While compiling the list of apps on my iPhone 6 Plus I realized something — I'd listed not a single one from Google. It was something of a shock. Previously I'd had Gmail and Google Maps, Google+ and Hangouts, YouTube and Google Search. I'd even been using apps they'd acquired, like Snapseed. After setting up my iPhone 6 Plus as new, however, and downloading apps only as I needed them, after close to 3 weeks, I still hadn't needed a single Google app. So what happened?
Gmail: I use iCloud for my personal email but we have Google Accounts for Mobile Nations. Gmail doesn't handle the calendars I need anyway, so I set it up as Google Sync (aka Exchange ActiveSync). It works far, far better than Google's eccentric IMAP implementation, and while calendars are still needlessly whacky to set up, everything syncs quickly. Plus, I get a universal inbox, which the Gmail app can't provide.
Google Maps: I'd been using Google Maps because they provided better search results. Sometime earlier this year, however, Google stopped announcing the exit numbers, at least in my area. They also started getting the names of the exists wrong. Montreal has goofy street names as it is, and our highway system is one of the oldest on the continent. It's a mess, and Google stopped being able to help me make sense of it. Apple Maps announces the exit number loud and clear, right away. Maybe Google will revert the change or error. Maybe they already have. But Apple Maps is now working well enough in my area that I haven't needed to find out.
Google+: All the industry people I chat with all day are on Twitter, and all my real life family and friends are on Facebook, which makes G+ sort of a wasteland. I still use it to keep up with my Android Central pals, but I can do that from a browser on my Mac. I don't need it for mobile. Yes, Google+ does do photo backup, but so does Dropbox and I'd rather back my photos up to non-social networks anyway. (I don't put personal photos on Facebook either.)
Hangouts: We use Google Hangouts for video conference calling at Mobile Nations, which means I use it every day. Unfortunately, it's a massive battery drain on iPhone. Since I can use it on my Mac when I need it, I'm keeping it off my iPhone until Google fixes whatever's causing it to behave so badly while in the background. (Skype was banished for similar reasons until a weekend tech crisis forced me to add it back.)
YouTube: The YouTube app is annoying. I just want to watch videos that are shared with me and share them with others. The YouTube app makes that no easier than the mobile YouTube website, so I've just been using the mobile YouTube website. If the YouTube app is ever updated to actually save the state of where I was when last I left it, and to keep a history of what Id' recently watched without my being logged in, and otherwise make the experience better, I'd start using it again.
Google Search: I like the Google Now integration, but I'm not letting Google track my web history, which effectively turns Google Now off, so it's pointless to have the app installed.
Google Drive and the Google Docs apps: If there's any Google app I'll need to install soon, it'll be one of these. Because, of course, Mobile Nations uses Google Docs to share documents and spread sheets. However, in splitting Docs out from Drive, Google has made the online docs site such an annoyance I'm effectively in a holding pattern with them right now anyway — using iWork and BBEdit and pasting into Docs when I have to. Hopefully they'll figure out the old Drive interface was more productive than the new Docs one on the web, and I'll figure out which combination of the respective apps I really need on mobile.
Chrome: I only ever use Chrome to run Flash and Google apps on the desktop, and since I don't need that on mobile, I don't really need Chrome. I've never been a huge fan of Chrome anyway, as it's always seemed to serve user needs only so far as they aligned with Google's needs. In some ways, it's growing more and more reminiscent of Internet Explorer back during the heights of Microsoft, where they want people to write for Chrome and the associated ChromeOS instead of for the web. Since I've never been a fan of the rather clunky interface, and since I don't need sync, I don't need Chrome for iOS either.
Snapseed: Google hasn't updated the terrific Snapseed app in a long time, which is a real, real shame. If and when they do, I'll download it again in a heartbeat.
For those who do use and love Google apps on the iPhone, the good news is that Google's iOS apps team has started updating for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus now, at least for Gmail and Chrome, and hopefully the rest to follow. And that means the iPhone will continue to make for one of the best Google phones on the planet.
What's interesting to me, however, is how just a couple years ago some in the tech space were making a big deal about how Google-dependent they'd become. About how they were moving Apple apps into far-off folders and filling their screens with everything Google.
It struck me as hyperbolic at the time, but I was as dependent on Google's services as I was on Apple's hardware, so I never took the time to really look into it. Setting up my iPhone 6 Plus as new gave me that time. I'm sure some are still as hooked on Google apps as ever, but three weeks later, I'm not missing a thing. Apple's apps are doing everything I need, in a way that fits how I want them done.
If you've recently set up your iPhone as new, let me know if you've noticed any difference in the apps you've added back, Google or otherwise!
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