What’s Wrong With You Google?
My Galaxy Flip3 gave up. The screen was split right in the fold and a large black dead blob appeared. There was no denying it: I needed a new phone. I decided to go with a Pixel 7. And that is where this story starts.
No – it’s not about the Pixel phone. It’s about Google. And how it appears they have stopped to be an awesome company. But let’s circle back to the Pixel for a moment.
If one is used to a Samsung phone, the Pixel is mediocre at best. The fingerprint sensor doesn’t work reliably, the face detection is, well, not good. The UI looks modern but lacks a lot of Samsung’s really nice features. But hey – after a day the battery still shows 85% charge. That’s good, right?
Google didn’t invent a magic battery or some clever service to make the battery last long(er). They just shut everything down the moment you switch your screen off. Sure, you still get your messages (more about messages later) and phone calls, but that’s pretty much it. Most apps are frozen solid and there will be no background activity. A dozing Android is pretty much an old fashioned flip phone in a very expensive case. For all intents and purposes – a brick. Useless for anything but the most basic notifications.
I mentioned messages: Google’s RCS messaging might have been a good idea. But man – it’s really unreliable. You send a message only to find out – a day later – that it couldn’t be delivered. Switch to “normal” SMS and the message finds it’s target in a flash. I don’t care about End-to-End encryption if this means my messages may or may not be delivered. And I don’t care for Google sending text messages via RCS by default.
To be honest: The whole Android environment is one big mess. Switching phones is supposed to be easy with transferring all apps and data to the new device. But it turns out to be pretty useless because they don’t transfer status info or credentials. Half of all apps won’t work anymore and seriously: Who remembers the passwords used to login in to some helper app? Even my Bluetooth controls required new pairing which of course you only find out when you are about to use them. Ringtones and other notification settings are lost too. Rejoice in the fact that your specialized settings for your contacts are all erased and you can set them up from scratch again. Nice job, Google.
The app development environment is a huge construction site with interfaces, APIs and methods changing so rapidly that it is impossible to keep track. Is it Java? Or Kotlin? Jetpack compose? One has to click an experimental “agree” to be able to use some more helpful features. But that feature might not even be available anymore tomorrow. Or next Tuesday. Well .. you clicked the “Experimental” thing. You have been warned. Should have stayed with the “depreciated” stuff. I am not an Apple fan, but boy – app development is a lot easier over there.
Maybe that’s why Google came up with webApps (PWA). Actually – it wasn’t Google but Apple’s Steve Jobs. But Google made them into reality. Well sort of. Because as of today, webApps are still in “zombie” mode. You can create webApps and you can install them on your phone. But they are so castrated that it’s impossible to compete with native apps. You have almost no control over their memory, their state or even their APIs.
What does that mean? Well, Google (Android) decides whether or not to clear the (web-)App’s memory requiring you to download all the elements again. There’s no pattern. Sometimes it clears the memory minutes after last use, sometimes the app doesn’t clear its memory even if not used for a few days. WebApps can’t do anything while the phone is sleeping. They can’t even receive push notifications. The moment the phone goes into what Google calls “doze” mode, your web-app is basically lame, deaf and blind. That severely limits the usefulness of the webApp environment. And there’s no logical reason either. It’s just .. well .. Google. As to APIs like web-usb, again, Google decides which devices you can talk to. I tried hooking up an ESP32 SOC .. no luck.
I am sick of controls like that.
All in all I have to say that: Google has descended into mediocrity. There is almost nothing any more that makes me think: wow – Google. Nothing. Their search engine overflows with advertising, the news apps gives me local news from 3 years ago .. on the first page. Everything looks like it has been glued together by listless minions who are really not interested in anything anymore.
My new HP Chromebook is another example. My previous $178 Walmart Samsung Chromebook worked flawlessly. It was used and abused it for 2 ½ years without so much as a hiccup. It still does its job, but I needed keyboard illumination. So I bought an HP laptop. Which is awful. Not the laptop, it is nice, but it sometimes doesn’t go to sleep when the lid is closed draining the battery to zero. Or it doesn’t come back from sleep. Look at YouTube (don’t get me started) and learn about the Chromebook “black screen” problem. Surely Google is aware of the problem? But yeah, listless minions.
So – here we are. Microsoft and it’s ChatGPT are going strong while Google is stumbling around God knows where. Is that a midlife or identity crisis? Or the effect of focusing on even more revenue? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe all companies eventually reach that point. The point where being better is just not worth it if you can make enough money by just being around.
It’s sad though.
Michaela Merz is an entrepreneur and first generation hacker. Her career started even before the Internet was available. She invented and developed a number of technologies now considered to be standard in modern web-environments. She is a certified New Mexico Search & Rescue volunteers, a Wilderness First Responder and an FAA Part 107 certified UAS pilot and a licensed ham .