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Android Is Catching Up to Apple in an Important Way

Google is launching one other new function to make switching between all of the Android units in your life just a little simpler. Media Notifications, introduced at CES, will allow you to transition audio content material from the automobile to your telephone, headphones, telephone and sensible residence units based mostly on proximity. It’s Google’s latest effort to deliver its Android ecosystem as much as par with Apple’s on the subject of connectivity and cohesiveness between units. 

The approach Apple’s merchandise seamlessly join to at least one one other has helped it turn into the world’s second-largest smartphone maker and the highest vendor of smartwatches and wi-fi earbuds. The launch of Media Notifications is Google’s newest try to indicate that merchandise do not must be made by the identical firm to work collectively. Google has been transferring in direction of this purpose for years by introducing options like Phone Hub, Nearby Share and Fast Pair. Additions like these have turn into all of the extra necessary now that Android and iOS have staked a bigger presence in our automobiles, our ears and on our wrists. 

“This is an ongoing funding,” Erik Kay, Google’s vp of engineering for Android, stated to CNET completely forward of CES. “We get to the purpose the place just about any function that exhibits up on the telephone or exhibits up on a watch goes to inherently be a multi-device function over time.” 

Spotify and YouTube Music can be among the many first apps to be appropriate with Media Notifications. Google can be working with Spotify to make it doable to handle playback between Spotify Connect units in Android 13’s new media participant — one other transfer to enhance consistency throughout Android units. 

Google has not but stated when both of those updates will launch, nor has it stated which merchandise Media Notifications can be appropriate with. But because the purpose is to make transferring between units simpler, Google says customers possible will not must do any legwork within the settings menu to allow Media Notifications. Prompts ought to simply seem mechanically as you progress nearer to a appropriate machine.  

“That all occurs naturally by means of little nudges and prompts within the person interface,” Kay stated when describing how Media Notifications will work.

Media Notifications will not require extremely wideband, a connectivity protocol that is made its approach into new premium smartphones over the previous three to 4 years, as a result of it depends on alerts from numerous sources like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. But it is going to possible work extra precisely for those who’re utilizing a UWB-enabled machine, based on Kay. Since UWB can present exact proximity calculations, its presence in telephones improves duties like sharing information and content material between units and digital automobile key performance. It’s additionally the identical know-how Apple makes use of to level you in the precise course of a misplaced AirTag.

“UWB is one thing we’re fairly enthusiastic about,” stated Kay. “But it’s one in all this stuff that is going to take a very long time for it to essentially get ubiquitous available in the market.” 

An illustration showing what Google's new Media Notifications feature could look like.

An illustration exhibiting what Google’s new Media Notifications function might seem like. 


Google’s bulletins come after Apple has been regularly including new connectivity options to its ecosystem of iPhones, iPads, AirPods, Apple Watches and Macs. Apple introduced the flexibility to swap FaceTime calls between your iPhone, iPad and Mac in its most up-to-date working system updates, for instance. The potential to switch audio out of your iPhone to the HomePod Mini based mostly on proximity was additionally a standout function when Apple launched its miniature speaker in 2021. 

But not like Apple, Google is not utilizing options like Media Notifications to push its first occasion {hardware}. Instead, Google desires to make swapping between Android units really feel constant and straightforward whether or not you are utilizing merchandise from Google, Samsung, JBL or any of its different companions. 

It’s a purpose that Google should steadiness alongside selling its personal Pixel units, which solely account for a sliver of the international smartphone market. You could also be questioning why Google does not simply hold options like Media Notifications unique to its Pixel telephones, Pixel earbuds and Nest sensible residence units to make its units stand out inside the Android panorama. If Google desires to emulate Apple’s ecosystem method, that would definitely be a technique to take action. 

The reply is straightforward: Improvements like these are solely helpful in the event that they’re accessible all over the place. 

“Every function you construct is a community impact function, so it depends upon there being all kinds of units to help the function,” Kay stated. “So for those who construct one thing [and] attempt to make it unique to at least one machine, or one associate, and even our first occasion issues, it isn’t going to be as profitable as a result of there’s not as many units for it to work with.” 

As smartwatches and wi-fi earbuds have grown extra well-liked, telephone makers like Apple and Samsung have more and more targeted on these ancillary merchandise as complementary promoting factors for his or her smartphones. Global shipments of smartwatches grew 13% year-over-year in 2022, based on Counterpoint Research, whereas Canalys experiences that true wi-fi earbuds had been the one private audio class to indicate progress within the third quarter of 2022. Google is the most recent smartphone maker to leap on that bandwagon and launched its first smartwatch, the Pixel Watch, in October, Google plans to introduce a brand new Pixel pill subsequent yr. 

Making watches, earbuds and sensible residence units work collectively extra seamlessly is not nearly comfort. Some specialists imagine that equipment like these will play a giant function within the smartphone’s future as annual telephone upgrades really feel incremental. 

“The subsequent quest for the smartphone is to determine what it is going to hook up with subsequent,” Runar Bjørhovde, an analyst with market analysis agency Canalys, stated in a earlier interview for a separate story. “Because the smartphone has not essentially reached its potential but, however as a standalone machine I believe the smartphone is getting nearer and nearer to the sting.”

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