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Apple vs. Google: Replacing Apple's stock iOS apps with Google apps

Joel Mathis | Aug. 28, 2015
Google makes so many apps for iOS, we thought maybe we could live the Android life on our iPhones. And you know what? A Google life ain't always easy on iOS.

I’m fine with the free unlimited tier—and perhaps as a result, Google also seems to upload photos much more quickly. I’m also tickled by Google’s “assistant” feature, which automatically creates pictorial storybooks and short videos out of the images your capture. You can edit them, discard them, or share as-is.

Where Apple wins

Where Google fell short the most, interestingly enough, was in the realm of communications. Apple’s default Mail app makes it easy to sort good communications from bad—just award a VIP star to your correspondents whose missives you can’t miss. Google’s Inbox app tries to separate good from bad, but does so by dividing your mail into three inboxes: Inbox (where your important mail is supposed to live), Updates, and Promos. That leaves you shifting between boxes more often, which is kind of a pain. If it or the regular old Gmail app in iOS behaved more like its Android counterpart—that is, if it let you tie in Exchange corporate accounts—I’d be tempted to use it. One advantage it has over the native app? It opens links directly into Chrome, if you have it, instead of insisting on Safari.

Apple’s Mail, meanwhile, is also more likely to work with your work email: It’s compatible with Microsoft’s Exchange system used by many large companies. During my Google Week, I made my company’s Outlook account forward emails to my Gmail account, but it was far from a perfect solution when you know an integrated email app is available. (Better yet? Microsoft’s Outlook app does incorporate Gmail, and does a terrific job of separating priority email from less-important stuff.)

Email is not the only way to communicate, of course. In truth, I’ve long preferred Google Hangouts’ video-chat feature to FaceTime, if only because so many of my relatives and friends use Android phones, making FaceTime untenable. My mistake? Thinking I could use Hangouts to replace SMS messaging on my iPhone. I turned off SMS and missed a few texts from my wife. (Sorry, honey.)

Who’s better, who’s best

Where Google fell short the most—on iOS anyway—was with its plain old Google app. It’s clearly meant to replace, or at least be an alternative, to Siri. You can leave reminders to yourself on this app, and you can do voice-enabled searches on the app. It wants to be an assistant, letting you know when your next flight is, or how the weather it is today, or even your favorite team’s score. 

The problem: There’s no widget for Apple’s Notification Center, which limits the Google app. You have to click through to do a search or to see your reminder. Which means if you’re trying to use Google instead of Siri or Reminders or for searching, you’re moving a bit slower.

 

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