Google is reportedly taking matters in its own hands and working on a “Google Phone” where it takes control of both hardware and software side of the equation. Since the news broke out, I have read more than a few articles explaining how this is a great move, and how this will help curb the perennial problem of Android fragmentation. After all, that’s how iPhone does it, no?
Now, I totally love the Idea of a Google-made phone, but I don’t think it will patch up the fractured Android ecosystem.
For those new to the subject: More about Android Fragmentation
“The very fact that you are allowed to download and modify Android however you please and sell it on any product means fragmentation. That is to say, there will be different permutations and combinations of Android hardware and software which would be very hard to control and even harder to update to a same version.
If Google rolls out a new version update, it might not bode well with a particular set of hardware and might break things. OEMs have to extensively test update for each device separately and with shorter launch cycles and diminishing price margins, this is not in their best interest. So whatever features Google rolls out takes at least one year to reach all categories of consumers.”
Nexus couldn’t do it
We already have Google made phones, popularly known as Nexus phones. Google not only handles software and software updates but also guides manufacturers and works closely with them on the associated hardware.
The end product is awesome more often than not. Despite all its flaws, the Nexus 5X is still a personal favorite to me. It still feels so much better than all other spec-monsters selling in the adjacent price bracket. It’s a fantastic, compact phone that simply works.
Also Read: Nexus 5X Full Review
However, not everyone buys a Nexus. Android ecosystem has always been about options. And understandably, there are a dozen other manufacturers with extensive product portfolios catering to different tastes, fighting aggressively for every inch of the pie, and without any real motivation for delivering Android updates.
Even with Motorola and Nexus phones giving stock Android experience across all price ranges, the Android Marshmallow adoption is slow, perhaps slower than even Android Lollipop.
Only iPhones run iOS, Google has partners
To assume that after Google steps into the smartphone game they will instantly rule the roost with the lion’s share of the Android smartphone pie, and we will have updates pushing all around is wishful thinking.
iOS can quote great adoption figures primarily because it runs only on one brand handsets (iPhones). Android on the other hand, covers a vast expanse. This diversity means that Google Phone won’t be the sole option for Android consumers. Its market share will be limited, and so will be the corresponding impacts on latest Android adoption.
Not the first Google Phone
Remember Moto X? A powerful, ergonomic, meticulously designed handset that received rave reviews? Moto X was a smartphone coming from Google-owned Motorola, and it dared to be a phone with dual core processor in an otherwise quad-core world.
Like any other phone, it wasn’t perfect. But, you can’t expect perfection from the upcoming Google phone either. Google has a tendency of not playing to the galleries, which in my opinion, was one reason why the Android One project didn’t take off.
The point being, people didn’t instantly ditch other OEM phones simply because they had an option from Google. That’s not how it works.
Fragmentation still needs to be addressed
Yes, Android fragmentation is a huge pain in the neck. With a small share of people actually running Android Marshmallow, new OS features that developers work on and add to their apps aren’t fully appreciated. Google’s Android vision gets passed down to masses a whole year later. Not to mention, the security challenges involved in a fractured software ecosystem. But Google has somewhat resorted to an alternative solution.
The OS has been broken down to apps, and many key changes in new Android versions are passed on to all Android users via Playstore or Google Playservies updates. For instance, changes in App drawer can be delivered to people running different Android versions simply with an update to Google Now launcher. This does help soften the blow but is still an incomplete solution.
More than ever before, Google needs to solve Android fragmentation. And making more stock Android options available in the form of its own branded phones might even help, but that alone can’t solve Android fragmentation. Unless Google unleashes a whole series of phone spanning a wide price range, Google branded phone won’t be conducive to a real change any more than a Nexus.