Google Photos is one of the most valuable tools on my phone. It’s a wonderfully accessible archive of all the photos I have ever taken. Smart searching is Google Photos’ killer feature, as I can find just about any photo by simply typing the name of something in that photo.
Google also makes an awesome keyboard that looks good, has great auto-correction, has swipe-to-type, and integrates Google search (including GIF search) right into the keyboard. This keyboard lets me get more done in whatever app I happen to be in.
Google just released an app called Motion Stills that takes Live Photos, stabilizes them, and turns them into tiny videos or GIFs. It’s a wonderful addition to Live Photos and is truly magical when you feed it the right photo.
And then of course there is Gmail, YouTube, and Google Now, all well known services from Google that sit on my phone and are rock solid parts of what makes my phone so great. That’s a lot of Google in my life, and you’d almost think I’m talking about an Android phone.
But I’m not, I have an iPhone 6s Plus and it’s great. For all the talk of how Google is pulling ahead of Apple in some of their services, not much is said about how iOS users get access to almost all the benefits of those great web services without going all in on Android. So while Google had their I/O conference last month and announced a whole bunch of new things, I was able to enjoy those announcements because just about all of them applied to me as an iOS user as well.
Sure, some of these services might be more integrated into the system than they are on iOS, but they’re still pretty damn good. Google Photos automatically syncs my photo library in the background without me ever needing to launch it1, Google Now gets me smart alerts (although they’re rarely exciting) using iOS’s native notification system, and their Gboard keyboard isn’t even on Android yet! I do sometimes wish I could make Google Now trigger with the home button instead of Siri, and Google Now On Tap is simply not possible with iOS, but these aren’t the end of the world.
I still maintain that iOS is the platform to be on if you want to have the most freedom in what web services you take advantage of on your devices. There’s not one Google service I can think of that is absent from iOS, or even significantly less-than on this non-Google platform. All the while also getting access to the best Apple has to offer with Apple Watch support, Continuity between Macs and other iOS devices, and the amazing App Store ecosystem.
This may be an issue on the long run, but right now the system is working basically exactly as Apple critics think it should be: Apple makes great hardware to run a really good local operating system, while Google and others make the amazing services that run on top of it. Maybe one day Apple won’t have anything to offer, or Google will stop making great iOS apps2, but as of today I am a happy iPhone owner who can choose exactly how to balance Google, Apple, and other services/features I want to have in my life, and it’s a freedom I would lose by switching to Android or Windows Phone.