Google’s Pixel 3 event was… strange. Not that the Pixel 3 itself leaked well before the event. Leaks, whether you consider them advanced shopping intel or surprise-killing spoilers, have only been getting more and more pervasive over the years. It was how Google reactive to them that was strange. Instead of a “you might have already seen it” joke like Steve Jobs made following the iPhone 4 incident, Google released a teaser video heavily suggesting no one might have seen it yet — at all.
It led some in the community to believe the Pixel 3 leaks had been some kind of elaborate and enormously expensive hoax, or that Google had a secret third phone, a Pixel Ultra, that it was going to whip out and shock the world.
But that didn’t happen. We got exactly what had leaked. And the expectational debt, already huge, became bankrupting. Jokes of S-years, which have plagued Apple every other release, and more recently, Samsung, turned on Google. And even more so. Half an S. A C year. whatever.
And hell hath no fury like a herd of nerds scorned.
In the wake of Facebook’s downward spiral following the Cambridge Analytica scandal and seemingly ever-escalating data breaches that have followed, Google has faced increased sensitivity and scrutiny over privacy as well. And it’s faced its own share of scandals, including a now-cancelled plan to see facial recognition to the military for use in drones, a non-canceled plan to re-enter the Chinese search market, and an expose incident all its own with Gmail, the day before the event, which Google didn’t disclose for months and didn’t even address at the event.
I’ve done a couple of articles already on how and why to delete Facebook but now, more recently, in light of all of this, a lot of you have been asking how to delete Google as well.
The choice of ‘no’
Now, before all you Android aficionados and Google lovers start pouring your rage out into the comments, give me a couple of minutes.
Android is all about choice and, because of that, not using Android has to be a valid choice as well. Not for everyone, of course, but for those who were either so disappointed in the latest Pixels or so concerned with Google’s direction that they want to explore a change.
Why just the hardware? First, software, be it the Google Play Services that are increasingly being used to lock Android down, or Google’s many other excellent services that are increasingly being used to keep people using Google, is a topic so big I’m going to save them for a separate video.
Second, you may still be fine with Google services but just want a way to run them on an operating system that gives easier control over how much you choose to share with Google, and on hardware supplied by a vendor, namely Apple, that’s made privacy a top-down, front-facing customer feature.
Let’s be clear, any hardware you use will tie you into the company that makes it. It’ll let them collect data and telemetry on you and on what you’re doing. So, how companies handle that data and what they do — and don’t do — with it are absolutely things you have the right to be concerned and care about.
Since almost everyone who isn’t Apple uses Android, not using Android protects you — if you feel you want or need that protection — from every other vendor that isn’t Apple.
Also, using Google apps on iPhone, lets you choose which ones, if any, you want to log into, and which ones, with a few huge exceptions, of course, you don’t.
Google can still use all sorts of techniques to try and figure out who you are and what you’re using — most forms of anonymity most companies claim they give you is a charade if not outright lie — and if you do have to log into a personal or work account for mail, calendars, contacts, or anything else, Google will try to quote-unquote-helpfully log you into other apps like Maps, to pull your location when you absolutely don’t have to allow it.
But, if you’re consistently careful and conscientious, you can minimize your logged into profile as much as possible.
That’s what I do. I have to use Google Apps for work, which means I have to be logged into Mail and Calendar. And I make YouTube videos, obviously, so I have to be logged into YouTube Creator Studio. But, I stay logged out of absolutely everything else, including the web, Maps, and more.
And when I do search, I tend to use Siri, which intermediates my profile with Apple’s.
Obviously, I can’t do that with Google Assistant. In fact, since every time I try to enable it on my Pixel 2 XL, it demands I give it permission to track my web and app usages, and when I decline, it refuses to let me use Google Assistant at all, even for mundane things that have nothing to do with tracking me, not using it is a super easy choice to make.
Besting both worlds
If you do choose to go with Apple hardware for your Google software, you also get the advantages that come with Apple hardware: Namely, Apple’s willingness to spend ungodly amounts of money to develop and secure processes that are sometimes years ahead of other companies.
This year, first dibs at TSMC’s 7 nanometer process for the industry-leading A12 Bionic processor, is a clear example. So are the results of combining the best OLED panel process Samsung has with the best display technology Apple has, to provide something that really is the best of both worlds.
You also get Apple’s new camera hardware. Now, you may legitimately think Google’s Pixel still has the best camera software, and that it can segmentation mask and blur, and OIS shake and zoom, better than anyone else. And that’s a perfectly valid opinion. But you’d still only be one Google Camera release for iOS away from getting a similar best-of-both worlds experience as well. Sure, Google may never do that, but history shows Google wants its bits everywhere, and iPhone bits remain some of Google’s most profitable.
That’s why iOS has so many Google apps, including YouTube, Maps, Gmail, Google Search, Chrome, Earth, Drive, Translate, Docs, Photos, Music, Hangouts, Sheets, Home, Slides, Calendar, Classroom, Snapseed, Duo, Voice, YouTube TV, Authenticator, Movies & TV, Inbox, News, Keep, Assistant, and the list literally goes on and on and on and on…
If you want to, you can legitimately turn the iPhone into one of the best Google phones in the world. Especially if your definition of “best” includes a heavy focus on privacy and security.
Google, but on your terms
It’s not going to be for everyone, especially those of you who didn’t give me those few minutes I asked for and have already staked your ragey comments several threads deep, but I think, increasingly, in light of how Pixel 3 was handled and privacy has been mishandled, it will be for more and more people.
Maybe, eventually, you’ll want to delete Google entirely and ditch the services along with the platform. But that can be extremely hard. So, trying out a new platform with the same apps you’re used to can be a good start. Step by step.
I’m going to keep quoting this, but it feels like we’re now at the same place with privacy that we were with security back in the Windows XP days. Not everyone is concerned and certainly not everyone is ready to make or pay for change. But some are and if you’re one of them, I want to make sure you have all the information you need to make the best choices possible for you and yours.
Now, if you really want to rage, have at it. I’d love to hear your opinion, regardless of the bits and atoms you personally choose to use. If you do have concerns, though, then I’d love to hear those as well, along with what you’re thinking of doing about it.
It’s not whether we all agree or not that’s important. It’s keeping the conversation going that matters.
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