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Google is doing a great job showing everyone why slow app rollouts suck

Unless you've received the most recent Google Maps update, with all of the fun new integrated location sharing features baked right in, you're kind of screwed right now. Instead of waiting until the Maps update was totally pushed out to every Android user, Google flipped the switch and killed location sharing on Google+ for just about everyone.

That means you have no Google-based location sharing option until the Maps update finishes rolling out, because staged rollouts are awful.

Update

Updating an app for the entirety of Android is hard. There are a lot of us in the world, and to make that download available to everyone at the same time is expensive in several ways. What's worse, if you send out an update and there's a bug discovered out in the wild that you didn't know about, you have to send the update all over again once you fix it.

Google's solution allows anyone to only send out updates to a small percentage of users at first, and slowly increasing that release group until it reaches 100%. It's not only a good way to make sure you don't make your entire userbase angry if something is broken, it's significantly less expensive to deliver those updates over a longer period of time.

It's entirely likely this update will finish rolling out by this evening.

But miscommunications like this are the natural consequence of this behavior. I know several people in my immediate social circle with the Maps update already. In fact, my Dad emailed me this morning with a link to add me to his location sharing group on Maps. Because I don't have the update yet, if I click that link I get redirected to a Maps support page telling me to update the app. Which, obviously, I can't do yet because the app hasn't been fully rolled out top everyone yet.

So if you lost location sharing on G+ and don't have the Maps update yet, the official answer from Google is to be patient. It's entirely likely this update will finish rolling out by this evening. But that's never going to be where this stops for some people. Just like when Pokemon Go wasn't available and people started sideloading dangerous versions of the APK that were available on some random shady website, this is the perfect opportunity for someone to tap that "Install from Unknown Sources" checkbox and leave it unchecked just so they can have this new update.

That's bad for everyone, and Google not only can but should do better.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

41 Comments
  • No one uses location sharing in Google plus and is most likely why Google did this. Android Central dramatic writing as usual.
  • I actually use it quite a lot with my family... and it's broken right now...so just because you don't use it doesn't mean no one uses it
  • Well, now no one uses it
  • Really? You couldnt update your Google Maps today which had already replaced it? If you are posting here you should be smart enough to side load an APK if your phone didn't have the update yet (mine does). You didn't even lose a feature. You regained the same one back within a day on a superior product. Stop your damn whining.
  • The location update was a server side switch, so even installing the latest APK wouldn't have solved the issue. Sideloading an APK may be 2nd nature and you/me, but for a majority of the users, it is not. How do they know which site is safe to download from (aka apkmirror) and which one will possibly lead to an malicious app? Again, you and I know it because we read Android related articles, but a vast majority of users don't, and they shouldn't really have to either. Google can/should make it seamless. At least for their Nexus/Pixel devices, make OS updates available on day 1, same time for anyone that wants it. Pushing it out in waves is fine for folks that are ok with waiting. (And yes, I know how to use ADB to sideload or fastboot to flash - but a user shouldn't have to do that - if a user manually initiates "check for updates", make it available to them right then). App updates - why on earth doesn't Google make that available to anyone that wants it? Push it out in waves, but if a user is waiting for the update to fix an issue, let them get the update when they launch their play store and check for updates. Also, the point the op is/was trying to make is that if the feature is being removed from one app, make it available in the other app at the same time. I've been an Android user for years, and have no plans (at this time) to switch, but their update process really needs to be fixed.
  • yeah I used it a lot with my family too... I was mad when they took away latitude and put location into g+
  • My family does it as well - wife, daughter and I, so this is a pretty big damn thing to break for us (the Maps update has rolled out to me, but I'll have to go check the other phones now).
  • You could have checked the other phones to verify in the same amount of time it took you to post that. The horror. How could Google do this to you??
  • Not if the phones weren't handy.
  • I use it with my family
  • Oh yeah G+... That other bloat app from Google I don't need. I'm glad they added location sharing back on a side note. Wife always worried about me riding motorcycles or solo running so at least she can know where I'm at if I never respond.
  • The Google assistant staged rollout is super slow too
  • I ended up signing up for Beta Google Play Services and Beta Google App, and then manually turned it on in the Google App settings. It shouldn't have to be that hard....
  • Yep. I still don't have it on my OnePlus 3T. I get tired of seeing posts like "How is Assistant treating you on the 3T?" And I am just sitting here like I have no idea it still hasn't hit my phone! (Just like the 7.1.1 update) grrr.
  • Switch you server location (Canada or Germany and you'll get it instantly. Download Opera VPN...
  • Trusted Contacts by Google lets you share your real time location. So we have two apps that let use do the same thing. Google Maps & Trusted Contacts.
  • If it is working for you then you must be lucky. A lot of current 1 star reviews saying it doesn't work as well as G+ did.
  • Absolutely not the same thing.
    You should inform yourself before writing such lunacy
  • That means you have no Google-based location sharing option until the Maps update finishes rolling out, because staged rollouts are awful. just another example of how little research went into this rag article.
  • People who actually want it are most likely Tech savvy enough to get the updated apk from apkmirror. There were most likely behind the scenes technical reasons why they didn't want both versions live at the same time. Really stretching to find headlines these days. :-(
  • Android Messages(formerly Google Messenger) have let you share your location since it first came out.
  • I thought it was a server switch rather than an app update. Anyway, still not available for me.
  • In my case it was. Yesterday afternoon was not working, this morning it is working. So definitely a server side thing and not an app update. I'm in France btw.
  • Kill maps and relaunch it. It is server side, AC is allergic to research.
  • Wow, getting yelled at for not paying 10 bucks for a garbage mario game in one article then people complaining about free stuff changing in another article...is this the expanded universe of users that Bader dreamed about reaching?
  • Yes, actually. Fiery comments = engagement = more clicks = $$.
  • I guess this is what constitutes being an "Editor" these days.
  • I have no issue with the concept of staged rollouts. Some of the games I play have encountered some nasty bugs (particularly in one instance where an update broke existing saved data) which have made me wish for a staged rollout. The problem is when such a staged rollout is too slow (which is common for Google app updates).
  • Nah, Russel's right, better to crater everyone's app at once! /s
    I agree with you though, while staged rollouts are a good thing, Google really need to pick up the pace. Say 10k the 1st day, 100k the 2nd day, 500k the 3rd, and if no bugs by then, rollout to all. I mean if there will be any bugs, I'd think you'd see them in a day or 2.
  • I wish Google would used staged roll outs for automatic updates, but if someone goes into the Play Store and goes to look for an update, the latest version of the app should be available to that user. This will also ensure that when someone receives a link for a new whiz-bang feature that their friend invited them to, they will be able to download it as the support page recommends they do. It also ensures the people who will use the feature first can be part of that early group that could surface bugs vs. people who never even knew the feature was coming not using it and not surfacing bugs.
  • I like that idea. If they manually update it, they're accepting responsibility for any bugs they may get, but at least they wouldn't be at the mercy of whatever algorithm Google uses to determine rollout. But I don't know if that would be worthwhile on something like Google Play Services, which might cause more issue than your run of the mill app since it's more integral to the OS.
  • One could ask their family members where they are, using sms, MMS, Hangouts, email, or even that weird app called "phone." They'll might receive an option to reply with a map of their location, if you both have Android (or Hangouts). If one needs to lock someone's location down to the GPS coordinates of their phone, maybe there are some things that need to be evaluated. For instance, are we having trust issues? Would a stand-alone GPS device work better for tracking than a phone? Could you call them on their work phone to verify they're at work? Are there other apps that allow the same, or better, level of surveillance? (The answer to that one is yes, check the store! Maybe this would be a good time to find one.)
  • Wow, I'm overwhelmed by your grasp of what different people find useful and the reasons that they use different *gasp* apps.
  • First world f***ing problems! Seriously, of all the things happening in the world today, this warranted an article. An opinion piece about why (apparently) staged roll outs suck?
  • 1. It's about something Google is doing on Android. This makes it relevant for a site about Android.
    2. What I'm getting from the article is that staged rollouts are a good idea but Google needs to speed them up as theirs always tend to be on the slow side.
  • Apple can do worldwide rollouts, why can't Google? Apple presses a button - boom I have the latest iOS version via OTA update. Google (or other Android OEMs) press the button - I wait WEEKS/MONTHS before I get the new version via OTA update. I know which is superior.
  • AndroidCentral is doing a great job of showing everyone why their articles suck..... .....because they do literally NO research. This is a server side update you troglodyte!!! Open maps app info, kill the app and relaunch it. Boom. Location sharing is available.
  • I can see rolling out app updates slowly. However, if I go out to the Play Store, I should be able to get the latest.
  • FYI, typo: "the app hasn't been fully rolled out top everyone yet." ...TO everyone yet?
  • LOL, good luck with getting that correction edited in.
  • The bigger problem with this rollout is they turned off the feature in one app before making it fully available in the other app. There are lots of applications. Sure we are spoiled in an instant information society but people rely on things like that to keep up with family, know their kids got home from school safe, etc. The other problem is that Google and most Android apps have is there is often no notice before they suddenly change things in major ways.