Wow, Google Really, Really Wants to Be Cooler Than Apple

So many sick burns from Google to Apple this week.

Karisa Langlo Senior Editor
Karisa Langlo has been writing and editing professionally for over 12 years, joining CNET with two writing degrees and bylines in Milwaukee Magazine, Louisville Magazine and The Masters Review. She started on CNET's mobile team before expanding to all tech and now works across categories to optimize the performance of all CNET advice and storytelling, from Wellness to Money, News and Culture. Karisa also manages strategy for CNET's Tips franchise.
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three Pixel 7 phones, in black, silver and white

Google unveiled its Pixel 7 lineup with a little shade thrown at Apple.

Google/Screenshot by Ian Sherr/CNET

Tech duopoly in-fighting -- love to see it. Google dropped several sick burns on longtime frenemy Apple during its Pixel event Thursday, where the tech behemoth unveiled its Pixel 7 lineup and long-rumored Pixel Watch and teased a forthcoming dockable Pixel tablet -- and we are here for it. 

Google's event livestream began with a fun bit of adver-tainment wherein a group of musicians coordinated an impromptu virtual jam session with a little help from their Pixel phones, watches and earbuds. As the hip quartet came together to make beautiful music on the same stage Google's executives were about to appear, I thought for a second I was viewing another Apple event. Is Google "cool" now?

As a person sitting here with a Fitbit on my left wrist and a Pixel 6 to my right, I will disclose my bias and say, yes, totally cool. As a person sitting here counting the ways Google just pulled a "How do you do, fellow kids?" I have to say… probably not. 

There was a guy in my college dorm who wanted nothing more than to have friends stop by to hang out, but for whatever reason (he was kind of weird, I guess) no one ever knocked on his door. "I don't understand it," he said. "I have food. And music!" That's basically Google. 

To me, the Pixel 6 rocks, the Pixel Watch looks like a winner and Android 13 has a ton of great features to get excited about. But the Pixel brand has still only earned 2% of the North American market compared to the iPhone's 52%. 

Still, I love a good underdog story, or whatever you call a software giant with a shaky hardware track record that also happens to be one of the largest companies in the world. And I especially enjoy it when that "underdog" is this savage.

Pixel 7 in white and Pixel 7 Pro in black, held side by side facing backwards

The Pixel 7 (left) and the Pixel 7 Pro.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Always-on display and lock screen widgets: "We take it as a compliment when others in the industry follow our lead," Google's VP of Product Management Brian Rakowski said at the Pixel 7 keynote, name-checking the Pixel's always-on display, lock screen widgets and astrophotography. To paraphrase: But we've had this stuff for, like, ever! Apple notably just added an always-on display to the iPhone 14 Pro and lock screen widgets in iOS 16, both in the past -- checks watch -- month.

Car-crash detection: Rakowski also pointed out Google introduced car-crash detection three years ago, before it was cool -- before it was a twinkle in the iPhone 14's eye. Major hipster vibes.


The iPhone features a flat edge.


iPhone design: Google threw a little shade at Apple's design choices as well, veritably subtweeting the iPhone's colors ("We don't just copy/paste one color we like across all of our products"), flat-edged slabular design ("Your phone and watch are designed to be personal, to be touched and worn … And they have smooth, rounded surfaces so they always feel right in your hand and on your wrist") and the Apple Watch's "prominent" external connectors ("You'll notice that the Pixel Watch doesn't have [them], like a lot of watches do").

Photo Unblur: One of the Pixel 7's exciting new features is Photo Unblur, which Google says will sharpen blurry photos, even old ones taken "on a phone or a camera that doesn't quite match the quality of a Pixel phone." Like, say, an iPhone? Just saying the quiet part out loud here.

RCS: The spiciest zinger came from Google's requisite RCS plea. "RCS is the modern industry standard for messaging. And it's already been adopted by most of the industry," Rakowski said, emphasizing modern and most. Note that RCS is actually Google's own technology, not technically an industry standard (and not without its problems). Google's been trying to make RCS happen since 2008, really hijacking the green bubble shame story. "We hope every device-maker gets the message and adopts RCS, making texting better for every smartphone user," Rakowski added. To paraphrase: I am once again asking you to support Rich Communication Services! 

the Google logo and Made by Google are projected on a stage in front of an audience

This is not the first time Google has called out Apple for not "getting the message." In August, Google launched an entire Android campaign dedicated to the cause, this time explicit in its addressee. Google announced several enhancements to its Messages app earlier in 2022, many of which make texting a friend with an iPhone a little nicer. But Apple doubled down on its proprietary messaging app in iOS 16, releasing new features like unsending a text that won't work when your recipient is team Android. "Buy your mom an iPhone," sniffed Tim Cook. The blue/green bubble divide lives on. So much drama!

I would be remiss if I didn't point out this underdog story is not without its plot twists: Google later announced features for the Pixel phone lineup that it copied from Apple, like Cinematic Blur (or Cinematic Mode), 2x zoom and face unlock/Face ID.

For more Google Pixel coverage, check out everything Google announced, our first takes on the Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel Watch, and relive the experience with CNET's live blog.