The Macalope: The K-word

Admiral Ackbar says “iOS can’t repel killer features of Android’s magnitude!”

“Android’s two killer innovations since the iPhone 5 launch.”

Wait, this isn’t Admiral Ackbar, the delightful Mon Calamari commander. It’s Jason Hiner of ZDNet. Well, that’s probably better. The Macalope would hate to have to mix it up with one of the heroes of the Battle of Endor.

It’s been 229 days since Apple announced the iPhone 5 and iOS 6. In Silicon Valley time, that’s roughly a millennium.

The Macalope has no doubt that tech pundits will keep using that “Not that long ago is long, long ago in technology!” construction for a long time to come—so much so that one day someone will write about how features that aren’t even here yet are already passé.

I’m talking about the killer feature in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean as well as the latest version of the one killer app on Android that you can’t get on iOS.

Oh, no! What’s the first one?

1. Google Now: The killer feature

Hiner posted this on Monday. The day that Google Now arrived on the iPhone.

Nice timing, dude.

There’s little denying that Google Now is better than Siri, but to describe the delta between them—or the delta between Google Now on iOS and Google Now on Android—as a “killer feature” is something that only makes sense in that magical land called Hyperbolictechnologistan.

“Talking to my phone is so important to me that I’m going to pick whichever phone has the best talking-to-my-phone experience, regardless of all other factors! Talking to my phone in a non-optimal fashion is unacceptable to me!” Who says that?

The release of Google Now for iOS also displays one of Android’s not-so-killer “innovations”—fragmentation—as Steve Kovach explains:

A majority of Android phones can’t access Google Now. The iPhone can.

Well, most of them can, but it requires iOS 5 or higher, which the original iPhone and the iPhone 3G can’t run. But on Android, Google Now requires Jelly Bean, which makes up a quarter of its installed base. Ironically, Google Now has brought voice search to the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4, giving them a feature that Apple itself doesn’t supply.

Why would Google do this? Surely the best bet is to deprive iOS of its “killer” features. But remember that Google only gets what it wants if people use its services, not just Android. And iOS users use their phones as computers more than Android users do. Google needs iOS.

But, sorry, this is one of those posts that only looks at one side of the story. Please continue with the second iOS “killer”:

2. SwiftKey 4: The killer app

Yes, if you need a faster way to type on your phone and this is the only thing that’s important to you, please enjoy Android with the Macalope’s compliments. But, again, how many people does that describe? SwiftKey is obviously much easier to pick up than the shorthand used on the Palm back in the 1990s, but it’s still a “thing” that you have to learn.

Here’s the Macalope’s take on these two “killer” features: They will not alter the competitive landscape of the smartphone business in any noticeable way. Android will continue to be popular with people who either want a low-cost phone or a phone with a large screen, along with a core set of Android fans, who would rather jump head first into an Olympic-sized swimming pool full of chiggers and deer ticks than put a toe inside Apple’s “walled garden.” iPhones will continue to be popular with people who want an easy and pleasant user experience with a robust ecosystem. And “Apple fanbois,” of course.

Seriously, tech pundits, retire the K-word. You just can’t seem to stop misusing it.

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