New updates are added at the bottom of this story…
The original story (as of September 19, 2022) follows:
Google Pixel phones are not known for their hardware, but for the unique software features they bring not only to other Android devices but also to Apple’s iPhone.
Since the debut of the Pixel, Google has turned to creating custom software for its most popular handheld to stand out in the crowded smartphone market.
But despite Google’s best efforts to carve out a market by offering exclusive features, Pixel’s market share remains a drop in the ocean compared to Samsung, Apple and other smartphone vendors.
The recent Pixel 6 series may be Google’s best effort to perfect its smartphone hardware, but the numerous bugs and software issues it has encountered have been a thorn in the side for many.
Although the update to Android 13 has helped improve the performance of the phones, not everyone shares the same sentiments. Still, the broader hope is that the Pixel 7 doesn’t inherit any of the Pixel 6’s issues.
But even as Pixel fans prepare for the arrival of the Pixel 7, there’s a need to fix the problem with exclusive software features that Google chooses to keep close to its chest.
I was grateful when news broke that car crash detection was set to break free from the Pixel’s shackles. After all, security features should never be exclusive. And they shouldn’t require a subscription either.
It’s not often you come across such news, so I was obviously pumped up and it got me thinking about what other Pixel-exclusive feature Google should extend beyond its walls. Now Playing quickly came to mind.
For the uninitiated, the Pixel 2 launched a feature known as Now Playing. If you’ve heard or used apps like Shazam and SoundHound, you already know the basics of how Now Playing works.
It uses the Pixel’s mic to capture audio samples and create an acoustic fingerprint which it uses to match against a centralized database. If there is a match, the music title, album, artist, and other details appear on the screen.
The best parts of Now Playing are that it is hands free, works even when the phone is locked and the whole process happens on the device without internet. Privacy enthusiasts will be happy to know that the data is not sent to Google.
Even though Now Playing is an exclusive Google Pixel feature, non-Pixel users like me have been craving it for ages. Unfortunately, unlike other Google apps, Now Playing cannot be installed on all Android devices.
But Android is still full of possibilities. True, those interested in the tool can still get it, but with the help of a mod called Ambient Music.
There’s a whole process on how to get started with the mod detailed here, but no one deserves the pain of going through all that just to get the feature working on their non-Pixel phone.
Even so, the fact that a developer has gone so far as to mimic the Now Playing experience on any non-Pixel device speaks volumes about how some people want the Now Playing experience to break Pixel barriers.
Of course, Now Playing is one of those features that sets the Pixel apart in the crowded Android market.
But since Google is the guardian of the Android operating system, having such a feature available for all Android vendors in AOSP could be an added advantage for the bigger competition against Apple.
In fact, given the numbers Pixel has been posting since its inception, Google should consider expanding Pixel-exclusive features to other Android devices.
As a smartphone manufacturer, Google is not in direct competition with Samsung or Apple. But as the owner of Android, Google is in direct competition with Apple. The fight should be with Apple, not its Android partners.
Keeping such cool features under the disguise of exclusivity will only serve to slow down Android in what looks like a more intense battle with iOS after the recent rollout of iOS 16.
Google has claimed in the past that Now Playing requires specific hardware and software integration to work, but the fact that the feature has been modified to work on non-Pixels suggests otherwise.
I don’t write code, but I think Google can pull some strings and extend functionality beyond the Pixel realm. If an indie developer can bring Now Playing to non-Pixels via a mod, Google can officially do that.
Of all the Android smartphone vendors, only Samsung has a better chance of battling Apple. Not Google, and the sales numbers tell the story better.
By unlocking Pixel-exclusive features, Google will make Android great again. As things stand, Google can easily be mistaken for fighting Android from within rather than promoting unity against a common competitor.
And given its insignificant market share, Google has no incentive to lock down software features on its Pixel phones when they can be made available to all Android vendors under AOSP. This must change for the better.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section. As for the poll below, the article will be updated with the results after a week.
Is Google helping Android compete against iOS by keeping certain features exclusive to Pixel phones?
Vote below and check out our article here: https://t.co/KqEMuB7eUP
— PiunikaWeb (@PiunikaWeb) September 19, 2022
Update (September 26, 2022)
Keeping Pixel-exclusive features, more than 66.7% of readers think Google is also sticking with Android as a whole. The remaining 33.3% think having Pixel-exclusive features actually helps Android.
Featured Image: Google
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