Google Exposes Apple's Overpriced Lock-Ins

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- What do you say when one restaurant charges $6 for a Coca-Cola, while the one next door charges $2? I call that a rip-off.

Lately, Google ( GOOG) has exposed Apple ( AAPL) as the company charging you $6 for a Coke every step of the way. Let's count the ways:

1. Device storage.

When you buy an iPad or iPhone, you have to pay $100 extra to go from 16 gig storage to 32 gig. How much does Google charge for the same storage bump in their equivalent devices?

The Nexus 7 is $40 more for 32 gig vs. 16 gig. The Motorola X is $50more for the same. In other words, Google is between 50% and 60%cheaper than Apple for the exact same thing.

2. LTE on the tablet.

Apple charges $130 extra for LTE on the iPad. Google charges $80 more. That's 38% less.

But wait, there's more!

Google's LTE version -- on the Nexus 7 - is a single SKU that enables you to switch between LTE on AT&T ( T), Verizon ( VZ)and T-Mobile ( TMUS), simply by swapping your pre-paid SIM card. With Apple, if you buy an iPad on Verizon, you can only get LTE on Verizon, and soforth with a separate version for AT&T, etc.

You get the point - the iPad locks you to LTE on only one of the U.S. carriers.

3. Cell phone service pricing.

If you want a reasonable package from AT&T or Verizon, you pay $90 amonth for voice, data and SMS. Same thing with Android.

You can get less expensive service with T-Mobile and Sprint ( S), knocking off approximately $20 a month in comparisons that are not 100%oranges vs. oranges, but close enough. Same thing with Android.

So far, so good -- for Apple. But then we go to even lower tiers:

With Republic Wireless -- which works on Sprint -- you can getunlimited service for $19 a month. You have to buy an Android phonefor $259 up-front. iPhone? No.

With FreedomPop -- which also works on Sprint -- you can get limitedservice for FREE per month. Just buy Android smartphone up-front.iPhone? No.

The point here is that Apple currently doesn't participate in themarket's least expensive offerings. Perhaps it will, some day. Buttoday, it doesn't. You want the least expensive smartphone serviceavailable in the U.S. TODAY? It's Android.

4. Cloud storage.

This one isn't even close. Just for opening an account, Google givesyou 15 gig for free. Apple gives you 5 gig with iCloud.

To catch up with Google, Apple will sell you an extra 10 gig for $20a year. Not the biggest deal in the world, but the comparison getsworse:

When you buy a $199-to-$449 Chromebook (Google laptop), you get 100 gigworth of storage a year. Apple will sell you 100 gig of extrastorage for $200 a year.

If you buy Google's very fanciest laptop, the Pixel, you get 1terabyte of cloud storage. Apple will gladly sell you this for $2,000a year (50 gig chunks at $100 apiece).

5. Laptop pricing.

This obviously gets into an area where you are comparing products thataren't identical -- such as storage capacity. We are dealing withdifferent operating systems, different screens/displays, differentCPUs, different batteries and so forth. Nevertheless, there are somehuge gaps here, between Google and Apple.

Google sells you a laptop for $199 and up. Apple sells you one for$999 and up. You can argue until you are blue in the face thatApple's $999 laptop is better than Google's $199 laptop, and in somany ways you would be right -- no doubt about it.

However, a 5x difference in price is a huge hole to fill. You can buy five Google laptops -- same 11.6-inch screen size -- as the cheapest Apple laptop.

Going back to the cost of cloud storage, for the price of one year's100 gig iCloud storage ($200) that comes free with a $199 Googlelaptop, you can obviously buy an entire Google laptop. If thatdoesn't show the absurdity of Apple's laptop and cloud-storage pricingcompared to Google's, I don't know what does.

6. Proprietary lock-ins.

One of Apple's best features has been AirPlay. It allows you to display (or audio stream) on to your Apple TV-connected display -- or Chrome theater -- almost anything that happens on your MacBook or iOS device. Until two weeks ago, it had no decently performing peer on the Google side.

Then came the $35 Chromecast device -- which incidentally is obviouslya lot cheaper than Apple's $99 AppleTV box. Not only does theChromecast device work as advertised, but it also works using AppleMac PCs, Microsoft ( MSFT) Windows PCs and Apple iOS devices.

Does Apple's AirPlay work with Microsoft Windows PCs, Android andChrome OS devices? Not so much. This is all a one-way street.Google works with Apple -- Apple not with Google.

While we're at it, let's examine the other apps as well:

Maps: Google's maps works on Apple; Apple doesn't have a maps app onAndroid -- not that anyone would want it, but still.

Email: Gmail has apps on iOS devices; Apple doesn't have an email appon Google products. Then again, how many Apple users are even usingan Apple e-mail address to begin with?

Browser: The Chrome browser is one of the most popular apps on iOS. Is Apple's browser -- Safari -- even available on Android? Again, no.

In other words, you can buy a Chromecast and it will work with yourApple devices. You can also use your Google services, and they willwork on your Apple devices. However, AirPlay and other critical Appleservices generally don't work on Google devices.

It's a total one-way street.

Implications for the Google-Apple battle

Until a year ago, Apple was ahead in product refinement. Over thelast year, Google has across a broad set of devices narrowed the gap,and moved ahead in some areas. Combined with materially lower prices -- 38% to 80% lower -- this will likely continue to put increased pressure on Apple's margins.

Apple's valuation is low, and the stock is therefore attractive tosome degree. At the same time, the competition from Google (and itshardware partners) is becoming ever-more intense, with extremelyaggressive pricing.

This could simply mean that the upside in Applestock is more limited than its low valuation otherwise suggests.

At the time of publication, the author was long GOOG andAAPL, and short MSFT.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

More from Opinion

Tuesday Turnaround: Micron, Autonomous Driving, and J.C. Penney

Tuesday Turnaround: Micron, Autonomous Driving, and J.C. Penney

Cable Stock Investors Should Keep an Eye On Wireless Broadband's Rise

Cable Stock Investors Should Keep an Eye On Wireless Broadband's Rise

Trump Blinks on China Trade War That's Looking Harder to Win

Trump Blinks on China Trade War That's Looking Harder to Win

Monday Madness: GE, China, and Micron

Monday Madness: GE, China, and Micron

Attention 60 Minutes: Google Isn't the Only Big-Tech Monopoly

Attention 60 Minutes: Google Isn't the Only Big-Tech Monopoly