For Google to Win

September 24, 2012

Just over a month ago I published an article called For Apple to Win, and over the past few days I’ve been thinking that it needs a companion article for Google and its mobile operating system, Android.

The ugliness of the web was displayed very clearly last Wednesday (09/19/2012) through to today, and I’m guessing it will continue. So what happened last Wednesday? Apple released a major update to iOS — the operating system which powers its mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad — for the general public. iOS 6 adds more than 200 new features to iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches running iOS 5, and everything should have been great.

The problem with iOS 6 is that it might not be a wholly accepted update by people, without explanations or comforting. Unfortunately Apple has difficulty communicating with its customers and usually (maybe foolishly) leaves that to passionate fans who follow the company. Two of the 200+ updates that come with iOS 6 will cause confusion among people because, at face value, they’re downgrades. To add insult to injury Apple isn’t present to hold anyone’s hand leaving many feeling lost.

The two “updates” in question are:

  1. The removal of the default YouTube app.
  2. A complete revamp of the Maps app, replacing Google’s data and POI with Apple’s own (although licensed by partners), with added features like turn-by-turn navigation and “Flyover” 3D mapping.

YouTube is owned by Google and Google’s Maps data is, well, Google’s, so you could summarize those two updates as “Removal of Google”.

Ignoring Apple-Google politics for a minute, removing the default YouTube app makes sense. YouTube is a social network not managed by Apple. Apple controls iTunes, so it can filter out YouTube-quality comments and interactions in iTunes and App Store reviews. The same applies to the content viewable on YouTube; Apple controls the content that you see in the iTunes Store, but not on YouTube (like a guy being eaten by a Bengal tiger at a zoo, which you wouldn’t see in the iTunes Store).

Apple is fine with social networking and media streaming apps being downloadable in the App Store, but it reasonably wants to control every pre-installed app or service. That makes sense, infact YouTube as a default app for the iPhone and iPad hasn’t made sense in years! m.youtube.com in the Safari browser has been better for a very long time, and the App Store would’ve been a much better place for an app. Google apparently agrees as you can currently find a YouTube app [iTunes link] developed by Google in the App Store.

I knew it was coming and even I was surprised when the YouTube app wasn’t present on my iPhone after I updated to iOS 6. That’s what years of conditioning does to somebody, even if you follow tech news and companies as I do. But for someone who isn’t as much of a geek, it can be very unsettling and confusing to find something that you’ve used for up to five years outright disappear.

So naturally, everyone “in the know” approached these distressed people with comforting, helpful advice, right? They pointed them to either m.youtube.com or to the App Store app, right? Well, not everybody.

Within a few hours of the iOS 6 update going live for the general public, Twitter exploded with confused iOS users. “Why is YouTube gone???” was the theme. Okay, that’s something Apple brought upon itself, I figured. Someone will respond to them with info about the YouTube app on the App Store, I thought. Unfortunately my thinking was naïve, as Android fans who hate Apple, took the opportunity to capitalize on the confusion and make people feel stupid for being an Apple customer.

From my point of view, the tone which started that Wednesday afternoon has been extremely dark. Instead of being greeted by “Here’s a link to the YouTube app in the App Store, and also, YouTube works in Safari”, a lot of iOS users received snark. Heck, even I received snark for helping others that day. That wasn’t cool at all. It’s one thing to poke fun at people for using a product which you don’t like (which itself isn’t cool). Taking advantage of confusion and distress for your own negative and hateful agenda in the name of open source is abhorrent.

You can feel free to hate Apple as much as you choose. What you can’t do is taunt people for liking Apple, especially when they’re in distress because of something that Apple has done — well, you can, but it would just make you look like a jerk. Your ugliness could also damage Android. Infact it might actually push the people you’re taunting further towards Apple. As odd as that sounds, it’s simple, really…

IMAGINARY SCENARIO:

Darren, an “Average Joe”, just updated his iPhone to iOS 6. The first thing that he notices is “YouTube is gone!!!” and he takes to Twitter to try to figure out what happened. Jake, Android geek and power user, replies that he should’ve bought an Android phone instead, and that Apple sucks and etc. Steve, an iPhone geek, steps in and links Darren to the YouTube app in the App Store. The potential results:

  1. Darren downloads the YouTube app from the App Store, and he continues to have little to no opinion of the mobile platform war. He’s open to making his next phone an Android phone, but it’s unlikely.
  2. Darren downloads the YouTube app from the App Store and is appreciative of a random iPhone geek… while being extremely unappreciative of a random Android geek. That memory sticks, even if just subconsciously, and there is little possibility of an Android phone in Darren’s near future.

In either scenario, the snark didn’t help anybody, and in the second scenario Jake’s negativity damaged Darren’s opinion of Android.

The snark didn’t end with YouTube, however. Infact it’s been way worse. As people began to realize that the Maps app on their “updated” iOS devices — which they depended on heavily — had changed and maybe not for the better, the Android fans had a field day. It’s much, much worse than the YouTube thing because Maps are an important part of people’s lives and there’s more of an emotional connection to it.

Even tech websites like TechCrunch have picked up on it and are outright publishing negative articles about how Maps sucks simply because it’s “a hot topic” and generates a lot of page views.

The language should be, look, Apple’s own Maps is in its infancy and the POI will get better hopefully quickly. In the meantime maps.google.com works on all iOS devices, and if you miss Street View there’s an app called StreetViewer [iTunes link] which you can purchase for $0.99 (A free, “lite” version also exists). And as an aside, the new Maps app has great Turn by Turn GPS functionality, and some other nifty features.

Why isn’t that the language being used? Why is there so much hate? Why do some people feel the need to upset people when they can actually help them?

The amount of negativity that I’ve witnessed since last Wednesday is depressing. People who genuinely hate Apple are leading a lot of the discussion around iOS 6 at least in my communities, when it should be the Apple fans* — people like me equipped to comfort others — who settle them into iOS 6. Positivity is healthy, and it’s something that people will remember. If you’re an Android fan and want iSheep like me to consider it as an alternative platform, you need to not attack us.

Google wins when you don’t make people think negatively of its base, which is supposed to represent its culture. If you want Google to win and for Android OS to beat iOS, you’ll take this advice to heart.

*Or better yet, Apple should lead the discussions. It’s time for Apple to have a public profile, with representatives on Twitter and Facebook fielding questions ten hours per day. Have a PR crew that outright appears on TV news stations for interviews instead of leaving the news to report their own interpretation of events. Let me and people like me retire from this stuff.

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