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Want an Android phone with Google services? Google now has more say over its software

The newest Google Android scandal hit the airwaves on Friday. Only it’s not actually a scandal, nor is it really new.

The Information procured documents showing that Google has some new requirements for handset makers who want to use Google services on their Android phones (subscription required):

“Confidential documents viewed by The Information show Google has been adding requirements for dozens of manufacturers like Samsung Electronics, Huawei Technologies and HTC that want to build devices powered by Android. Among the new requirements for many partners: increasing the number of Google apps that must be pre-installed on the device to as many as 20, placing more Google apps on the home screen or in a prominent icon folder and making Google Search more prominent.”

I’ll assume the documentation is legitimate, mainly because these types of requirements have been in place for years. Yes, Google may be adding new requirements here but I’m not sold on this being a big deal. If anything, I think it’s good from a consumer standpoint.

Nexus 5 app transition

Why? Because it guarantees that if you switch between Android phone models or phone makers, you’ll have greater consistency in the Android experience. Far too much of handset maker efforts are made at duplicating Google’s own apps; that’s why you’ll see multiple email clients on some Android devices, for example. How is that possibly a positive customer experience?

Choice is certainly important too, I’m not saying it isn’t. And even if you buy the latest Android phone from Samsung, LG, HTC or another Google hardware partner, you can remove the app shortcuts that the handset maker is required to prominently feature.

What if you don’t want those Google apps and services in the first place? That’s a great question and my answer is simple: Don’t buy a [company]Google[/company] Android device. Instead, look for a phone with software built from the open-sourced version of Android, commonly known as AOSP, or Android Open Source Project.



Google apps aren’t present in that software so device makers — and consumers, for that matter — can do what they want with it. [company]Amazon[/company] uses AOSP software as the basis for its Fire OS, for example. Xiaomi sells millions of Android phones without any Google apps in China. In fact, this is becoming a predominant approach for Android phones in Asia which have no Google services installed, and consequently Google has absolutely no say over what is or isn’t on the device. Or you could buy a standard Google Android phone and install your own Android software; there are dozens of custom versions and tutorials available to do so.

This new requirement set isn’t really about Android then; it’s about using Google’s apps and services on Android — a subtle but important point. And for that reason, Google should have every say about how its software should be represented.

7 Responses to “Want an Android phone with Google services? Google now has more say over its software”

    • So, which one would you consider “open” – to keep tight control over hard- and software, disallowing any modification including addition of apps that “cannibalize” of the OS maker’s revenue (Windows OS)? Or to simply become the only hard- and software maker, forcing your users to be tied to one hardware model for as long as they want to enjoy their digital purchases (books, music, apps), the Apple model, or to say “look, guys, you can add all this, but don’t remove ours outright and you must have a folder named “Google” on the home screen, which users can remove in one swipe, containing all this?

      I still think as far as mobile OS decisions go, Google acts about the most open of any producer, now and then.

  1. filmprofit

    I have mostly samsung devices, and have not found one of their apps to be useful, or other than annoyingly in the way. Likewise with Sprint constantly pushing some features like voicemail or Sprint TV and sports junk. I eschew it all, and would rather have devices without it.

  2. Tired of Being a Carrier Hostage

    I loathe bloatware – be it from Samsung or Verizon. I don’t like the idea of google telling me what I need to use – so as long as they want it dumped on my phone I should be able to remove it if I don’t use or want it.

    I would love to see US carriers prohibited from selling equipment – they might actually have to compete on price and service.. The equipment manufactures will then have to compete with each other without sponsorship from a carrier. Novel idea!

  3. More Google and less bloat is definitely good, who wants, needs or uses, any of the crapware most verticals use to “differentiate” their devices. Motorola, is breath of fresh air in that department.