Google, I love you, but you're bringing me down


— 11:57 PM on November 14, 2013

I was listening to LCD Soundsystem the other day, and New York, I love you, but you're bringing me down somehow coalesced my feelings on Google's recent behavior. Dunno what happened there, but being well into a growler of Tofino Brewing's Hoppin Cretin IPA might have contributed. In any case, I'll take inspiration where I can get it.

Google, you're perfect, please don't change a thing.
If it weren't for you, we might have to use Bing.
Gmail captured my heart, and Android played a part.
If only I could, I would give you a ring.

I love Google. I really do. Its search engine has been a vital part of my Internet experience for what feels like forever. As far as I can tell, Google search remains the best way to find information on the web, especially since it's started spitting out knowledge along with links to third-party content.

Then there's Gmail, the slickest free webmail solution around. Gmail has been boss since back when it was an exclusive, invite-only club. I use it constantly for my personal and work correspondence on every computing device I own.

Android is my preferred platform for mobile devices. To me, it feels much more like a real operating system than iOS. I'll take basic freedoms like file management over the tightly controlled Apple experience any day. Android had some rough edges in its infancy, but it's improved dramatically over the past couple of years thanks to sensible optimizations and thoughtful updates. Speaking of which...

Google, I love you, but you're bringing me down.
I thought we were close, but that's all turned around.
Your KitKat may be sweet, still I fear we'll never meet.
Turns out my Nexus is too old for this round.

In the time that I've owned it, my Galaxy Nexus smartphone has become a faster, more capable device thanks to new Android releases. Google Now integration, combined with speech recognition for search, has made it much easier to get the information I want quickly and easily. Smaller tweaks have been welcomed, too, but Android 4.1's "Project Butter" optimizations take the cake. They made the whole UI much smoother and more responsive.

You can imagine my delight when Google revealed that Android 4.4 KitKat includes "Project Svelte" enhancements aimed at more efficient memory usage. The latest version of the OS is designed to improve performance on devices with as little as 512MB of RAM and to speed up multitasking for all. Such an update seems perfectly suited to the two-year-old Nexus. Google doesn't agree, however. Its KitKat FAQ says the Galaxy "falls outside of the 18-month update window when Google and others traditionally update devices."

What's the point of optimizing Android for less potent hardware if you're not going to bring older, less potent devices along for the ride? Cheaper handsets like the Moto G, probably. And wearables, I suspect.

As Google points out, its 18-month upgrade window is typical for the industry. And that's the problem. Google wasn't supposed to be like the others; it was supposed to be better. Nexus devices don't look quite as sweet when their ticket to OS updates expires 18 months after introduction. At least the ROM community might be able to pick up the slack.

Google, you're awesome, but you're cramping my style.
Your SD aversion has irked me for a while.
The Nexus 5 looks legit, and part of me lusts for it.
But 32 gigs are too few for my files.

Even with a limited OS upgrade path, Nexus devices are still pretty sweet. If only Google weren't allergic to equipping them with expandable storage. The official line is that Google wants to unify storage on a single volume. There are benefits to that approach, and the internal storage should be faster than the microSD alternative. However, Google has been negligent on the other side of the equation. All of its current Nexus devices top out at a measly 32GB. Meanwhile, the latest Apple devices are available with up to 64GB and in some cases 128GB of flash.

Flash chips have become smaller and prices have plummeted in recent years, so there's no excuse for skimping. Apps are only getting larger, especially games designed to take advantage of the latest hardware. Modern camera sensors pack ever more megapixels, expanding the footprint of the pictures we take and the videos we record. Meanwhile, high-PPI displays encourage us to consume media with the highest fidelity—and corresponding file size.

Cloud storage is supposed to bridge the gap, but that's an ugly compromise for all kinds of reasons. What if you have a limited data cap or a slow connection? What if you don't want your data floating around in the ether, where the NSA and others might be able to find out about your Nickelback bootleg collection? Being limited to 32GB of local storage is potentially crippling for both power users and folks with extensive media libraries.

Google, I love you, but you're bringing me down.
You've taken this smilie, turned it to a frown.
Maps that guided my life are now the cause of much strife.
What ever happened to holding my hand out of town?

Google Maps is in a class of its own. For some reason, though, Google seems intent on neutering the Android app. First, it obfuscated the process of caching maps locally, an essential feature for travelers who don't want to pay exorbitant roaming fees. Then, it removed My Maps functionality entirely, preventing carefully crafted maps from being accessed on mobile devices.

The Maps app has undergone some questionable UI changes, as well, although I'm not nearly as irate about those tweaks some of the recent reviews on Google Play. The lost functionality bothers me the most, in part because it makes me reluctant to depend on anything Google makes.

Google, you give and then you take away.
Yet it's hard to complain because I never pay.
Reader may be the worst, but it wasn't the first.
Why get attached if I don't know if you'll stay?

I never really got into Google Reader. When it was shuttered this summer, my life was largely unaffected. But I felt for the folks who had come to rely on the service to digest all of their feeds. Google gave them something they loved and then took it away.

iGoogle didn't stick, either, though it had a good run before being shut down at the beginning of the month. Google has ended other services, too, making me question whether one of my own favorites will be targeted in the next round of "spring cleaning." Since Google's products tend to be free, it's hard to complain too loudly when they're yanked. If only that lessened the feeling of loss.

Google, come on now, you're up in my grill.
I thought we were cool, I thought we were chill.
Now I get why there's plus, social network's a must.
But making me sign up... I swear I could kill.

When Google+ was introduced, I barely noticed. Everyone needed a social network because, um, Facebook, or something. Google's approach to sharing at least seemed to be more sensible than the status quo, but I never paid too much attention, mostly because I'm just not interested in social networking. Google was OK with that, at least for a while. Lately, it's been trying to jam Google+ down my throat.

Google+ first snuck into my life via Gmail, and it's now infected YouTube. Pretty soon, I wonder if any of the company's services will be accessible without a plus account. And for what? So Google can claim to have a bunch of active accounts owned by people who still prefer to hang out at Zuckerberg's house?

I know, I know. Other companies pull this kind of crap all the time. But Google+ was supposed to be the opt-in social network, and Google was supposed to be better than all this.

And oh, just take me off your circles list.
That no one even knows exists.
No matter how much you insist.

Maybe I'm wrong. And maybe you're right.
And maybe I'm spoiled, and this is driven by spite.

Google, I love you, but you're bringing me down.
The little things add up, and then they start to drown.
I take all this for free, then make it about me.
But deep inside I feel like I've been clowned.

   
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