The Pixel vs iPhone debate has been rumbling for years, but Google just lobbed a new grenade into the mix with a series of YouTube shorts that subtly savage the iPhone’s shortcomings.
The ‘Best Phones Forever’ series, which you can find on the Made by Google channel on YouTube, are five, light-hearted comedy shorts that show friendly chats between a sympathetic Pixel and an iPhone that appears to be having an existential crisis.
But underneath the jokes and high-quality production are a series of laser-targeted digs at the iPhone’s main shortcomings, from missing astrophotography modes and built-in VPNs to the lack of a foldable form factor. Naturally, the Google Pixel Fold makes an appearance in the final episode, ‘Opening Up’.
For example, in ‘Plateau’ the iPhone laments to the Pixel that “when I was your age people were still showing me off to their friends”. The forlorn iPhone adds that these days “it’s not the same, the way their friends compliment your photos – so sharp”. In an unsubtle nod to Google’s Photo Unblur feature, the Pixel adds: “I can unblur your photos for you, we don’t have to tell anyone”.
Towards the end of Plateau, Google really goes for the jugular, with the exasperated iPhone telling the chirpy Pixel: “Just stop! Astrophotography mode, call assist, 30x zoom – you can do so many things I may never be able to”.
Naturally, Google also goes after iMessage, the Apple messaging service that it unsubtly criticized during Google IO 2023 when talking about RCS (Rich Communication Services). In Plateau, the iPhone exclaims when referring to iMessage: “The bubbles! The bubbles! Is all I have to show for all my years on earth the color of a bubble? I mean, millions of people have waited in line for me”.
The rest of Google’s ad series similarly picks on iPhone pain points. In ‘Seeing stars’, the iPhone laments when looking at the Lagoon Nebula that “it must be nice to see them the way you do”. ‘Sketchy Wi-Fi’ naturally highlights the built-in VPN that comes with the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, with the iPhone resorting to paid options.
And in ‘Opening Up, the Google Pixel Fold naturally makes an appearance, impressing a dazed iPhone with its gaming-friendly form factor. This final video sums up the overall theme of the series – the iPhone has lost its innovative edge, and Pixels have all of the features it needs to adopt.
Of course, Google would say that – ‘Best Phones Forever’ is an ad campaign and a very good one at that. It also apes the format of the famous ‘I’m a Mac, I’m a PC’ adverts from 17 years ago. But there are good reasons why Google is running the series now.
The bigger picture
With the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro Max expected to arrive in September, it’s a good point in the traditional phone release cycle for Google to crow about the innovations on the Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro.
Apple is also generating a lot of iPhone hype with its drip feed of new iOS 17 features, which Google is no doubt hoping to puncture with a reminder about Pixel features like Call Assist (which helps you screen calls) and the safety check feature that landed in the June 2023 Pixel Feature Drop.
But there’s also a broader picture that Google’s ‘Best Phones Forever’ campaign is attempting to change. Recently, we learned that Android fans are switching to iPhones in record numbers.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Apple’s worldwide market share is starting to reflect the dominance it’s long had in the US – and a big part of the reason is Gen Z’s increasing preference towards iPhones.
As TechRadar’s US Mobile Editor Philips Berne recently argued, the main thing that Google needs to fix most about Android is its reputation. And that starts with things like lengthy software support and less pre-loaded bloatware.
These are no doubt things that Apple would highlight if it responded with its own series of ‘iPhone vs Pixel’ shorts. But Google’s campaign makes some good points, particularly about the frustrating tactics of iMessage – and it’ll be hoping the shorts will at least check the upward trajectory of iPhones, particularly among Gen Z.