Now you see it; now you do not.

As any Android fan can let you know, Google’s turn into a bit infamous for altering its thoughts. At some point, we hear about how some new app, function, or thought is the means of the longer term and the reply to all of our urgent issues — and the following day (or so it typically appears), that notion is mysteriously gone and forgotten.

The very best 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 is sufficient to make even essentially the most steady tech fanatic bemused and befuddled.

With a handful of recent about-faces getting added into the combination in current months, I believed it might be a tremendous 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 providers.

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 shopper!”

We’ll begin with the most important, floppiest flip of all: the mess of Google’s ever-evolving method to messaging providers, particularly as they pertain to Android.

After a protracted and often-confounding journey, Google lastly acquired 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] customers to depend on,” a Google exec mentioned on the time. It’d deal with instantaneous messaging, SMS-based texting, and even internet-based audio and video calls.

Finally! Android’s rusty previous Messaging app was dishonorably discharged, and Hangouts began to function the platform’s default messaging software. Till 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? Are you able to hear me?)

2. All over the place: “Google Messages and Duo are for informal client use! Google Chat and Meet are for companies!”

Talking of messy messaging about, erm, messaging, after many extra years of sophisticated confusion and no constant concentrate on a wise messaging service technique, Google acquired its act collectively once more in 2018 and settled on a new method 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 customers, 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 useful chart that illustrated the breakdown:

Google Messaging Tweet Twitter

However then — effectively, y’know. By 2020, Google modified its thoughts about that and made Chat and Meet broad-use providers, for each groups and people, whereas Messages and Duo remained minimally completely different variations on the identical fundamental ideas.

And here is a bonus U-turn inside this U-turn: Final fall, Google introduced display screen sharing into Google Duo…two years after eradicating that exact same function from the app.

Cool. Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool.

3. Android (and past): “RSS is useless!”

Approach again within the prehistoric period of 2013, Google made a lot of its most loyal customers steaming mad by saying the shutdown of its widespread (not less than 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 personal customized feed of information from the sources you cared about essentially the most.

In its 2013 announcement, Google mentioned that “utilization of Google Reader [had] declined,” and “as an organization, [it was] pouring all of [its] power into fewer merchandise” — as a result of it thought “that type of focus [would] make for a greater person expertise.”

Quick-forward to 2021, and what do we’ve got? Why, it is a new “experiment” that mainly recreates the Google Reader idea proper inside Chrome on Android!

Per that announcement:

At this time, folks have some ways to maintain up with their favourite web sites, together with subscribing to mailing lists, notifications, and RSS. It’s rather a lot for anybody individual to handle, so we’re exploring the way to simplify the expertise of getting the newest and biggest out of your favourite websites straight in Chrome, constructing on the open RSS net commonplace. Our imaginative and prescient is to assist folks construct a direct reference to their favourite publishers and creators on the internet.

The function brings a brand new “Comply with” button into the Chrome Android app that allows 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 positive does really feel acquainted.

4. Android: “Backside tab bars are unhealthy, mmkay?”

When Google’s Materials Design commonplace 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:

Google Android Bottom Tab Bars JR

However then, one thing modified. Inside 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 use of bottom-dwelling bins in Android purposes.

And here is the true kicker: Over the previous 12 months, we have seen some Google apps get up to date once more to do away with the underside tab bars and transfer again to that authentic bar-free commonplace — for a short time, not less than.

Oh, Google.

5. Android: “We’re gonna put all of your browser tabs within the Overview record!”

Talking 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. Every browser tab would seem like its personal app or course of, we had been instructed, and it’d make good sense alongside all the opposite apps and processes in a single system-level vacation spot. We might get used to it!

Solely, um, we did not. For most individuals, having tons of tabs combined in with apps and numerous different playing cards made issues harder 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 ought to go within 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 eradicate hidden instructions and make the working system extra intuitive — and bringing those self same ideas to telephones in a means that made sense for the smaller display screen.

A part of that effort concerned shifting the choice so as to add house 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 thought was to create a single streamlined place for locating all the pieces that could possibly be added onto your private home display screen. It appeared to make an terrible lot of sense.

Android Widgets App Drawer JR

However, alas, it lasted for under a short two years: With out 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 focus on 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 display 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, actually, and the pitch was spectacular: Widgets had been so darn helpful on the house display screen — so why not additionally make ’em obtainable one step larger?

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 suppose too many individuals had been choked up over the change.

8. Android: “The app drawer ought to scroll horizontally!”

That is stepping into fairly geeky waters with the historical past of Android variations, I notice, however Android’s app drawer scrolled vertically — up and down — all over the platform’s 2010 Gingerbread period. Then, in 2011, Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich launched a horizontal scrolling drawer, the place you’d entry further pages by swiping facet to facet as a substitute (a sample we nonetheless see utilized by sure third-party device-makers right this moment). It was a neater, extra smart method to entry your apps! Or so we had been instructed.

Issues stayed sideways up by way 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 must be ginormous!”

Within 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 Home windows Begin menu mannequin.

Sooner or later, although, Google rethought that method and remodeled the Chrome OS launcher into an enormous, full-screen form of affair — extra like what you see on MacOS. That is nonetheless how the software program behaves right this moment.

Erm, for now, not less than. Indicators within the open-source Chrome OS code recommend Google’s experimenting with a revamped launcher design that’d go again to the unique, smaller pop-up-window setup. It’d supposedly “enhance app workflows by optimizing entry to apps, app content material, and app actions.”

Ooookay.

10. Google TV: “It is Android TV, gersh dern it!”

Possibly the funniest Google flip-flop of all time is the corporate’s stance on its streaming media platform, Android TV.

Android TV, y’see, really began off as Google TV when it first launched again in 2010. 4 years later, Google introduced it was altering the identify to Android TV. After which, final October, the corporate launched a new Chromecast gadget that featured a brand new software program layer referred to as — await it — Google TV.

Technically, Google TV is a customized interface that exists atop the Android TV software program. However finally, Google says Google TV shall be built-in into Android TV and the complete platform will turn 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 components).

In associated information, Google’s advertising and marketing division is seemingly now headed up by the ghosts of Laurel and Hardy.

11. Put on: “Smartwatches are all about notifications and proactive data!”

At its begin in 2014, Google’s wearable expertise platform revolved across the thought of easy interactions and easy accessibility to pertinent info. As an awfully dashing Android-focused author put it as soon as:

It was what Put on did not attempt to be that made it particularly attention-grabbing. In contrast to different wearable-tech efforts, the platform did not attempt to cram plenty of 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 data rapidly and with out fuss. 

However then, effectively, one thing occurred: The early Put on units weren’t promoting like hotcakes — and Apple’s well-marketed different, on the opposite facet of the cellular universe, was hanging a chord with tech-hungry customers. So Google determined to take a bit of 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 sophisticated interface and app-centric nature (one thing Apple would refine considerably over time however that was nearly laughably unhealthy to start with). And Google, moderately than sticking to the components of its platform that made sense, determined to revamp Put on solely and parrot Apple’s flawed method.

With 2017’s Put on 2.0 replace, Android Put on misplaced the core aspect that made it smart as a wearable working system — the concentrate on simply glanceable data from each notifications and predictive intelligence — and as a substitute put the concentrate on issues that sound spectacular in adverts however do not make for an awesome real-world expertise on a tiny wrist-based display screen: sophisticated standalone apps, cramped on-screen keyboards, and notifications that do not seem in a glanceable means and require a number of faucets and interactions to course of.

Yuuuuuuuup.

And everyone knows how this story ends. Identical to 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 data and proactive help as soon as extra. Thus far, indicators recommend this 12 months’s coming Put on re-re-re-revamp will kind of observe that very same sample, albeit with much more concentrate on attempting to make merchandise folks will really need to purchase.

12. Android: “Android tablets deserve their very own specialised 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 concentrate on optimizing the platform for pill use.

Honeycomb established a completely reimagined interface for Android on tablets, with key capabilities like navigation buttons, notifications, and the app drawer residing in corners of the display screen to be able 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 house.

Android Tablet Interface JR

The tablet-specific UI was unceremoniously dumped earlier than lengthy, nevertheless, when Google’s Android 4.2 Jelly Bean replace introduced a extra conventional phone-like setup again to pill screens — with “consistency and usefulness” being cited because the driving causes for the reversal.

At that time, Android’s notification panel remained break up into two separate components 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 brand new commonplace in smartphone safety!”

Ah, 2011. Do not forget that 12 months in Googley devices? All of the cool youngsters unlocked their telephones with their faces for about 5 minutes again then, when Google first launched the Face Unlock function as a part of that 12 months’s Android 4.0 launch. However even because the facial safety system grew ever-so-slowly extra dependable through the years, it was by no means as quick or as straightforward to make use of as 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 function as a significant development and benefit.

That concentrate on face unlocking lasted all the way in which to the next 12 months’s Pixel 5 flagship, which ditched facial recognition solely with out a lot as a puff of clarification.

Naturally, it now seems just like the function may presumably make a comeback on this 12 months’s Pixel 6 telephone. Hey, Google: You are makin’ me dizzy.

14. Android: “Android wants its personal native video editor!”

The high-profile launch of a brand new native video modifying app for Android was a extremely large deal in 2011 — particularly since there weren’t many nice third-party choices for that operate on the time (and likewise since, y’know, That Different Cell Platform™ had gotten its personal high-profile native modifying shopper only one 12 months earlier).

However Google’s Film Studio app was deserted kind of instantly after its delivery. The app by no means acquired a lot in the way in which of updates or enhancements, and after delivery sporadically with Android units by way 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 a good video modifying operate as a part of its Android Google Photographs app. It is not the standalone video editor Android as soon as had, however hey, it is somethin’.

15. Android: “This working system is all about folks, mmkay?”

In 2011’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich model, Google curiously renamed the platform’s default Contacts app to Individuals.

The thought behind the shift was logical sufficient: Our telephones had been about a lot greater than contacts, the considering went, and so it made extra sense to name the app Individuals — and to have it act as a hub for all of our social communications.

To that finish, the Individuals app aimed to convey all your contacts’ social networking connections into single, centralized profiles. You would see an individual’s tweets or, sure, even Google+ postings proper then and there — a “stay window into your social world,” as Google put it on the time.

Sadly, renaming Contacts to Individuals largely appeared to confuse individuals who could not determine the place their contacts had gone. By the Lollipop replace a number of years later, the app unceremoniously went again to its authentic identify, and it did not take lengthy for the entire “single hub” factor to fade away, too — not less than, up till final 12 months’s Android 11 launch, when folks all of a sudden grew to become a key point of interest for the working system as soon as once more.

Oof. My head hurts.

So what offers?

Trying again by way of all these U-turns, it is arduous to not surprise what is going on on — why Google so steadily goes backwards and forwards in an nearly random-seeming method with comparatively important selections about how its platforms and providers work.

The reply, greatest I can determine, is definitely fairly easy. Prepared? Google is Google. Inside Android and with out — for higher and for worse — the corporate has all the time proven a willingness to strive issues after which change course a short while later if it decides it does not like the brand new course.

Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s senior VP accountable for Android (and most all the pieces else now, too, it appears), acknowledged the development throughout a chat I had with him a handful of years in the past.

“From a product improvement perspective, I believe it is an awesome factor to have the ability to experiment and check out new issues and see what works [and] what does not,” he mentioned. He went on to notice that an excessive amount of backwards and forwards can undoubtedly have its downsides — particularly on customers who simply need issues to work persistently and with out superfluous change.

“We’re looking for the correct steadiness of the way to iterate but in addition present stability in order that we’re not inflicting whiplash,” he instructed me.

It is an admirable aim. And who is aware of? Possibly to some extent, experimentation is healthier than stagnation — even when it does include the occasional flipping and flopping.

Then once more, perhaps it is not.

Oh, hell. I am unable to resolve.

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By Rana

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