Smartphones are finally getting smart, but at whose expense?

Chris Burns - May 13, 2019, 10:57 am CDT
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Smartphones are finally getting smart, but at whose expense?

The latest Android update made it clear: Smartphones are, at last, getting smart. The intelligence we’ve craved for the past decade is essentially on our doorstep. This might be the most significant several years in the history of mobile smart devices. But most people won’t even notice. It’ll be through updates like the one we’re talking about today that smartphones finally, truly, start to earn their name.

The tipping point may well have come in the form of a notification. This notification came from a newer version of Android – but wasn’t relegated to the newest version of Android. Instead, it seems to have come from the latest version of the Google Play store. That, too, is a sign of the future.

Free Up Storage

The notification tells me I’ve got apps that I’ve not used in a while. It suggests that I delete these apps to free up data space. The implication is that there are better things to spend that space on than apps that sit unused, of course. This is Google being helpful, but also encouraging the continued, varied, and willing-to-pay use of Android apps.

This isn’t the first app to suggest this sort of activity, and it’s not the first time anyone’s created an app capable of seeing which parts of the phone could be cleaned up in order to free up space. It is, however, the first time Google’s made such a suggestion in this specific manner. This is Google showing their confidence that they understand user tendencies to such a degree that they’re able to nudge users in a direction that’s more profitable for everyone.

Automatic Computing

The notification likely came from Google Play, and Google Play (on my phone) gets updated automatically, whenever there’s a new version available. This is part of Google’s next-generation initiative to bypass the ugly truth about Android operating system updates. They don’t happen for most phones very often because of a lot of red tape.

See Mainline, the most important Android update ever! And see how it relates to Google’s other recent efforts to make updates as streamlined as possible.

Google wants to make more of your mobile phone experience automated than you’ve ever had automated before. They want to be able to bring you the latest Android features (and in the process, control your experience therein). They want to be able to predict what you’re going to do next (and in the process, learn how they can best nudge you toward the options that enrich the company most effectively).

Smart isn’t only good

The key remains the same as it’s always been: If you’re not paying for the product, the product is you. It can be as simple as Google suggesting you clear out apps in order to (quite likely) go ahead and re-fill that space with new apps you might use more (and on which you might spend more cash).

Smart doesn’t mean good unless you’re able to control the tool that’s getting smarter. Smart isn’t good when that tool is out of control. Smart might be downright bad if that tool is controlled by a company that does not have your best interests in mind. Cross your fingers the few companies that have the most control today also want us all to succeed along with them.


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