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[:en]How Google might flip Android into simply one other subscription[:]



At a time when model updates have gotten much less of a problem and main cellphone makers are lastly starting to ensure years of updates, Google may need discovered a option to finish Android fragmentation as soon as and for all: by turning it right into a service.

The indicators are there. On February 11, Google introduced that several “Pixel-first” features in Google Photos—Portrait Blur, Portrait Gentle, and Coloration Pop—gained’t truly be coming to all Android telephones as anticipated. As an alternative, Google is providing them as a profit to Google One subscribers, successfully placing them behind a paywall together with what Google calls “different new machine learning-powered results.”

google photos paid features IDG

Some Google Pictures options can be locked behind a Pixel or Google One paywall.

Granted, these aren’t enormous options, and most of the people most likely gained’t even care whether or not they have them. Google Pictures is a couple of steps faraway from Android. However Google’s choice to place them behind a paywall suggests a shift in how the corporate will deal with future Android app and system updates.

The Pixel as a platform

Google’s personal Pixel cellphone seems to be turning right into a service. Ever since its launch in 2016, the home model has been a showcase for the newest software program and {hardware} developments from Google. It began with the Pixel Launcher and Google Search bar widget, and it’s continued by the more moderen Pixel Characteristic Drops, which convey new system and app options to Google’s personal cellphone earlier than they attain different distributors’ telephones.

The Portrait Blur characteristic that’s now a part of Google One, for instance, debuted with the primary Pixel Characteristic Drop in December, 2019. It’s all the time been free to Pixel homeowners, but it surely’s additionally all the time technically been a paid characteristic.

pixel 5 camera Michael Simon/IDG

The Pixel telephones have by no means been concerning the {hardware}, but it surely’s even much less so now.

Android options additionally appear to be the precedence for Google’s lineup of telephones, fairly than the telephones’ personal specs or screens. Issues like 5G and reverse wi-fi charging are good, however they’re not what makes the Pixel a fantastic cellphone. It’s the pure, frictionless Android expertise, the likes of which you gained’t be capable to discover anyplace else. Whether or not you pay $699 for the Pixel 5 or $349 for the Pixel 4a, you’re shopping for right into a platform. And now Google may need to promote it to everybody else too.

{Hardware} is secondary

The very best Android options don’t depend on the {hardware} in any respect. Adaptive Charging, Excessive Battery Saver, Name Display screen, Automobile Crash Detection, Recorder, and the entire digital camera options work throughout all Pixel telephones launched over the previous few years. You don’t want the newest mannequin to take the most effective photos or get pleasure from the most effective options, you solely have to replace to the newest model of Android.

pixel 5 bezels Michael Simon/IDG

Android is the true cause the Pixel exists.

You’ll be able to see the place this might go. Identical to the Google Pictures options that now include Google One accounts, Google might provide a standalone Pixel launcher that works with any Android Cellphone, not simply Pixels. Subscribing might then unlock options and apps that aren’t out there to customers who aren’t invested within the Pixel ecosystem. It might be like Android, however as a service that’s impartial of the cellphone you select.

Whenever you boil it down, it’s not all that completely different from how issues at the moment are. Assuming you improve your cellphone each two to a few years and pay for on-line storage, you’re already paying $10-$20 a month on your Android cellphone. In that context, the concept of providing a subscription for a Pixel Launcher that you would slap onto your Galaxy S21 isn’t so loopy.

Pay to play

New Pixel telephones already include three months of Google One, so it’s not a stretch for Google to show the Pixel itself right into a service. Google might cost $15 a month for the Pixel Launcher and 200GB of Google One storage, plus a assure to obtain three years of updates.

pixel 5 logo Michael Simon/IDG

The Pixel is already an Android subscription service.

By turning the Pixel and its options right into a launcher, Google would mainly eradicate model fragmentation. There wouldn’t be a fear about when or in case your cellphone would get Android 13 or 15—the Pixel Launcher would convey the options you want and depart safety updates to regular system updates. It might basically be the last word Android fork that doesn’t care which cellphone you’re utilizing.

It could possibly be that the brand new Google Pictures options are nothing greater than a Google One profit to make up for the overall lack of perks. But it surely may be the beginning of a brand new technique that takes the cellphone out of the Pixel and frees up Google to do what it does finest.

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