What it is: Apple introduced augmented reality with the latest iPhone, but Google actually had it first.
Apple rarely is the innovation leader. That award usually goes to Apple’s numerous rivals such as Google, Microsoft, and Samsung. The big difference is that Apple provides a reason to use new technology while other companies just toss new technology out in the market and hope people will magically find reason to use it.
Just witness all the companies flushing money down the toilet for virtual reality headsets. Even though nobody has a compelling reason to use virtual reality (beyond a handful of games) and virtual reality ties you down to a fixed location where you don’t have to worry about running into walls or other people, companies still are pushing virtual reality without showing a single compelling reason why the average person should buy and use it.
That’s why Apple takes its time refining technology until it’s ready. Google beat Apple to the augmented reality market with Project Tango, released in 2014. Then they let the technology l anguish while never offering a compelling reason to use augmented reality in any of their Android smartphones. Meanwhile, Apple carefully crafted software frameworks to help developers create augmented reality apps, and then they showed compelling examples of augmented reality such as using your iPhone as a virtual ruler to measure distances.
Now that Apple has released ARKit to give iOS augmented reality, Google has to rework Project Tango to offer similar augmented reality features for Android. The big problem is that Project Tango won’t work with the vast majority of Android devices on the market. That drastically limits augmented reality on Android. Android is always playing catch up to iOS and with the iPhone advanced rapidly with massive hardware improvements and staying updated with the latest version of iOS (while Android users rarely get updates for their devices), the world of iOS keeps forging ahead and the world of Android keeps falling behind.
It’s never a matter of being first, although that helps. What matters is being the best whether you’re first or last. Microsoft had a ten year head start on Apple with tablets but botched the whole concept with their Tablet PC devices where the screen twisted and folded flat over the keyboard, creating a heavy and bulky tablet. Even worse, Microsoft never developed compelling tablet programs to make a Tablet PC a necessity. After wasting a ten year head start on tablets, Microsoft watched Apple introduce the thinner and lighter iPad, which defined the tablet market and killed Tablet PCs once and for all.
Apple is slowing pulling ahead of Android in smartphones, tablets, and wearables. Pretty soon the gap will be so large that there won’t be any reason to buy an Android device except for a low price. Android will gobble up the low-end market of razor thin profit margins while Apple will gobble up the high-end market of massive profit margins, which can fuel further research into making the next iPhone and iPad even better than before.
As Project Tango demonstrates, Android can be first and still wind up last. if you want to see the future of computing, it belongs to Apple.