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3 features Apple should borrow from Google’s latest hardware

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For obvious reasons, we spend a lot of time focusing on Apple here, but let’s take a moment to turn our attention to another tech company (yes, there are others!) that competes in many of the same spaces as Apple.

This week, Google introduced a slew of new devices, from new smartphones to a tablet to a smart home speaker with a screen. And while there will always be those who prefer one company’s products to another, it’s important to have competition in this space in order to drive all companies—including Apple—forward.

To that end, here’s a look at a few features that Google announced in its products this week that many users of Apple devices—including yours truly—would welcome with open arms on Cupertino’s own platforms.

A broader selfie canvas

Apple started adding additional lenses to the back of its iPhones with the iPhone 7 Plus, a trend that’s continued with the iPhone X and XS. This not only allows the company to offer an optical telephoto lens for shooting far away subjects, but also enables more complicated computational photography by using information captured by both cameras.

super selfie cam pixel 3 Google

Google says its wide-angle front camera offers 184 percent more screen content than what Apple delivers on the iPhone XS.

Google’s Pixel 3, on the other hand, eschews a second rear-facing camera. But it does include a second front-facing camera for the purpose of taking wide-angle selfies. This is, admittedly, a brilliant choice. As Google’s own marketing materials point out, how often have you accidentally cut someone out of your selfie, or blocked the background with too many people crowded in? As someone with long arms, I often get drafted as the group selfie taker, and while I do my best to get everybody, I can only do so much without pulling a muscle. (And if you’re about to say the words “selfie stick,” you can just stop now.)

Obviously, Apple’s already got a lot going on in the XS and XS Max’s True Depth camera system and cramming another lens in there might be tricky. But the result would probably be worthwhile for those of us who take group selfies which, let’s face it, is most of us.

Show, don’t tell

Smart speakers have proved to be a popular market, but the jury’s still out when it comes to adding a screen to these devices. I have a first-generation Echo Show, and it has never particularly impressed me, although I could see the potential in having a display attached to such a device. Google’s Home Hub likewise seems like it could offer some handy capabilities, such as showing search results, displaying timers, and even playing videos.

homepod volume controlsDan Masaoka/IDG

The top of the HomePod is a touchscreen display.

That brings to light one of my least favorite parts of Apple’s HomePod: the “display.” I get that the company wanted the speaker to look like an attractive item that you could put anywhere in your house, but the screen on the top is the worst of both worlds. It provides little in the way of useful control or information for the device, limited to displaying anything other than too-small volume controls while playing audio or an undulating mass of colors to indicate that Siri has heard you. I already prefer physical controls to touch ones, but if you’re going to have a touchscreen, you might as well embrace its full capabilities.

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