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The best Android news in 2020 (and 11 things we keep waiting for)

After a new year accumulated in the history of Android, it's time to take stock of how 2020 did our operating system. And the truth is that it did not evolve excessively since Android 11 is not a version with too many new features, at least for the user. Yes there is a relative improvement in updates, also in security. But these improvements come as a priority to the highest segment of devices.

Android has been fighting since 2008, accumulating more than 12 years during which it has evolved in an abysmal way, both in design and functionality. If we compare captures of the initial versions with the current ones we would find a notable difference. But Would the same happen with a comparison between the Android of 2019 and that of 2020? Since we are about to conclude the year, let's see all the changes that the operating system has undergone and what we ask of it for 2021.

Privacy became more important

Vpn google one

Android 11 has meant greater privacy for the user since Google has implemented more control of the permissions allowing the user to accept them for a single use, with the advantage that this implies. Granular permissions are a breakthrough, although it would be necessary for Google to grant such one-time permissions to all access control and not only to the most delicate (location, microphone and camera).

Discover how much your mobile applications track you with Exodus Privacy, a privacy analyzer

In addition to everything visible to the user, Google has renewed the system of APIs (access interfaces for applications to acquire data from certain components) raising the requirements to comply with level 30 of Android 11. This implies greater privacy for the user , although also various annoyances (especially for developers): apps cannot access all storage by defaultThey cannot receive the complete list of installed applications either.

The pressure on privacy will be even more noticeable during 2021 due to the relevance this aspect is having in software environments. We will see how Google manages to combine this trend with the enormous volume of data that the company acquires thanks to the majority use of Android worldwide.

2020 is a historic year: Google and Apple collaborated on the Tracking API

Covid 19 Exposure

We all know what will be the event that will mark 2020 in the list of annual summaries: the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 has marked absolutely everything, from the use of communication apps to the registry of possible infections. Google and Apple collaborated closely to bring an API to their mobiles with which to keep track of possible infections. It is a historic event that, unfortunately, is not giving the good results that were expected.

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Despite the fact that Google and Apple collaborated closely and in record time, the implementation by the different countries was neither homogeneous nor efficient. Delays in the creation of the different applications, lack of implementation with the health systems, communication errors that ended up causing mistrust ... Despite the fact that the mobile phone can be a great tool to identify close contacts implementation has not been as accurate and efficient.

Sharing is easier thanks to Nearby Share

Share Nearby

It has been one of the great novelties of 2020 even though it has gone a bit unnoticed: Android already have a native system with which share all kinds of content with each other. Contacts, links, images, videos and even applications: just activate 'Share with Nearby on both Android devices for the magic to work. And it will also come to computers from the hand of Chrome.

Share with Nearby: what it is, how it is activated and how to use it to send files between nearby Android phones

Upgrade improvements

Update android

Dedicating a summary to Android involves mentioning updates, no matter when you read this. Still, we can say that 2020 was an improvement in the way new software reaches devices; either from the manufacturer or from Google itself.

The Play Store introduced updates for all mobiles and tablets regardless of the brand. Google has been dividing the software dependencies so that a basic portion (Project Mainline) can reach almost all users since land from the Android store.

Security updates in the form of monthly or quarterly patches also spread to more makes and models. The problem is that all news in software, either as firmware or as security, more likely to reach more modern and expensive devices than the catalog that has been on the market for a while. This remains unchanged and there is no sign that it will change in the future.

Google and Qualcomm to offer four years of Android updates

Another notable change in the upgrade landscape is related to the agreement between Google and Qualcomm: future owners with a Snapdragon SoC (starting with the 888) would have access to four years of updates.

Google Play has evolved for the better

Google play

It is not that the Google Play store is an indistinguishable element from Android since this app is only included if the device is certified by Google (will we see the end of the Huawei veto during 2021? Hopefully so). However, Any change made in the Play Store ends up having an impact on most devices. And this year we witness the introduction of many of those changes.

We have already commented that one of Google's improvements in terms of updates is that they now also come through the Play Store. Further, Google has increased the security of the store, also expanded inspections, but there is still an excess of 'wide sleeve'.

Google Play Pass: what it is, how much it costs and how to register for this subscription service for games and apps

The Play Pass subscription service expanded to more countries during 2020, too the conditions of family plans were improved (Google allows sharing of Stadia games, but not yet purchases within mobile apps.)

Bloatware has been reduced during 2020

Choose Browser

With the monopoly lawsuits of the European Union Google introduced various changes to the startup of an Android. During 2020 it has already become common to have to choose the search engine among several options, Duck Duck Go included. And it would not be surprising if the antitrust authorities end up making the segmentation of Android certified by Google mandatory.

United States charges Google in court for abuse of dominant position

In the United States they are getting serious about the lawsuits of big technology. And it would not be strange if we were to witness in 2021 the birth of a Android increasingly lightweight from Google applications, all in favor of avoiding monopolies. As with search engines, we may have to choose the Google applications pre-installed on the system. Same as when selecting a 'GApps' package before flashing to ROM.

What else do we ask of Android during 2021?

  • Updates are still pending. Google has improved this problem with updates within Google Play, also with agreements such as Qualcomm. Even so, most manufacturers continued to update their catalog late, even omitting a good part of devices that are suitable for updating. It does not seem that 2021 is going to be the year that brings the definitive solution.

  • Google Play deserves better security and quality. Play Protect has improved confidence in the Android app store without being the ultimate solution. Malware keeps creeping in, ad abuse continues, and so does fraud. Furthermore, a significant amount of the catalog is of very low quality: Google should manually monitor the software that is published on Google Play.

  • Real desktop mode. Android 11 released a desktop interface that can be activated from the developer settings, but it is neither complete nor can it be used directly. Let's hope Google implements it so that connecting the mobile to an external screen offers a true desktop experience.

  • Option to record calls. Some brands include this possibility, even Google offers it in depending on which countries. But it does not come by default on Android even though it is a highly requested (and delicate) feature.

  • Access to non-customized ROMs. Google introduced GSI (Generic System Images) to make it easier for manufacturers to update, also so that users could easily swap the ROM for a generic one. And neither one nor the other, I wish depersonalizing a phone was simple and universal.

  • More information on Google Play. The official Android store should offer more data on all the applications it distributes. What are the privacy risks, cost of the different purchases within the application, what achievements are included ... Also the permissions should be clearer.

  • More native customization. There's no denying that Android is highly customizable, but Google doesn't natively offer the same as many custom layers. Option to install icon packs, accent colors for menus, unified themes ...

  • New boost to Android One. During 2020 this variant of the operating system has been receiving less attention, both from Google and from the different manufacturers. Nokia is one of the brands that maintains its support for Android One; beyond here the supply of devices is almost nil.

  • Uninstall unwanted apps. Some of the 'bloatware' that comes with each phone cannot be removed or even deactivated. Google should impose this possibility on manufacturers; apart from imposing it on your own apps, of course.

  • Smaller Android phones. It seems like a losing battle, but we will keep trying: we want mobile phones with more content in size. And without losing too many features along the way, as with the Google Pixel 4a, one of the benchmarks in Android for 2020.

  • One-time control for all permissions. The camera, the microphone and the location can be activated in a granular way with Android 11, but the system deserves that the rest of the accesses can also be configured that way by the user.

And you? What would you like to see on Android in 2021?