Google Now is killing Android apps

nowkiller

As some of you may know, last week I went away on my honeymoon. I am not someone who does a lot of traveling, so whenever I go on a big trip I download a bunch of travel apps that I think I will need. TripIt, Yelp, Foursquare, and Delta Airlines are a few of the apps I tried. Something very interesting happened while using all of these apps, and it’s something I’ve noticed in the past.

Google Now was providing much of the same information that all of these apps could, and it was doing it equally as well or even better. By the end of the trip I uninstalled most of the travel apps and just relied on Google Now. Other Google apps have had the same effect on me in the past. On the surface this may sound great, but could it be the beginning of the end for Android?

The Good

As I mentioned above, Google Now is great for consumers. At the airport it was invaluable for quickly locating gate numbers and flight times. Google Now updated with new information faster than Delta’s own app when one of my flights got delayed. It would also get the gate number for connected flights faster than any other app I used. Having all of this information just a swipe away was incredibly handy.

nowapps

Google Now can do much more than just travel. It was also telling me the weather at my destinations without me ever having to ask, and remembering where we parked our car. Of course, as you know, Google Now also provides suggestions for nearby places and events. The list of applications that were created to do these sorts of things is gigantic. Now it can all be done with one app from Google. So where is the problem?

Remember how popular Dolphin Browser was back in the day? Now that Google Chrome has come along you hardly hear about it. Other Google apps like Keep, Hangouts, Play Music, Play Games, Device Manager, and Drive have stepped on the toes of popular 3rd-party offerings.

The Bad

One app being able to do the job of many other apps is great for consumers, but not for developers. Suddenly the app that you spent time and money on has been replaced by an app that comes pre-installed on most phones. Some phones can even access Google Now right from the launcher with a swipe to the left. This is an unfair advantage over other Android apps. It’s no surprise that Google Now and other official Google apps have had an impact on developers.

One example of this happening is in our Phan Favs polls. In one poll we asked you to tell us which apps you use to check the weather. There are hundreds of great weather apps available in the Google Play Store. Many of them have powerful tools, but the super simple Google Now came in 4th place. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but it’s always there and you don’t need to install an app to do it. When we asked about messaging apps you picked Hangouts by a landslide, and in our music poll you selected Play Music by a mile.

So what?

Google-Apps

Developers get turned off when consumers stop downloading apps because the core OS can do most of the things they need. One recent example of this is Microsoft’s Windows Phone. In the beginning Microsoft built it to do almost everything you would want without the help of apps. You could even use Facebook and Twitter without installing an app. I don’t need to tell you about the app problem Windows Phone has now.

iOS was the opposite. If you don’t install any apps on your iPhone there isn’t a ton that you can do. Hence the need for apps and the massive App Store that followed. Right now Android is closer to iOS on the spectrum, but it is quickly filling up with more Google apps. As we’ve found out in our Phan Favs polls, Android users are flocking to Google’s own app offerings. This is good for Google, but it could be bad for the future of Android. Developers are the life blood of any successful ecosystem.

What about you? Do you find yourself using less and less 3rd-party apps in favor of Google’s apps? Has Google Now replaced other apps on your phone? Do you think these things are bad for Android? Let us know!

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  • SoKal26

    While I do believe that Google has stood on the shoulders of developers for a while now, I don’t believe it’s necessarily a bad thing. Most developers do it and we cannot argue that Google now is exactly what it was always designed to be….. convenient. Besides, at the end of the day it’s all competition. Competition fosters innovation. I don’t doubt that a few forward thinking developers will rise from the ashes of your “perceived” dilemma.

  • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

    As a self proclaimed app minimalist, I welcome this trend. The less apps I need to install and still have an awesome and powerful device, the better.

  • Devon Warren

    It’s a fine line between screwing other developers over and just doing something better. Google’s app are written in house and obviously have a huge advantage because of that but they have welcomed the fact that others may do something better. You can still use these other apps, change your default browser/messenger/etc.

    One thing I would like to see is what happens when third party apps are allowed to integrate seamlessly into Google Now. The only thing is I think they would need to keep a close eye on this as I could easily see apps inserting pointless cards cluttering up the experience.

  • PaulMonroeJr

    I really love Google Now and I use it a lot. That being said, there are still apps that provide more functionality that what what Google Now offers. As long as these app developers can adapt and provide something that no one else can, there will always be a place for them no matter what Google Now ends up being able to do. I know personally that the apps that made themselves must haves, have survived multiple phone changes for me. I’ve had Poweramp on four different phones now. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon unless Google apes every single feature that Poweramp offers, which I highly doubt.

  • flyingburgers

    RIM made the exact same mistake with the original BlackBerry. It was too hard to develop for, so RIM made their own first-party apps (IM, Social Networking, Maps, Music, Backup…) which killed developer interest, failed to advance their APIs, and even support from the owners (e.g. the Facebook app was painfully obsolete).

  • Rukbat

    This won’t spell the end of Android, but it may spell the end of people who want to use their phones for anything Google doesn’t give you using Android phones. I want a phone I can do what I want with, not a phone that I can only do what Google wants me to do with it. I prefer Linux to Windows for the same reason (although in that case it’s the OS, not the apps). Once Google takes away the incentive for app developers (Apple did that when their “if you follow the rules in the book, we’ll never break your program” promise was not just broken, but smashed on the floor), all we’ll see (maybe) is games. And, as someone who (although I’ve written my share) doesn’t play computer games, I’ll have no reason to buy Android.

    Remember when Navigation was an almost-usable app? Without MyDirections, it still wouldn’t be. Don’t get me started on “one app does all”. Remember Microsoft Works? (Not that it ever really did.) Write one app to do many different things and you have a couple of problems, First, the app gets huge, unless it’s a little loader that loads a bunch of small apps, and then why call it a single app? Just get rid of the loader. Second, you have either a load of developers, each developing part of an app (that’s like one chef for each spice) or you have one developer who really doesn’t understand 9 of the 10 functions of the 10-function app.

    Phone and Maps are about the only Google apps I haven’t frozen or uninstalled on the ROM I’m currently using. Not that I have many apps on my phone – only 208 that aren’t frozen at the moment.

  • MK2

    I see your point, and love the home grown apps, but I still use a huge amount of 3rd party apps. Swiftkey, Battery Doctor, facebook, flipboard, etc.

    I think what it comes down to is that I want my core apps to be highly integrated into the OS and to work exceedingly well. The peripherals I like to play around with and therefore like 3rd party stuff. I think app developers will always find good business in the peripherals.

  • EP_2012

    Google Now will never kill other apps until the battery consumption drops to near nothing. I’ve tried several times to use google Now, only to abandon it after seeing the extraordinary amount of wake locks it generates, leading to decreased battery life. Anything I need now is on-demand data, not this real-time battery destroyer.

    • MK2

      I’m also hoping they address this in an update soon. It’s pretty overboard at times.

    • Bad_Attitude

      I have to agree. I would like to use it but I like regularly getting 5 hours or more of screen on time more than I like Google Now. Granted my N5 is running a custom kernel and I’ve done this and that to it but Google Now is just to big of a battery drain.

    • IVHorseMen

      It drains your battery that much? Must be part of the 4.4.2 bug. I use Google Now all the time and I get great battery life. My drainage is mostly from having the screen on while performing various activities.

  • http://www.scottcolbert.com/ ScottColbert

    I see this as a positive, it means devs will have to raise the bar if they want to compete.

  • smithj33

    Google now did none of those things on my trip two weeks ago.

    • IVHorseMen

      Did you have the trip listed in your Google calendar and are you allowing Google to make suggestions based off of your location?

      • smithj33

        Not in my calendar. My whole concur itinerary was in my email including boarding passes. The only thing I have turned off is weather alerts.

        • IVHorseMen

          I see, in the future try adding the event to your calendar. You should see much better results than before.

    • No_Nickname90

      You have to open your body up for Google and they will give you all you need. Become one with Google and things should start working.

      • Durin123

        Sounds like Google will use probing devices on you (possibly going right up your behind).

  • Brian

    I use Weatherbug, but if all I want is the current temperature, then I simply use Google Search because it’s very fast. I say Search and not “Now”, because I’ve disabled Google Now, and it still returns the weather promptly when I do a voice search. My GNex is too slow for using Now.

    For sports, movies, flights, etc, it tends to only provide cursory information without any depth. It’s kinda the equivalent of someone getting their news from reading a new feed (e.g. Google News) without actually clicking through to an actual article (aka not a very well informed person).

    • Dt Bell

      me too, they got a tower 1/2 block away, talk about accuracy. Great idea, in my area, they’re on top of a lot of elementary schools.

    • IVHorseMen

      I love that Google is creating apps that do more. This should just raise the bar since users aren’t likely to go elsewhere for years to come because Google does keep improving on the Google UX. I use pretty much everything Google already has given me on my N5 but of course I have 3rd party apps to spice things up. I don’t see Google doing so much well as hurting devs but encouraging them to go further in their developments and bring more features to an already feature packed OS.

  • jmhnet

    Yes, I’m using fewer 3rd party apps because of Google’s offerings, though not just because of Google Now. Their keyboard, camera and browser, to name a few, are very good and replaced 3rd party apps.

  • sremick

    Except it takes me less time to load those other apps than it takes for Google Now to load up, and they provide more extensive info. Google Now is a slow, bloated “Jack of all trades, master of none”… convenient for the lazy, but for those of us who want more than the briefest superficial info, we’ll continue to use the better, original alternatives.

  • Terry

    Windows 8 was accused of doing things like this as well. You can now mount ISO in Windows 8. You can easily extract zip files now in Windows 8. You can easily burn ISO images since Windows 7. Even though these exists now in in Windows I still turn to some third parties because they do it better than how Windows handles it. I have a feeling it should be the same for Google. Maybe they are doing this so app developers make better apps.

    • Geo Aguas

      Agree with what you said about trying to get the developers to make better and improved apps.

  • Michael Quinlan

    I use Google Now for a lot of things, but there are also a lot of apps that I use that don’t foresee Google replacing – an RPN calculator, Invoicing app, WiFi Analyzer, LAN diagnostic tools, truck navigation, torrent related apps, TV episode tracking, Tapatalk, (work) time tracking. There are probably more that I have yet to discover. That said, I’ll admit that Google seems to step on a lot of toes.

  • sooper_gadget12

    Stupid article. Yes, Google can provide movie times, but I cannot purchase tickets through Google. I need Fandango for that. Yes, Google can give me the weather, but it cannot give me detailed forecasts. For that I need the Weather Channel app (or in my case, Yahoo weather). Can I get sports scores? Sure, but only for my favorite teams. Good luck getting scores for the NBA playoffs especially if none of the teams are your favorite. For that, I need the ESPN app (or better, Yahoo Sports app). Google Now is good for some things but it’s not stepping on the feet of any third party developers.

    • http://www.scottcolbert.com/ ScottColbert

      “Okay Google, what are the scores for the NBA playoffs?” Voila.

    • Durin123

      Article may be a bit of an opinion but it’s far from stupid.

  • No_Nickname90

    I keep them mixed. Google Now is for a quick look. However I have some apps dedicated when I need specific information. I see another user point out the same thing, as well.

  • shonangreg

    After repeatedly finding photos on Google Plus that I didn’t want there, and after seeing that Drive was uploading photos whenever it found WiFi, including from my tethering phone, killing my battery and data allowance in the process, I’ve “de-clouded” several of my devices and decided to stick with the more manageable Dropbox for photo uploads and mirroring. Google is just way too aggressive and unconfigurable for general use. I do not trust Google to do what is right for me. They will do anything to boost the cloud, including crippling Nexus devices for no USB mass storage functionality and pushing ask vendors to skip offering micro-SD functionality. Independent vendors will always offer an advantage here, unless there is some kind of revolution art Google and they get actual leadership.

    And Dropsync is even better than Dropbox in terms of configurability. In addition to being able to choose individual folders to back-up, Dropsync allows to set whitelists and blacklists for SSID’s. I can choose which Access Points Dropsync will use and it is automatic from then on. With Dropbox and Google Drive, I continue to have to manually turn their photo sync features and off.

  • indio7777

    ….was the invention of MP3s good for CD’s? Cassette tapes for 8-track tapes?

    Evolution – can’t hold it back.

  • https://plus.google.com/102862831744598656090/about Wesley

    I hate articles like this. If your device does everything you need it to right out of the box, how does that hurt anything? There will always be new ideas and innovations in the app world as new technologies are invented. Just because most of a sample of people taken from an Android blog like Google’s apps, doesn’t mean everybody does. Heck, it doesn’t even mean the majority of Android users do. Google Now can use other apps for some of its features too. You can choose your music app, or your note app and others. Doesn’t Google have API that allows app developers to integrate their apps into Google Now with custom voice commands? I thought there was some app that did that. I’ll admit though, it would be cool if app developers could inject info from their own apps into Google Now cards if it were an option we could select from the app settings. It would have to be an option though so it wouldn’t show in there if we didn’t want it to.

    • http://www.scottcolbert.com/ ScottColbert

      Because it didn’t always do everything out of the box, if it did, there would be a lot less apps in the store. Go back to eclair or froyo and see how much has changed. Many apps WERE needed then—now, not so much.

  • JakeS41

    When apps are the best example of how a program SHOULD work, Google buys them. I’m certain the devs are okay with that. Case in point: Timely. That said, there’s nothing wrong with competition, and if devs are upset at Google building in additional functionality into their OS, do something better that differentiates you, or do something new altogether.

  • Google_Is_The_Higgs_Boson

    I do use Google Now for almost everything… I still use Pandora over Google Music… I switched to hangouts on my GS2 Epic, but now I’m using a N5 so hangouts is default… Google maps, Gmail… I use both dropbox and Google drive… I use chrome, but I really don’t like the Chrome for Android… I don’t think this is the beginning of the end… But the beginning for developers to start coming up with new, and better apps…

  • steveb944

    I guess you didn’t read up on Apple’s new OS update. It’s doing the same by adding a lot of native features that some apps were able to do before, and of course Android has done for a while (but that’s a whole nother tale).

    It’s a natural progression of an OS, but keep in mind not everyone will like Google’s way so 3rd party will still have a chance. At least we’re not locked down like iOS which it’s their way or the highway

    • Durin123

      Their way or the death-by-karma-cancer way.

  • Neel Gupta

    …which is why games are one of the fastest growing apps category in the Android ecosystem.

    • Marsg

      Nothing to do with google now lol, games and social apps are the fastest growing category in every ecosystem. Angry birds, Words with friends, quizlet, Instagram, vine, etc….., they just appeal to the majority of people cause they spend a lot of time playing games and socializing, you don’t see anyone spending 1-2 hours every other day checking out an alarm clock app, or even in tasker, you set that thing and it runs in the background until you need to set a new alarm or task.

      • Durin123

        Vine has come and gone. Everyone thinks it’s annoying now.

      • Neel Gupta

        Unlike messaging apps, Games cannot be integrated into operating systems.
        …which is why games are one of the fastest growing apps category.

  • phinn

    This topic is definitely right. I barely have any 3rd party apps installed before Google Now. After this I maybe use 2 or 3 total.

  • Rich Brown

    right now, if I swipe to the left on my Nexus 5, it says it’s 71 degrees outside. But if I say okay Google, and ask for the temperature, it says it’s 72 degrees. other times, it’s differed by as much as 4 degrees. and then there are the times when it tells me I have no internet connection, but I definitely do. So no, I don’t completely trust Google now over other apps yet.

    • Durin123

      I dislike the imperial system (and the use of the Fahrenheit temperature system) so much. They’re more imprecise than a hamster firing a Tommy Gun.

  • Ben Lutgens

    Yet another shining example of bloggers making stories where there isn’t one. “THIS JUST IN GOOGLE NOW IS THE DEVIL AND WILL RAPE YOUR BABIES!” which translates to “google now is so awesome, it makes all your poorly coded, buggy, slow 3d party apps useless” and “waaaah it’s bad for developers!” So what? I didn’t buy my phone to help a developer, I bought it to be useful to me, if it does that job without me spending all day searching the cruft-laden play store for adware, then more power to it.

    • Durin123

      Last year Google said Google Now was good. This year Google says it’s awesome? Which is it, Google? Better keep your story straight (I kid – for those who are too literal and pragmatic to understand that I’m joking).

  • vmry2

    I wish there was some way to keep certain data from Google Now “pinned” to the Notification bar at all times, such as current temperature, your favorite stock’s price, time to home/work, etc. That’s one of the very few reasons I use a third party app for weather information.

    • Jon George

      To gtsip…there is a widget that has all those notifications…Google Now widget…idk if it comes with the Google Search or if its built in to GEL…im using GEL on my Note 3 & the widget is available for use..I think GEL is the perfect launcher (when combined with Xposed, XGEL module, & Unicon module for the ability to change out icons…all with root of course). I have a modded Touchwiz that allows themes & is faster & smoother than stock & also Google Now hotword, but I like swiping to right for Now & my cards & sh!t.

  • gtsip

    I have freezed “Google Now”. I constantly use individual apps when I need them . Different weather app, or navigation system or “phone search” etc.

  • Daeshaun Griffiths

    Well there would have to be some sort of incentive. Why am i going to download fandango or flixster when google is telling me the theater and time? Are you saying google shouldn’t?
    -All Google would have to do is make deeper 3rd party cards. I think, maybe a a little app icon in the corner.
    -Gmail isn’t a core app, email is. Not hangouts, but messaging. If you dont want the google experience, that’s when you get 3rd party apps.
    -I don’t like the touchwiz calendar, so that’s when i’d download something from the play store
    -why are there 1200 weather apps that do basically the same thing?Design? thats it? Devs hurt other devs by flooding the market with either things that dont work or steal my information.
    -the consumer, not to get confused with the enthusiasts, just want to open the box and not have to think about functionality.
    -Google is a search giant/youtube owner. They can’t help it.

    The only apps i have on my phone that aren’t made by google are reddit is fun, ookla speedtest, mint.com, ebay and a few games.

    we don’t want apps from developers. we want services.

    • Chris Eager

      Hangouts is a core app if you own a Nexus 5.

      • Durin123

        Too bad for you then that most of the human population doesn’t even know about Hangouts, to say nothing about using it.

        • Chris Eager

          No maybe not, but most of the population doesn’t use iMessage, BBM or Whatsapp either if you want to get technical…probably more users on Facebook Messenger than anything else.
          Most that do use Hangouts like it a lot, and although it’s a core app on the N5, at least Google was smart enough to make it the default client for all SMS/MMS messages as well as Hangouts, so you’re using it all the time. It works very well and is a stable app.

  • Perry Kahai, Ph.D.

    Joe, about the Delta flight information. Last week, I saw the same thing on my phone. BUT, Google Now took that info from an e-mail Delta had sent out. I am not sure if Google Now is able to reach out to Delta’s website and “pull” that info. As it seems to stand now, if that e-mail hadn’t been sent, Google Now may not have been able to update me on the delay. You are correct, Delta’s own app did NOT provide timely updates.

  • Andy H

    Personally I don’t stick with any pre-installed apps unless they’re better than alternatives. The author’s example of Dolphin vs Chrome is a perfect example. I still like how Dolphin works better and I’ll keep using it. I occasionally try other browsers because I know apps tend to update and change frequently, but even the latest version of Chrome doesn’t have the nice little touches that’ll get me to give up Dolphin…

    I don’t think Google is killing Android apps, I think they’re just pushing them to improve. Maybe Google will improve an app so it’s better than a 3rd party for a while until that 3rd party makes their own change; or maybe Google will “improve” an app in a way that I don’t like and it’ll push me to a 3rd party I haven’t used before. They did that with Hangouts for me. I used to use Talk, but when it switched to Hangouts it brought along things that ruined the ease of use for me and I went to WhatsApp. Recently I switched again to another messaging app, but I still don’t like Hangouts.

    • Wolf0491

      Main reason I use Chrome is to send videos to chromecast. Best feature ever. Otherwise like you probably would use dolphin still

      • Toss3

        Not to mention cross-platform bookmark syncing. Love dolphin, but hate having to sync everything manually.

  • Max

    I think its good to remember that if an app is truly amazing google will happily buy it out and integrate it into core Android apps i.e. waze

  • Phaz0n

    I still use Dolphin for Flash support.

    • rustygh

      XScopeBrowser also has flash support

  • Dan Hart

    Google Now actually recommended this article

    • Durin123

      King Troll.

    • NEUR0M4NCER

      For me too.

  • Atul Vijay

    Google now recommended this article!……
    I feel it very convenient that I need not have to download so many third party apps…..

  • Marnie van der Wel

    To a certain extent I agree with what the writer says but not totally. When it comes to apps that only provide basic functionality (for instance a simple weather widget) yes it will become harder for developers to make a buck out of that but when it comes to apps that offer more than what Google does there still is room for making money. For instance people who are interested in developments at stock exchanges can rely on Google Now but if they want a ton of whistles and bells (which professionals probably want) than they may still want to install apps that offer that. So in my opinion Google Now will always be focused on providing the amount of information an average user needs but not more than that in order not to compromise on simplicity. This than leaves room for specialist apps that fill the gap. So all in all the bar will be raised but apps will remain relevant!

  • JBrowne1012

    Outside of internet browser Google being able to do everything seamlessly is great. Some apps do perform better but being able to swipe up or some other gesture is just convenient

  • Forget_you

    this just means developers will have to work on ways to improve their app. this always happens in the tech world. as the os gets more advanced so to will the apps. devs have to either adapt or sink

  • OG

    Well, this is just good old competition, plain and simple. When someone one-ups you, its not a good feeling, especially when it’s a gigantic corporation. On the other hand, though, that’s what motivates innovation — identifying pockets of need and doing it better than anyone else. Good developers will find a way to succeed, and the chaff will be blown away. Look what’s happened with the shareware market for Windows — it’s huge, despite the fact that between Windows features and the Office suite most people will be able to get much of what they need. I don’t see why Android cannot mature in similar manner.