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Google Now Is Actually a Good Thing for Apple


Experts say that the greater array of third-party app choices makes customers likelier to stick with Apple devices.

On Monday, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) announced that its personal assistant app, Google Now, had been made available on Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iTunes store, providing iPhone users an alternative to Siri.

Most tech experts view this development as a triumph of Google. In his article, Google Has Destroyed Apple's Walled Garden From Within, Minyanville writer Mike Schuster said that "Google apps [like Google Now and Google Maps] are besting the iPhone's default software, and Apple has to grin and bear it."

But while it's undeniably great for Google that its apps are available on iOS and that people like them, is it necessarily bad for Apple?

Not really, say tech industry insiders.

"I think it's not a bad thing for Apple, even though Google is a competitor in many areas," says Gaston Irigoyen, CEO & Founder of Guidecentral and a Google alumnus. "Users want to have many apps and more services that are cross-platform. I'm sure Apple users would like to have access to services like Google Now or Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) Home."

Some tech analysts have said that having more Google apps available on iOS makes it likelier that iPhone users will switch over to Android devices in the future, but Irigoyen disagrees.

"I think Apple users have always been very loyal to Apple. I'm not sure one or two apps will really make them change their minds. If I were Apple, I wouldn't be afraid that a few apps are not available."

Bryan Colligan, CEO of SeQR, a recently launched mobile commerce app for small businesses that want to sell their products on mobile devices, concurred. "If all the killer apps are available on both platforms, then there is less incentive [for customers] to switch," he says.

(See also: Should Apple Be More Worried About Samsung or Google?)

What would entice customers to stick with Apple, some say, is the fact that third-party apps generally work best on iOS.

"This may sound hard to believe, but in reality, almost everything works better under iOS," says Chad Udell, managing director of Float Mobile Learning and the author of Learning Everywhere: How Mobile Content Strategies Are Transforming Training. "Because of the numerous handset manufacturers and OEM, Android and other operating systems are inherently less stable than Apple's iOS platform."

"While Android is getting better, there are too many devices to support to completely control the experience and device-specific variables," added Colligan.

The complexities of customizing apps for the myriad of Android options in the market is also the reason why Google Now is ironically available on twice as many iOS devices than it is on Android ones. Google Now for Android is compatible only with devices that run the newest version of Android, Jelly Bean, so certain HTC (TPE:2498) or Samsung (PINK:SSNLF) devices, for example, cannot access the app.

Nonetheless, Apple clearly recognizes the threat that popular Google and other third-party services pose, which explains its attempts to block YouTube and Google Maps apps at one point, notes Irigoyen.

"I think Apple worries about this situation and it seems like they're doing two very different things: In some cases, they are trying to integrate third-party features into their OS. For example, Facebook and Twitter sign-in capabilities have been incorporated into iOS. On the other hand, they are preventing or making it very hard for other players to work with them – Google Maps and YouTube are great examples, or even FB Home. Those have either been removed or it's been more difficult for developers to work with them in the last versions of iOS."

For Apple's continued success in the software space, the performance of the upcoming iOS 7 update is paramount. Irigoyen says that Apple needs to get two things right: improving information-sharing between apps and easing up restrictions on home screen customization.

"Information-sharing between apps is something that Google has done very well. For instance, I use an Android device. If I want to share a photo on my photo gallery on Android, just by tapping on the photo, I can very quickly share that with multiple services and multiple apps that I also have installed in my device. By tapping on a photo, I can share it to Instagram, to DropBox, or to email. There's room for improvement there from Apple."

"[Also] from user experience point of view, we haven't seen a lot of innovation from Apple in the last iOS releases. The ability to include widgets and other things in your home screen would be nice, so you can personalize your home screen. Google has really been working on that."

Also see:

Apple: Is the Rebound Real?

What Should Apple Do With Its Cash? Buy BlackBerry

Apple, Huawei, and the Trade War With China

Twitter: @sterlingwong
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