Sunday Debate: Is Google Focusing Enough on AOSP?
Join us in a fun Sunday Debate on AOSP. Come with your opinions and feel free to read some of our thoughts, then pick your side or play devil’s advocate to get your voice heard and engage in friendly discussion. You can read our food-for-thought or jump straight into the fray below!
It’s fair to say that Android is the platform of choice in this site, at least when it comes to mobile technology. And the name “Google” is a word that is seemingly inseparable from the little green robot… yet despite this, many Android fans feel that the company has been abandoning their creation – the actual platform – in some ways. Most of these complaints come from Google’s focus their services, but it doesn’t stop there.
Play Services are, indeed, a huge aspect of commercial Android, and plenty of users consider them inseparable from the Android experience. Those who don’t can easily find many alternatives to the missing apps, but things like Google Now or the Play Store offer invaluable tools when it comes to making your life easier. However, living without GApps and Play Services altogether is more complicated for technical reasons. So far there is no personal assistant like Google Now, and this remains one of the strongest points for consumers. And with the upcoming improvements, it is only bound to get smarter and more useful.
So, without considering things such as privacy concerns, is Google’s change of focus as clear as some other people make it out to be? Where can we expect the platform to head towards if they do focus more on their proprietary services than their open platform? What do you personally want Google to do? Feel free to read some of our thoughts below, or jump straight to the comments to start discussing!
The main reason that we at XDA like the focus to be on Android and not Play Services is clear to many of you: we can easily modify AOSP, but not their proprietary and closed source services as effortlessly (and parts are logically off-grounds altogether); modifying and creating upon the platform is at the core of our site. While Android had a huge update last year, throughout 2015 Google has aimed to improve their feature repertoire. Google I/O 2015 did not show as many Android features as previously expected, and while the conference is called Google I/O (and thus, they have a right to focus on Google), their focus on Play Services was all too clear. Among the big improvements we know Android M is bringing fingerprint support and changes to power management and permissions. Other than that, the meat of their annual keynote was aimed at Google Now on Tap, the Play Store, their Photos app and their VR projects – hardly the kind of things that will matter most to AOSP.
All of these developments are complex and take away resources that would otherwise be spent on improving the platform. As it is, Android smartphones exist amongst Android smartwatches, cars, TV sets, and more. Maintaining and updating every branch is an increasingly complicated task, and it would be so for any company. And more importantly to some, we don’t have full control of their services, which can be detrimental in many ways – from privacy to performance. The latter is a common annoyance for many users, as Play Services are known to go on a battery murder spree every now and then, further adding to the inconsistencies that we dislike so much about our beloved platform.
What is perhaps the biggest reason one would encourage Google to improve their services, apart from personal satisfaction, is the fact that they are a huge part of Android’s commercial success, and a significant factor in its expansion across several markets. If Android is what it is today, shipping nearly 80% of yearly smartphone units, it is in great part due to Google’s concentrated efforts to bring good features to the commercial product. On an UX standpoint, their services are a doubled edged sword: while you can get a faulty update every now and then, updates are frequent, regular and bypass OEMs and carriers, bringing you the latest features without having to wait nearly as much. A huge percentage of users (particularly in the West) rely on these services, and they allow for the revenue that then gets poured up into further projects that all users can enjoy.
The company does also open up some of their other apps and products. as seen with their latest announcements for Android’s Chrome. But at this point in the race, they must keep up with the competition in the service space, as it is furiously picking up. Apple keeps growing and expanding in both hardware and software, but their biggest worry should be Microsoft, who’s been releasing more Android apps than we can keep track of, some being surprisingly good at that. Knowing that this company is backing up Cyanogen and making lots of deals with OEMs, Google needs to make sure that they can muster polished and original functionality to keep up and keep a tight hold on their platform to not let it slip – whether that is good or bad is up to you.
On one hand, Google’s services are a core part of the Android experience to many users around the globe, and a huge part as to why Android is what it is today. They also must be kept strong in order to compete and sustain the future of the platform in smartphones and other devices. On the other hand, much of Google’s latest developments are not on the Android platform itself, and thus we can’t modify it the way we can AOSP. It also brings freedom and privacy into the question, but a more direct downside is that it leaves developers having to pick up Google’s slack when it comes to features and polish. Living without Gapps gets harder every day for many of us, but plenty do try to make it easier.
So we ask you:
Do you think Google is focusing on Android enough?
Are their current developments good for the Android open source platform?
After these changes, what do you think about Google as a company?
Do you live without Google Apps or Services?