote and you won’t need to navigate a menu and you won’t have to switch tv inputs. Your phone is in your hand, you load up an NFL app, ESPN, HBO Go… hit cast… and boom. No special apps made for tv. Everything already exists, it just needs to be built into the app… by passing the need for any other hardware.
    5. Apple should not create a social network. It should buy twitter. It has the cash to do so, and twitter is simple and streamlined and would fit extremely well with Apple.
    6. Yes, Apple should actually use some of its money for R&D – including R&D for things a little outside of its core markets. $145 BILLION DOLLARS is sitting in banks, mostly overseas, doing NOTHING. It doesn’t hurt to build buzz and do a little good for the world occasionally.

  • hypnotoad

    And have everyone bash them for copying? Yeah, Mike, that’ll work. Apple is damned if they do and if they don’t (do anything at all). Copying would only give more ammunition to the haters. No, just no.

  • Market_Mayhem

    Until Wall Street shuts the hell up about Apple’s falling profit margins, Apple should continue to find the cheapest places on the planet to assemble their products. Apple gets nothing by bringing production to the U.S. as long as those greedy hedge fund managers learn a little something about helping American employees and valuing companies for bringing jobs back to America.

    I don’t want AppleTV to get any cheaper. In fact, I’d rather they increase the cost and add more features like a faster processor so we can let the games begin.

    One thing I’d definitely like to see Apple do is add Street View to its Maps and build a search engine to go after Google directly to suck away some of its ad revenue just like Google built Android to suck away Apple’s iPhone revenue. As long as Wall Street keeps favoring Google in valuation for all sorts of lame reasons, Apple needs to peck away at Google search engine market share.

    I’d heard that Google gave some city free WiFi. Apple should do that for New York City. C’mon, it would hardly put a dent in Apple’s war chest and give the company some favorable publicity in the Big Apple.

  • Market_Mayhem

    Until Wall Street shuts the hell up about Apple’s falling profit margins, Apple should continue to find the cheapest places on the planet to assemble their products. Apple gets nothing by bringing production to the U.S. as long as those greedy hedge fund managers learn a little something about helping American employees and valuing companies for bringing jobs back to America.

    I don’t want AppleTV to get any cheaper. In fact, I’d rather they increase the cost and add more features like a faster processor so we can let the games begin.

    One thing I’d definitely like to see Apple do is add Street View to its Maps and build a search engine to go after Google directly to suck away some of its ad revenue just like Google built Android to suck away Apple’s iPhone revenue. As long as Wall Street keeps favoring Google in valuation for all sorts of lame reasons, Apple needs to peck away at Google search engine market share.

    I’d heard that Google gave some city free WiFi. Apple should do that for New York City. C’mon, it would hardly put a dent in Apple’s war chest and give the company some favorable publicity in the Big Apple.

  • Paul Burt

    This should be called “six additional things Apple should copy” from Google

    1 – Yes, and Apple will
    2 – Too expensive. Maybe they should build in the western hemisphere. Bring production to Mexico and help our neighbors develop instead of enriching an enemy.
    3 – Launching the mini without retina was stupid to begin with
    4 – Chromecast clearly has incredibly more value than Apple tv. What people don’t realize is that any app will be able to ‘cast’ onto the TV now. You don’t need an awkward remote and you won’t need to navigate a menu and you won’t have to switch tv inputs. Your phone is in your hand, you load up an NFL app, ESPN, HBO Go… hit cast… and boom. No special apps made for tv. Everything already exists, it just needs to be built into the app… by passing the need for any other hardware.
    5. Apple should not create a social network. It should buy twitter. It has the cash to do so, and twitter is simple and streamlined and would fit extremely well with Apple.
    6. Yes, Apple should actually use some of its money for R&D – including R&D for things a little outside of its core markets. $145 BILLION DOLLARS is sitting in banks, mostly overseas, doing NOTHING. It doesn’t hurt to build buzz and do a little good for the world occasionally.

    4- Uhh, no. Apple TV does WAY more than the Chromecast does; you get what you pay for. The Apple TV has AirPlay, which puts your ENTIRE phone screen on the TV, not just an app. Also, apps made specifically for the TV are always better than mobile apps. There’s no way I’d use my iPhone’s Netflix app to search for content when the Apple TV app is much better and I can use my phone to control it. And both methods use the same number of hardware devices, 2: phone+Chromecast or iPhone+Apple TV.

  • Sebastian Velez

    Remember ping… Apple tried a social network and failed

    I nearly died laughing at the thought that apple should make a social network… That’s a fail if i ever heard one.

    Comparing it to google+ was another chuckle. Cuz we all know how well google+ is doing

  • _toddbloom

    1. Nah, voice search and Google Now is a gimmick that is pointless. Apple should do more worthwhile things than spending time on useless things like Google Now.
    2. “Made in America” is another worthless gimmick. Who cares where something is made?
    3. What? The iPad Mini blows away anything that the Nexus 7 could ever attempt to be.
    4. AppleTV is fine. I doubt Apple is even threatened about some cheap, plastic thing that nobody will care about next week.
    5. lol copy Google+? A failed social network that nobody uses? Yeah, totally good for Apple to spend time trying to emulate that….
    6. Self driving cars? Stupid glasses? Dumb balloons? Why should Apple waste money on stupid, useless projects like Google does?

    Pretty much all of these suggestions are worthless.

  • _toddbloom

    And have everyone bash them for copying? Yeah, Mike, that’ll work. Apple is damned if they do and if they don’t (do anything at all). Copying would only give more ammunition to the haters. No, just no.

    Meh, just another post from a Google shill. Seems like that’s all the tech “journalists” are these days.

  • dandymac

    the ‘author’ of this hit piece must get paid by scroogle. He is nothing more then a comment troll turned pro.

    It is, however, nice to know that Cult of Android employs those that are less fortunate than others like Elgan.

    Who’s copying who in the smartphone world anyway?

    Google’s silly little dongle is just now catching up to Apple from three years ago. Apple TV is the most under-appreciated piece of hardware from Apple by far.

  • technochick

    Seems like the only reason is because Google etc is doing it, so I say no. Apple doesn’t need to do any of them

    Should a real reason why any of them would be useful to the Apple system and then perhaps

  • Steven Quan

    Build the iPhone in the United States? Sure! No problem. Even Steve Jobs told Obama at a sit down dinner as much. Just find 35,000 engineers that can oversee production and you’re gold Elgan!

  • TheWalrus123
    4 – Chromecast clearly has incredibly more value than Apple tv. What people don’t realize is that any app will be able to ‘cast’ onto the TV now. You don’t need an awkward remote and you won’t need to navigate a menu and you won’t have to switch tv inputs. Your phone is in your hand, you load up an NFL app, ESPN, HBO Go… hit cast… and boom. No special apps made for tv. Everything already exists, it just needs to be built into the app… by passing the need for any other hardware.

    4- Uhh, no. Apple TV does WAY more than the Chromecast does; you get what you pay for. The Apple TV has AirPlay, which puts your ENTIRE phone screen on the TV, not just an app. Also, apps made specifically for the TV are always better than mobile apps. There’s no way I’d use my iPhone’s Netflix app to search for content when the Apple TV app is much better and I can use my phone to control it. And both methods use the same number of hardware devices, 2: phone+Chromecast or iPhone+Apple TV.

    You gotta read what people write. I said it has more value. I never said it did more.

  • thegraphicmac

    It’s articles like this that gave this site the nickname “Cult of Morons.” Honestly, a social network? Move iPhone production to the U.S.? WTF are you smoking? Not only will Apple NOT do ANY of those things (other than possibly the retina display in the iPad Mini), but all but two of them would hurt Apple.

  • AidanCheddar

    So it’s okay for Apple to copy off of Google but not vice versa? Hypocrites.

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Mike ElganMike Elgan writes about technology and culture for a wide variety of publications. Follow Mike on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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