The ongoing love/hate relationship I have with Android, Google and their attempt at getting into the hardware market.

I’ve been a big fan of Google’s hardware line, specifically, their Pixel phones due to their ‘crapware free’ implementation of Android when compared to other big OEMs that bloat up the standard Android install with crapware because the said OEM has been paid by software vendors aka ‘partners’. Samsung is doing a lot better than before but they still insist on preloading their phones with Microsoft Software. It is something I wish Android OEMs would get through their thick skulls – if I want something I’ll download it myself otherwise don’t second guess what I want by preloading things that I’ll never actually use.

The problem is that Google only ships their hardware to a limited number of markets and at first the excuse was because they had just bought HTC’s handset division, that they were building out the distribution network but at some point one has to accept that it’ll never be coming to New Zealand. At some point you have to ask what is the real reason why they haven’t gone beyond those small number of markets and then suddenly you see the big announcement Google and Samsung – replacing of Tizen on their watches with WearOS then there was the recent announcement of Android 12L for large screen devices which marks the possible death of ChromeOS on tablet devices.

I think the long term issue is that Google cannot risk upsetting one of their most important partners particularly when you consider the breadth and reach that they have into markets that Google doesn’t have any presence in and would take years for them to build up the infrastructure not to mention years of losses. I also think that when it comes to Samsung, they’ve got a limited set of options when one considers the abysmal quality (see study from a couple of years ago where 40 zero day security holes were found not to mention the numerous security researchers who haven’t exactly praised the security worthiness of it) of the software when Samsung tries to go off and ‘go it alone’ resulting in the market having very little appetite for Tizen smartphones when it is offered (see also Huawei crash and burn outside of the US via the lack of Google Services being preinstalled on phones sold outside of China).

I’d also argue that long term I could eventually see Android TV making its way into Samsung televisions as well – it makes sense at this point to cease re-inventing the wheel and use what is on offer particularly if that partner is willing to pick up a lot of the development moving forward. I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up seeing Samsung selling tablets loaded with Android 12L, ChromeOS on laptops etc. What I am holding out for is the rumoured S22 with the AMD GPU running Android 12 natively.

On a good side regarding Android 12, project mainline has bought two new modules, ART and Device Scheduling, to the Play Store (link). It appears that Google is choosing the modules that are most prone to security issues and bringing the maintaining of that inhouse. Hopefully in the future we’ll start to see more modules so that eventually the OEMs maintain their kernel drivers, use public APIs to customise the look and feel of their Android build then Google themselves take care of everything above the kernel. It’ll be interesting to see whether Samsung will distribute GPU driver updates via the Playstore like what Qualcomm provides or whether they’ll continue shipping it as part of a monthly maintenance update.

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