Android has been Google’s baby ever since the search giant bought it more than a decade back.
What wasn’t seen as big news back then has helped Google attain a global majority in the mobile operating system market.
Fast-forward to 2019, and the recent trade ban affecting relations between Google and Huawei, and the former’s decision to cut Android support for Huawei phones has brought up the subject of Google’s overpowering domination with its services in the world.
How many of us can actually live without a phone that doesn’t have the Google-certified Android with YouTube and Gmail for starters? We’re not talking about how Google has been getting access to its user’s data and how that has catapulted the true machine learning era. Rather, has Android in the hands of Google become a force that’s unbreakable?
While China has shown us that a Google-less Android is workable, the concerns lie outside of the mainland territory, where Google continues to pull the strings with its software.
So much that in many countries, the search-giant has been probed and even fined for its anti-competitive practices with Android.
Most people might say that Android is an open source platform and getting apps on Android devices is easier from third-party developer app stores. Easier said than done and especially when billions of active users have been hooked onto Google’s services for many years now.
But some people still believe that all is not lost. Last year, we spoke to Gael Duval, an open source specialist, who helped design Android from scratch, who said that it doesn’t need basic Google services to function on day to day basis.
Out of his own experience with iPhone and Google’s products, Gael realised that these major brands are catching user data to fuel their businesses and even tracking their whereabouts and habits. In this case, Google forcing its handset partners to offer its services as the default ones (and you can’t remove them).
To counter this, Gael is working on a customised Android version called Eelo, which promises to give you a pure Android experience on mobile, without eyeing your data. His Medium post titled “Huawei and other mobile “tech giants”: you should (really) break free from Google/Android” highlights what can done to thwart the ongoing concerns for the future.
"Android should be like Linux. It should be an infrastructure software project upon which other businesses can build more value and yet stay independent from monopolistic proprietary software vendors." - Gael Duval via Medium
Many have shared ambitious claims like this before. Some even tried to build alternate versions of Android, which Huawei is also reportedly working on. If there’s any possible way of getting to make Android breathe without Google, according to Gael, developers need to resort to making Progressive Web Apps (PWA).
"PWAs are multi-platform (and thus cheaper and faster to implement and maintain for app publishers). They can be used instantly, without the need to pre-install them, but still retain the same benefits of native mobile apps" - Gael Duval via Medium
This is not only cost-effective, but broadens the scope of an app reaching out to multiple platforms on the open ecosystem.
By doing this, you don’t have to pay a Google or Apple the fees to host their app on their respective app stores.
The switch from Google-supported Android isn’t likely to happen overnight, but if developers get their interests in the right place, even for a year or two, the returns might double up compared to what they’re earning right now.
Because, if there’s no Google Play Store to host apps on, you’re not paying fees for it, and thereby giving Android the open source reality, enthusiasts have craved for.
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