What Google I/O needs to fix most about Android is its reputation

Google Pixel 7 Pro phone
(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

What do my kid, the former editor-in-chief of Android Police, and the Mayor of New York City all have in common? There’s no way they would use an Android phone. Android phones are carrying serious baggage, and the situation is getting worse. When Google talks about adding features to Android at Google I/O, maybe first it should remove the stigma of using Android in the first place.

It’s hard to be an Android fan these days. We get no respect, I tell you. No respect. This hasn’t always been … Haha, just kidding. Of course, it has. Android has always been the also-ran, the cheap imitator, or the whatever-that-is. The iPhone is not just the phone world leader, it is the status quo for smartphones. 

If you haven’t felt this as an Android fan, you’re not paying attention. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Apple is starting to claim the same dominant market share worldwide that it has enjoyed in the US for years. That’s more than 50% versus major competitors. Samsung, the next closest rival, grabs a quarter of the market here. Motorola, the number three, takes less than 5%. 

The kids are not into Android

The Journal says that Gen Z leads the charge toward Apple dominance. I can personally attest to that, as my son is 14 and he has an iPhone 11. It is not his first iPhone 11, it’s his third, since he’s broken a couple over the years.

Every time he breaks his iPhone I ask if he wants to trade it for something else. “A better iPhone?” He asks. Well, no, I explain. A Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus. See, Samsung will give you good money for your iPhone, even if it’s broken, and all you have to do is switch...

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus in white, laying face down on a bowl of lemons

I can trade a broken iPhone 11 and get a Galaxy S23 Plus (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

He waves me off with a flap of his hand. This conversation ended before it began. He wouldn’t switch from his iPhone. There’s no chance, I needn’t suggest it. He can’t even explain why.

His friends all have iPhones. Does it bother him when a friend shows up with a green bubble in a chat? He doesn’t know, because it hasn’t happened yet.

The experts are leaving Android

My kid is the son of a phone expert, but no expert himself. David Ruddock, on the other hand, is a bona fide Android expert, as the former head of enthusiast site Android Police. Having left the site for IT Services company Esper in 2021 (according to LinkedIn), David loudly proclaimed on Twitter:

“I think I’m finally ready to call it quits on Android phones. I’m dead set on an iPhone 15 + Apple Watch upgrade later this year, and I cannot for the life of me imagine Google doing anything to sway me from that decision”

I worked in Samsung PR handing out review units when David was Editor-in-Chief of Android Police. I respect his opinion as a phone critic and a journalist, and it’s no small thing to hear him say that nothing could sway him back to Android, having switched to iPhone already. I reached out to David for comment but didn’t hear back.

Android is a punchline

An even stranger condemnation of Android came recently from the Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams. Facing car theft in the boroughs, Adams announced that the city would be giving away 500 Apple AirTag devices. The Mayor has claimed tech savvy in the past but there was some confusion about how AirTags work. 

When asked about whether the new initiative would work if a New Yorker owned an Android phone, the Mayor laughed and said “Why would anyone have one?” Everybody laughed. Everybody on the podium. 

It’s worth noting that the video is clear, but the official transcript on the Mayor’s site changes his words to say “I don’t even have one.” You can see what he says for yourself at 15:49 in the video. I’m sure that the Mayor’s office doesn’t want to offend Google, which has 12,000 employees moving into a $2 Billion office space in Manhattan.

There is no respect for Android at any level of society. Our kids don’t think Android is cool. Our peers don’t think the best Android is worth buying. Our Public Figures think owning an Android phone is literally a joke.

Here's how Android can start to earn some respect

I can use my iPhone 14 Pro for 3 years, then give it to my child to keep for another few years

You may think this is a classism issue since Android phones are cheap. That is, if you want the best cheap phone, it’s going to run Android. The problem isn’t that Android is the OS of choice for bargain phones. Inexpensive phones aren’t what makes Android cheap.

How did it go so wrong? What can Android do to finally earn the respect it deserves? Well, the first question is whether Android actually deserves respect. Why do we respect something? It starts with reliability. 

We respect things that are reliable. We respect products that last and last, proving their value. We respect devices that exceed our expectations and don’t let us down. 

If I buy an iPhone 14 today, I know that Apple will support it for five or six years to come, maybe more. That means new software updates and security patches. That means service in stores and accessories that fit. Six years. That’s a long time.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro with iPod classic and iPod mini pink

My kid gets all my Apple hand-me-downs (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

That’s long enough to be a hand-me-down, which is game-changing when a phone costs so much. I can use my iPhone 14 Pro for 3 years, then give it to my child to keep for another few years. I know that I’ll have the same parental locks and protection that I have today, because Apple will keep updating.

If I buy a Samsung or Google phone today, the best I can hope for is four years of updates, and that’s only if I buy the best phones. If I buy anything less, that lifespan for support gets cut considerably. The least expensive iPhones are supported for many years longer than the cheapest Android phones.

Respect me as the owner of my device

From the minute I start using an Android phone, I can feel that it doesn’t respect me. With very few exceptions, Android phones come loaded with tons of garbage I don’t want. I get pay-to-play games preloaded on my thousand-dollar phone. I get a web browser I don’t need, or multiple photo gallery apps to confuse me. 

Even worse, almost every Android phone tries to sell me something later. The first time I turned on my Galaxy S23 Ultra I got an advertisement from Samsung telling me I should buy the new Galaxy S23 Ultra. 

Three Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra handsets in a row lying down

Samsung wants you to buy more than one Galaxy S23 Ultra (Image credit: Future)

Have some respect. I just paid a lot of money to your company. Treat me like you appreciate my business, not like you’re hungry for more.

Actually, I didn’t pay a lot of money, I traded in an old, nostalgic phone and committed myself to paying for this new phone for three years. I can leave early, it’s still a great discount, but I made a commitment to Android.

It’s time for Google, and even Samsung and, heck, Motorola, to make a commitment back to me. Start showing respect to your owners and you’ll get respect back. As an Android owner, I don’t want my amazing phone to be the subject of constant ridicule. There are real issues that need to be fixed with Android phones, and when that’s done, we’ll all be proud to own one.

What to respect from Google I/O

We'll know more about Android's future starting at the Google I/O keynote on May 10. We know that Google will have new phones on hand, including the Pixel Fold, which was already announced, and probably a new Pixel 7a and Pixel Tablet. 

As for Android, we've heard a bit about new features, but not much about longer term support. I love the new Passkey feature, which could help do away with passwords for good. We'll be live on the scene and you can read all about Google I/O 2023 as it happens. We've also got a separate guide to the 7 biggest reveals to expect at IO 2023 if you want more info.

Philip Berne
US Mobiles Editor

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, starting more than 20 years ago at eTown.com. Phil has written for Engadget, The Verge, PC Mag, Digital Trends, Slashgear, TechRadar, AndroidCentral, and was Editor-in-Chief of the sadly-defunct infoSync. Phil holds an entirely useful M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. He sang in numerous college a cappella groups.

Phil did a stint at Samsung Mobile, leading reviews for the PR team and writing crisis communications until he left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. Phil is certified in Google AI Essentials. He has a High School English teaching license (and years of teaching experience) and is a Red Cross certified Lifeguard. His passion is the democratizing power of mobile technology. Before AI came along he was totally sure the next big thing would be something we wear on our faces.