I’m switching back to a Pixel because Android 10’s privacy features are so important

Regular visitors to this space might know that I really like my BlackBerry KEY2 and happily use it even though I have access to other “better” Android phones. I love the form factor, and while I wish BlackBerry Mobile was more transparent about how it locks things down, I appreciate the extra layer of device security added to the phone. Some may think I’m a bit paranoid, but my life is in that thing and I want to keep things to myself. To me, it’s the best Android phone.

But I’m not using it and haven’t for the past couple of weeks, and it’s all because of Android 10.

Android 10 gives me something I’ve been wanting — control.

Android 10 has several very nice additions to user privacy; things like automatically deleting your web activity or keeping Assistant features on the phone instead of the cloud are great for everyone — even if you aren’t really concerned about it. But one feature, in particular, makes me not want to use an Android phone without it: control over how apps can get and use your location.

In Android 10, you can tell apps that they are only allowed to get your location when you have the app open and are looking at it on your screen. That’s a big change from the previous permission system, which was a simple yes or no because some apps need a location to work. On Android 9 and older, you say yes and let those apps get your location, and they can keep getting it and using it anytime. That means apps can upload that data or store it for any reason. That’s bad news, and I’ll be honest — it had me considering switching to an iPhone because location permissions have been locked down on iOS for years.

I know my location isn’t really a secret. My carrier has it as long as my phone is turned on, and Google has it unless I go into the settings and disable it. I can’t do anything about the former, at least until the class-action suits begin, and so far Google hasn’t broken its own terms about how my location is used. But apps aren’t bound by the same rules my carrier and Google are, and location data is one of those things that seems worthless but has a lot of value to the right people. Yes, I’m saying that apps can (and do) sell your location data to other companies that use it for research or marketing or God knows what else. If anyone is going to sell my data, I want it to be me. I could use the cash.

This makes giving up my BlackBerry and its amazing keyboard worth it to me. All the things I want from a phone can’t be found in one particular model, but the extra control over who gets to track me and how they can do it are worth giving up the keyboard I love and the two days of battery life for something with Android 10. I have a company-bought Pixel 3 here, and now it has all of my life inside it and location is shut down nice and proper for every app except Google Maps. I hate the tall, skinny display and I hate not having any bezels on the side and I especially hate having to watch how I use my battery. But I love the control Android 10 gives me, so I’ll take it.

After 10 years Google finally got serious about privacy and I love it.

This might seem petty to you and that’s OK. We all want different things from our phones and one of the things I want is for it not to track me. Android 10’s new location permissions can’t make that happen completely, but they go a long way towards giving me control over how my data is used.

I’m not a wanted man or dealing dope or anything; I’m just a regular middle-aged dude with a little house and a lawn that needs cut and I have nothing I need to hide. What I do have should be under my control and anything that helps that happen is a winner in my book.

Now if you’ll excuse me please, I need to charge this damn Pixel 3 again.


Loknath Das