Google’s 15 funniest flip-flops with Android, Chrome OS, and beyond

    Now you see it; now you do not.As any Android fan can inform you, Google’s develop into a bit infamous for altering its thoughts. One day, we hear about how some new app, characteristic, or concept is the best way of the long run and the reply to all of our urgent issues — and the subsequent day (or so it typically appears), that notion is mysteriously gone and forgotten.The finest fickle flipples are when Google doubles up and does one other 180 quickly thereafter and finally ends up going again to the factor it initially offered us on after which deserted. It’s sufficient to make even probably the most secure tech fanatic bemused and befuddled.With a handful of recent about-faces getting added into the combo in latest months, I believed it might be a fantastic time to look again at a few of Google’s most memorable, amusing, and infrequently groan-inducing U-turns right here within the land of Android and different related apps and companies.So buckle up and seize a bottle of Dramamine, simply in case. Some severe flipping-and-flopping-caused flabbergasting is straight forward.1. Android: “Hangouts is gonna be Android’s single default messaging client!”We’ll begin with the most important, floppiest flip of all: the mess of Google’s ever-evolving strategy to messaging companies, particularly as they pertain to Android.After an extended and often-confounding journey, Google lastly bought its act collectively in 2013 and got here up with a single unified messaging app for Android. Hangouts can be the “single communication app [for] users to rely on,” a Google exec mentioned on the time. It’d deal with immediate messaging, SMS-based texting, and even internet-based audio and video calls.At final! Android’s rusty previous Messaging app was dishonorably discharged, and Hangouts began to function the platform’s default messaging utility. Until about two years later, that’s, when Google Messenger got here alongside and took over the default spot — splintering issues again right into a muddled messaging mess.And that, in fact, was solely the start. (Allo? Can you hear me?)2. Everywhere: “Google Messages and Duo are for casual consumer use! Google Chat and Meet are for businesses!”Speaking of messy messaging about, erm, messaging, after many extra years of difficult confusion and no constant give attention to a smart messaging service technique, Google bought its act collectively once more in 2018 and settled on a brand new strategy that really nearly made sense (when you allowed your self to neglect the previous for a second).Ahem: Messages and Duo had been the textual content and video messaging apps for shoppers, whereas Chat and Meet had been the group chat and videoconferencing apps for enterprises. Google made this distinction abundantly clear, with a member of the messaging staff going so far as to create and share a helpful chart that illustrated the breakdown:Twitter But then — nicely, y’know. By 2020, Google modified its thoughts about that and made Chat and Meet broad-use companies, for each groups and people, whereas Messages and Duo remained minimally totally different variations on the identical fundamental ideas.And this is a bonus U-turn inside this U-turn: Last fall, Google introduced display screen sharing into Google Duo…two years after eradicating that exact same characteristic from the app.Cool. Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool.3. Android (and past): “RSS is dead!”Way again within the prehistoric period of 2013, Google made lots of its most loyal customers steaming mad by asserting the shutdown of its widespread (at the least in sure circles) Google Reader service. Reader was a instrument for following RSS feeds from particular person web sites, which made it super-easy to create your individual customized feed of information from the sources you cared about probably the most.In its 2013 announcement, Google mentioned that “usage of Google Reader [had] declined,” and “as a company, [it was] pouring all of [its] energy into fewer products” — as a result of it thought “that kind of focus [would] make for a better user experience.”Fast-forward to 2021, and what do now we have? Why, it is a new “experiment” that principally recreates the Google Reader idea proper inside Chrome on Android!Per that announcement:
    Today, folks have some ways to maintain up with their favourite web sites, together with subscribing to mailing lists, notifications, and RSS. It’s quite a bit for anyone particular person to handle, so we’re exploring tips on how to simplify the expertise of getting the newest and biggest out of your favourite websites instantly in Chrome, constructing on the open RSS internet normal. Our imaginative and prescient is to assist folks construct a direct reference to their favourite publishers and creators on the net.
    The characteristic brings a brand new “Follow” button into the Chrome Android app that permits you to subscribe to a website’s RSS feed after which see all of its newest tales within the browser’s New Tab web page.Gee willikers, that certain does really feel acquainted.4. Android: “Bottom tab bars are bad, mmkay?”When Google’s Material Design normal debuted in 2014, it actively discouraged the usage of backside tab bars — the iOS-reminiscent rows of instructions that seem on the backside of the display screen inside Android apps.This was no refined suggestion, both. Google’s official design pointers had been adamant in regards to the platform’s stance on the bars:JRBut then, one thing modified. Within a pair years of that proclamation, backside tab bars began showing in Google’s personal Android apps. And by 2016, Google’s design pointers had been up to date to encourage the usage of bottom-dwelling bins in Android purposes.And this is the actual kicker: Over the previous 12 months, we have seen some Google apps get up to date once more to cast off the underside tab bars and transfer again to that authentic bar-free normal — for a short while, at the least.Oh, Google.5. Android: “We’re gonna put all your browser tabs in the Overview list!”Speaking of design about-faces, with 2014’s Android 5.0 Lollipop launch, Google made a daring transfer: It took the power to leap between browser tabs out of the particular Chrome app and put it into the system Overview record as a substitute. Each browser tab would appear like its personal app or course of, we had been advised, and it’d make good sense alongside all the opposite apps and processes in a single system-level vacation spot. We’d get used to it!Only, um, we did not. For most individuals, having tons of tabs combined in with apps and numerous different playing cards made issues tougher to handle — and solely added to the cluttered and complicated nature of the Overview interface in that period.After about 4 years, Google appeared to confess that the transfer was misguided. In 2018, the corporate rolled out an replace that eradicated the tab-Overview choice and introduced tabs again into the browser for everybody.6. Android: “Widgets should go in the app drawer!”The Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich period of Android was all about taking the simplification launched within the tablet-only Honeycomb launch earlier than it — the strikes to remove hidden instructions and make the working system extra intuitive — and bringing those self same ideas to telephones in a method that made sense for the smaller display screen.Part of that effort concerned shifting the choice so as to add residence display screen widgets from an out-of-the-way and hidden long-press menu into the principle app drawer, the place it might be plainly in sight — with widgets current proper alongside all of the common app shortcuts. The concept was to create a single streamlined place for locating every thing that might be added onto your house display screen. It appeared to make an terrible lot of sense.JR But, alas, it lasted for under a quick two years: Without clarification, Google yanked widgets out of the app drawer and put ’em again into their former long-press menu with 2013’s Android 4.4 KitKat launch. And even with the magically renewed give attention to widget discovery on this 12 months’s Android 12 replace, the aspect stays vexingly out of sight and accessible solely by way of that long-press motion.7. Android: “Widgets belong on the lock screen!”In different widget-related flippity-floppity, again in 2012, Google offered us on the notion that widgets can be a superb addition to our units’ lock screens. Lock display screen widgets had been a key aspect of that 12 months’s Android 4.2 Jelly Bean launch, in truth, and the pitch was spectacular: Widgets had been so darn helpful on the house display screen — so why not additionally make ’em accessible one step increased?By Android 5.0 two years later, user-configured lock display screen widgets had been however a mere reminiscence. And on this case, I do not assume too many individuals had been choked up over the change.8. Android: “The app drawer should scroll horizontally!”This is moving into fairly geeky waters with the historical past of Android variations, I notice, however Android’s app drawer scrolled vertically — up and down — right through the platform’s 2010 Gingerbread period. Then, in 2011, Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich launched a horizontal scrolling drawer, the place you’d entry extra pages by swiping aspect to aspect as a substitute (a sample we nonetheless see utilized by sure third-party device-makers at this time). It was a better, extra wise option to entry your apps! Or so we had been advised.Things stayed sideways up by means of 2015, when an replace associated to that 12 months’s Android 6.0 Marshmallow launch arrived with out warning and moved Android’s core interface again to its authentic up-and-down scrolling setup.Déjà vu a lot, Monsieur Marshmallow?9. Chrome OS: “The launcher should be ginormous!”In the early days of Google’s Chrome OS platform, the launcher — the Chromebook’s model of an app drawer — was a small window that appeared on high of your desktop. The interface wasn’t far faraway from what you see with the Windows Start menu mannequin.At some level, although, Google rethought that strategy and remodeled the Chrome OS launcher into a large, full-screen type of affair — extra like what you see on MacOS. That’s nonetheless how the software program behaves at this time.Erm, for now, at the least. Signs within the open-source Chrome OS code counsel Google’s experimenting with a revamped launcher design that’d return to the unique, smaller pop-up-window setup. It’d supposedly “improve app workflows by optimizing access to apps, app content, and app actions.”

    Ooookay.10. Google TV: “It’s Android TV, gersh dern it!”Maybe the funniest Google flip-flop of all time is the corporate’s stance on its streaming media platform, Android TV.Android TV, y’see, truly began off as Google TV when it first launched again in 2010. Four years later, Google introduced it was altering the title to Android TV. And then, final October, the corporate launched a brand new Chromecast gadget that featured a brand new software program layer referred to as — anticipate it — Google TV.Technically, Google TV is a customized interface that exists atop the Android TV software program. But ultimately, Google says Google TV will probably be built-in into Android TV and the complete platform will develop into Google TV as a substitute of Android TV (besides perhaps in sure exceptions the place device-makers resolve to stay with Android TV with out the Google TV parts).In associated information, Google’s advertising and marketing division is seemingly now headed up by the ghosts of Laurel and Hardy.11. Wear: “Smartwatches are all about notifications and proactive info!”At its begin in 2014, Google’s wearable know-how platform revolved across the concept of straightforward interactions and quick access to pertinent data. As an awfully dashing Android-focused author put it as soon as:
    It was what Wear did not attempt to be that made it particularly fascinating. Unlike different wearable-tech efforts, the platform did not attempt to cram numerous tiny buttons and complicated instructions into an awkward-to-use wrist-based display screen. It reframed the smartwatch to be much less about performing grand duties and extra about transmitting pertinent information rapidly and with out fuss. 
    But then, nicely, one thing occurred: The early Wear units weren’t promoting like hotcakes — and Apple’s well-marketed different, on the opposite aspect of the cellular universe, was hanging a chord with tech-hungry customers. So Google determined to take just a little time-out and reassess its smartwatch technique.Self-quoting genie, hook me up once more:
    The Apple Watch got here alongside, full with its overly difficult interface and app-centric nature (one thing Apple would refine considerably over time however that was nearly laughably dangerous to start with). And Google, fairly than sticking to the elements of its platform that made sense, determined to revamp Wear completely and parrot Apple’s flawed strategy.
    With 2017’s Wear 2.0 replace, Android Wear misplaced the core aspect that made it wise as a wearable working system — the give attention to simply glanceable information from each notifications and predictive intelligence — and as a substitute put the give attention to issues that sound spectacular in adverts however do not make for an excellent real-world expertise on a tiny wrist-based display screen: difficult standalone apps, cramped on-screen keyboards, and notifications that do not seem in a glanceable method and require a number of faucets and interactions to course of.
    Yuuuuuuuup.And everyone knows how this story ends. Just like clockwork, a 12 months and a half after that ill-advised revamp, Google pulled one other 180 and went again to its authentic imaginative and prescient for the platform — with the main focus firmly on glanceable information and proactive help as soon as extra. So far, indicators counsel this 12 months’s coming Wear re-re-re-revamp will roughly observe that very same sample, albeit with much more give attention to attempting to make merchandise folks will truly wish to purchase.12. Android: “Android tablets deserve their own specialized interface!”In 2011, Google held a splashy occasion at its headquarters to introduce a brand new period for Android. It revolved across the launch of Android 3.0 Honeycomb and a newfound give attention to optimizing the platform for pill use.Honeycomb established a very reimagined interface for Android on tablets, with key features like navigation buttons, notifications, and the app drawer dwelling in corners of the display screen as a way to present straightforward two-handed entry. It was a dramatic departure from the usual Android interface and was designed to let the working system take full benefit of the bigger display screen area.JR The tablet-specific UI was unceremoniously dumped earlier than lengthy, nonetheless, when Google’s Android 4.2 Jelly Bean replace introduced a extra conventional phone-like setup again to pill screens — with “consistency and usability” being cited because the driving causes for the reversal.At that time, Android’s notification panel remained cut up into two separate elements on tablets — a configuration that will stick round till 2014’s Android 5.0 Lollipop launch, when the tablet-based panel completed its transformation and have become a single pulldown like its phone-based counterpart.13. Android: “Face unlock is the new standard in smartphone security!”Ah, 2011. Remember that 12 months in Googley devices? All the cool youngsters unlocked their telephones with their faces for about 5 minutes again then, when Google first launched the Face Unlock characteristic as a part of that 12 months’s Android 4.0 launch. But even because the facial safety system grew ever-so-slowly extra dependable over time, it was by no means as quick or as straightforward to make use of as a superb old school sample swipe or fingerprint faucet — and it did not take lengthy for most folk to surrender on the notion of it being something greater than an impractical-in-the-real-world parlor trick.With the launch of 2019’s Pixel 4 telephone, Google gave facial recognition a recent begin. It launched official system-level assist for superior {hardware} that’d make face-driven telephone unlocking extra constant, safe, and efficient, and it performed up the Pixel 4’s facial recognition characteristic as a significant development and benefit.That give attention to face unlocking lasted all the best way to the next 12 months’s Pixel 5 flagship, which ditched facial recognition completely with out a lot as a puff of clarification.Naturally, it now appears just like the characteristic may probably make a comeback on this 12 months’s Pixel 6 telephone. Hey, Google: You’re makin’ me dizzy.14. Android: “Android needs its own native video editor!”The high-profile launch of a brand new native video enhancing app for Android was a very huge deal in 2011 — particularly since there weren’t many nice third-party choices for that perform on the time (and likewise since, y’know, That Other Mobile Platform™ had gotten its personal high-profile native enhancing shopper only one 12 months earlier).

    But Google’s Movie Studio app was deserted roughly instantly after its start. The app by no means bought a lot in the best way of updates or enhancements, and after delivery sporadically with Android units by means of 2012’s Nexus 4 telephone, it simply kinda silently evaporated — by no means to get replaced or mentioned once more.This previous February, a full decade later, Google lastly launched an honest video enhancing perform as a part of its Android Google Photos app. It’s not the standalone video editor Android as soon as had, however hey, it is somethin’.15. Android: “This operating system is all about people, mmkay?”In 2011’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich model, Google curiously renamed the platform’s default Contacts app to People.The concept behind the shift was logical sufficient: Our telephones had been about a lot greater than contacts, the pondering went, and so it made extra sense to name the app People — and to have it act as a hub for all of our social communications.To that finish, the People app aimed to convey your whole contacts’ social networking connections into single, centralized profiles. You may see an individual’s tweets or, sure, even Google+ postings proper then and there — a “live window into your social world,” as Google put it on the time.Unfortunately, renaming Contacts to People principally appeared to confuse individuals who could not determine the place their contacts had gone. By the Lollipop replace just a few years later, the app unceremoniously went again to its authentic title, and it did not take lengthy for the entire “single hub” factor to fade away, too — at the least, up till final 12 months’s Android 11 launch, when folks out of the blue grew to become a key point of interest for the working system as soon as once more.Oof. My head hurts.So what offers?Looking again by means of all these U-turns, it is arduous to not surprise what is going on on — why Google so incessantly goes backwards and forwards in an nearly random-seeming method with comparatively important selections about how its platforms and companies work.The reply, finest I can determine, is definitely fairly easy. Ready? Google is Google. Within Android and with out — for higher and for worse — the corporate has at all times proven a willingness to attempt issues after which change course a short while later if it decides it would not like the brand new course.Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s senior VP in control of Android (and most every thing else now, too, it appears), acknowledged the pattern throughout a chat I had with him a handful of years in the past.”From a product development perspective, I think it’s a great thing to be able to experiment and try new things and see what works [and] what doesn’t,” he mentioned. He went on to notice that an excessive amount of backwards and forwards can undoubtedly have its downsides — specifically on customers who simply need issues to work constantly and with out superfluous change.”We’re trying to find the right balance of how to iterate but also provide stability so that we’re not causing whiplash,” he advised me.It’s an admirable purpose. And who is aware of? Maybe to some extent, experimentation is best than stagnation — even when it does include the occasional flipping and flopping.Then once more, perhaps it is not.Oh, hell. I can not resolve.Want much more Googley information? Sign up for my weekly publication to get next-level suggestions and perception delivered on to your inbox.

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