Editorials

Galaxy Note 5 comes without Google+ preinstalled; is the future of Google+ in jeopardy?

Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones this year have been “toning down TouchWiz,” removing features that weren’t popular while retaining those that are mildly or extremely popular. The result, for many, has been a UI experience that is quite drastically different from the Samsung devices of just a few years ago. It was said at one point that Samsung would allow users to uninstall apps, but that was discovered to be just a rumor after the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge arrived on the scene back in April. Samsung was forced to comply with a judicial ruling (along with Oppo) in China, as both manufacturers were told to provide an uninstall apps option for consumers. Samsung was ruled as providing too many apps on its UI that delivered a more “bloated” experience than ever. Of course, Oppo offered 20 apps more than Samsung and deserved most of it, but Samsung has complied with the ruling for China users. Some American customers who want to see the same thing happen here haven’t been so lucky yet.

But that doesn’t mean the Galaxy Note 5 doesn’t have some good news, apart from the stellar battery life and charging time we’ve already seen. Now, according to a new report, Google+, Google’s social network created to rival Facebook, is nowhere to be found on the Galaxy Note 5. Tech site Android Central says that it’s played around with two Galaxy Note 5 models that don’t offer Google+ at all in the Google apps folder – a rather weird discovery for the first Note of its kind. The Galaxy Note 5 is trimming software, true, but it wouldn’t trim Google+ when the other Google apps (Drive, Gmail, Chrome, Hangouts, etc., all remain).

This is a strange thing indeed, especially when you remember that Google owns Android and requires all OEMs to place Google apps front and center on their devices. In other words, your smartphone has little chance of selling if it doesn’t offer Google apps within Android. There are smartphones such as the Amazon Fire Phone that have never offered Google apps or the Play Store (Google’s apps store); the result, however, is that the Fire Phone has sold very few copies. Android consumers like their Google Play Store and their access to lots of apps. To have that taken away from them would be a tragedy indeed.

So, with the removal of Google+ as a pre-installed app, we have to ask the question: where is Google+ going? It seems to be going the way of the dinosaur, and there’s a trajectory that tells all. First, it was the fact that Google+ leader Vic Gundotra left the company, which seemed odd for the social network. Google has yet to find anyone to replace Gundotra, but continues on as though nothing has happened. The next step for Google was to detach the photo cloud storage from Google+ (once upon a time, you had to have a Google+ account to make use of it). Google then started creating its Twitter presence (which was odd for the social network, considering that Google had never done such a thing in its past).

And then, there’s the restructuring effort, whereby Google, once the name and face of the company, has become one subsidiary of quite a few companies all under the “Alphabet” umbrella. It seems as though Google is growing smaller and smaller inside the conglomerate, and now, Google+ is, too.

Google+ is looking more and more like a “blip” on a screen, a spec of dust on the floor – and this latest move speaks volumes. Samsung could not remove Google+ as an app unless Google allowed it. In other words, Google no longer seems bent on pushing Android consumers to use its social network. If Google no longer has such a passionate, vested interest in it, it’s only a matter of time before it goes the way of the dinosaur.

Maybe not today, but soon.

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