Jun, 02 2014

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 Suddenly the app that you spent time and money on has been replaced by an app that comes pre-installed on most phones.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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