It’s been nearly a month since the official September 19 launch of Apple Arcade. With my free 30-day trial of the subscription gaming service on the verge of expiring, I ask myself if I’m getting enough out of it to give Apple five of my hard-earned dollars to keep playing. Having barely made a dent in the 71 launch games, let alone the nine that have been added since, I’d say I still have plenty of playing to do.
Stephen Totilo and I called Apple Arcade “mobile gaming without all the bullshit” in our initial impressions of the service, and that assessment holds true. Having instant access to a massive, curated selection of quality games with no annoying microtransactions, energy meters, life timers, or other annoyances of free-to-play mobile gaming has changed how I play games on my iPhone and iPad. Instead of immediately heading to the iTunes app store’s game section to check out “New Games We Love,” I go straight to the Arcade page to see if anything new has popped up.
The service has spoiled me for traditional free-to-play games, like the recently-released Mario Kart Tour. I don’t mind the microtransaction model as much as some, but I’ve started minding it more since Arcade went live. Why spend money on chances at winning random Mario karts and racers when there’s a full-featured Sonic Racing game with all the trimmings on Arcade?
Apple Arcade hasn’t reached the 100-game mark yet. Between the launch games and two subsequent mini-waves of releases (which included some surprises), the service has 80 titles to choose from. I’ve downloaded every single one to my iPad Pro. Now when I pick up my tablet, I spend a good minute perusing the menu, trying to figure out what sort of game I’m in the mood to play. The soothing picture puzzles of Patterns? The random multiplayer madness of Lego Brawls? The unique future racing of Super Impossible Road? The Zelda-riffic Oceanhorn 2? A “Play Random Apple Arcade Game” button would not be unwelcome at this point.
Is Apple Arcade’s approach the future of gaming? I don’t know, but I do know it’s my next five dollars’ worth of gaming. We’ll see how I feel next month.
The theme song toX-Men: The Animated Series is undeniably amazing, but now there are accusations that it was stolen. A Hungarian man has filed a lawsuit against Marvel, Disney, Fox, Apple, Amazon, and others—along with folks from Saban Entertainment—claiming that the theme song was plagiarized.
io9 has looked over the lawsuit, which was filed Monday and first reported by TMZ. Zoltan Krisko, who claims to be managing the estate for Hungarian composer Gyorgy Vukan, says Vukan’s theme song for the 1980s crime drama Linda the Policewoman bears striking similarity to the one created for X-Men: The Animated Series, which debuted almost a decade later in 1992.
Linda the Policewoman, which was created by György Gát and distributed by Hungarian National Television, is described in the lawsuit as a “household name.” That’s not inaccurate. Running from 1983 to 1989, Linda was a popular show that not only brought kung fu fighting styles to Eastern Europe television but also apparently contributed to reshaping gender norms during the Iron Curtain.
Even though Hungary was isolated from much of the Western world during this time, the lawsuit claims the folks behind X-Men’s theme song still associated with Hungarian animators, which could have exposed them to Linda. The suit includes:
During the 1980s, cooperation between film industry professionals from different countries, including from the “Eastern” and “Western” world, existed despite the still standing Iron Curtain. Based on information and belief, as professionals in the animation film industry, Defendants Ronald Wasserman, Haim Saban and Shuki Levy all came in contact with Hungarian professionals in the film industry, and were aware of the famous animation workshop at Pannonia Filmstudio in Hungary, where Hungarian film industry professionals, such as Gyorgy Vukan, were frequent visitors.
Along with the companies, Krisko is suing Ron Wasserman and Shuki Levy, two composers for X-Men: The Animated Series who have each at one point taken credit for the theme song. The suit accuses several companies and folks that produced, distributed, syndicated, or otherwise profited from the show of enabling the copyright infringement of Vukan’s work (a problem that could still continue, since Disney is reportedly considering putting the series on Disney+).
That said, Vukan’s composition wasn’t registered for copyright in the United States until 2017, which is when Krisko said he first learned about X-Men: The Animated Series. Krisko is asking for damages and to award any profits attributable to him, and asking the court to restrain them and others from infringing on the copyright further.
This isn’t the first time the X-Men theme song has been accused of borrowing from other works. Several folks have cited its similarity to Whitney Houston’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” which came out in 1990. But unlike this situation, it doesn’t look like that ever resulted in a lawsuit.
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Surprise! Last night, Apple added four new games to the Apple Arcade service, including the new game Pilgrims from Machinarium developerAmanita Designand the early release of The Bradwell Conspiracy.
It seems Pilgrimswas a complete surprise, being announced and released all at once. It’s described as a “playful adventure game” where players will have to explore and meet new characters, helping them and learning about their stories. The art style looks lovely. Pilgrims is also now available for PC.
The Bradwell Conspiracy is a first-person puzzle game with a big focus on telling a story. Following a large explosion at the Stonehedge Museum, you are trapped underground in a secret complex. You have to unravel the secrets of this complex and escape with the help of another survivor. This game was planned to release on Oct. 8 but was released a little early on Apple Arcade. It will still be released in a few days for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.
RedOut: Space Assaultis a dogfighting game featuring cool-looking spaceships. The game has a full career mode with ship upgrades and various ways to control your starfighter. You can kill the engines to slow your speed, making it easier to navigate a small opening. RedOut: Space Assault is also coming to PC, though no release date is listed on Steam.
Finally, Nightmare Farm is the new game from the developers behind Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector. Nightmare Farm is described as “The story of a painful nightmare spinning in a bright world.” Not entirely sure what that means, but players will have to grow and harvest crops while also preparing meals for visitors to keep them happy.
I’m happy to see Apple adding new games to their service so quickly, and these games look good. But I can’t help feeling like this is a terrible way to run a service. The news was buried late Saturday night with no big announcement post, teaser, or anything.
Checking out each game’s publishers and developers, only some of them have formally announced the new releases. I assume, over the next few hours and days, more formal announcements and trailers will launch for these games and their Apple Arcade debut. But hopefully, future additions to Apple Arcade will be handled a bit better and not feel so sloppy and poorly done.
I was not aware that game developers were legally permitted to make action on mobile games that’s as good as the fighting in Bleak Sword. When it comes to games, touchscreen controls are a thing that we just kind of deal with in the hopes that someone comes up with an ingenious use for them, like with The Room series of games. Barring that, most just settle for fine—rare is the truly bad touchscreen control scheme these days, but few are exceptional. This is doubly true for precise, intense action games—touchscreens are just not the best input medium.
At least that’s what I used to think before Bleak Sword, an Apple Arcade game so good I’m furious I have waited so long to upgrade my old-ass iPhone, with its battery that lasts maybe three hours if I ask nicely. Developed by Spanish developer Luis Moreno Jimenez, also known as more8bit, with music by Jim Guthrie and sound design by Joonas Turner, Bleak Sword is a black-and-white (and a little red) action game that casts you as a little pixelated warrior in small isometric arena, assaulted by all manner of horrible monsters. Defeat them all, and you move on to the next level, earning experience, leveling up, and finding items to give you stat boosts. Lose, and you drop your items, lose any experience that hasn’t already been applied to your next level-up, with one chance to try again and win it back.
It’s got a killer pixel-art style, with an aesthetic that seems in step with Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP, only more grotesque and in monochrome. But again, what really elevates Bleak Sword are its tight, impressive controls. There are two schemes, a two-handed one and a one-handed one, both in portrait orientation. In the former, tapping the left side of the screen is devoted to attacking—you tap it to parry, or touch and release to swing your sword. A brief touch is a light attack, and a longer touch charges a heavy attack. On the right side, you swipe in any direction to roll and dodge.
In the one-handed control scheme, all of this is done regardless of what part of the screen you touch; you just have to make sure you’re making the right gesture. So you swipe to roll in one direction, tap to parry, and make short or long touches to make your desired attack. This is my preferred control scheme, not just for convenience, but because it makes Bleak Sword’s combat feel more rhythmic, like a dangerous dance with a zombie that also wants to eat you.
This, combined with stamina the game’s stamina meter, works to means every foe has to be taken seriously and the space of each stage navigated mindfully. And those stages are much more varied than their simple looks might make you think: Maybe you’ll find yourself staring down skeleton soldiers on a bridge, or dueling through a swamp full of tentacles that spring up out of nowhere. Dealing with map hazards as well as foes with their own attack patterns helps Bleak Sword keep things fresh, even though it’s got combat so rock-solid it could probably sustain less variety with no complaints from me.
And boss battles? They’re real good.
I’m very sorry, but I’m going to compare Bleak Sword to Dark Souls—but only because Bleak Sword truly seems to be aiming for an experience best described as Dark Souls: Mobile. It’s got the fraught risk and reward of that game’s combat, but in bite-sized combat dioramas. It’s also incredibly responsive in a way that’s actually too fluid for the Dark Souls comparison, but necessary for imprecise nature of touchscreen controls. It’s extremely good, and I can’t get enough of it, at least until my battery dies. It’s probably time for me to get a new phone.
While the $5-a-month Apple Arcade subscription doesn’t officially launch until Thursday, iOS 13 beta testers can sign up right now and dive into new games from some of the best indie studios on the planet. With nearly 60 games on the service so far, it’s an overwhelming amount of entertainment, all at once.
Last week Apple dropped a short list of games coming to Apple Arcade for iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Macs. It contained 15 or so games, including new games in classic franchises like Rayman and Pac-Man, an RPG from the makers of Bravely Default, and a bunch of other cool-looking stuff. It was an impressive list, but it’s nothing compared to the tidal wave of titles washing over early Apple Arcade players right now.
I spent much of yesterday afternoon excitedly typing game names into our work Slack. Oceanhorn 2! The first part of the new Shantae game! Square Enix’s Various Daylife! Mini Motorways, a new game from the makers of Mini Metro! Assemble With Care, a new narrative puzzle adventure from UsTwo, makers of Monument Valley! Klei’s Hot Lava, an action game I’ve been waiting for since 2016! Earthnight, that cool dragon-running game from the Nintendo Switch indie direct! Many, many exclamation points were used.
When I loaded the iOS 13 beta yesterday afternoon, there were 53 games available to download and play. As of this writing, there are 59. Apple plans on having more than 100 available in the coming weeks. Thank goodness for my 512 GB iPad Pro. I have so many good things to play right now I don’t know where to start. I’m just going to play everything and see if I can’t come up with some sort of guide to help folks navigate the already crowded service once it launches wide later this week.
Get ready to be blown away (or disappointed) as Apple gears up for its latest big iPhone announcement. We’re expecting to see updates to all three of the iPhones in Apple’s current lineup and possibly some updates on Apple Watch, iPad, and MacBook. We also expect to talk about cameras. A lot.
The Apple event begins at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT. Our own Alex Cranz will be on the ground at Apple Spaceship in Cupertino, live-blogging the action from the Steve Jobs Theater. I’ll be doing the same from Gizmodo headquarters in sparkling Times Square. Look for plenty of updates in the hours leading up to the kickoff.
The iPhone rumors so far have been relentless and fairly iterative. Most experts expect—and case makers have all but confirmed—the oblong or circular camera bumps on the backs of the current iPhone models to turn into squares to accommodate additional lenses and sensors. This surely means those cameras will gain a whole bunch of new tricks. The latest we’ve heard on the naming scheme is that it will change to reiterate the two tiers of iPhones: the updated iPhone XR will probably just be called iPhone 11, and the iPhone XS and XS Max will become the iPhone Pro and iPhone Pro Max. Notably, the Pro models will supposedly get reverse wireless charging so you can charge one device on the back of another, but dependable rumors now suggest that Apple failed to pull this off.
On other fronts, we’ll almost certainly see a slight update to the Apple Watch, although many believe the hardware will look the same. We might also see a new entry-level iPad and the rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro. We might see a new Apple TV box, and we certainly hope to learn more details about the already announced services Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade services. The rumored details, as always, will remain rumors until the truth comes out of an Apple executive’s mouth.
Subscriptions are all the rage, and it’s easy to see why. Everyone loves a “buffet” model for content—see Netflix, et al—where you can just pay a single reasonable monthly fee for unlimited access to a body of stuff you’re interested in, be it documentaries, 90s-era TV shows, or (now) apps.
You’ll soon be able to subscribe to major services from Apple and Google, which will let you pay a single monthly fee to access lots of apps that would normally cost you money to buy or subscribe to individually. And these services—at least, Apple’s so far—will also let you play games that you won’t find on competing smartphone platforms.
Neither Apple nor Google have spilled the full details of their services yet. (Heck, Google is just starting to test its own offering, Google Play Pass.) With the smartphone wars getting ready to heat up again this fall, both offerings are incredibly compelling reasons to pick one platform over the other. But which do you go with? Let’s examine everything we know about these subscription services so far:
When Apple Arcade debuts—possibly alongside the expected September release of iOS 13, but potentially as late as November—it’ll (obviously) be geared for games, not apps.
Apple hasn’t announced pricing for the service, but I’d expect eager gamers will have to cough up at least $10 monthly for the pass. That’s comparable to what Apple charges for Apple News+, and it would put the subscription service right in the middle of competing entertainment services like the slightly more expensive Netflix; Google’s Statia streaming service and Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service (just for consoles); or the slightly discounted Hulu, Disney+, or PlayStation Now services.
Since Apple is big on services nowadays, as they represent roughly twenty percent of the company’s revenue and offering some slight relief for slowing iPhone sales, a $10 monthly subscription fee feels right. Any higher, and I’m not sure an overwhelming number of gamers will be very inclined to pay $15 for smartphone games—no matter how interesting or exclusive they are—when they can have a more compelling subscription service in front of their TVs.
Similarly, I doubt you’ll see this service priced at $5; Apple wants more revenue than that, and it also wants to establish Apple Arcade as a premium product. From a marketing standpoint, a mere five bucks a month doesn’t make the service appear all that fancy, even if it would be a great deal for smartphone gamers.
Above all else, the most compelling reason to pick up Apple Arcade—beyond the list of games, which I’ll get to in a second—is that these titles will be free of bullshit mechanics like in-app purchases to bypass progress, annoying timers that gate your gameplay, or irritating video advertising. If you’re tired of seeing these in every title you play, maybe $10 a month (or whatever) doesn’t sound so bad after all, especially when game developers start designing exclusively for this kind of a setup instead of stripping free-to-play titles of annoyances and relanching them in Apple Arcade.
As for the games themselves, here’s the list of Apple Arcade titles the company has confirmed so far, courtesy of Macworld:
Atone: Heart of the Elder Tree
Beyond a Steel Sky
Down in Bermuda
Enter The Construct
Frogger in Toy Town
Kings of the Castle
No Way Home
Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm
Projection: First Light
Sayonara Wild Hearts
The Artful Escape
The Bradwell Conspiracy
UFO on Tape: First Contact
Where Cards Fall
There’s no word yet on which ones are exclusive titles, if any. And this isn’t the final list, either; expect to see around 100 games or so arrive with Apple Arcade’s official launch.
Google Play Pass
We just heard that Google started testing its own app subscription service today, so we’re still ironing out all of the details. First, and most importantly, note the use of the word “app” instead of “game.” That’s intentional, as Google Play Pass will give you access to a lot more than just games on your device. According to Google’s description of the service, which a tester sent along to Android Police:
“Explore a curated catalog spanning puzzle games to premium music apps and everything in between. From action hits to puzzles and fitness trackers, with Google Play Pass you unlock access to hundreds of premium apps and games without ads, download fees or in-app purchases”
While we don’t have a full list of apps or games on the service, or even the ones Google is initially testing, a cursory look at some of the app icons in Android Police’s screenshots indicates that Google appears to be unlocking access to titles you can already find within Google Play: games like Stardew Valley, Terraria, and Monument Valley, for example.
These are also all titles that also exist on iOS, so it appears that Google is focusing a little less on the exclusivity of its subscription service. I would still expect Google to have some Android- or Play-Pass-only apps and games to entice people to sign up. At the very least, I’m sure there will be some exclusive deal or two that brings an incredibly popular app under Google Pass (crossing my fingers for Spotify, even though that’ll never happen).
As for the price, Google’s early test lists the Play Pass at a mere $5/month—an incredible value that basically means you’re paying the equivalent of one high-quality app or game a month for access to a lot, lot more. That feels like a reasonable purchase for most people. Heck, that’s one-and-a-half Stardew Valleys (a game you will already sink way too many hours into if you get hooked).
That’s not saying that Google (or Apple) charging $10/month for a subscription service would be out of the question. The actual difference between $5 and $10 a month is minimal—just another coffee—but the perception of that difference is huge. I know I’d be a lot more amenable to paying $5 for a subscription service that grants me full access to apps and games without any IAPs, advertising, or other annoyances.
Consider waiting on these services before you make that next big smartphone purchase
Were I on the fence about going Android or Apple for my next smartphone, Google’s cheaper subscription service could be a pretty compelling argument to hop over to a new Samsung or the upcoming Pixel 4. If you’re a big gamer, though, the exclusivity of Apple’s Arcade could be similarly enticing.
Can we make up your mind for you? Likely not. I’d definitely make it a point to check on the status of both services before I pick up a new smartphone this fall. And I would even recommend postponing that purchase to see if a competing platform’s subscription service offers a killer deal for your favorite apps or the games you’re most interested in playing.
The battle for your subscription dollars is just starting up. Unless you’re a loyalist to Android or iOS, you should wait until the dust clears a little bit before you pick a side—you might be able to save some serious cash for your apps and games, even with that monthly subscription fee.
There hasn’t been an Apple product as universally maligned and hated as the company’s low profile butterfly keyboards since the Newton PDA. Introduced in 2015 to help MacBooks achieve thinner designs, even Gizmodo staffers have had keys on their laptops that broke, or inexplicably just stopped working. As a result, the company expanded its Keyboard Service Program to fix any problems, and even upgraded the keyboard’s materials; but 2019 could actually see Apple finally switch to a better scissor switch design.
According to a recent report by Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the company will introduce a new scissor switch style keyboard design later this year, reinforced with glass fibers that will not only improve durability, but will also extend key travel which has been another major complaint with the butterfly style switches. In layman’s terms: pounding away on the new keyboard design should offer a much better tactile experience. Kuo also points out that while the scissor switch design will still be more expensive than what most laptop makers are using, it will be actually cheaper than the butterfly design, so seemingly a win-win solution for Apple.
The bad news is that Ming-Chi Kuo also claims the new keyboard design will only be introduced on a new MacBook Air later this year, and not the 16-inch MacBook Pro that many suspect Apple will announce in the Fall. The MacBook Pro line supposedly won’t see the new scissor switch keyboards included until 2020, eventually replacing the butterfly keyboards altogether.
So if you’ve been holding off on upgrading your MacBook, you might want to hold out even longer now—if you can.
For those who need a little more manual control over the wifi networks they connect to, I’m pleased to report that you’ll never have to open the Settings app ever again—hopefully—to connect to a wifi network. Instead, open your device’s Control Center.
Press and hold on the wifi icon to expand the view, like so:
Press and hold again on the wifi icon to pull up a list of all the wifi networks your device detects. Pick whichever one you want to use.
Deleting apps you no longer need (before you update them)
I have a lot of apps on my device, and I tend to forget about them—but still update them constantly, because that’s how the process works. You would think that seeing a giant update chug through for an app I haven’t touched in six months would prompt me to delete it, but then I’d have to go find it in my device, and that takes too long, too.
To address this, Apple is making it a lot easier to delete apps in iOS 13. Now, whenever you see a pending app update on the App Store (or have already downloaded and installed one), swipe left on the app. You’ll see the familiar red “Delete” button, which you can tap to remove the app from your iPhone or iPad. You’ll never have to spend precious minutes hunting through your folders to find and remove an app ever again.
Tell Siri to add multiple items to lists
This one is fun. Fire up Siri and tell it to add things to a list, but make sure you use the word “and” to connect them all together. When you do, iOS 13 will split each item into a separate listing instead of lumping them all together into one reminder, like so:
Share your ETA with friends
You can now share your estimated time of arrival with your friends when you’re using Apple Maps to get somewhere—an especially useful feature if you’re also connected to CarPlay. Your device will automatically message them with your current travel time, and it’ll also send them another message when you’re really close—so they can come outside and hop in the car, instead of forcing you to honk your horn or send a “where are you?” text.
If you always want to let certain people know about your ETA to a particular location—say, when you’re driving home from work each day—add it to your list of favorite locations in Apple Maps. While you’re in the Details screen, you can tap on “Add Person” under “Share ETA” to automatically notify them whenever you’ve pulled up directions to that location.
Finally, a great way to stop robocalls
I’ve saved the best for last, and it truly is one of the greatest, simplest features to ever hit iOS. With one little addition to your Settings app (technically, the Phone option within your Settings app), Apple has killed robocalls—or, at least, made it impossible for them to harass you. And this is a much better solution than paying your carrier for some kind of spam-blocking feature.
Pull up the Settings app, and then tap on Phone. Look for the “Call Silencing and Blocked Contacts” section, and enable “Silence Unknown Callers.” Any number that isn’t in your Contacts, Mail, or Messages won’t ring or appear on your device. It’ll go directly to voicemail instead.
While this poses problematic for times when you want to receive a phone call from an unknown number—say, the hospital, or a job interview, et cetera—you can always disable this feature temporarily if you know you’re expecting a call. It’s a lot less annoying than the alternative, which is having your phone ring four times an hour from some bullshit spammer.
What are your favorite iOS 13 features?
There’s plenty more to like about iOS 13—like the ability to remove any location information from photos you’re sharing with others (via the “Options” setting when you tap a picture in Photos, then tap the Share icon). What are some of your favorite features you’ve discovered? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll profile the best ones in a future post.
Picking a smartphone to accompany you through life isn’t just about choosing between iOS and Android: It’s also about deciding which apps you’re going to pick for your emails, your driving directions, your music and so on. Having used both sets of native apps for years at this point, here’s our definitive verdict on the state of play in 2019.
For the sake of brevity, we’re going to focus on the iOS experience for the Apple apps and the Android experience for the Google apps. Though they don’t stand alone. Google’s apps are all available on both iOS and Android and it is much better at building web apps to accompany their mobile version. Apple lacks broader support but promises to hold a much tighter rein on your privacy.
These extra factors will play into your decision about which apps you’re going to use but we’ll save those discussions for another day. Here we’ll look specifically at what the user experience and feature set is like for each app on its native platform.
Apple Mail vs Gmail
It’s hard to see past Gmail here, with its slick sorting algorithms, modern-looking interface, intuitive use of labels, inline attachment previews and more besides. Gmail is full of useful features, like the option to only receive notifications for emails that Google’s algorithms deem to be important to you (Apple Mail has a sort-of manual equivalent with its VIP lists).
Apple Mail is by no means terrible—both apps let you manage multiple accounts with relative ease, group conversations into threads, swipe through your inbox to archive messages, and generally get your inbox business done—but there’s a reason a lot of third-party apps have tried to improve the emailing situation on iOS.
From scheduling emails to go at a certain time to snoozing conversations until later, Gmail has more features, as well as implementing most of the basics (such as adding attachments) in a smarter way. Plus, the searching and sorting are lightning fast, as you would expect from Gmail.
And the winner is… Gmail
Apple Maps vs Google Maps
All joking aside, Apple Maps is getting better than it used to be—hey it’s getting Street View in September—but that seven-year head start Google Maps has had is still showing. It has quite an extensive list of features that Apple Maps doesn’t, including cycling directions, multi-stop navigation, and manual offline map downloads if you know you’re going to be without an internet connection ahead of time.
Aesthetically there’s not much to choose between the two—greens and blues and browns abound—and they’re both fast to load and responsive. It’s difficult for us to compare the mapping data between these two apps across the entire planet, though both Apple and Google are heavily investing in this. Chances are one works better than the other in your part of the world, and you’ll know which one that is.
Google Maps is better at recommending new places and surfacing extras like warnings of traffic on your commute to work—because it knows more about you, natch—and also lets you leave reviews, photos, and ratings of the places you visit, which may or may not be important to you. This head-to-head is closer than it used to be in the core areas, but Google Maps still offers more overall.
And the winner is… Google Maps
Apple Music vs YouTube Music
Apple Music has the distinction of being the only Apple app for Android (besides the Move to iOS app…) and after a few teething problems now does a decent job of mixing a local iTunes library with an on-demand streaming one—or letting you stick to one or the other. In terms of recommendations, lyrics, playlist management, online radio and more, it’s one of Apple’s most impressive apps.
YouTube Music is very much a work-in-progress, with Google Play Music slowly getting pushed out. While it’s good enough as a music player, and can now play local files stored on an Android device, perhaps the only area where it beats Apple Music is in support for music videos… as you would expect it to.
It’s the Google Maps and Apple Maps comparison but flipped: Apple has much more experience and expertise in building music apps and working with digital music libraries, and it shows. From the design and feel of the app, to building up playlists and queueing up tracks, Apple Music wins out (even if you don’t pay the $10 a month and stick to your purchased MP3 collection).
And the winner is… Apple Music
Apple Safari vs Google Chrome
We have to confess to having a slight preference for Chrome over Safari on the desktop, just because of the way it looks and works, and how everything is tab-based. It feels more modern than Safari does, even if it is prone to slowing down once you’ve got a few dozen different tabs loaded up.
On mobile, those interface differences matter much less, which means Safari ends up being our favorite on a smaller screen. Everything feels a bit easier to find, from bookmarks to navigation buttons to private mode, and given Safari’s continued push for limiting how much you can be tracked online, Chrome has some catching up to do.
This is one area where your choice really is going to depend on what other apps and services you use—if you use Chrome on the desktop, for example, you’re going to default to it on mobile too—but taking everything but the core of the app out of the equation, we’d say Apple is ahead here.
And the winner is… Apple Safari
iOS Messages (and FaceTime) vs Android Messages (and Duo)
This is a head-to-head that comes with numerous caveats—like how many of your friends are also on iPhones—but in terms of the core messaging experience, it’s the Apple app that wins out. If you’ve got iMessage enabled, the difference is particularly stark: End-to-end encryption, Animoji and Memoji, dozens of useful apps… Android just can’t compete at this stage (and has only ever really got close with Hangouts).
Besides the problems Google has had getting the SMS successor RCS adopted by carriers, the Android Messages app is clunky and basic by comparison. It’s showing signs of improvement—GIF support, location sharing, and more comprehensive search options are slowly rolling out—but it’s a long way behind still.
The Apple FaceTime vs Google Duo contest is a little closer, with both offering a polished and straightforward video calling experience, with support for group video calls too. Again, FaceTime just about has the edge, but Duo has a few neat tricks of its own (like previews of who’s calling before you answer).
And the winner is… iOS Messages
Apple Photos vs Google Photos
Apple Photos and Google Photos really show the two tech giants playing to their strengths. Apple’s app is neat and tidy, with an increasing number of useful editing options, and some handy features for highlighting your best photos and videos. Google’s app goes big on the search and AI features (like face and object recognition), without as much attention given to edits or visual appeal.
It’s a tough one to call because both apps work well on their native platforms. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that Google Photos offers unlimited storage for free, if you can put up with a bit of resizing and compression, or own a Pixel phone. Neither company charges exorbitant rates for cloud storage, but if you want an online backup without paying anything, Google Photos fits the bill.
Having used both apps extensively, it’s fair to say Apple Photos is the best option for iOS users and Google Photos is the best option for Android (or multi-platform) users. Options like sharing, searching, and editing are pretty evenly matched, or not different enough to make one stand out against the other. Look for a constant barrage of improvements in both these services going forward, as well.
And the winner is… a draw
Apple Notes vs Google Keep
Apple Notes has been given a series of useful updates over the last few years, and there are more coming with iOS 13: Visual thumbnails for notes, shared folders, improved searching (including searching within images), new checklist options and more. It’s grown from offering the absolute basics to something much more Evernote-esque.
Google Keep has also developed from humble, simple beginnings into a comprehensive tool for note-taking. Features such as note tags, searching within images, support for reminders and shared notes, and an appealing interface have helped make it one of the best apps Google has to its name.
A very close call in this round then, but we reckon Apple Notes just about edges Keep out in terms of overall polish and usefulness. It’ll be interesting to see how Google responds to the changes to Notes arriving with iOS 13.
And the winner is… Apple Notes
Apple Calendar vs Google Calendar
Both Apple Calendar and Google Calendar benefit from years and years of development—they’ve both grown into very capable, very solid calendar apps with all the features you’re going to need, from recurring events to sharing calendars with others to getting alerts when it’s time to leave for an appointment.
We think Google wins it in interface terms, as its Calendar is one of those apps where the Material Design really pops and works well—the use of color and space is a bit easier on the eye than in Apple Calendar, and the use of stock imagery behind months of the year and regular appointments (like the dentist) is a nice touch.
Google Calendar also incorporates Goals (like exercise) and Reminders very neatly, which are features Apple’s developers haven’t gotten around to yet. You may prefer one or the other based on a particular feature or integration with a particular service (such as Gmail or Apple Mail), but taken on their own, Google’s is the better-looking and more functional calendar app of the two.
And the winner is… Google Calendar
Apple News vs Google News
The news apps from Apple and Google continue to evolve and change with the times, both offering up a selection of popular trending stories as well as articles personally recommended for you. You can dig into news based on topic or region in both these apps, though it’s slightly easier in Google News.
Apple News makes more of an attempt to create a Flipboard-style interface that’s pleasing to the eye, and when it works, it works very well—though when it doesn’t work it looks rather ugly. Google News is happier just to lift content straight from the web, which means it’s often both faster and less aesthetically consistent.
It’s another tight round because both Apple News and Google News do a decent job of serving up headlines for you and personalizing content, and both these apps can look stylish on one screen and disjointed on the next. We have a slight preference for Google News, just because it’s more natively welded to the web, and better for it.
And the winner is… Google News
And the rest…
That’s probably enough comparisons for now, but there are several more apps where Google and Apple are directly competing against each other. With its TV app, Apple seems to be moving ahead of Google in terms of how well it delivers movies and TV shows, for example, just as it has the lead in music too.
We can probably all agree that Google Drive is a more comprehensive and capable offering than iCloud Drive at the moment, with Apple still finding its feet in the cloud storage stakes (you’ll actually be able to share an iCloud folder before the end of the year). With apps like Reminders and Contacts, meanwhile, they’re pretty much even.
If you’ve been keeping score you’ll notice that Apple and Google are locked level on points after our rundown of their app offerings, but of course you’re going to have a mobile platform of preference and that’s going to influence your own picks for your favorite apps—you might even overlook a few failings as long as a particular app integrates well with whatever OS your phone runs.