Android’s “rebrand” is just a front

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Android will soon have a new look in Google’s bid to position the brand for a wider international appeal.

At least, that’s how Google’s justifying it.

Announced today on Google’s blog and the Android YouTube channel, the rebranding comes with a redesigned logo (still the iconic Bugdroid, but just the head) and a renewed pastel color palette.

“The core of Android is ‘for everyone,’ Aude Gandon, Android’s Global Brand Director, says in a video announcing the change, before stumbling about how it is important to make sure the technology is available to everyone at affordable price points.

As should be obvious, a logo hardly affects Android’s international availability, and the argument that a slightly-altered logo will somehow make Android, already the leading mobile operating system outside of the U.S. both in usage and recognition, more available is a logical fallacy. So much so, even Gandon struggles to explain it.

The “for everyone” notion is essentially the “Be Together. Not the Same.” tagline revived from Google’s last big push in 2014 to drive Android’s branding and scrub its bad reputation.

While I’ll admit I appreciate the new simpler Bugdroid logo, and the color change is hardly noticeable, the Android aficionados such as myself will sorely miss a hallmark staple of the operating system: the dessert names.

Yes, because “something something someone in Kenya doesn’t know what a Kit-Kat bar is, L and R are not distinguishable in some spoken languages,” the Android brand has decided to nix the dessert-themed operating system version names, starting with Android Q, which will officially launch as just Android 10.

As with the branding, the reasoning for such a change is illogical and really just a blanket cover for “we got tired of the way things were.” After all, there are few desserts that start with Q, and Android’s efforts to be clever with the naming, and related statues, has dwindled in recent years (see, “Nougat celebrating a small French town” and “Really? Just Pie?“), not to mention its attempts to make you completely forget about Honeycomb. By comparison now, though, any creativity in their naming would be appreciated over plain, boring numbers.

RIP Honeycomb. Actually, all of you.

The walk-back from the dessert names will likely be an easy one. In recent years, Google has artfully shifted from referring to its operating system as “Android [dessert]” to “Android [number] [dessert]”, to the point that many people in the community today simply refer to Android 9.0 Pie as Android 9. (That does throw some cold water on Google’s argument that language barriers are frequently getting in the way when it comes to understanding what version of Android someone has.)

The final word will be easy to drop, especially when so many mainstream consumers don’t understand the concept anyway. I have had to explain the dessert monikers to so many people, all to the same reaction: “Well, that’s weird.”

Plus, not since 4.4 KitKat has a new version of Android been an incremental update rather than a whole number update, when the different dessert names could actually help you distinguish 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” from 4.1 “Jelly Bean”. Since every version since 2014’s 5.0 Lollipop has been a whole number change, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Of course, the pageantry and farcical justification of a new logo and simplier operating system version names is really just a front for another, likely half-hearted, bout in Android’s longstanding, and misguided, battle against Apple’s iOS for the title of “most popular U.S. mobile operating system.”

I take no real issue with Google’s attempts to take on Apple; Google’s deeper involvement in the marketing of Android products has led to quality Made by Google products like the Google Pixel phones and new Android Wear watches (albeit at the sacrifice of the fanboy Nexus line). And since the launch of the Pixel, Google has be able to slowly but surely clear away Android’s negative connotation as a cheap brand, to the point that average U.S. consumers have taken notice of the operating system and legitimately consider it even when they can afford an iPhone. (That didn’t come with a bump in U.S. market share, however, much to Google’s chagrin.) I can recall, shortly after the first Google Pixel launched, seeing college-aged girls that one would typically expect to have iPhones proudly carrying the new Android devices. As an Android fan, it made me happy to see the operating system sought after, rather than settled on for once.

So I have no problem with Google restructuring Android to align itself better with iOS, in a bid to bring more Apple die-hards to its platform. What I take issue with is that, rather than address and do things that will actually convince Apple users that Android is a viable alternative, such as building a real and not-Allo iMessage substitute, the company would rather change a few colors and, in a twist, say that its to help recognition internationally.

Unless Google feels threatened by Hauwei’s new potential mobile OS (China is, after all, a major market for Android devices), there’s little truth to the notion that the operating system is unknown internationally. Android has consistently held upwards of 90 percent of the worldwide market share of mobile operating system usage, and projects like Android One and Android Go have further helped Android penetrate foreign markets with cheap (read: affordable) handheld devices.

Let’s take this move for what it really is: another half-baked marketing attempt to get Android in the headlines and drive U.S. sales, disguised as international outreach, and while the branding changes will likely be permanent going forward, it’s only a matter of months (perhaps once Google has drummed up enough interest in the Pixel 4) before the whole charade is dropped and we can go back to the way things were. Until another five years passes and some executive starts this whole thing over again.

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