As a longtime owner and fan, I'm excited to hear what Google I/O 's new Android 14 will bring. After all, I/O 2023 is a watershed moment for Google products. The first foldable phone! The first tablets (soon)! New A-Pixels! But… almost no news from Android? ! Now I wonder if Google forgot the true meaning of Google I/O and the little droids they have out there.
The new Pixel 7a phone, which I tested a week before it was announced at Google I/O , comes with Android 13 . No new operating system for new phones, just some minor (camera) or no (battery) fixes.
The new Pixel tablet will run Android 13. There will be Nest software and some sort of Google Chromecast functionality built in, but this appears to be exclusive to the Pixel tablet rather than an upcoming Android tablet feature. In fact, Google hasn't said anything about how Android has been tweaked to work better on the Pixel tablet, and its silence is suspect.
The new Pixel Fold will run Android 13 at launch and will likely do more for Android phones than any Android device Google has released so far. Lastly, Google had to adapt its user interface to work with dynamic, foldable screens. Even multiple ads at once. We saw promising hints of how dual-screen capabilities might work in the AI demo Google showed off during the Google I/O keynote.
In a demo, the Pixel Fold acts as a live interpreter for conversations between people who speak two different languages. Holding the lid up so both parties could see it, each could read the other side's translation of the words on the screen in front of them. One person gets the bigger internal screen, one person gets the external one. Both people received live translation.
Big! New AI features come to Android! Except Google never extended this, or something similar applies to other Android phones.
In fact, the only other AI feature I remember from the Google I/O keynote was some sort of generative AI background. Asking DALL-E to render the image and set it as my wallpaper returns nothing. I guess Google thought I'd be impressed if the Pixel did it for me, but I'm not interested.
Apple isn't messing around with iOS 17
Apple doesn't disappoint its users and that makes the iPhone even more valuable
It's been a terrible year for Google sleeping at the helm of Android. Apple seemed bothered by side projects like AR headsets that never came to fruition, but recent rumors suggest that iOS 17 , the next big iOS update, will be a hit with a lot of people.
One of Apple's in-depth leakers, Mark Gurman, notes that the iOS 17 update "will test some of the key features that users have requested" . There's no end to what that means, but other leaks point to countless improvements to every aspect of the iOS interface, from widgets to lock screen finders. Everything could be better.
For Android? Something could happen… what exactly? Older? Worn? I was embarrassed to learn that Google's latest budget smartphone, the Pixel 7a, will only receive three years of major software updates. However, it runs on the same Google-developed Tensor G2 chipset as the Pixel 7 Pro . Three years, then adrift at sea. It hurts even more that you start with Android 13, even though Android 14 is already available in public beta. Those three years will only last until Android 16.
Meanwhile, Apple is throwing rafts at its longtime users. That cool new iOS 17 feature? They might go back to iPhone X (10), maybe sooner. The cheapest iPhone gets the same upgrades as the best iPhone Apple doesn't disappoint its users and every year iPhones become more valuable than Android devices.
Most of the innovations announced by Google during Google I/O are AI developments or special features of one of the new devices. There is something for everyone. In June, Apple will inform its customers about all the exciting new features that will be revealed at WWDC 2023. Google is allowing smaller manufacturers to release beta builds of Android 14 without much fanfare.
Google, don't take my love for granted
Android as a system and community is lost. Is Google still our friend? As for sales figures, like most Android owners, I mostly own Samsung Android phones. While the best Samsung phones are the best Android phones and vice versa, Google has always felt more like a competitor to Samsung than a partner.
The most notable exception is the co-development of Wear OS , but only because Google wants to make its own smartwatch. While Samsung doesn't sell many Galaxy Watches , it sells more watches than any other Android phone maker.
This watch has been using various wearable operating systems developed by Samsung for a long time in its home kitchen. Prior to the Wear OS partnership, it was Tizen, the small, powerful operating system that Samsung uses throughout its lineup, including TVs. Tizen is an evolution of Samsung's Bada operating system, which the company used on several attractive feature phones before moving to Android.
Did you see where I'm going? Samsung is the largest Android phone manufacturer. Why even need Android? Especially for Google. This requires distributing the Google app on the Play Store. Requires Google Play apps and services Chrome, Gmail, Google Maps, and many other useful Google features not available without Google.
Samsung has long been a scapegoat… while Google has somehow survived the bad reputation of the platform it was built on.
Yet others do. Huawei was shunned by Google and the US government for years, and the company is still going strong, even though its current success is purely local. It's easy to imagine a few big companies, including Huawei, getting together and deciding they're tired of Google's dominance of Android.
Long a scapegoat for the cellphone industry, Samsung is held responsible for lousy Android phones and a lack of respect for Android owners, while Google has somehow escaped the disreputable reputation of the platform on which it was built. How long will Samsung have to tolerate abuse? Maybe it's time Samsung and other phone makers give us a third platform option.
You may be using the mobile operating system on your TV
The concept is not as trivial or impossible as it seems. On the one hand, there are currently very good mobile operating systems for other products. Your LG TV is probably running WebOS , which was originally a throwback operating system for Palm mobile devices . It has evolved a lot since then, as have our mobile device needs, but it is an idea.
On the other hand, it has long been argued that mobile devices should move beyond the walled garden of platforms and become more agnostic, relying on browsers for most applications. If your phone is running a Chromium-based browser, which matches its processor and graphics capabilities, there's no reason why all the apps you're currently using can't run from your phone's browser instead of standalone apps.
Maybe I'm just tired of spending a week with a dead phone before dinner (more on that in my Pixel 7a review). Maybe I'm nervous that all the AI features Google's attention to I/O will just steal my work and destroy social fabric in the process.
Or maybe I'm the huge Android fan who wears my Big Android BBQ t-shirt to Google's big Android event, Google I/O, and doesn't see Android. All I get are AI versions of wallpapers from Google and other companies: tablets and foldable phones. If Google just wants to follow others on Android, maybe it's time to lead others.