Can other platforms survive without Google services?

by: Simon HillFebruary 12, 2013


Google had a good year in 2012. It remains the most popular search engine in the world by a distance. According to comScore, Google accounted for at least 65 percent of all searches online in the last six months of 2012. In the mobile space, IDC research projects a 68 percent market share for Android in 2012 and suggests that it will still be over 60 percent by 2016. There are more than 500 million Android smartphones and tablets out there already.

In December, Google revealed that its social network, Google+ has been joined by over 500 million people. The first video to break the 1 billion barrier was on YouTube (it was Gangnam Style). There are four billion video views on YouTube worldwide every single day. Gmail passed 425 million users in the summer to claim the world’s largest email provider title. Google’s Chrome browser is the most popular in the world with over 30 percent of all desktop and mobile users.


We’ve also seen a major move into the cloud with Google Drive and Google Music. As well as the release of successful hardware like the Nexus 7 tablet, then the Nexus 4 phone and the larger Nexus 10 tablet. Not to mention the roll out of Google Fiber, the development of Google Glass, and the driverless car project. The list of Google projects goes on and on.

The year of consolidation

For a long time the battle cry of Android fans has been “open vs closed”. It has long served as a neat sum-up of the differences between the top two mobile platforms and it still holds true. What is beginning to change is the perception that Google and Android is one and the same thing.

In 2012 Google has undertaken a serious consolidation project. Bringing everything under one banner and one privacy agreement makes your Google account a skeleton key for multiple services. That’s why Google can point to 500 million Google+ users, but then explain that only 135 million of them are actually active in the stream. You’ve automatically got a YouTube account whether or not you’ve ever used it. You need a Gmail account to use Android. A single sign-up makes life convenient, but we are beginning to get tied up in Google services.

Can you break free?

Put it this way – if you use Gmail, upload files to Google Drive, store your tunes at Google Music, backup photos on Google+, use Google Maps to navigate, watch videos on YouTube, and continue to start your web surfing sessions through the Google search engine, then you are heavily invested. Some people crow about privacy concerns, but the overwhelming majority of us are grateful for quality, free services that meet our needs. Surrendering some personal data to get those services feels like a fair trade.

You can legitimately ask “Why would I ever want to break free?” Fair enough. It’s a sweet deal and I’m right there with you. If things change down the line then it might develop into a concern, but let’s deal with that “if” it happens.

The Google experience

The thing is, if you want the best experience, the “Google experience”, on a smartphone or a tablet then you are going to buy an Android device. You could also buy an iOS device. For all the antipathy between the tech-obsessed fans on either side, the general public doesn’t care; they just want Google Maps on their iPhone. When Google released the Google Maps app for iOS it was downloaded 10 million times in the first 48 hours.

Google Maps on Android

You can also get Google Search, Chrome, Gmail, YouTube, Google Earth, Latitude, Google Voice, Google+ and a few more apps besides for iOS. If you’re wondering why Google makes them it has something to do with the fact that iOS accounts for around 60 percent of all mobile and tablet web traffic.

It is strange to think that it’s easier to get dedicated Google apps on the iPad than it is on Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD (you can sideload, but your average user doesn’t want to have to bother about that).

Out in the cold

The big question we’ve been building to is “Why would you ever consider buying a BlackBerry or a Windows Phone if you’re invested in Google?” Neither platform can tempt Google in with a large, affluent user base that’s always online, like iOS can. There are no plans that we know of for Google to produce dedicated apps on those platforms. There doesn’t really appear to be much of an incentive either.

The lack of Google support is not really enough to sink BlackBerry 10 or Windows Phone 8. It probably is a deal breaker for some of us, but not everyone will think that way. There are alternatives and workarounds and you can go through your browser, but the overall experience on those platforms is going to be significantly worse for the average user who is invested in Google.

Google’s in the driving seat

If you look at the fuss over Google dropping support for Microsoft’s proprietary Exchange ActiveSync protocol for syncing email you get a hint of Google’s potential power. If Google refused to play nice what kind of hit would other platforms take? You get the sense it’s a card that Google isn’t looking to play, support for EAS was extended in the end, but it’s up the sleeve all the same.

Can other platforms survive without Google services? Yes, they can. If Google removed support for iOS completely tomorrow (if such a thing was possible) then some people might jump ship, but there’s no way it would spell the end of the platform. For BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8 it’s a much tougher proposition.


Fundamentally Google wants people to use its services. The whole business relies on huge numbers of people and its thirst for market share and data has led it to give away amazing products and services that other companies would have (and already were) charging you for. Of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but Google services look as close as you’re going to get right now.

What do you think? Would you consider a mobile platform that doesn’t have good support for Google services? How invested in Google are you? Does Google’s consolidation concern you? Could you just walk away from Google? Let’s hear it, post away.

  • Jazli Aziz

    The only “major” Google service I don’t use is Drive, since I use Dropbox. I use Gmail, Google Music, YouTube, G+, Maps, and Chrome all on a regular basis. So yeah, I’d say I’m quite invested.

    And no, I don’t think I could survive on a platform without Google support.

    • Simon Hill

      Yeah me too actually, I started using DropBox years ago and then they gave me 50GB free when I got the Galaxy S3 so I’m invested there, but otherwise I use all the Google services.

  • Surur

    Given that Google hardly supports Windows Phone (no maps, no YouTube app), and its growing (slowly, but still the fastest growing mobile OS of 2012) clearly Google is not the be-all and end-all of the internet. Gmail is my spam account.

    • MasterMuffin

      Gmail was (and still is) my spam account and when I first made Disqus account (so that I can comment to these articles), I used Gmail because I thought this would be just one of those never-going-to-use-again-accounts. Then I started using Disqus more and got more Gmails and now I’m using Gmail a lot. Still not as #1, but Gmail is really good just sayin’

  • I use Chrome, Maps, Google Music, Drive on a regular basis, I am trying to get everything transferred to Gmail, and I am trying to get family and friends to jump ship to G+ so I can close my facebook account. So I am invested heavily into the Google service and no I would not survive on a platform Google did not support.

    • Simon Hill

      I wish I could get family and friends to ditch Facebook for G+ good luck with that!

  • FrillArtist

    I liked it better when Google Docs had it’s own app. This decision to merge cloud storage and doc creating/editing just makes Drive one of the clumsiest Google app to use. That’s why I use Dropbox as my primary cloud storage app and Office Suite as doc creating. If Google Drive didn’t come pre-installed on my phone with no way to take it off (except rooting), I would have uninstalled it.

  • RarestName

    The only things that I really like are Google Search and YouTube, which Google purchased >.<

  • Jusephe

    Put it another way: Can google survive without other platforms ?

    • Simon Hill

      Yeah, obviously BB and WP are not a big deal, but iOS definitely is. Reports yesterday are suggesting that Google will pay $1 billion to remain the default search provider on iOS. I think Google would survive thanks to Android, but a total split with Apple would hurt both of them.

  • companyemails

    “Would you ever consider buying a BlackBerry or a Windows Phone if you’re invested in Google?”

    Personally no and that’s the very reason. I use a lot of google apps and services. In fact, I know I use more than the average user, and even with that I am hardly what I would consider a Google power user, as there are plenty of Google services I have still not adopted. For me it is all about the scale of that ecosystem and how well it is integrated not just to other Google products, but to the underlying OS in which they operate. I my case, that makes me a Nexus user for mobile and a Chrome user on desktops (regardless of OS). I would not consider an platform that couldn’t offer me the quality of service I’m looking for.

  • Mārtiņš Belte

    Another platform with no Google support… I guess I’d go on web and use Google services from there, but it may prove difficult and annoying so I’d switch platforms.

  • Kayserr Pardo

    Google search and YouTube. That’s it. I only reason I use Gmail now is because of Android.

  • goldtooth

    nope, world and technology will go backward if google no more.

    I use gmail on daily basis, along with google search and blogger.
    youtube on weekend.
    maps and latitude when travelling, I also recommend latitude for my family & relatives.

    g+ once in a month.. :D

    scary to think if one day google is no more.

  • freedomspopular

    I like to try and be as platform-agnostic as possible. I buy and store all my music on Amazon. I have a Kindle so I also buy books from Amazon, along with an occasional movie, and I’m intending to remove the DRM from those one of these days so I can maintain full control over them. I use Dolphin Browser on my Note 2 and Note 10.1, and Firefox on my PC, which has become an infinitely better combination now that Dolphin has a Firefox extension. I recently switched all my email from Yahoo to Gmail, though that isn’t too big of a deal to me as it integrated seamlessly with the Mail app on Windows 8, and if I ever did switch to another platform I’d be ok with a third party option, as that’s what I was using before Gmail became my primary. I enjoy spending time skimming through Google+, but i don’t do a whole lot of interaction anyway, even with the people I know on Facebook. Don’t use Youtube enough for it to be a big deal for me. Maps I do use on a regular basis and would definitely miss it if I left Android. But otherwise, yeah, I think I’d be ok without Google’s services.

  • Cristian Militaru

    “Can other platforms survive without Google services? Yes, they can. If Google removed support for iOS completely tomorrow (if such a thing was possible) then some people might jump ship, but there’s no way it would spell the end of the platform. For BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8 it’s a much tougher proposition.”

    Sorry, this is completely wrong. For Windows Phone 8 it’s not “a much tougher proposition”, it’s the reality. They survive today without Google services.

    IMHO, only Microsoft-Nokia pair is able to do it. To survive without Google services., Bing, SkyDrive, Skype, Internet Explorer, Nokia Music, Nokia Maps. These are good alternatives for Google product/services.

    BB is down anyway. Apple is not able to do it at all. They still have a good market share percent on mobile devices, that’s because Google doesn’t ignore them. But this won’t last forever.