Google isn't bored with Android, it just can't ruin a good thing

Android 11 Beta Recents Apps Page
Android 11 Beta Recents Apps Page (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

One of the things I do as part of both my job and because I'm a tech junkie is read what other tech writers have to say about, well, everything. It's as important as keeping up with the news or reading all the press releases that creep into my email account every day.

Do you get the sense that Google, company-wide, is all that interested in Android? I don't. Both as the steward of the software platform and as the maker of Pixel hardware, it seems like Google is losing interest in Android. Flagship Android hardware makers sure are interested in Android, but they can't move the Android developer ecosystem — only Google can.Apple, institutionally, is as attentive to the iPhone and iOS as it has ever been. I think Google, institutionally, is bored with Android.

That's what Daring Fireball had to say recently and it's such a bad take that my fingers started itching to talk about it. Google's definitely not bored with Android and changes in both Android 10 and Android 11 show that Google is even more attentive to Android than Apple is to iOS. Fight me.

You can't keep reinventing the wheel. Android started life as a mish-mash of everything good from webOS, BlackBerry OS, iOS, and Windows Mobile. Since then, it's been Google's job to weed out what's bad and build upon what's good. In the early years, that meant big sweeping changes to how things looked when you turned on your phone's screen with each update. In 2020, it means not touching most of what you see because most of it works.

Your phone, like it or not, is primarily only a vehicle for apps. Even the hardware is driven by the app ecosystem and you have a big screen, fast processor, plenty of storage, and everything else under the hood because those things make your apps look and run better. All the company who makes your phone needs to do is make it easy to get the app you want on the screen when you want it.

Google learned early that a good way to do that is to let developers build apps that become part of the system. Things like interactive notifications or widgets are designed to get a tiny slice of an app into your field of vision when you need to see it and give you a quick way to act upon it. Things like a series of home screens filled with app icons don't work in 2020.

What also wouldn't work in 2020 would be wrecking a system that's not perfect but is still pretty darn good, and that's what Google has to do as Android moves forward. Thankfully, it's exactly what it has been doing for the past three years. Building on Android's strengths, like its notification system, without bungling everything up isn't easy.

Android 10 works because both a Pixel and a Galaxy are better with it than without it. Android 11 has to do the same thing.

Google also has to work very hard and pay very close attention when it adds a little polish to Android because everything it does means a lot of extra work for the companies that make the phones and the developers who make the apps. Android 10 looks to have pulled it off majestically and companies like Samsung have been able to build custom Android phones around it that everyone loves and app developers need to be able to tap into new features without changing their own user experience. Android 11 needs to do the same.

Don't expect to see a complete rewrite of the Android user interface anytime soon. Instead, expect to see the meticulous attention to detail and changes that let developers and hardware makers keep giving us more of what we love.

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.

  • Google gets bored with everything they do.
    Their history is littered with good ideas that received no love, attention or just lack of interest. Also, Android serves as a vehicle for ads, not just apps. Handsets have evolved to serve apps, but Android was designed to serve Google's finances. The system is designed to drive users to Google services which are paid for by ads. It's not a completely altruistic gift to developers. Android's future may be best served by severing with Google and becoming a company or foundation on its own like the Linux Foundation; funded by those who benefit from its existence like Huawei, Samsung, Amazon, Sony, and yes, Google itself. Android is already forked into many versions of itself with GMS, HMS and Amazon FireOS being the most common but the ability to run applications across those many versions mirrors the Linux ancestry of the system. Separating the OS from Google would help Google's issues with antitrust regulators too. Google can continue to sell GMS to hardware manufacturers to place upon the Android Foundation base or possibly to users directly like HMS and FireOS device owners, but allowing Google to maintain it may not be in its interest or indeed ours as users. For example, they have neglected the tablet space allowing Apple to sit dominant while they tinkered with ChromeOS to replace it with less than stellar experiences in that form. It's not that Android doesn't work wonderfully on tablets as Amazon, Huawei and Samsung prove, it's the lack of care from Google that prevents development investment with app support. Google has a very odd way of caring for their offspring. Perhaps it's time to let Android leave the home and set up on its own?
  • I am with you on that. Personally I Al loving my Google free experience on my p40 pro. It's not for eveyone but i do think others like Samsung ect will be looking closely at huawei to see if they can pull the no google support off. Even if it was not by choice.
  • Having a backup plan is probably already in Samsung's business continuity role. One thing Trump's America has shown the world is any business reliance on US companies to serve their own is a very big risk. American firms have become unreliable long term partners in the global supply chain when key technologies like processors and operating systems are produced only there. You never know as Huawei learnt when that source of your supply will be blocked. You need a backup plan and for Samsung, I doubt Tizen will be it. It lacks the love Google gives to some of its products. Android device manufactuers in Europe, Asia and elsewhere suddenly woke up to that reality with the bans on Huawei. While Android ASOP remains free and open-source, the central app store of Google is the golden egg of Android use. So many HMS device reviews always end up with the statement, “no access to the app store cripples the device”. A mindset that Android without GMS is a failure and yet FireOS has survived. That said, the app store is important. Huawei has gone out of its way to ensure HMS devices have access to all the apps users want. A central app store is an important concept. The recent initiative with Oppo, Huawei and others to allow one way to upload an app to all app stores at once is a good idea. I doubt Google will ever hand off the app store to an independent Android because it’s used to sell ads, but perhaps it could join the one upload, many app stores initiative. It’s not as great as a single app store but would work for developers. Google certainly does not police the store as Apple do theirs and accept apps from many devs, so why not join that upload process? Fragmentation of the app store is a big failure. You see the mirror in the multitude of TV streaming services having 'exclusives'. No one wants to pay for access to get all programmes and no one wants to search all app stores to find all apps.
  • Huawei and good experience doesn’t go together. Not liking Google experience is understandable but definitely not Huawei who isn’t known to provide or care about user experience or anything remotely related.
  • What makes you say that? They have just announced Android 10 for their P10 phone to help improve the experience and EMUI is very nice to use. Not saying you have to like it just because but saying something isn't good without saying why is difficult to understand. There are plenty of EMUI users who would argue the emptiness of stock android or the skins of HTC and Samsung are poor experiences for them. Android and it's Linux cousin's best feature has been fragmentation on experience as it allows so many choices to find one you love.
    Don't dis on those who love what you dislike. Let's all be friends and accept we all like different things.
  • Good luck with Huawei sending your data to the Chinese government personally I wouldn't use an Android phone without Google services.
  • With the P40 Pro in particular there is little you cannot sideload and if you desperately need a reliable email/cloud system there is always Microsoft which is a weird thing to write in 2020 but they don't want your ad dollars; they want that Office sub. You can even go the whole hog and replace the launcher.
  • Great response. As an Android users and past IOS user, It is crystal clear that Apple is laser focused on USER EXPERIENCE to sell hardware whereas Android's focus is to maximize add revenue. I am drooling over what Apple is planning for the next iteration of IOS -- so much so that I am seriously considering going back to IOS. Android apps on Chrome is a JOKE -- two operating environments on one device has NEVER worked. It will be interesting to see if Apple can meld Mac and IOS -- I think they have a good shot. And tablet support on Android is as you pointed out even a bigger joke.
  • I believe the new Lenovo Chrome Book Duet has found a way to "marry" Chrome OS and Android apps. See Chrome Book Unboxed review on YouTube. Compelling device that will only help Google and their OEM partners continual dominance into the educational market here in US.
  • That is interesting. Chromebooks certainly have found their market with schools.
  • It is indeed a shame. Android tablets are great and far from useless as many reviewers claim. Samsung and Huawei would not sell that which made no money. Amazon is driven on theirs by Kindle so has a different focus but I have had many tablets over the years and love them. They are far from failures but not the success they could have been with more effort from Google and Android. The race to the bottom with cheap and horrible tablets rather than a race to beat Apple was a poor decision by many manufacturers. True big phones have taken some of the tablet sales, but that's not the reason for lack of interest from Google. Chrome OS is not the spiritual successor, it's a different beast with a different focus and Android apps on Chrome are not eloquent, they are just awkward addons. Apple sale large phones and tablets and have good sales of both.
  • Android tablets suck. iPads are so much better.
  • You’re right, outside of Samsung and Huawei, no one is really putting money or effort into Android tablets. I have a Pixel phone but ended up springing for an iPad Pro and while it has it’s concessions that I need to make due to iOS rules, it is miles better than any Android tablet I can think of purchasing at the moment.
  • That's the biggest load of BS I've read in a long while. Just a lot of blah blah blah with absolutely no basis in reality, just your own feverish postulations. It seems "Android Central" has become infested with those who take every opportunity to sh** on Google, no matter what. Just like bashing the Pixels. A small minority of people have had hardware issues with Pixels, on par with what other manufacturers have, but to hear the miscreants on many forums rant, you'd think all the hardware has problems. They don't, not even close. Some people, it seems, just get some freakish joy from trolling on forums over particular topics. Some, it seems, have chosen Google as their target.
  • Take a deep breath, it will be ok, it is just a phone OS/company, not that serious. 
  • Lost interest in Android after it's tie-in and dependency on YouTube
  • I'm bored with Android and have been for some time, initially I was really happy with my move from iOS to Android aft 2 years of going back and forth between the two for 2 years and before that I was with iPhone. I needed time away from iOS to figure out what platform suits me best and I've come to the conclusion that iOS and iPhone are the best match for me as I'm a visually impaired person I feel that iOS accessability options are better along with missing getting updates from day 1, the better app quality and user experience use to Apple making the hardware and software along with far better software support and me understanding Apple a lot better than I do with Android, which I don't customise my phone beyond setup and is too technical for me beyond the absolute basic. I'm tired of all the fragmentation and chaotic nature of Android where during the first year of updates are just ok in terms of speed and in year 2 of Android updates your Android flagship is no longer priority and you have to wait months for the next Android platform update where as with Apple you get the update from day 1 like every other iPhone user which again empathizes Apple's massive advantage of controlling both the hardware and software which makes for that tight optimisation of iOS and it's apps which is a major reason why I'm going back to iPhone as my daily driver. And I lay the blame for this sorry situation with Google being too weak to stand up to OEMs and all because Google need it's OEM partners more than they need Google and this is especially true with Samsung.
  • Samsung can and is moving the needle Jerry and I think you know this to be true. (BTW your and Ara's editorial and opinion pieces are the reason I hit up AC even if I don't always agree) Samsung being the world's largest mobile device maker is using One UI to push development of Android. Offerings on Samsung, like dark mode, sharing, etc are on Samsung devices one OS version prior to Pixel or other Android OEM partners. Both Android and even iOS are in refinement mode of the two developer chosen mobile OS. As an Android user since switching from my beloved BlackBerry 10 in '16 (and Android tablets since my Samsung Tab Pro's in '14) it's honestly kind of funny iOS has made such a big deal of "widgets". But that's par for the course. I believe what's most unfortunate is that we as consumers did not get the benefit of the continual development of BlackBerry 10 OS or Windows Mobile OS to keep iOS and Android to be more innovative. MOST users (not us enthusiasts) could care less about the annual iterations of the OS updates.
  • Samsung's policy of only 2 OS upgrades on Galaxy S8 is a joke. I currently have a Galaxy S8 and I am not sure if I I want to buy another Galaxy for that reason only. There is NO REASON that Samsung doesn't push Android 10 to me other than pure greed....
  • From Samsung's side, they may decide how many users still have this phone in active use and how much time and money do we need to spend to make drivers, hardware and the changed UI and UX work with the new version of Android. The ASOP build provided is only the base of the Android pizza on your S8.
    It is fair that some manufacturers take too long with new updates and some sign off their phones too early on new releases. Some older phones may be incapable of the new release but some recent ones...maybe.. but all effort costs money and I suspect Samsung and others may want to push that into the all-new hotness they expect you to buy in a couple of years.
  • I agree your S8 should get 10! The Tab S4 with the same 835 SOC just received it. Samsung makes great hardware but they must support longer..
  • Samsung ain't doing jack, it's the Chinese OEMs that are pushing Android forward, especially in design. But ultimately Apple sets the trend and Android OEMs follow, including Samsung.
  • It's quite obvious you are anxiously awaiting a return to iOS but you have got to be kidding if you think Apple is leading mobile OS innovation. They JUST added widgets!!!! And in iOS 14 will FINALLY allow you to change a default app for their horrific email. And let's not forget notifications which has been lame on iOS in comparison. What about AOD for those that greatly appreciate a glance at their device? Perhaps iOS will offer that innovation in 2021? Apple does do some good things but they are a walled garden that's simply not for @ 86-87 percent of global users. I'll bet the explosion of Zoom and other cross platform video education and meetings has made them crap themselves. It definitely exposed imessage and FaceTime which was no where in my children's means to communicate with teachers and classmates. Zoom, Teams, Discord, Etc all have eroded that method quickly in our household with my daughter on her XR and son with his 6th Gen iPad. My middle school daughter used her exceptional Lenovo Chromebook almost exclusively during distance learning. I'll bet anything Chromebooks exploded in sales the past 3 months as students, schools and parents have to have affordable, cross platform means. Imagine here in US if schools didn't already have a Chromebook for every student as they do here in CA? Distance learning would have never happened. I don't think Google with Android or Chrome is letting up on the throttle for one second.
  • Who said anything about Apple leading in innovation? You did, I personally prefer Apple's email app over anything else with it being far easier to use and it is the only mail can that actually let's me mark emails as read. And where did you get this "Apple's walled garden is simply not for 85-87% of Global users, unless you've been living under a rock for the past 2 years, Apple has clawed back some market share from Android which stand's at 75% of the global market and in developed countries like the US and UK, Apple is number 1 it's only in coommunist countries like India and China along with other developing markets like Brazil where the majority of Android's market share comes from. And no Chromebooks will never replace Windows laptops in classrooms, especially when Windows is a proper operating system unlike Chrome OS which is just Android for laptops and so what if iOS is only just. Introducing widgets? Widgets will be a boon again thanks to Apple. I tried Zoom and I hate it, it's so convoluted to set up and difficult to use, I'll stick to FaceTime and iMessage which are one of the major selling points of the iPhone which now Android OEM including Google can match and once Apple start building their own ARM chipsets like with iPhones and iPads, it'll be over for Chromebooks which Android apps suck just like Android tablets suck. Android is one of the only things that Google has succeeded with and even Android is a money losing platform for OEMs.
  • I think there's some truth in what John Gruber is saying, Google's Pixel hardware business is failing having already suffered a blow in losing 2 key players in it's camera and hardware teams along with already lacklustre sales of Pixels and the continued delay of the Pixel 4a which Google should have released at the same time as the new iPhone SE but Google was and is clearly scared of competing with Apple as Google already can't compete with it's Android OEM partners on the hardware front as it is along with Android slowly losing market share to Apple and with iOS 14 looking really compelling, it's only going to get worse for Google and Android who's fragmentation issues among other things is getting tiresome now and is huge factor in my decision to return to iPhone with an iPhone 11. Because Android isn't exciting anymore, it's stagnating with phones barely distinguishable anymore and the continued disparity in quality in app quality network iOS (who's apps are still superior in quality, especially in gaming and social media) and the sorry update situation not looking like it's going to be fixed anytime soon, all but the diehard Android fans will jump **** to Apple because Apple has been on a role and credit must go to Tim Cook and the team for that.
  • Since Apple keeps "stealing" features to add to iOS, it needs to keep Android updated and ahead of iOS.
  • Android is stagnant and has been for a while Apple has regained it's focus after appearing to lose it's way for a bit. Personally I'd like to see Android taken down a peg or two and Apple is on the way to doing that as Android is beginning to lose some market share to Apple.
  • LOL...Apple has very little on Android. For the life of me, every time I pick up an iPhone I wonder what it is people see in it.
  • Apple has 20-22% Global market share and in developed countries Android isn't number 1, in places like the US, UK, Canada and Australia, it's Apple that is number 1. Android is welcome to the likes of China, India, Brazil and all the other developing markets. Oh and Apple makes more money than every Android OEM put together. Every time I use my Android phone, I think the same way as you, what do you Android fanboys see in Android? Because I don't think Android is anything special anymore. I've never had that emotional connection with Android that I had with Apple as an iPhone user and you say you wonder what people see in an iPhone? Well there's better quality apps on the App Store, day 1 updates, a far superior ecosystem and way better software support, the best customer satisfaction guaranteed, better backup and restore system which doesn't require me to have an old iPhone with me when transferring data from an old iPhone to a new one unlike the fragmented hot mess that is Android. Oh and apps on iOS are way better optimised than their Android counterparts Thanks to Apple's tight integration with the software and hardware, because Apple makes both. And then there's the brand recognition of Apple which other than Samsung, nobody else can match Apple's superior brand recognition.
  • What people see in it ? Really. Like Jerry said smartphones are primarily for apps and everyone knows iOS apps are better than Android apps. I get you like to tinker with your screen and do some fun stuff but when it comes to serious work there is no real difference between Android and iOS except I trust Apple for privacy way more than I do an ad company.
  • Have you looked at what Google has added to Android over the past couple of versions ? Permission controls and privacy features. Those are major things Google is "stealing" from iOS. I could go on and on about features that are "stolen" from iOS but why ? They both are moving forward and whether one company had it first really does not matter except to people like you who try to justify their worth by what phone os they are using. Don't get so butt-hurt about it.
  • On the subject of breaking things, Version 3.1.22 of your Android app is crashing at startup on my Pixel 3. Same thing was happening with the same version of the Windows Central app (which got a quick patch to resolve that issue).
  • AC App is breaking on my S9 as well
  • Honestly, Google has burned me enough in the last few years with killing apps and services that were core parts of my routines that I'm starting to consider a jump to iOS ... even though it frustrates the living crap out of me any time I have to endure it. I almost went iPhone 11 this year, but Apple's continued inability to not allow setting default apps is my line in the sand. (Yes, I know they're making progress with iOS 14 this fall, but mail and browser are not the be all and end all of what I want custom defaults for.) Look at what they did with Hangouts ... killed for Allo/Duo after yanking out SMS support. I loved my "all-in-one" Hangouts. Allo never went LITERALLY anywhere, and Duo is still on life support. Anybody remember the wonders of Google+? Those of us who loved it STILL haven't been able to find a good replacement for what it was to us. Now Google Play Music gets railroaded into a half-baked YouTube Music! Let's not forget those who fell in love with Inbox, only to have Google pull the plug. Or Reader, which still draws ire from those who used it daily. No, I don't expect them to drop Android ... it's too vital to their revenue stream. But I wonder if I'll wake up one day and see an announcement that Gmail will be going the way of Wave. (Which was REALLY a cool system .. just never gained traction. I think it was just too far ahead of its time.) What Google needs to do is start by pushing long term support of Pixel phones. Three and four year old flagship hardware is MORE than capable of running most new releases. Need proof? Look to the ROM communities. You can get Android 10 on a bleemin' Nexus 4! Don't tell me the hardware won't work past two years. Software support is something Apple NAILS with their phones. If Google can pledge updates, other OEMs will feel the pressure to follow suit. Of course there's still the issue that Google can't push updates like Apple can either. How Android gets saddled by carrier releases while iOS doesn't is still a bit mystifying. It's Android's single biggest weakness. But any phone maker who says they "can't" run new versions on older devices needs to pull their head out of their butt and look at what the community does without corporate support. It can be done, they just don't want to. Who knows ... maybe by the time I'm done with my Note 10+ Apple will have made enough advances that I'll just jump ship to iOS. Which seems weird to me, being team Android since the 1st Moto Droid (which I still have, and still boots!).
  • Google archaic approach to messaging is puzzling. No consistency at all, I don't even bother with their messaging platforms since they'll probably be gone next year for something totally different...garbage.
  • Android is for everybody.
  • Android is for mostly tech savvy people, iPhone is for the everyday average user.
  • Are they bored with Android? I don't think so because it is probably even better at collection of user data than their search site is.... That said I do feel Google and Android is likely hampered more by a lack of real hardware advancements than a lack of interests in them. This is one reason why Google went and created the Pixel line so they could add those features to phones and hope others would follow them. Sales suffered because the average consumer simply can't afford to pay in excess of $700 for a phone. That said Google DOES bore and abandon projects frequently!
    It is this lack of commitment that scares people and makes them suspect Google of perhaps abandoning the Android system in favor of something else. I think those fears are unwarranted for the reasons I stated at the start of this post. But it is disconcerting that Google adds and then takes away features and services on what seems like a whim. Android's great selling point over Apple was the Widgets and Customization it afforded. Features Apple is finally coming around to embrace...
    Yet Google saw fit to remove Widgets for Messenger, hangouts and others that many found useful. I still have to open an app and press three icons to see my shared shopping list when I am in the store or annoyingly have to say "Hey Google Display my shopping list" which STILL doesn't open my shopping list just gives me a link to open it. Why is there no widget I can simply swipe to for this and other often used Google programs. Sometimes I wonder if Google is trying to be more like Apple while Apple is trying now to be more like Google. IMO they should stick to a name for an app that does one function. Messenger is fine for messaging, call it that forever and if you want to change it to be more like a hangouts then just change it and continue to call it messenger. It's this propensity to change direction and make sweeping changes to projects that do the same thing but have a different name that causes people to worry that Google will one day abandon us in favor of some other thing that caught their fancy only to see it replaced again by something else a year or two down the road. Show some consistency Google....THAT is what APple does so well and why people are happy to stick with them long term because they know a 2025 iPhone will probably work in the same way a 2020 iPhone they had worked!
  • Google may still have an interest in Android, but there's absolutely no doubt that they're totally past bothering with Wear OS. I bought my first Wear OS device earlier this year, after jumping feet first into the Microsoft Band/Band 2 ecosystem a few years ago, only to be left completely in the lurch by Microsoft after a couple years. It was a great shame. They were really onto something with the Band. My Falster 3 is a decent device, but the hardware is badly let down by the operating system. When I first started using the device, I was very happy with it. The hardware is definitely on a par with Apple watch. But the software differences are huge. Apple's Watch OS is just so polished and useful, whereas Wear OS feels outdated and clunky. Also, a lot of apps in the wear OS store don't work any longer. Google don't even seem to bother with curating the app store. Google last updated Wear OS in 2018. That's crazy. If Google are readying themselves to move into basic maintenance of any OS, my money would be on Wear OS rather than Android.
  • Yes Jerry that's true, As we belong from android development company we try to use new thing by developing different apps.
  • I've had an Android device since the T-mobile G1. I loved having AOSP roms and hated manufacturer skins, but I have to admit that Samsung is making more advancements in software with OneUI than Google is with Android. A lot of times OneUI features get integrated into AOSP down the line, I do appreciate Samsung's contributions!