Google was at a loss why millions of Androids froze daily. Then it found them all in India.


If you have been wondering why did Google announce and release its first Android file manager, Files to Go, specifically for India, this story has your answer. It's because Google's researchers and engineers finally solved the puzzle of millions of Android phones freezing on a daily basis in the past few years. They found them all in India.

In fact, a third of Androids there ran out of memory, and became gummed up on a daily basis, which is a huge number of phones given the size of the population, a lot of it newly online. It turned out that everyone, from grandpa Raj, to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was bent on spending their first waking hour each day in shooting "Good Morning" greetings to each and everyone they knew. Yes, Prime Minister Modi, who gets up at 5am, even scolded legislators once that they aren't reacting to his daily feel-good messages.


Wait, the fun doesn't stop here. Google's researchers discovered that most of these "Good morning!" greetings were accompanied by carefully selected images, and even short videos. Indians are the biggest WhatsApp users, for instance, with 200 million accounts active there, and WhatsApp was forced to issue a status message that can say "Good Morning!" to all your contacts at once. If you go on YouTube, you will see hundreds of Indian videos made specifically for sharing the morning cheer on WhatsApp, Facebook, and other platforms, complete with rising suns, butterflies, and corny slogans like "Good morning to my life’s rose. Your fragrance makes all of life’s thorns worth tolerating."

It's sweet, concluded Google, and a cultural peculiarity, but it reflects bad on the Android platform. Most of the phones sold in India have a low amount of memory, and are not that powerful to begin with, so when Western Digital found out that 1/3 of them froze often, compared to 1/10 in the US, the team from Mountain View was at it. The solution? You guessed it, Files to Go. It turns out that Android's first stock file manager was made from the onset to search and weed out Indian morning greetings, hence freeing up storage on low-end phones.

Google employed all of its machine learning, AI and blockchain (oops, not that one) powers, in order to make the software recognize corny feel-good images, feature and destroy them without a trace, for the utter relief of Indian grandkids, who were getting inundated with grandpa's morning fluff which they were too polite to ignore. Files to Go quickly amassed 10 million downloads in India, and the rest is history, but a funny one. "We were trying to deconstruct what is the DNA of a good morning message for months," said Google's Josh Woodward, the manager behind this project. "It’s been a lot of hard work to get it right," as initially the algorithms picked things like kids with morning greetings T-shirts. Whew.

source: WSJ (paywall)
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