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The Googlization of Android: what is happening and what it means

Kris Carlon
14

Many of us have noticed the appearance of two gallery apps in our Android devices: the traditional Gallery and the newer Google Photos. It doesn't take a genius to recognize that Google is planning to replace the old gallery app with the Google+ Photos app, but as with most things Google, they are loath to simply remove something from the system that people may be using, even if the old messaging app has now been replaced entirely by Hangouts. But never fear, sooner or later, we will all be shifting to Google Photos. But that's not the only Google service we'll be adopting, whether voluntarily or by default.

AndroidPIT KitKat Gallery Photos
There can be only one: move over Gallery, Google+ Photos is here. / © AndroidPIT/Google

Several commentators, from Marques Brownlee to Ron Amadeo at Ars Technica, have noted that the suspicious presence of two gallery apps doesn't bode well for the old-school Gallery, which has been around since Android day dot. There can be only one, as we all know from Highlander law, and right now there's two. So what does yet another example of Google increasingly making over Android to be a pure showcase for Google apps tell us? I've already commented on the pervasive presence of Google (and especially Google Now) in Android 4.4 KitKat, but what does the steady Googlization of Android mean for users and manufacturers?

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Android is becoming more and more synonymous with Google. / © AndroidPIT

In KitKat, Google Now gets a dedicated home screen – it's no longer a swipe up option (although it's still that too), Google search is in your dialer and incoming call notification, and voice activated search is at the ready on any home screen. Google Hangouts will now handle your SMS and MMS service as well (if you want it to) and the bundling of Quickoffice, Keep and Google Drive on KitKat makes it easier and easier for Google to squeeze out alternatives. Then there's the built in Tap & Pay Google Wallet functionality along with the rest of the Gapps suite. The Google Experience Launcher is, after all, basically just a Google search box that happens to launch apps as well. By default, any device running KitKat will be prioritizing Google over everything else, thanks to the Google Experience Launcher the embedded cluster of growing Gapps.

Google app icons
Like wet Gremlins, they just keep multiplying. / © Google

It only makes sense that as the Android platform continues to expand that Google bakes in more and more of it's core services and apps – hence the Google Nowification of KitKat, which is only set to continue as time progresses. The minor KitKat update that will happen this week will bring even more power to Google Now on your KitKat device – Google Now will be able to ask you questions and even automatically open apps relevant to your searches via app indexing. It only makes sense that the recent Hummingbird update of Google's search algorithms, which supports contextual voice searches, will also be brought center stage on devices running KitKat.

Nexus 5 speakers
Google apps and Google Now are steadily taking over Android. / © AndroidPIT

Under Hummingbird, contextual search means that Google remembers what you're talking about from one minute to the next. So if you search for ''The temperature in San Francisco,'' Google will respond, then, if you say ''How about in New York?,'' Google will know you are still talking about temperature. Relative queries will allow you to ask ''this or that'' questions too. The same will be true of Google Now on your smartphone. According to Wired's Mathew Honan, once the current update rolls out, if you ask Google to call Jennifer it will ask you which Jennifer. It only stands to reason that Google Now will very soon be able to assume you mean the Jennifer you called most recently and bring consecutive, conversational and comparative queries to all corners of your Google/Android experience.

google now 4 4
Soon, everything on your Android device will be filtered through Gapps. / © AndroidPIT

All this means that your Android experience is going to get a lot more intuitive, but also a lot more invasive, if you're not a fan of Google knowing absolutely everything about your life and being intimately ingrained in everything you do on your smartphone. I'm still scratching my head as to why a recent update to Google Maps needs to know the frequency with which I email or call the people in my contact list. If you're not at all bothered by this, then you can look forward to an unrivaled experience with Google's immense resources making life easier for you at every step. If the Googlization of Android and the steady Googling of everything you do worries you, then it may be time to start looking for alternative platforms.

Do you mind Google apps and services being increasingly foregrounded in Android? Would you consider alternatives if it reaches saturation point?

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Comments

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  • Amy R. 9 months ago Link

    Haha Kris, I kinda feel like I'm being poked with a stick so I have to answer! I have one and only ONE gapp in my Samsung, the Stock Gmail it came with. Every other gapp I have I either disabled or cut off data to completely. The new Android system is based primarily around Social Networking and Chatting. But what happens when you have an individual, like myself, that doesn't use either? I highly doubt I will ever be suckered into buying any newer Androids. I have no use for one..........My bigest concern is the day when Google will now longer allow non rooted Andriod users to disable gapps and dowload elsewhere (Another Android app market entirely. No, this would not include Amazon Appstore either)..........Then, Android will absolutely be of no use to me.
    ***WANTED: Another Stock Linux based OS competitor for Mobile.***

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      Kris Carlon 9 months ago Link

      Haha, yes, I did have your previous comments in mind when I wrote this @Amy! I've got the Alcatel Firefox phone review here from the French team, which I will translate and post for you and others feeling the over-Goolization of Android. It's sketchy still but shows promise. And I take it you read up on the ninja phone? QSAlpha?

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      • Amy R. 9 months ago Link

        @Kris, I read a lot........will have to look further into QSAlpha. I read almost anything you put out there. When I was reviewing Firefox OS info on XDA developers and elsewhere, it still looks rather buggy. A little rusty on my French I'm afraid. A translated Firefox phone reveiw would be of great help :)

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  • David T 9 months ago Link

    I want my Google everywhere!!

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  • Henry B. 9 months ago Link

    I cant work out if google is evil and will completely take over our lives one day or whether it's just a useful service.

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  • CJ Brown 9 months ago Link

    Google - it wants all Android users to adapt to their plan - except each Android Smart Phone is still tailored to what the Manufacturer has developed (until Google changes this)

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    Kris Carlon 9 months ago Link

    It's a good idea though, open source, everyone can tweak, but then ''if you want one Google app you must include them all'' and simply tailor the new platform specifically to your services once it's absolutely everywhere. I'm interested to see what the OEMs do with the Google Now home screen, Hangouts/SMS bundling etc and what we'll see in the future from Google.

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  • Gio A. 9 months ago Link

    I don't mind having all the google apps. I use most of them often and really like them but what I don't like is the recent integrations with g+. Like I'm not into social networking. I don't know why but I never liked it. I don't even have a facebook account but because I have a google account and a youtube acount I automatically have a g+ account. Why??? I guess I don't like sharing every aspect of my life with friends or with google.

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    Henrique Rocha 9 months ago Link

    You can have a G+ account and not share anything just like you can have a Gmail account and never send an email from it. I really don't understand why people are freaking out about G+. If you don't like it, don't use it.

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  • AntiLight 9 months ago Link

    I think that some people have completely misunderstood something, and that is the fact that Google bought Android. Only after did Android start getting as awesome and innovative as it is. I believe that Google wanted to do all that it now does since day one, and are simple breaking that to us slowly.

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    Kris Carlon 9 months ago Link

    The positive side is that Google make really good apps (usually) and provide really good services, so if you can get over the whole ''evil empire'' and omnipotent thing you can actually get a great experience by using all of Google's service integration.

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  • stephen Barker 9 months ago Link

    I'm voting with my phone, Jolla or Tizen next!

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  • Johnattan Haddock 9 months ago Link

    some people don't even know what G+ is having and Android device lol

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      Kris Carlon 9 months ago Link

      Haha, well I've heard a few complaints about G+ accounts being ''automatically'' set up from new users, so they're finding out about it eventually! Maybe not the best way to introduce a product but still. Heck, I even have to battle Google from continually (re)creating a G+ account for my work email which I don't use for G+.

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