NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Google’s (GOOG_) management team is dancing around its new KitKat statue today, having dodged what could have been a competitive bullet or two from Apple (APPL) — possibly the new iWatch, iTV or even a new laptop. For heaven’s sake, they didn’t even announce a new iPad!
There was nothing new from Apple today that could stop Google’s market share march forward.
Another company that’s having a field day today: Nokia (NOK_). Apple’s new iPhone 5C is seemingly a flawless copy of the Nokia 620 that has already been available for several months.
Oh, and the price of that Nokia 620 is approximately half that of the iPhone 5C.
Fingerprint sensor? You mean the same thing I got on my Dell (DELL_) laptop in 2007? And on the Motorola (MSI_) Atrix Android smartphone in January 2011? If Apple’s latest claim to fame is to having copied a Dell 2007 laptop and a January 2011 Motorola smartphone, then Apple is in trouble.
Which is why Google is celebrating today.
Google’s Android and Chrome teams were already nicely ahead of Apple’s iOS team in terms of service integration, customization, ease of use and ability to ship a given grade of hardware at a much lower price.
Over the next few months, Google’s Android and Chrome teams seek to extend their existing lead over Apple. The company will introduce Android OS version 4.4 KitKat, a slew of new Chromebook laptops starting around $199, a Chromepad (touchscreen Chrome OS tablet) and next summer the first Chromephone (Chrome OS replacing Android on the smartphone). The pace of innovation at Google is simply faster than it is at Apple these days.
Even before Google unveils these new initiatives, look at how far Google is ahead of Apple in the smartphone race: At $549 unlocked for the iPhone 5C, it is $300 more than Google’s flagship smartphone, the LG Nexus 4, which sells for $249 SIM-unlocked, contract-free.
And the iPhone 5C only has only a four-inch screen, compared to the Nexus 4.7-inch screen. The Nexus also has a 768×1280 screen resolution, meaningfully higher than the iPhone 5C and 5S alike.
In another move of capitulation — not just copying Nokia’s design and the age-old fingerprint sensor of Windows laptops and Android smartphones — Apple went ahead and copied Google’s free productivity suite: Word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software. This has been free from Google for years: Google Docs and Google Drive. Now it’s free from Apple too. But is it nearly as good as Google’s?
Back to the plastic iPhone 5C for a moment: Isn’t the point about this kind of plastic that it’s supposed to be relatively scratch-resistant, compared to the regular iPhone 5? No sooner did Apple show the 5C, before it also introduced cases for it.
Gee … and is that then a sign of confidence? Not.
For those of you who have recent Samsung (SSNLF) smartphones, whether the 2011 Galaxy Nexus or the newer Galaxy S3 and S4 models, you know that they are resistant to scratches and don’t require special cases. Have you seen anyone using a Samsung with a case around it? Me neither.
Apple has many dilemmas. The biggest among them is that it’s facing Android and Chrome competition from so many hardware players who move very quickly and with great diversity. You can get pretty much any kind of Android smartphone you want, in any size, with or without keyboard, stylus, this-or-that kind of camera, and so forth.
The other problem is price. Apple’s products are priced well above Google’s.
For example, the cheapest Apple laptop is $999. For that price, you can get one Google laptop, one Google smartphone and one Google tablet, yet still have $322 left! Here is how it all breaks down:
LG Nexus 4: $249 + Asus Nexus 7: $229 + Acer Chromebook: 199 = $677
So Apple is many times more expensive, just for the hardware. On top of that, Apple encourages you to buy an extended service plan, so that you can feel more comfortable on your weekly trek to the Apple store. This service plan can cost anywhere from $99 to $349 for each of your Apple devices.
Indeed, the Apple stores are very nice. The nicest stores of any kind. Basically, they’re all museums of modern art.
And Apple’s customer service is the best in the business. No bones about it. It sure beats all the old places that used to sell Windows PCs, such as Best Buy. (BBY_).
But you know what’s better than the best customer service in the world? No need for customer service in the first place, that’s what.
This is what Google offers with Android and Chrome. Google doesn’t need stores for customer service, because their products don’t require any customer service. They’re so easy to use, and they don’t fail. Synchronization is automatic. There is nothing complicated to set up!
Look, Apple’s hardware is pretty good. It’s beautiful stuff, and has great quality — just like Nokia — except that Apple just happens to have far more apps, which is the crucial difference.
However, when compared to Google, which has just as many apps as Apple, Apple suddenly falls short. The products cost many times more and they’re not as easy to use, requiring visits to special stores — and extra warranties.
If these two new iPhone 5 models are all that Apple has, Google will then crush Apple in the coming months.
At the time of publication, the author was long GOOG and AAPL,and short MSFT.