BY IMTIAZ FAROOQ
Well, nearly a week has passed since Google I/O, allowing for plenty of time to digest the cool stuff, the interesting stuff and some rubbish stuff too. From the outset, it was clear that anything Nexus was out of the question considering very little was mentioned about the next iteration of Android, which usually accompanies Nexus hardware unveilings. But less of what did not happen and more of what did! Without further ado, here are the notable announcements plus my thoughts.
ANDROID WEAR + DEVICES
This was a formality, given the Moto 360 teaser months prior which showcased Android Wear. Unveiled with the 360, the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live which we will talk about in a minute, the Android Wear OS is primarily Open Source software which can be used by OEM’s as the software to base their wrist wearables on. From the multiple hand’s on videos, it seems to be a vanilla Android experience although with Samsung involved, it probably won’t be long before bloatware… I mean, added value extras, will be present. Speaking of Samsung, I thought it was the surprise announcement of the Android Wear portion of I/O. Given its recent shift from Android to Tizen on smartwatches, one would think Samsung would like to build on that rather than confuse consumers with yet another iteration of its Gear line. But then again, leopards don’t change their spots do they? As expected the 360 looks gorgeous, if a little thick. I don’t think that is something that will go against it considering the ample amount of customisation that can be done with the straps to make it as inconspicuous as possible. How inconspicuous a round LCD screen on your wrist will be is something I am keen to find out soon. As for the G-Watch, it looks like the most uninspired design I have ever seen. This is the company that has released the jaw droppingly beautiful LG G3… For shame.
To summarise, this is an initiative by Google which allows for small manufacturers of Android handsets like Micromax in India or even big manufacturers looking to enter developing markets the blueprint for making cheap handsets that are decently specced and have the latest Android experience available for those who most likely cannot afford the S5’s, the G3’s and the One M8’s of this world. For me, this is a great move by Google. We at TekTalk and many other websites have always criticised the fragmented experience of Android where lower end devices still can be found with 4.1 Jelly Bean or even worse, Ice Cream Sandwich. Eliminating that by offering core hardware and software for small manufacturers to make cheap handsets is a masterstroke by Google and increases the adoption rate of the latest OS version being released. Speaking of which…
Revealed a day or so prior to the actual event, Android ‘L’ is to Android what iOS 7 was to Apple’s mobile operating system. Previewed on the Nexus 5, the main bit of news to come out was ‘Material Design’. There has been a lot of talk about what it actually is and each website/publication/YouTube person has their own spin on it so here is mine. To me, it is a UI refresh which adds the colour of a Windows Phone device and directly implements that colour onto HTC’s Sense skin to create this bright flavour of Android that is centred around skeuomorphism but not so much that you suddenly miss the ‘flat’ design that has been so popular recently. On the whole, I like it. Some animations might annoy me like the subtle vibrations of colour when selecting a tab or dialling a number but the philosophy of having something swipe out of another thing is pretty nice. From that side of things, you can see Jolla’s Sailfish OS or Blackberry 10 being a source of influence. Once released, I look forward to checking it out. The idea of having one seamless design across all Google products and services is a long overdue customisation and I am glad it is coming to fruition.
Now, where do we go with this? In simple terms, I think it is the bringing together of many failed Google TV services into a package which might lead to success finally for Google. Essentially, Android TV is Google Play Media services nicely into a package that I hope would centre around the Chromecast streaming stick released last year but curiously, it was not. Instead, we have heard murmurs of companies releasing set-boxes running this software and I now sit here thinking this will be more of an Amazon Fire TV service but Google-ified with games from the Play store and media from the Play store. Either way, I hope the Chromecast gets some of the action as it is a bit of a waste to make that device and then dump it for something which, on the face of it, could supersede it in the competitive living room TV space.
With that said, what do you guys think? Are you excited for the services and products mentioned? Have we missed something? Feel free to contact us and let us know.