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I'm switching back to a Pixel because Android 10's privacy features are so important

Regular visitors to this space might know that I really like my BlackBerry KEY2 (opens in new tab) and happily use it even though I have access to other "better" Android phones. I love the form factor, and while I wish BlackBerry Mobile was more transparent about how it locks things down, I appreciate the extra layer of device security added to the phone. Some may think I'm a bit paranoid, but my life is in that thing and I want to keep things to myself. To me, it's the best Android phone.

But I'm not using it and haven't for the past couple of weeks, and it's all because of Android 10.

Android 10 gives me something I've been wanting — control.

Android 10 has several very nice additions to user privacy; things like automatically deleting your web activity or keeping Assistant features on the phone instead of the cloud are great for everyone — even if you aren't really concerned about it. But one feature, in particular, makes me not want to use an Android phone without it: control over how apps can get and use your location.

In Android 10, you can tell apps that they are only allowed to get your location when you have the app open and are looking at it on your screen. That's a big change from the previous permission system, which was a simple yes or no because some apps need a location to work. On Android 9 and older, you say yes and let those apps get your location, and they can keep getting it and using it anytime. That means apps can upload that data or store it for any reason. That's bad news, and I'll be honest — it had me considering switching to an iPhone because location permissions have been locked down on iOS for years.

More: After years of criticism, Google is finally getting serious about protecting our data

I know my location isn't really a secret. My carrier has it as long as my phone is turned on, and Google has it unless I go into the settings and disable it. I can't do anything about the former, at least until the class-action suits begin, and so far Google hasn't broken its own terms about how my location is used. But apps aren't bound by the same rules my carrier and Google are, and location data is one of those things that seems worthless but has a lot of value to the right people. Yes, I'm saying that apps can (and do) sell your location data to other companies that use it for research or marketing or God knows what else. If anyone is going to sell my data, I want it to be me. I could use the cash.

This makes giving up my BlackBerry and its amazing keyboard worth it to me. All the things I want from a phone can't be found in one particular model, but the extra control over who gets to track me and how they can do it are worth giving up the keyboard I love and the two days of battery life for something with Android 10. I have a company-bought Pixel 3 here, and now it has all of my life inside it and location is shut down nice and proper for every app except Google Maps. I hate the tall, skinny display and I hate not having any bezels on the side and I especially hate having to watch how I use my battery. But I love the control Android 10 gives me, so I'll take it.

After 10 years Google finally got serious about privacy and I love it.

This might seem petty to you and that's OK. We all want different things from our phones and one of the things I want is for it not to track me. Android 10's new location permissions can't make that happen completely, but they go a long way towards giving me control over how my data is used.

I'm not a wanted man or dealing dope or anything; I'm just a regular middle-aged dude with a little house and a lawn that needs cut and I have nothing I need to hide. What I do have should be under my control and anything that helps that happen is a winner in my book.

Now if you'll excuse me please, I need to charge this damn Pixel 3 again.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

42 Comments
  • Great litle read, Jerry. A few chuckles, and an important reminder that we shouldn't put up with being obligated to give away our data to use our devices and the apps they run.
  • I agree. After seeing those privacy features on my wife's Pixel 2 (after the update), I felt that was enough to consider making the change. Assuming the P4 has proper dual SIM support (ie: no eSIM), then I will retire my Key2. With that said, if the K2 ever gets Android 10, I just might find my way back to this device. I love my keyboard shortcuts!
  • esim is the future though. Up to Google to support it. I use it a lot when travelling abroad. Ie I use Flexiroam for international data plans. But I fully agree Google needs to get this sorted. Weirdly enough, dual sim support showed up in Beta 2 of Android 10 (pics seen on Twitter; @ow) . So hopefully it'll be launched soon by form of an update
  • It may be but as of today, my carrier, Telus Mobility here in Canada doesn't support eSIM.
  • That is the limitations of your carrier, not the Pixel.
  • Key 2 will never get Android 10. Blackberry is 2 operating system behind. My Blackberry Motion is stuck on Android 8...that is why I picked up a Essential PH-1 and it is running Android 10
  • Yet another Reddit user posted that his Pixel was rendered useless by the upgrade to 10 and he can't even factory reset it. Support promised him an answer within an hour and that was yesterday. Still no answer. I refuse to upgrade until these issues get resolved, even though I want to.
  • I'm honestly not important enough to worry about it. I doubt anybody is sending a drone strike for me or anything lol
  • Ugh, this is completely horrible reasoning. That's very short-sighted and horrible for our society. So if you don't care about your privacy, can you email me all your text based conversations you've had? Oh can I also have a list of your contacts on your phone? Can I also get a history off all of the sites you visited? Just zip up all of that information and send me a download link please. You won't do that because that is personal information to you. Everyone has something to hide. "Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say." You can't give away the rights of others because they're not useful to you. The ability to live privately without government or corporation surveillance watching everything you do is a right everyone should have. Even if you don't care about it doesn't mean others don't have a right to it. Some reading to help you understand:
    https://spreadprivacy.com/three-reasons-why-the-nothing-to-hide-argument...
    https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/secrecy/you-may-have-nothing...
  • Damn you must be fun at parties. The guy was being sarcastic. I swear everything is as serious as a heart attack now a days...
  • The whole world is just ridiculous.
  • You better hope and pray you never become the victim of identity theft or a serious privacy violation. Because then you will see how not ridiculous the world becomes all of a sudden. It isn't about how important you are or not. It's about the fact that your digital footprint and the data you generate online is important and valuable to someone. Information/data, especially of the private variety, is digital currency and in the right hands it's pure gold...
  • Lol it's not that serious. Let them have it.
  • Well let's see if someone steals your financial information or breaches your privacy or that of your family, how serious do you think that situation would be? A heartattack would be what you end up with, if you were ever subjected to anything like that...
  • I've had my identity stolen. Guess what? I survived.
  • Throttle, cut raazman some slack. Maybe some of us are not as sharp as the rest but I too missed the 'obvious' sarcasm in Always' post, even though I was hoping that was case. Should the 'drone strike' thing have been the tip-off? That's the problem with 'cute' responses: ya never know!
  • The article is talking about location tracking, not all those other things you suggest the poster turn over to you. While I agree that we should have a choice and it looks like Google is attempting to provide more protections, if someone wants to provide an app with location information even in the background that should be his or her choice, not something imposed by others. J
  • Lol they're logged into your brain now
  • Don't give people ideas...LOL...
  • I am not downgrading to a pixel phone.
  • I don’t think there is any phone that can be considered downgrade from a blackberry 😋
  • If you enjoy using a physical key board there's nothing like the Key Blackberry devices. Nothing.. 😎
  • Nobody wants a physical keyboard in 2019. The market decided on that a long long time ago
  • Being market driven, you must be the first in line at an iPhone store.
  • Blackberry are market driven. Where are they now in the hardware world?
  • Good idea to avoid speaking for everybody. I have a Pixel 2Xl and it's my 5th or more all-screen post-Blackberry phone. Yet, I still miss a good keyboard. I weigh the 'other' benefits higher than the the gain from a keyboard, but it remains a noticeable gap. ps. Our human system of autonomous response prefers a keyboard, which engages our 'touch intelligence,' rather than a piece of glass which NO ONE can ever type accurately on, without staring at the screen. It's a biological thing, opinion does not matter on that topic.
  • I'd like to see you type up long text entries on your piece of glass. People widely accept keyboard attachements on their iPads, but for some reason it's an ancient thing when the keyboard happens to be on a smartphone? Double standards. Many don't know what they're missing out on with the physical keyboard on a smartphone.
    And yes, in 2019. The satisfaction of pushing buttons isn't something that stops with time, it will always feel better than tapping glass. That said, aside from the keyboard, LED light and grippy back, there is absolutely nothing that the KEY2 does better than the Pixel 3 or even any flagship or new mid range slab of these days.
  • Important topic Jerry. Thanks for keeping this in the forefront. I went through the Privacy settings once my Pixel 3 was updated to Android 10, and again just now after reading your article.
  • About to do the same as I haven't since the beta. Thanks Jerry!
  • Oh man, the battery life really does suck tho.
  • Google's privacy concerns is why Toyota has refused to support Android Auto until this year.
  • My favorite part of Android 10
  • From the looks of things BlackBerry devices are at the end of life very little comments from blackberry or TCL.
  • I have a Moto z3 play and a company bought pixel 3 like Gerry. I actually find the Pixel 3 has great battery life, better than the Z3 Play. The privacy options in Android 10 are long overdue and very welcome.
  • Privacy is probably one of the most serious, yet least talked about subjects regarding phones. I'm glad someone is bringing that to the limelight.
  • Android 10 had me sold rock solid when it promoted me to control an app the first time. That was some really cool sh*t. User behavior tracking is an uncontrolled swamp. Glad to have some of that control back.
  • I use both the KEY2 as my primary communicator (has my SIM in it) and the Pixel 3 for anything media or camera related. Best of both worlds. The only way to not compromise is to dual carry.
  • Typing on glass is utterly frustrating for me... Will always use a Blackberry phone as long as I can buy one... Hoping TCL and Blackberry can make up and one day I will be able to buy the Key 3... 😀
  • Typing on glass? I swipe at a good speed on my SwiftKey keyboard... But keyboards? Horses for courses really, diversity makes the world interesting! You just have to watch those autocorrect bloopers....
  • Android 10 can now control over how apps can get and use your location? Lol, Windows 10 Mobile already have such feature since the first version of Windows 10. While I do applaud such move for better privacy, I had already left the Android bandwagon long time ago. Windows 10 Mobile EOL might be in just two months time, but would that stop me from using that mobile OS? No, not a chance! I never even worried about app gap at all, all I need for daily use is all there. That switch I had made three years ago is still the best decision in my life to this day.
  • When I decided not to go with a Blackberry Key2 after using a Key 1, I chose the Pixel 3a. All I had to do was give up the pkb. It turned out to be a smart choice. Now the Key2 is stuck on android 8 and if I had chose that phone I would have been upset. Glad I didn't because having android 10 gives very similar security features that make me not miss BB android at all. Plus I get regular updates that I never got consistently while using BB android. I finally saw the light and stopped being a sucker for that BB pkb lol. Pixel + BB software is as close to a blackberry as I will get and I'm content with that.
  • Jerry, you said that on Android 10 you have location shut down nice and proper for every app except Google Maps. I'd also like to take control and shut down location nice and proper for every app as well except for Google Maps like you mentioned to prevent these apps from selling my location data to other companies. On Android 10 do you have every app besides Maps set to Deny in the Location permission? Also, what Location permission do you have Maps set to? Allow all the time or Allow only while using the app? THANKS!