When Google released Android 10 with the Live Captions feature, I thought it would be a game changer. And I think many others like me who are deaf (or have significant hearing loss) thought so too.
I immediately upgraded when it became available for my OnePlus 6, excited to see what it could actually do. But after I upgraded my phone, I couldn’t find it… after some Googling, it turns out that Google actually limited it to only their Pixel phones... and maybe the latest Samsung’s. My dad has a S8 running Android 10, but I couldn’t find the option on it either.
You might say that maybe it’s up to the manufacturers to enable it on their phones… but why wouldn’t they?
Android limiting features to select devices though actually has happened before… with Daydream. It only runs on "supported" devices. But who decides that? Google’s phones aren’t exactly the best. Except maybe the camera, price-wise, they are expensive.
The evidence points to Google. If you have a rooted device (that’s a different and very technical topic with its own risks like voiding warranty and bricking the device), you can trick Android to think it’s a Pixel phone and turn on these features.
This is a long and technical video. I can’t find one for Daydream but that’s was even more technical and boring.
I’m a programmer and even I’ve run into some problems a few times, but I know the precautions I should take (taking full backups, buying phones where rooting does not void the warranty), which give me a better chance of figuring out how to recover when things go wrong.
So Why? Because It Can
Google is still a good search engine but that could be due to it having the most users across all it’s platforms, giving it more data to train its algorithms. Similar to Facebook and its advantage in targeting ads.
It has monopolistic powers, which was "acceptable” (this article was written in 2015 about this and other tech companies powers), until it started wielding them more and more to help itself.
It started as a software company with a mission of organizing the world’s information and making it more accessible. And Android was an open platform for all to use and benefit from.
But over the years, as it branched into hardware, Google has locked certain features so that only it can use them.
It is almost now like Apple, a closed system… except it’s a much bigger system: search, ads, hardware, AI, cloud storage/computing, maps, email, operating systems (ChromeOS, Android), entertainment, internet access, ...
How I Met Google: The Good Old Days
When Google (the search engine) first went public, I was probably an early user. I remember it was back in high school, when GMail first came out. One of my friends bought the invites for $1 and shared one with me.
Then when I was in college, it bought YouTube and started looking into Chromebooks. I signed up to be a tester and got one. Arrived in a nice box at my parents place… to their surprise.
Next, Google released Android around the time I was graduating and my dad bought me a Google Nexus right before I started working.
Google was cool back then. I wanted to join but never got close to meeting the cut… For one, I didn’t have a CS degree. It’s not so much the degree, I read all the algorithm and tech interviews books, but 4 years of algorithms and data structure drilling plus all the logic and math courses really help. I also had health problems I needed to deal with too.
It was also around the time I lost hearing. I needed a brain surgery to remove a large tumor. The hearing nerve had to get cut to reach the tumor. And my other had lost hearing a long time ago due to another surgery to treat tumors on that side.
For many years, I tried catching up and getting an interview with Google and other tech companies, but it was never meant to be…
In fact, being deaf made it very hard to do well in any interviews since it made it hard to communicate. I needed everything in writing and that’s slower and harder than speaking to someone.
First impressions and "social fit" makes a big difference.
As for Google, the only reason I wanted to work for them, other than the nice perks, was so I could use their tech to address my communication problem.
When Live Transcribe came out, my first thought was
Finally! It’s about time! Maybe 5 years late…
But it seems those good days are behind us. For a company that started with a motto of "don’t be evil (later changed to "do the right thing") and a mission "to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful", it sure doesn’t feel like it now…