Google, why are you making it so hard for us to love Android on anything other than a smartphone?
Android - Google's biggest OS success is an amazing thing - we really love it. Despite it being the only real competitor to iOS for phones, it underpins a huge swathe of other products and they haven't been anywhere near as successful with any of them.
Behind the juggernaut that is the Android phone OS, there are countless half-finished and unfairly abandoned projects that are continually increasing in number and that makes larger scale adoption of anything Google creates in the future far harder to justify for consumers and businesses.
The story is very similar for all of them...
Android TV is amazing - it's the perfect interface for smart TV - nice chunky icons that work perfectly with simple remote controls. It's smooth and gaming support makes it the ideal OS for a set-top box or games console. Anyone who has used an Nvidia Shield will agree that it's an excellent platform that really makes the best used of Android TV. Yet... there are real issues.
Given the core is Android, just with a different interface, making all Android apps work on Android TV is really a non-issue and something that Google should have been working with app developers to really embrace. The Android TV Netflix app is probably the best Netflix experience anywhere, but then almost ALL of the UK catch up services are absent from the service. Nvidia Shield users are in a better position as Nvidia actually worked with the BBC to create a version of their service to use on the Nvidia console and while there is no technical reason why it couldn't be available for other Android TV players it isn't.
Google - you have the power to make app developers of all catch up and streaming services create Android TV versions of their software but you've chosen not to and that is a disgrace.
Not only that, the awesome Nexus Player has been all-but-abandoned by Google now. Such a huge shame when Google could have dominated Smart TV so easily.
What's even more tragic is that many of these apps are available on an Android-based system - the Fire TV - but that platforms utter reliance on putting Amazon content front and centre makes it just as difficult a platform to recommend.
Again - Android Wear is amazing. It is powerful and makes smart watches really shine. But again it also is woefully under supported by Google and a name change isn't going to fix that.
App support is patchy but a problem that could be easily fixed. Instead of releasing the OS and then expecting third parties to actually make it sing, Google could have been working more directly with developers to create novel small-screen interfaces for so many existing apps.
Smart watches have the potential to be game changing devices, but again a lack of vision and just releasing something that isn't quite good enough means that not only are Android wearables tailing the iWatch by a long way, there's almost no chance of them ever catching up now.
Android for tablets
WHAT ARE YOU DOING GOOGLE?!
Android is the most amazing tablet operating system - it's far more adaptable than iOS and the non-walled garden makes for the dream device for users and developers. The biggest issue though is Google's lack of support for tablets as a form factor.
They single-handedly made tablets affordable to casual users with the Nexus 7 - a brilliant little device. They then created the best tablet ever in the Google Pixel C. It's screen, form factor and build makes it our favourite Google device so far. But then they hobbled it with a add-on keyboard that was problematic and have now announced they are dropping support after just TWO YEARS?
The Pixel C wasn't cheap - it was £399 on launch for the base model and then another £100+ for the keyboard. Yet, two years on Google have announced that they won't be bringing the latest version of Android to it. This isn't a phone that most people buy on contract and replace every 24 months, this is a productivity device that many people bought with money up front. £500 for something that reaches end of life in two years is frankly insulting.
And, with the demise of the Pixel C, Google no longer have an Android tablet of their own for the first time since the Nexus 7 first launched; as clear a sign as any that they no longer give a flying copulation about tablets on Android.
Are we angry about the Pixel C? Yes - we are. It could have been Google's real iPad competitor but the familiar story of Google deciding they don't give a shit any more put an end to that.
I'm an Android tablet user - but when my Pixel C dies, I will have to think long and hard about buying into the Android ecosystem again; Apple might have their critics, but my iPad (the earliest retina model) has been supported via iOS updates for the last six years and while it might be slow and heavy now it's still up to date and works fine.
Google seem to be faring a little better with their laptop OS, and rumours persist that Android and Chrome OS will one day merge into one platform, but Google seem insistent that their own hardware will only target the high end of the market with utterly ridiculously powerful hardware for what is effectively an Internet-reliant dumb terminal. Chrome OS has come on leaps and bounds and it's the ideal solution for budget devices; unfortunately again Google appear to be letting the wider market fill that gap.
Don't get me wrong - the Google Pixel Book is beautiful - just look at how amazing it looks above. That screen is to die for and the keyboard is leagues ahead of the monstrosity that Apple have saddled their latest Macbooks with. But it's £999 for an OS that relies on either the internet or apps built for Android tablets.
There were suggestions that the Pixel C was supposed to be Chrome OS powered and that could have been the game changer that Google needed for wider adoption of both. Instead of being an expensive tablet it would have been a cheap, quality laptop replacement. That didn't happen and that's gutting.
Every time Google abandons a platform, or decides they no longer care enough to support its users with updates and even hardware solutions, it's another case against that can be used to argue against relying on Google hardware in business or the home.
They clearly don't care - their search and ads business makes them more than enough money that dropping a troublesome product is small fry, but to end users there is a consistent theme for anything that isn't considered as being their core business.
Android / Google powered phones will continue to be a solid investment, but will I buy another Android tablet? Probably not now. Would I recommend Android TV to anyone or buy into that ecosystem again? Nah - they've had long enough to make it the essential smart TV platform that is easily could have been.
Even so, I hold out hope that Google decides to push these things again to change my mind. I'd love to replace my Pixel C with the next generation Google tablet if Google actually committed to long-term support. And Android TV is still by far the best interface despite being utterly hobbled by a lack of smart TV apps.
Last updated: 19/03/2018 13:18:25