Google is a strange company.
not really a hardware manufacturer, and it’s not just a simple software company either. Sometimes it looks like a testing center for machine learning algorithms. Really, though, it’s a strange mix of all of the above.
It’s also in a strange place when it comes to the smartphone industry. While Google knows that its future depends almost entirely on the smartphone, it has to combine being the caretaker of Android with selling phones. Y building services that work across platforms.
This is why Google gets more regulatory attention than Apple, an even bigger, richer, more heavy-handed company. Google has to find a way to play fair with the Samsungs and Xiaomis of the world because those companies depend on one of its most important products: Android.
Google used to do a decent job here. We would see the debut of features on Nexus phones that were built on top of Android APIs available to any company that wants to license the proprietary version of Android. Some were even free and open source, so anyone from Amazon to an indie hobbyist developer could incorporate them.
This started to change when Google started creating Pixel products and the pixel event 7 he just tossed everything aside. Google keeps some of the best features, particularly when it comes to accessibility, and I’m not sure why. I’m not entirely sure, though.
To understand what I’m saying, you need to have a bit of an understanding of how Android works. A large part of it is open source and available for anyone to freely use and modify. There are rules you must follow if you want to access Google’s proprietary softwarebut anyone can get an Android license once they can prove they have compatible hardware.
Then there are parts of Android that are closed. They usually come from hardware manufacturers who are not required (or willing) to share their work with the competition. So far, everything is fine and none of this really affects consumers.
The most vital part of Android, as it is sold on Google’s own hardware, is different. It’s 100% independent of any other company and is built with data Google collects from all of us about the things we want and need to do with our smartphones. These private APIs and machine learning models power many of Android’s best features, and the only way to access them is to buy a phone directly from Google.
Some parts of the new features require support through the “normal” Android APIs, and are there for any other company to use. Some work in part with technology licensed through GMS or Main line of the project. It’s as if Google knows it has to provide the bare minimum to keep judicial committees at bay, but isn’t willing to go any further.
Google, of course, doesn’t mention this side of its business during hardware events. To say that features like the new contextual spatial audio could be available to all phone makers or that Clear Calling, Real Tone and Guided Frame are locked to the Pixel brand “just because” isn’t a good idea. But it would be true.
By the way, these features aren’t exclusive to the Pixel 7 either. They all come to the Pixel 6 and 6a series. via pixel feature drops, also. They will probably be faster on the Pixel 7 due to the new TPU on the G2 tensionerthough.
That’s the problem. Google has locked these features, along with others, into its own hardware platform through machine learning models. Your phone, whether it’s made by Samsung, OnePlus or any other company, already tracks your face and could announce when you should tap the camera button. Similarly, your phone uses AI to determine color tone and hue or what sounds people are making compared to the sounds a noisy air conditioner or exhaust makes, as well as which direction they’re coming from.
These are accessibility features, and these features must be made available to all Android hardware partners directly by Google through licensing. Yes, they may not be as accurate or happen as quickly as they would on a Pixel because it uses a dedicated chip to interpret specific ML models, but it could be designed in a way that it still works as advertised.
I have no idea why Google is doing this. Google is, at best, an unsuccessful hardware company. Samsung sells more phones in six months than Google has sold in total. Locking down features behind your own brand won’t be the catalyst that changes any of this.
Google would be more successful if it shared “Pixel features” with Samsung because it would collect much more data. Data is dollars to a modern tech company, especially one that can use that data in the same way that Google can. The same goes for things like keeping fitbit premium locked into its own hardware. I can not understand it.
However, what I can understand is that someone who would live a better life if they could use contextual spatial audio or audible camera cues due to a disability would not be happy to learn that Google is fragmenting Android in a way that forces you to buy your own. products when many others big phones exist.
Everything we saw from the Pixel 7 event should have been part of android 13. In the past, she would have been. Perhaps Google is planning to license its own ML models or even its Tensor TPU to other companies, and this is all part of the R&D process. Maybe not. I just wish it was different.