New Google I/O Announcements Prove Apple Needs to Catch up (and Fast)

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Google on Tuesday held its annual I/O event, showing off a slew of new software features and platforms that could spell trouble for Siri, iOS and Apple’s own software as a whole.

The company did announce hardware updates at I/O, but when it comes to software features and digital assistant intelligence, Google is the clear winner outshining Apple and most other smartphone manufacturers.

Take the new version of Google Assistant, which will be much smarter and more capable across the board. Just as an example, Google showed off a demo in which Assistant was able to answer and carry out rapid-fire requests without a wake word. That’s something Siri can only hope to do at this point.

That was just one update, too. The next-generation version will also be able to handle a wider variety of commands, such as writing emails and subject lines to giving you directions to personalized results.

Google Duplex, the slightly creepy AI feature that can make calls for you, can now pull information from various sources to book car rentals or movie tickets.

While not technically an Assistant feature, Google’s Live Captions deserves a shout-out too. The feature will automatically add real-time subtitles for any audio playing on a device. It also works without an internet connection, since that speech-to-text translating is carried out intelligently on-device.

Google Lens received an update too. You can now point a smartphone camera at a menu and get Google Image results for what that dish actually looks like. Point the camera at a sign in a foreign language and users will receive a live text-to-speech translation.

Compared to Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant and related systems within Google’s software are huge bounds ahead. All of this, in other words, is making Siri look a lot less capable by the day — and a lot worse overall.

The Mountain View company is also closing in on Apple’s own software strategies. Google’s Project Mainline, for example, will help get Android updates out to users without the need to wait on carriers or phone manufacturers to push them out. That has long been one of the most important benefits of iOS over Android.

Google is also working to bump up the privacy of its platform, by way of an Incognito Mode for Google Maps and an easier-to-access data menu. That’s another key Apple advantage.

In other words, Google is making huge strides when it comes to the capabilities of its software platforms. When you look at something like iOS 12, which was mostly focused on stability and speed instead of new features, the difference is striking.

To be fair, iOS 13 is shaping up to be a major update with its own set of innovative features. But those features may not be enough in a sphere where Google is so clearly dominant. Apple needs to seriously improve Siri and its software capabilities — and it may just need a few extra tricks up its sleeve — just to keep up.

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