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Google Hands Free is dying, and this Reddit thread perfectly encapsulates our frustrations with Google

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Google Campus Logo (Image credit: Android Central)

Back in March of last year, Google announced a Bay Area only test of a service called Hands Free. It was an alternative payment solution for people who thought taking their phone or wallet out of their pocket was a lot of work. The "hands free" part came from you having this new app on your phone and saying the words "I'll pay with Google" at the register. When those words were recognized, you signed your initials and the transaction was suddenly complete.

These jabs at Google perfectly illustrate some of the things a lot of users view as mistakes made by Google recently.

Hands Free only worked at a handful of stores in the Bay Area, and never really expanded beyond the initial trial group, which might have something to do with why the service most people have never heard of just announced it's shutting down.

It's possible we'll see some similar features baked into Android Pay at some point in the future, but for now there's no value in getting excited about that potentially happening. Instead, take a look at this snippet from the Reddit thread where this sunset announcement was shared — and know you aren't alone in being frustrated with Google right now.

While admittedly hilarious, these jabs at Google perfectly illustrate some of the things a lot of users view as mistakes made by Google recently. Take a look at Allo and Duo, or rather don't because it's clear by the app ranking no one is using Allo, and it's not clear anyone ever actually opened Duo again after the first day it was available.

The bulk of the features available in these two apps would be amazing in Hangouts, but that product is supposed to be weirdly re-positioned for business use even though to many people already use it for personal communication. Meanwhile, there's a lot of folks hooked up to Google right now that are just happy Google Voice isn't actually getting killed off like so many rumors claimed. It's hard to get messier than this situation.

There's no harm in trying something new, in fact with a company the size of Google there needs to be a constant exploration of new things. Hands Free sounds like a neat experiment that ended in a decision to use that tech elsewhere, which is a thing that happens sometimes. And it really would be cool to see this tech show up in Android Pay some day instead of continuing to break down individual features into separate apps.

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

40 Comments
  • As Amazon recently learned, unless the Hands Free operation was REALLY secure with your voice print and everything, having a device that makes purchases solely on voice command is a huge risk (or a huge order for doll houses :P that are soon to be cancelled :P )
  • Google thinks just because they have so much money that no matter what they do people will like it, NOT!
    They do a lot of things good and cool but some of the stuff is CRAP but they really like to collect our info and sell it on the black market(not really) to the guy on the corner in the trench coat for big Google dollars and then we get spammed and hacked and violated. Oh well I guess we are stuck with them until something else comes along but then they will buy that company
  • Wow. I can't disagree with a statement more. LOL They have so much money that they do R&D work. And they explore. And they create cool things that they hope catch on KNOWING that they all won't catch on. Some fail. But if you don't try, you will never know. How do you think innovation happens?
  • If the big companies with a lot of money to blow aren't gonna explore like this, then who is...? It's a good thing they aren't just sitting back on Android and just relaxing. Trial and error until something works!
  • I'm glad the company cares enough to solve world problems with their money and not just churn out phones or more Snapchat-like features
  • It's one thing to go in new directions to help your customers. It's quite another to break things and expect everyone to just go hey that's great. Google as usual is doing just this and not listening to its customers again. As an experiment hands off is a good idea. But these and things like Allo and Duo need to be integrated into whole solution apps like Android Pay and a better successor to Hangouts. Do this and people will be happy and eager to use them. What they are doing now is showing that it's not working. Please Google get a clue and fix this.
  • I am probably minority, but Duo is great... so much better than hangouts and we use it several times a week. My first reaction to Duo was a "why does this need to exist?" However, after using it, I am convinced it solves all of the problems we've had with using hangouts. It convinced me there was a reason for it to have been made. I do wish they would just make hangouts work like Duo though My biggest frustration was Messanger. Why does it need to exist?
  • Yeah, I like Duo a ton. For the way I do video chat, it's a lot more convenient than Hangouts is, and it's a lot easier to get people to download and use that that than it is to get them to download and use Hangouts.
  • Love duo also and the video quality is amazing, not sure why can't they update hangout with the same driver or video settings. As for allo, it's pretty... And it's stops there, no point in using a communication app if no one is on it or it has no clear demarking feature.
  • Duo is great. But the issue google doesnt get is, I dont want to keep changing apps every 6-12 months. Pick an app and go with it. To use duo, people need to download duo, and theres no way i can convince all these people to when I spent all this time getting them to download hangouts! This is why people love apple. The create an app. Make it simple and great and thats it.
  • Losing faith in sundar
  • Yes. There's a difference between giving people room to think outside the box, and not having any direction at all. Want to experiment with messaging, social media, autonomous vehicles, robots, fiber Internet, electronic payments, whatever? Great, but what's the goal? From the outside, there doesn't appear to be one. There's no cohesion; it feels like the company is just spreading out so much it's dissolving.
  • Lost it already
  • These mistakes are failure of having a strategy. Somebody inside Google should be fired because of this.
  • Lol fired! Heck, they're still stuck at the airport trying to get back in the country!!
  • Agreed. It has been comical to watch and destructive to Google's goals. They seem like a very badly run ship.
  • What's the difference between allo hangouts and messenger
  • Messenger work by using existing SMS/MMS protocols and Allo does not. Oh Google...the company of finishing nothing...
  • I've been frustrated with Google since they went all Material Design (too much white with garish colors and no option for a dark mode), changed mute functionality and forced heads up notifications (no option to keep them as a ticker in the notification bar). So all the rest of this is just crappy icing on an already crappy cake.
  • I wonder when will Google finally add a dark theme. (What are the chances of them making it pixel exclusive?)
  • I'm not surprised Hands Free closed down. It was nothing more than a pilot program. And, honestly, unless everything works exactly as it should, it could be a huge security risk. How is the system supposed to know who just said. "I'll pay with Google" when there might be a dozen people with that feature in the store. Something like that has to work correctly every single time because, if it fails, it can create very expensive mistakes to fix. The thing that bugs me about Google is that, when a project isn't faring as well as they think it should, they just pull the plug and walk away. I really like how Google Wifi looks, but I didn't buy it because I have this little fear in the back of my mind that, if it doesn't go over like gangbusters, Google will decide to shutter it, leaving me with useless hardware. So, instead, I went with AmpliFi. Let's see how that goes. It's great that Google experiments, but they have to stop this practive of launching an app or service and then deciding a year or two later that they don't like it anymore and closing it down, leaving users high and dry.
  • Hmmm cant say I agree with you Russell. The reason why Apple is stale is they try nothing new. Year after year, same ole same ole. Google may not always succeed, and I may not always agree with what they do....but we all have a fantastic operating system/devices because of all of the beta/trials that Google has in the works. Cant have it both ways sir.
  • Google is such a ****** company, lol. I mean seriously. Their greatest achievement is ad delivery on PC.
  • This is so inside baseball as to be boring to a tech enthusiast like me. What goes on in the Bay Area should stay in the Bay Area. There's no reality there.
  • I understand nothing is perfect. I also understand they have to beta test new features to improve upon existing, or new, software and hardware to make it work as intended. But it seems google just can't seem to perfect anything. Nor do they really try. They make something, throw it out there, then if it's not a blockbuster on day two they abandon it like an unwanted child. They keep adding features to existing software but never really fix what was broken in the first place. Look at android. How many years now has it taken them to fix the memory leak problem? Is it really fixed? Hangouts? Chrome's memory usage problems? These should have been fixed first and foremost but they mask the problem by implementing something new so you'll forget about it.
  • And, even when something is successful, they'll still sometimes abandon it. Does anyone remember Orkut? Lots of people in Brazil will, since it was very popular there. It didn't stop Google from shutting it down, though.
  • I am missing the point of this article. Some redditors are mad Google killed an app most people never heard of? Google is doing great stuff overall, making lots of money and has tons of happy fans. This seems a bit of a dramatic response to "Hands Free" shuttering IMO ...
  • Yup. And with that "lots of money", you would think googles apps and os's wouldn't have all the flaws. Right? But that's not the case.
  • They're not perfect, but I love "their apps and OS's". Coding is hard, man 😀 . They've closed or nerf'd apps I've like in the past and I am sure they will continue to do so. It's just that we're all used to it by now, and I thought this article was a bit dramatic for something most folks never heard of ...
  • Exactly, but you have to realize that Google is releasing all these things to us in beta even if it doesn't say so on the release. We are all just beta testers for Google until they decide to integrate the features/tech into a product that they want to make exclusive money on like the Pixel phone, Chromebooks, or Android. So what if 10 million users get screwed on Allo, Google will integrate it into exclusive software for the Pixel and everyone else will be happy. The company is too big to care about millions when they influence billions, that is Googles problem.
  • How many communication apps does Google have now? Half-dozen? How many will let you send a V-Card? None that I'm aware of. Why? Because even though the average IQ at Google is very high the average age, business experience and childish designs reek of let's go get a free banana at the snack bar. This is why they are losing enterprise big-time.
  • Bananas?? Naw. Snow cones!! I mean nothing says cannibalism like a snowflake eating a snow cone !
  • Agreed. Many of google's users and fans are tired of this chaotic mess. It's not coherent at all.
  • GOOGLE: just focus on Hangouts. Make everything work in Hangouts and ditch the rest.
  • I concur. Just fold all the goodies in Allow and Duo into Hangouts, make a stand alone Hangouts app for Windows, OS X, and Linux ( no, not just a Chrome plugin, a real app.exe ) and then stand behind it and advertise it as an iMessage competitor. Posted via Android Central App
  • This is an unusually clickbaity headline for AC, and lots of projection going. I have half a dozen active conversations in Allo right now, every time I hit the new conversation button I'm pleasantly surprised to see new users. I use Duo a ton when I travel. I'd stop wishing for a pivot on Hangouts, that has shaped up greatly for G Suite business use, and figure Allo will get new features and Duo will get more (much deserved) hype. I had to beg people to use Hangouts, non nerds seemed to loath it, I've had no issue getting people to try Allo.
  • This has gotta be one of the silliest/most irrelevant articles I've ever took the time out to read on AC...
  • I used to be a hardcore Google supporter but since this year that feeling has gotten away.
    - Allo / Duo / Hangouts debacle
    - Another Android Pixel fork
    - Neglecting design updates for Gmail, Calendar etc
    - Update support length is a bad as third party OEMs
    - Overpriced Pixel phones
    - I got myself a 3 month Google Play subscription and my library I have for 2 years and tweaked is a total mess now with doubles. I can't wait for it to expire. I do love Android but for the first time ever I have cut down on using Google services for everything
  • Their management culture seems to lack any appreciation for optimization and polish. If it is not "new" no one cares and you will be seen as a bad employee. I dont want Google to stop trying new things, but some refined core products with some consistency would make me a much more loyal customer. I am still angry that they are "refocusing" hangouts with any replacement that is targeted act consumers with similar functionality. I am also angry that hangouts is a laggy mess half the time If these mentalities ever work their way into Google's core business (ads and search) the company will be bankrupt in a year.
  • I'm still bewildered by the transition from Google Wallet to Android Pay. Wallet was perfect, and even offered a Google MasterCard. I had to wait months for my Chase debit card to work with Android Pay after using the same debit card through the Wallet app without issue. The experience sort of put a damper on paying by phone for me.