With the demise of Google Reader, it finally became possible for me to consider getting out from under the thumb of the Beast of Mountain View for good. Sure, I had a lot of things going with Google, but many of them were simple to get out of – a quick redirect of my various domains for email left very little going into Gmail, while I unearthed an old AIM account to replace Google Talk for chatting with ‘er indoors during the workday. Google Voice has turned out to be not nearly as big a deal as I was expecting, and has basically become just a way of diverting calls to my old cell number (which invariably I don’t want to receive anyway, and besides, Google Voice is getting about as much attention as Reader did. I wouldn’t bet on it sticking around much longer in a world of Hangouts).
No, the two big obstacles to the Google-free life were Reader and Maps. And when Google refused to upgrade Maps for the iPhone without additional data and advertising access, and Apple told them to go shit in a hat, the problem was half solved – a year on, Apple Maps is pretty much reliable for most of my purposes. And now Google’s taken care of the other half, and I’m using Feedly as the backbone for Reeder on the iPhone and Mr. Reader on the iPad, and it seems to be working out pretty good.
I still have the Google Maps and Google Voice apps on the phone, under “in case shit.” And I have the Google Authenticator app in case I need to get onto the Google account. And…that’s about it, actually. The default search engine on the browser is still Google most places, but resolutely logged out and set for Private Browsing by default. I don’t even have my Gmail account on the iPhone anymore, just the iPad.
Now…here’s the trick. What if APPLE went away tomorrow?
Well, I still have the means to play all the content I already have, and I can still buy from the likes of Amazon. I might have trouble updating apps without the App Store, though. But looking over most of the things I routinely use on my devices, plenty of them are web-accessible. It might be easier to use the apps for Evernote, or Amazon, or Twitter, or Wikipedia, or YouTube, or Feedly – but it’s not strictly necessary. If iCloud goes away, that would be a pain in the ass, but I still have email elsewhere, and I’d just have to go back to not losing my phone. All the notes go into Evernote, and as for maps…hm…
The moral of the story is that Apple is selling you things, while Google is selling you to somebody else in exchange for services. It would be tougher to live without Apple at this point, just because mobility computing relies heavily on one or the other. Except… the fallback of fallbacks, at that point, is Amazon. Get a Kindle Fire, which doesn’t depend on Google for its OS, and you’re off to the races again with a 8.9-inch tablet with 4G connectivity. Plus a prepaid phone, obviously. Maybe an old Blackberry capable of Wi-Fi tethering, and then just get the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD with wi-fi and tether it…
Long story short, you’ve got to throw in your lot with somebody. Google, Apple, Amazon, maybe Microsoft – but you’re just as hamstrung as you were in the build-your-own-PC days, maybe more. You could slap together components and install Linux, but how far could you get from there? And is it possible to get a phone or tablet that doesn’t rely on somebody’s specific services to back it up?
In any event, the de-Google’d life is now more possible than ever before. We’ll see how long I last with it. If the Moto X is everything it’s cracked up to be, and if there really is a new Nexus 7 with the forthcoming Google announcement next week, it might be worth giving the Google silo another shot.