After another year accumulated in Android history, it’s time to take stock how 2020 made our operating system. And the truth is, it hasn’t changed too much since Android 11 isn’t a version with too many new features, at least for the user. Yes, there is a relative improvement in updates, also in security. But these improvements are a priority for the highest segment of devices.
Android has been fighting since 2008, accumulating more than 12 years during which it has evolved abysmally, both in design and in functionality. If we compare the captures of the initial versions with the current ones, we will find a noticeable difference. But Would it be the same with a comparison between the Android of 2019 and that of 2020? As we approach the end of the year, let’s see all the changes the operating system has undergone and what we ask for in 2021.
Confidentiality has become more important
Android 11 has meant greater privacy for the user since Google has implemented more control over permissions allowing the user to accept them for a single use, with the benefit that this entails. Granular permissions are a big step forward, although Google needs to grant such ad hoc permissions to all access controls and not just the most delicate (location, microphone and camera).
In addition to everything that is visible to the user, Google has renewed the API system (access interfaces for applications to acquire data from certain components), increasing the requirements to comply with the level 30 of Android 11. This implies greater confidentiality for the user, but also various inconveniences (in particular for developers): apps can’t access all storage by defaultThey also cannot receive the full list of installed applications.
The pressure on privacy will be even more noticeable in 2021 due to the relevance of this aspect in software environments. We will see how Google manages to combine this trend with the enormous volume of data that the company acquires thanks to the majority use of Android in the world.
2020 is a pivotal year: Google and Apple have collaborated on the Tracking API
We all know what will be the event that will mark 2020 in the list of annual summaries: the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 has marked absolutely everything, from the use of communication applications to the register of possible infections. Google and Apple have worked closely together to bring an API to their mobile devices to track possible infections. It is a historic event which, unfortunately, does not give the expected good results.
Despite the fact that Google and Apple collaborated closely and in record time, the implementation by the different countries was neither homogeneous nor effective. Delays in the creation of the various applications, lack of implementation with health systems, communication errors that ended up creating mistrust … Despite the fact that the mobile phone can be a great tool to identify close contacts the implementation was not as precise and efficient.
Sharing is easier with nearby sharing
This was one of the big novelties of 2020 even if it went a little unnoticed: Android already has a native system with which share all kinds of content between them. Contacts, links, images, videos and even apps: Just turn on “Share with nearby on both Android devices and the magic will work. And it will also come to computers from the hand of Chrome.
Dedicating a summary to Android involves mentioning updates no matter when you’re reading this. Yet we can say that 2020 has been an improvement in the way new software reaches devices; either from the manufacturer or from Google itself.
The Play Store has introduced updates for all mobiles and tablets, regardless of brand. Google has divided the software dependencies so that a basic part (Project Mainline) can reach almost all users since land from Android store.
Security updates in the form of monthly or quarterly patches are also spreading to more makes and models. The problem is that all new software, whether in the form of firmware or security, more likely to reach more modern and expensive devices than the catalog which has been on the market for some time. This remains unchanged and there is no indication that this will change in the future.
Another notable change in the upgrade landscape relates to the deal between Google and Qualcomm: Future owners with a Snapdragon SoC (starting with the 888) would have access to four years of updates
Google Play has evolved for the better
It’s not that the Google Play Store is indistinguishable from Android since this app is only included if the device is certified by Google (will we see the end of the Huawei veto in 2021? Hopefully). However, any changes made in the play store end up impacting most devices. And this year, we are seeing many of these changes introduced.
We have already commented that one of Google’s improvements in terms of updates is that they now also go through the Play Store. In addition, Google has increased store security, also expanded the inspections, but there is still an excess of “wide handle”.
The Play Pass subscription service has also been extended to more countries in 2020 conditions of family plans have been improved
Bloatware was scaled back in 2020
With the monopoly lawsuits of the European Union Google introduced various changes when starting an Android. In 2020, it has already become common to have to choose the search engine from several options, including Duck Duck Go. And it wouldn’t be surprising if the antitrust authorities ended up mandating the segmentation of Android certified by Google.
In the United States, they are getting serious with the big tech lawsuits. And it wouldn’t be strange that in 2021 we witness the birth of a Android increasingly lighter thanks to Google applications, all in favor of avoiding monopolies. As with search engines, we may need to choose the Google apps preinstalled on the system. Same as selecting a “GApps” package before flashing to ROM.
What else do we ask Android in 2021?
- Updates are still pending. Google has improved this problem with updates in Google Play, also with agreements such as Qualcomm. Despite everything, most manufacturers continued to update their catalog late, even omitting a good part of the devices suitable for the update. It doesn’t look like 2021 will be the year that will bring the final solution.
- Google Play deserves increased security and quality. Play Protect has improved trust in the Android App Store without being the ultimate solution. Malware continues to infiltrate, ad abuse continues, and so does fraud. In addition, much of the catalog is of very poor quality: Google should manually monitor software published on Google Play.
- Real desktop mode. Android 11 released a desktop interface that can be activated from developer settings, but it is neither complete nor directly usable. Hopefully Google implements it so that connecting the mobile to an external screen offers a real desktop experience.
- Option to record calls. Some brands include this possibility, even Google offers it depending on the country. But it doesn’t come by default on Android even though it is a much requested (and tricky) feature.
- Access to ROMs without customization. Google introduced GSI (Generic System Images) to make updating manufacturers easier, so users can easily change ROM to generic ROM. And neither, I wish the depersonalization of a phone was simple and universal.
- More information on Google Play. The official Android store is expected to offer more data on all the apps it distributes. What are the risks for privacy, the cost of the various purchases within the application, the achievements included … In addition, the permissions should be clearer.
- More native customization. There’s no denying that Android is highly customizable, but Google doesn’t natively offer the same as many custom layers. Possibility to install icon packs, accent colors for menus, unified themes …
- New boost for Android One. In 2020, this variant of the operating system received less attention, both from Google and the various manufacturers. Nokia is one of the brands that maintains support for Android One; beyond that, the supply of devices is almost zero.
- Uninstall unwanted apps. Some of the “bloatware” that comes with every phone cannot be removed or even disabled. Google should impose this possibility on manufacturers; in addition to imposing it on your own applications, of course.
- Small Android phones. It seems like a losing battle, but we’ll keep trying: we want mobile phones with bigger content. And without losing too many features along the way, like with the Google Pixel 4a, one of the benchmarks for Android for 2020.
- Single check for all permissions. Camera, microphone and location can be granularly activated with Android 11, but the system deserves that the rest of the access can also be configured this way by the user.
And you? What would you like to see on Android in 2021?