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Apple Events – a 1st among equals

Apple has made events ‘dates for the diary’ – but are they still the masters?

Apple events - past their best?

Apple kicks off what has become known as Tech-tember and the tech season.

As the summer ends, the tech giants swing into action with all the big players laying out their wares for us to drool over, hopefully, buy and probably critique. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook all hold events of varying magnitude at this time of year.

Yesterday Google opened their doors and laid down the gauntlet to Apple as it officially launched the Pixel 8 series of phones which are direct competitors to Apple and their iPhone 15 range.

It was the first time I had sat down and watched an entire Google event live. I’ve been such a loyal Apple fanboy that Google events never appealed to me – of course, that has changed this year.

Although I am super happy, over the moon even with my iPhone 15 Pro Max, this year I have wandered to the dark side and tried Android for the first time and was quite impressed with what I saw.

Changing times

I’d always imagined that Android phones were for those who hadn’t tried Apple! I imagined them as poor or inferior quality, plasticy and just toys.

Of course, I was wide of the mark and found that they were just different but were nonetheless bloody good phones.

This summer I’ve tried a fair array – Nothing 2, Samsung Flip 4 and Pixel 7 Pro. Samsung didn’t tick many boxes for me, but the other two phones both had bits that I liked – although not enough to move full-time from Apple and my affair with the iPhone.

Before having a quick look at the Pixel 8 Pro that Google showed off yesterday and comparing it to my 15 Pro Max, it was the event itself I wanted to unpack.

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Apple in control

Although Apple from time to time throw in extra events, set in stone every year is WWDC in June and the iPhone event in September.

The iPhone event is their biggest and most highly anticipated event which, over the years has morphed into a full-blown movie-style production. Since COVID and the numerous lockdowns Apple’s events have been pre-recorded – and I’m not certain if that’s a good move or not.

I get that Apple loves being in control and are perfectionist – traits of mine also but the ‘performances’ are almost too slick now. I miss the audience involvement – the whoops, hollers, cheers and gasps. Although the events are now beautiful pieces of art – the colour, transitions, drone shots and effects I want something more from the events. They are starting to become very same-ish.

Live always brings anxiety and some extra tension to any event. You can be as practised & rehearsed as you want but the one-take-live thing always adds its own buzz to events. Even more laughable though is the fact that Apple invites creatives out to sit and watch the video ‘live’. I know, I know there will be a certain atmosphere watching it at Apple Park and they get the hands-on time after the video has run, but even so – why not just go the whole 9-yards and go back to full-on live events?

I also think Apple are at risk of these events becoming vanity projects. They are getting very bloated and long too. I know it’s a show, but what we are there for is to see the products. That’s the meat in the sandwich.

Apple’s Wonderlust event took another odd turn this year with the Mother Nature skit…I guess it’s one of those parts that you’ll have either loved or hated – there will be few sitting on the middle ground here. For me, my vote went to the latter – it just seemed like a very oddly misplaced car crash.

If Apple is going to stay with the pre-recorded formula, then let’s make them sharper and more on point – that is one benefit that recorded events do have in their favour – or at least should do.

Made By Google

So, as I mentioned this was the first time I’d sat down for a Google launch event so I had no idea of what to expect – but I was surprised.

It felt more intimate somehow – to call it more village hall would be unfair, but it felt real. The audience seemed up close to the action and part of the show. I have no idea how big the theatre was, but it looked more scaled down than Apple’s events.

One of the things I did like though was the punchy approach that Google took compared to the bordering-on self-obsessed style that Apple is leaning towards. It was a tight hour which was just about right. There was precious little waffle…and certainly no Mother Nature moments!

In that 60 minutes, they managed to cover the new watch, earbuds and the Pixel 8 phones – there was plenty to talk about but they simply kept a focus on the salient points.

All in all, I liked Google’s approach.

iPhone 15 Pro Max – should it be worried

I think this year’s iPhone is about as good as it gets – but to keep my stories sharp and relevant, I did buy the Pixel 8 Pro yesterday to compare.

I don’t know if my iPhone 15 Pro Max should be worried or not – but I want to find out. Google promised a lot yesterday and there are some obvious comparisons and differences to be made between the two phones.

Both have 6.7-inch, 120Hz displays but…Google’s Super Acura display has a max brightness of 2400 nits! Now I can tell you the 1600 nits max peak brightness on my 15 Pro Max is bloody bright already – heavens knows what a 2400 nits will look like…

Although the battery is physically larger on the Pixel 8 Pro than the 15 Pro Max, it will be interesting to see how the two processors perform and how that relates to battery life.

The heat is on

I know heat is quite a topical point right now given all the headlines about iPhone 15 over the past week, but the Pixel 7 Pro got unbelievably hot when I set it up this summer. I wasn’t used to Google or Android, so had no idea if this was normal or not.

Turns out it was all to do with the Tensor chip which is known to run super hot. This year’s phone has a new chip as expected – the G3 SoC. And stealing a leaf from Apple’s playbook, Google will support this phone 7 years of security updates…

The camera set-up although not identical is pretty similar with a 50MP main camera and a 48MP ultrawide & telephoto lens.

Under the hood

It seems to me that this is where the two companies start to look very different.

Google is any the very front of the queue when it comes to AI and it is all over this phone. There’s Google Assistant – which will read and summarise a web page for you and the speech-to-text abilities are now even better (although they were already class-leading on the 7 Pro).

Face recognition & the front-facing camera have been improved for face unlock and I think there is even a proofreading ‘fix-it’ feature that will check your spelling and grammar before sending messages.

One feature that looked sort of freaky was the call-screen voice assistant. With an almost real-life voice it will screen calls from unknown numbers and decline or accept them – this is what Google does best.

The software magic continues with the cameras. The Magic Editor blew my mind – you can just move people or objects around. Not just erase them, but physically move them.

Best Take is another feature that Apple doesn’t have anything similar to. It’s a bit Frankenstein – you just swap out people’s faces in group pictures! Say your group picture was perfect apart from one person who was blinking…no problem – now you just swap their entire face for a frame where they weren’t blinking!

Audio was given Magic Eraser which will remove background noise and the main show stopper was Video Boost which will only be available on the Pixel Pro. Sadly it won’t ship with the phone, we have to wait until December to try it out. This feature will upload your video to Google’s servers where they will spin some kind of magic and after a few hours deliver back to you a greatly improved version of your original video. I don’t understand it fully – but I think that is the gist of it.

That G3 SoC is certainly going to be working hard on the Pixel 8 Pro, isn’t it?

Different Strokes

Apple’s main call to action is privacy – always has been.

While Google’s privacy policies may be easy to question, what separates these two phones and indeed the two companies is their approach and stance on AI.

Bard and all these tricks on the Pixel 8 make it hard to ignore that Google is driving home their AI advantage. All of these camera tricks – the call assistant – everything is all down to AI. Whilst yes, there are plenty of AI tricks going on with Apple and the iPhone 15 range, it is not in the same league.

That’s not to say one is right and the other wrong – just different strokes for different folks! But, I will be interested to see if it can honestly hold a candle to my iPhone 15 Pro Max. It’s pretty darned perfect!

PSA – re the heat issue – today Apple has released 17.0.3 which the release notes said was to directly address the overheating issues.

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