Welp I went ahead and did it AGAIN; I switched to the warm embrace of Apple and purchased an iPhone 14. My current Google Pixel 5a is a nice phone in working order, but its over two years old and so I was feeling the itch to upgrade. I managed to catch a Black Friday promotion for some money off of a new phone and figured, why not?
See there’s some backstory here: my growing frustration with Google as a money. It’s clear to me that they’ve lost their way from their days as a plucky startup, onto a large but loveable tech giant moving the internet forward. Now they’ve atrophied into a directionless company that, addicted to the heroin drip of ad money, is not sure what they want.
Unfortunately for consumers, they’ve decided to make this lack of identity our problem. Whether its the now very famous Killed by Google site which, at the time of writing, boasts an impressive count of 290 products killed. Or perhaps, its the fact that Chrome begin limiting Ad Blockers by June of 2024 presumably as a way to bolster their ad business. If that wasn’t bad enough, YouTube itself has become pretty much unusable without sophisticated ad blocking to which Google has openly admitted its limiting users who use adblockers. Now I am fine paying a couple of dollars a month to remove ads and compensate creators but I am not paying $14/month for it to all go into Sundar Pichai’s pocket.
Even further still we have more nastiness emerging on the consumer side such as Pixel 8 bumps under the screen of components pushing into the OLED panel which Google exists is not a production defect that will cause problems in the future but anyone who has owned the famous Nexus 6P knows to not trust their hardware claims. We’re often always told that the Cloud platform will save us all, so feel free to dump all of your documents onto their storage platform. For a small cost, and permission to scan all of your documents and photos for advertising profiles, you too can access your data anywhere! Unless of course they lose your Google Drive files which at the time of writing is a problem that’s still actively developing, and not solved.
They regular meddle in open web standards, trying to use their Chrome majority position to push onerous web changes that look more like DRM rather than any actual improvement to website security. Or perhaps the fact that Android at least one fake toggle that promises to not track you while still doing so. All of these tracking things would perhaps be less egregious if it made their one core product, search, better. All signs point to the opposite as AI-generated content has completely overrun the search engine making it dulled to the point of worthlessness. I switched to a mix of Bing and DuckDuckGo of all things because the former now has a superior image search and the latter has the convenient “bang” system which allows me to forward my queries to be redirected to specific sites ex. !g for google, !w for wikipedia, !r for reddit.
All of these things combined with more that I did not bother to list influenced my purchase choice: it’s not that Apple does NO tracking of users, but it doesn’t make up the majority of their business income. I would not personally get in the habit of presuming automatic good faith from them either, but its refreshing that their intentions are clear from the start: “Buy into our ecosystem, spend the money, but then you WILL have a positive, coherent experience where your data is tightly controlled within the walled garden”. Historically this has not been a deal I have been willing to accept, but the older I get, and the more I expect things to just work, it has become more appealing.
I’m hoping the next two years I spend on an iPhone are enough time for Google to decide what kind of company it wants to be. What might help with that soul-search is finding a replacement for Sundar Pichai, but I suspect it could take five or more years to really get them back on track. In the meantime, I am going to try to make the best of my new iPhone and see where this new ecosystem ride takes me. I’m currently trying to harmonize it with the rest of my workflow, a topic worthy of its own post.