Google Pixel: The iPhone Killer?

This week’s news is all about Google’s Pixel: the new phone from Google – and from what i’ve seen so far they have pretty much nailed it! After a few disappointing weeks of tech news – Snap Inc. and Apple, I’m looking at you – we finally seem to be seeing some real innovation and progress in the mobile sector. So, what’s on offer?

AI Is King

Google Assistant is the Pixel phone’s USP, and they have placed it at the heart of the user experience. In a highly competitive market, where Apple and Samsung dominate (but neither have been able to crack the integrated and intelligent personal assistant), AI is the new battleground.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the competitive advantage of AI incorporation, and how this technology will eventually be used to interlink many products from a single company. It now looks like Google is positioning itself to do exactly that, with Pixel Phone and Home Speaker working in unison to bring the Google Assistant to life.

Competitive Advantages

Google Assistant can hold a conversation, in which one question or command builds on the last, rather than dealing with each request in isolation – a point which has caused the most devoted Siri fans much frustration over the years (and leading to situations like this).

It also draws on Google’s Knowledge Graph database, which links together information on more than 70 billion subjects, and has been in use for four years, giving immediate access to a massive amount of useful information.

Google have also addressed one of the biggest achilles heals with the Pixel Phone: it will come with the latest, previously unreleased Android version as standard, and will automatically update to the latest OS. This is one very clear benefit of controlling the vertical

One-Up on Apple

Some of the Pixel’s features have been included in a clear attempt to overtake Apple’s progress and fill in where the iPhone fell short. Almost all the high-profile fails reported with the iPhone 7 have been addressed in the latest Google Announcement, with the launch marketing having a bit of fun at Apple’s expense.

  • Google will also provide a ‘Quick Switch Adapter’ to import iMessage data, photos, videos, contacts and other data directly from Apple’s iPhone, in a move which clearly targets disenfranchised Apple users.
  • Every photo or video the user takes with the phone’s highly-rated cameras are automatically saved in Google’s cloud for free, at full resolution – for life – a clear UX win for Google.
  • The Pixel incorporates premium product design & iPhone-matched price points, which are simply a necessity for any product hoping to compete at the top end of the mobile device market.
  • Finally, the Pixel includes both a flush camera lens and a standard headphone jack – which may not be top of the list for every early adopter, but I know for a fact that it certainly is a sore point for some devoted Apple fans!


The Google Hangover

Last week, I discussed some of Google’s rougher experiences – delving into the downward spiral that was Google Glass. The truth is that some of these issues will still be in the back of user’s minds. Google know this and have hired some serious big-hitters to drive this new hardware train. However there is work to do to help consumers overcome privacy concerns surrounding the incorporated use of AI technology and the automatic use of cloud storage.

Well Played, Google!

In my view, a lack of effective competition in the linked hardware & software consumer electronics market has allowed Apple to get lazy & complacent. The below-par iPhone 7 announcement was a spectacular display of a missed opportunity and this has played nicely into Google’s hands.

Google’s range of new hardware is the first real attempt to challenge the status quo, and by putting AI (Google Assistant) at the heart of their products, they are betting big that this is the new consumer electronics battle ground. And, while the launch of Google Home is clearly aimed at taking down Amazon (with their Alexa Home AI) as well as Apple, announcing  both a home hub and a mobile product is a very strong move to dominate the consumer user experience

They arrived fashionably late to the mobile hardware party, but by taking their time, they have been able to find solutions to almost every problem currently facing mobile device users – well played, Google! I’m ditching my iPhone and definitely buying a Pixel when they launch on 20th October. What about you?

Should we be scared of artificial intelligence?

Recent technology news coverage has been dominated by growing concerns over the development of artificial intelligence (AI). My interest was piqued by a particular Forbes article that frames this topic in terms of recent advancements and explores a variety of viewpoints from industry heavyweights. For your own reference, the article can be found here:

The author, Theo Priestley, hooked me and prompted me to read the full article – one in which he fundamentally disagrees with big technology players such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. Hang on, why would someone be disagreeing with two of the most forward-thinking and well-respected human beings on our planet?! If anyone is going to know something about this growing phenomenon, surely it would be either of those people? We should be paying attention, not calling them ‘wrong’! Right?

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp, says: “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that.”’

Eminent physicist Stephen Hawking’s view is that “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

Sure, the unknown is a scary thing, and the movie industry has done much to perpetuate the widely accepted ‘future’ of Artificial Intelligence – we’ve all seen the movies. There is a formulaic and uniform outcome – the Artificially Intelligent being turns on its creator, struggles for power, and is ultimately a force of destruction.

Theo describes how, in the real world, artificial intelligence handles queries, helps users and solves problems. This is possible through ‘understanding human behaviour, rather than the traditional method of building artificial intelligence by mimicking how the brain works through algorithms.’

Artificial intelligence products already on the market include Siri, Cortana and Google (OK Google). The newest AI to launch is ‘M’, the Facebook virtual assistant.

‘M’ would work in the same way as the main character Eva in the movie ‘Ex Machina’. (sidenote: highly recommended viewing!)

The data gets pulled; this will include personal information; names, nicknames, ages, etc. An important point Theo raises is that Facebook also owns WhatsApp and Instagram, meaning its data pull is far wider than any other network. It has access to phone numbers, photos, filter preferences, bio words and much, much more that the average user may not have considered before. This should make dealing with human queries an easy task, as they already have access to most of a user’s information and can give them tailored results specific to that individual.

Part of the training and development of ‘M’ relies heavily on human ‘assistants’; monitoring and tracking their own endeavours to solve problems – which websites are they visiting to glean the best information, which keywords are typed, etc. This will lead to further precise alterations to align ‘M’ more closely with human behavior patterns.

You may think this will lead to a brand new type of breach into personal data or even personal freedom. However, companies such as Facebook have already been manipulating users’ news feeds as part of psychology experiments. According to them, this measures how emotions spread across social media. Personally I feel that Facebook may have done this to understand human behaviour in a deeper context. Our once tacit and private thoughts, reactions and emotions are now on the open market to be measured, monitored and then ultimately mimicked.

With that in mind, I share some of Theo Priestley’s concerns and feel we should be proceeding with caution and prudence when allowing certain companies to create AI and be carefully examining their motives and end goals.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think we should fear Artificial Intelligence? Or is the development of AI safe if the right organisations are at the forefront?

Leave a comment below, even if it just about how much you love/hate Ex Machina!!