Before May of 2019, I had a fairly un-Google life. I had and iPhone, iPad, a linux desktop where Firefox was my browser of choice, my email was Fastmail, and I frequently used DuckDuckGo for search(though search and YouTube were two places I frequently fell back to Google). One important place I used Google was as home assistant. I used Google Home basically to control light switches, do it’s few tricks and has the Hub version in the kitchen which was very useful for quick look ups for recipes, measurement conversions, and substitutions. It was neat and somewhat useful, but also not terribly game changing and pretty disconnected from the rest of my “computing” ecosystem. The Google I/O 2019 happened. Google showed off a lot of cool stuff coming to Google assistant, and made it clear to me that an Android phone, or even better a Pixel, would be the best way to take advantage of that ecosystem. Having been a fan of the friendly-priced Google Nexus devices and decidedly not a fan of the premium priced Pixel lineup, the Pixel 3a XL spoke to me a solid looking phone at a decent price. But in replacing my iPhone with an Android, I realized that I’d be juggling two mobile ecosystems if I kept my iPad, so it would have to go too. But by 2019, the Android tablet market was essentially dead aside from the bargain bin, but Chromebooks were picking up steam with Android apps and even a native-ish Linux environment for newer top of the line models. So I also went out and got a Lenovo C630 Chromebook (see my thoughts on it here) that would not only replace my iPad as my mobile devices of choice, but with its Linux support I’d also give it a go as primary computer. Finally the last step to make the Google Assistant really tick was to give it my data, specifically email and calendars. So I moved everything from Fastmail back to GMail. I probably stayed fully in the Google ecosystem for a solid 6 months, and then I started drifting away again.
So what happened? I guess the biggest thing was that, at least for me, Google Assistant was a bit of a dud. I’ll admit that a lot of that may have to do more with me not really having enough going on that I need an AI to help me out, but at the same time I never really got into the habit of using it “properly”. At the end of the day I often had the same information Google had and I could just look at my calendar or email my self. Maybe if I tried to enforce that mental paradigm shift it would have been more useful, but ultimately I never go much use out of it. Without the assistant as the linchpin, any compromises I made to stay in the Google world didn’t seem worth it. I may be in the minority, but I’m not a super into the GMail UI, especially after the recent overhaul and even trying to use other client with GMail isn’t great with their occasionally wonky IMAP implementation. So back to Fastmail I went. And then there’s my stance on privacy. I don’t like anyone basically packing up my information and selling it, but if there’s a benefit to me, it might be worth a trade. That was the implicit deal I felt I was making with Google, but now I didn’t feel like I was getting my money’s worth out of the deal. So in addition to jumping ship from GMail, I once again went back to Firefox and dumped Chrome where possible(possible on Chromebook, but clunky). While there were many things I did end up liking about the Chromebook, one thing that didn’t work as a replacement for my iPad was the size since the model I chose was potentially a desktop replacement I went with a 15”. Its screen was far superior for watching movies based on size and aspect ratio than the iPad, but it wasn’t great as a large format eReader(I have a Kindle, but it’s terrible for fixed format PDFs), or being able to wander around the house with something bigger than a phone and not have to setup shop with a giant laptop. Having missed a tablet for a while, I ended up with a 7th gen iPad on black friday for $250. It trades duty with my Chromebook still, but the iPad probably sees more use unless I’m specifically in a movie or TV watching mode. So now I’m back in a split mobile ecosystem. In theory I like the openness of Android better than iOS, but in practice, I haven’t side loaded anything in years. My only really legitimate gripe about iOS right now is that non-Safari browsers are just web view wrappers that even if Firefox could be ported, it’d still be missing extensions. But I get by with Safari on my iPad just fine and I think I could survive it on a phone. Also over that last five or six years, I’ve ended up using iPhones more than Android after being a pretty big Android fan when it first came out. Now that mobile platforms don’t feel like such a rapidly changing wild west, I don’t feel like I need to make a lot of out of the box changes, and right now, I like iOS in the box more than Android. It’s come a long way and doesn’t feel as limited compared to Android like it did for a while. So I’ve got a new iPhone on a UPS truck on the way to my house as I write this. My Chromebook’s life is in limbo. My desktop will probably remain Linux, but I’d like to get into some mobile app development soon, so I’ll need some kind of Mac, which will probably be a laptop and finally put my Chromebook out to pasture. The new i5 version of the Macbook Air looks good, but I might wait and see what the next 13” Macbook Pro looks like.
Google isn’t completely gone from my life, it’s just in a more appropriate role. At the end of the day I still find it most useful for search(even when I try to go DDG, I end up appending every search with a g!) and YouTube basically has no competitor. As far as Google assistant goes, I actually took out the smart light switches a few months ago when it looked like we may move and haven’t bothered to put them back yet. It’s still there, but not doing much. The Hub in the kitchen is doing decent business though, I’m just not expecting Google to keep track of my life.