Tech by VICE

Why Android Fans Are Feeling Anxious Ahead of Google's Next Hardware Event

On the eve of Google’s big hardware event, some Android enthusiasts voice concerns on the direction of the popular operating system.

by Megan Orpwood-Russell
Oct 3 2016, 7:00pm

Image: 00はがはがはが/Flickr

Recently there has been some anxiety amongst Android enthusiasts who are frustrated by Google's apparent disregard for consumer satisfaction.

So what gives? A few days ago Google released a new mobile messaging app called Allo that seeks to insert some Amazon Echo-like smarts into a familiar chat interface. While the app appears to be doing well on the charts, some Android fans have criticized its mobile-only approach (it can't be used on the desktop) and the fact that it can't be used to talk to people using Hangouts, another Google messaging app.

A broader criticism is Google's inability (so far) to create a single, cross-platform app that truly rivals iMessage, Apple's text and video messaging service that works across iOS and macOS. (Hangouts was close to being that all-in-one cross-platform solution until SMS support was phased out over the summer.) Over at /r/Android, a central meeting place for Android enthusiasts on Reddit, one user named Outbackroo spoke out against Google's perceived "philosophy of throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks." A fellow denizen of /r/Android, jakemoroni, claimed that Google has "had long enough to make their ecosystem more coherent, and they have failed."

Concern is also mounting among Android enthusiasts over Google's software development cadence.

"There tends to be a growing lack of faith among the Android user base that this cycle of promising-but-eventually-cancelled products won't end, and Google will remain unfocused in their approach," another Reddit user, Zekes3DGlasses, told me via email, who described the rollout of Allo and Duo (a video messaging service for mobile devices that was released in August) as "disappointing."

One Android developer named Ben (he withheld his surname) told me that users merely "want a solution that works, and they want it now." Ben was less harsh on Google than his online cohorts, however, calling himself "more of a realist" and giving Google the benefit of the doubt to "keep trying until they get it right. And I believe they will get there eventually!"

While Google doesn't owe users anything, it's clear that repeated tinkering and outright shuttering of trusted apps and services frustrates some of its most fervent admirers (RIP Google Reader). Long-term Android users also bemoan things like inconsistent visual standards (despite Google's own Material Design guidelines). What is interesting is that the very elements of Google that drew many users to their products, such as experimentation and curiosity, are the very things that are pushing some long-term Android users towards iOS.

With Google's expected announcement of a new line of flagship smartphones on Tuesday, it's clear the company is making a newfound effort to compete with Apple for a hold of the US market again. Zekes3DGlasses, the Reddit user who criticized Google for its "unfocused" development cadence, is hoping for the best.

"I still hope that Google can put it all together," he said. "Their product ecosystem offers such an incredible breadth of services, from email to productivity software and cloud services to streaming music, and with many of them at such a better value than competitors."

Time will tell how tomorrow's events pan out.

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