Google Pay proves the Android brand is dying
Yesterday, Google announced that it was consolidating its two mobile payments systems, Android Pay and Google Wallet, under the Google Pay brand. While it’s easy to dismiss this move as Google finally waking up to its service fragmentation issue (the company still has five messaging platforms), there appears to be something bigger going on with Google’s branding.
Over the past several years, Google appears to be moving away from the Android brand and pushing Google instead. John Gruber made the astute observation that Google doesn’t even mention Android on the Pixel 2 page, except as a footnote. The video ad for the phone never mentions Android. Additionally, references to Android only show up 8 times in Google’s list of consumer products whereas “Google” shows up 24 times.
This movement away from the Android brand isn’t anything new; Google rebranded its app store from Android Market to Google Play in 2012. It also rebranded its Android Device Manager to Find My Device last year, slowly transitioning itself away from Android to a more all-encompassing term: Google.
Welcoming Google into the Home
We can see this shift away from the Android branding with Google’s smart speakers under the Google Home brand. These speakers are powered by the Google Assistant, which runs on various platforms like automobiles and TVs, and not just on phones, which Android is synonymous with. Instead of consumers asking their phones to do or look up something, they’re asking Google.
The company wants consumers to think of all its software and hard experiences as being powered by Google, not Android. This is most obvious with the simple “G” logo adorning the back of the Pixel 2 phones instead of the Android logo. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find the Android logo in the mobile operating system, as the boot animation features the Google “G” and even the version number is only represented by a design when tapped on repeatedly in the settings.
Google sold over 6 million Home speakers since mid-October and its success shows a massive consumer shift to voice being the next big platform. It also shows that consumers are becoming more and more familiar with Google as being the all-encompassing brand and term that empowers their lives.
The future of the Android brand
Combining Google Wallet and Android Pay into Google Pay makes complete sense, as Android Pay no longer accurately describes the capabilities of Google’s payment system. Android Pay implied that purchases could only be completed by and on Android phones. Google Pay implies the payment system can work anywhere. Apple was smarter with its branding, naming its mobile payments system Apple Pay instead of iOS Pay.
Android itself has a bit of a branding problem as well. With every new version of iOS released, Apple digs into Google for Android fragmentation, where a majority of devices running Google’s mobile operating system fail to be updated for months after release. The latest version of Android, Oreo, makes up only 0.7% of all active Android devices on the market. The latest version of iOS on the other hand (iOS 11), boasts 76% distribution.
Let’s be clear: Google isn’t moving away from Android because it’s giving up on the platform. It’s moving away from Android as its products and services run on so many more platforms than just Android. While it’s highly unlikely that Google will get rid of the Android branding any time soon, it does show that the company is aware that consumers don’t really care about what operating systems are called. To most consumers, you have the iPhone or a Google phone, not iOS or Android. You have PCs and you have Macs, not Windows or macOS.
There are still a lot of unanswered questions for the future of the Android brand. We’ve seen Google move away slowly from the Android brand, so what happens to the remaining Android-branded products? Will Android TV be rebranded Google TV? Will Chromebooks be rebranded Googlebooks (they’re already kind of doing this with the Pixelbook)? Will ChromeOS finally merge with Android and what would the resulting operating system be called?
This all remains to be seen but we won’t be surprised if Google continues moving slowly away from the Android brand, until finally it completely abandons it. Then Google will be one singular brand that owns our attention on the desktop, laptop, smartphone, self-driving car and wherever else our attention might be spent in the coming years.