Google Now Needlessly Requires Battery-Draining Location Settings

location based cardsI think Google Now on my Android is pretty cool. I especially like the cards that show how traffic looks for an expected commute. One thing about it that bothers me a lot however, is that it insists that it needs either “high accuracy” or “battery saving” location mode enabled. High Accuracy mode uses GPS, wifi, or mobile networks to determine location. Battery Saving mode uses wifi and mobile networks. Device Only is the third option which uses GPS solely. My question is: Why is the Device Only option not allowed for Google Now to work?

These mode names either just don’t make sense or are deliberately misleading. First of all, GPS is the only highly accurate way to get your location. The other means are a far less accurate fallback. Secondly, if Battery Saving mode saved battery by not using GPS, then I would be using that option, since extending the use of the phone between charges is something that I’m concerned about. Google’s location services are known to cause a variety of battery-draining wakelocks, and Google Now is a primary culprit. How do I know this? I set my location method to Device Only, and the battery life of my phone has more than doubled.

While trying to figure out why this happened, at one point I changed the setting back to Battery Saving mode. Immediately a message on my phone requested my authorization for Google to collect location data. What I can surmise is simple: Google doesn’t necessarily care where I am at any given time. What they really want is to be able to say that they don’t track their users, while using their users’ phones to spy on everything around them (naturally, that would include the location reported by others’ phone location services).

This is the only logical conclusion that I can draw. Google isn’t spying on you through your phone, they want your permission to spy on others through your phone, and to spy on you through others’ phones. They can simply correlate all their location and time data independently of who supplied it, and create point-in-time maps of where everyone is at any given time.

Google, don’t be evil. And stop being so childish that you insist that I spy on everyone around me to use Google Now. I’m going to continue to use the Device Only option for the foreseeable future. I hope everyone else does too.

Author: Charlie Herron

Denizen of Portland, Maine; tech jack; lover / hater / whatever; philosophical dabbler.