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.