iOS and Android OS brought about the always-on, always-connected age of smartphones. Now, we witness an evolution of Android OS back through time as Google attempts to address the matters arising.
On modern smartphones running Android OS and iOS, once you are subscribed to data on your smartphone, your internet connection is always active. Unless you manually turn it off at intervals, you are online 24-7.
The always-connected world is exciting and is of great benefit to app developers who love to mine user data and monitor stuff on phones. But it comes with the disadvantage that smartphones now guzzle data in copious quantities. It does not matter whether or not you are actively using your phone, it is burning data in the background.
Your contacts are being synced, email is being synced (and read), your location and movement are being sent away to some server somewhere, among other activities. People on a budget quickly find out that they run out of data fast and eventually learn to manually disable their internet connection when it is not needed. Google finally came to terms with this reality and began to take steps to address the issue.
What Made Symbian OS Great
One of the things that made Symbian OS great was that nothing happened on your smartphone without your approval. No internet connection was initiated – no data was sent anywhere – without your approval. This was not only great for data management, it was also superb for privacy and security. On Symbian, your smartphone could not even get infected without your active collusion.
Android and iOS threw all that away in a bid to have consumers connected round the clock. But in recent times, Google has come to accept that this the-highway-or-not approach was not enough to push Android OS adoption to the next billion users. As advanced mobile markets achieved smartphone saturation, the company looked to the rest of the world to push Android, and found to their dismay that the rest of the world wouldn’t go with their way.
How did the rest of the world work? The Verge has a very interesting report on Google’s findings:
Josh Woodward, the product manager overseeing Datally, says the idea for the app came from seeing the lengths that people go to preserve data, particularly in countries where mobile plans remain relatively expensive. In Delhi, Lagos, and Buenos Aires, Woodard said his team saw people who would keep their phone on airplane mode at all times to prevent data usage. When they wanted to check their notifications, they’d turn airplane mode off, let all the info rush in, and then turn airplane mode back on while they looked over the new information.
Interesting; right? In many places, people use Android smartphones the way Symbian OS used to work: offline by default. They go online only when they need to.
Efficiency Is The Way Forward
No matter what advantages the new smartphone platforms brought, they also brought a new level of resource inefficiency – burning data, apps using up huge amounts of space, as well as burning power. If there is anything human history has taught us, it is that progress eventually tilts in the direction of resource efficiency. Lower power consumption; smaller app footprints; and lower data consumption. It will not be different with smartphones.
Eventually, the present kings of the smartphone world – Android OS and iOS – will have to conform or be replaced.
The Backwards Evolution of Android OS Towards Symbian OS
First, we saw app developers begin to create lite versions of their apps, so users on slower and expensive mobile connections could save both time and money. App developers saw the problem before Google did, and lite apps began to gain ground widely.
As a matter of fact, the world got the shock of their lives when even smartphone users in advanced markets began to embrace lite apps as well. Who woulda thunk. But it happened. Even people with access to cheap data and powerful smartphones do not necessarily want to deal with excesses.
Eventually, Google too began to admit that Android OS in its current state is not fit for next billions they were looking to connect. They came up with Android Go, a project to develop a stripped down version of Android OS that would address these issues.
Now, Google has released a new app, called Datally, “that helps you understand, control and save data”.
What Does Datally Do?
Datally lets users see their data usage on a hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis and get personalized recommendations for how they can save more.
Datally gives users control, so they can block disable data access to individual apps or disable background data usage completely.
Lastly, Datally also helps users find and connect to public Wi-Fi.
Google says that from tests run with Datally, they have recorded up to 30% data savings by users.
Evolution of Android OS To Symbian OS: Not There Yet
Datally is a good step in the right direction, but it isn’t quite there yet. This evolution of Android OS isn’t reaching deep enough. At least at this point. Perhaps when (or IF) Android Go gets here, it will touch deep down enough.
Were Google to implement a way to let the phone be offline by default, but automatically connect to the internet only when certain apps the user has chosen require a connection, that would be as close to the level of control and user privacy that Symbian OS offered. The phone would connect to execute the scheduled task, e.g. email sync, and then go back offline.
Also, a pop-up notification each time the phone attempts an online connection would be great. That way too, security/privacy monitoring is easier. But will it happen? Do the digital powers that be want users spending more time offline than online?
We do say that half bread is better than none. If you need to have greater control over your mobile data usage, Datally is available for all Android phones running Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and higher. You can download Datally from Google Play HERE.
Founder of MobilityArena. Yomi’s journey in mobile started in 2001. Besides obsessing over mobile phones, he also started creating WAP sites (early mobile-friendly websites created with HDML/WML). He began writing about phones in 2004 and has been at it since then. He has owned over 200 devices, from Symbian, Palm, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, to Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.