Unless you have been living under a rock, you will be aware that Google’s developer conference, I/O, has happened. Big news was announced but the point of this article is not to regurgitate other site’s news back to you. Instead, I am going to put forward my thoughts on some key topics at the event. The first topic… The big one… M!
Going in, I expected the 2015 flavour of Android to be a mild upgrade on Lollipop, focusing on refining the OS which was introduced to a lot of fanfare but became the Android equivalent of Windows Vista. My experience of Lollipop was that it was heavier than its predecessor (KitKat) with simple things like multitasking cards taking an age (in 2014/15) to load. Google took the opportunity to showcase the refinements such as Apps Permissions allowing users to decide what permissions they will allow certain apps to have, introducing Doze which aims to increase standby time by reducing background processes when the motion sensors on an Android Smartphone detects that it hasn’t been used for a long period of time and a host of other things like new app drawer, a dark theme, new RAM manager, a feature which adapts MicroSD card storage as internal storage and auto back-up/restore feature. That’s not to say that there wasn’t some new features coming to Android M though. The biggest feature has it’s own little section just below.
No, Google Wallet is not put to pasture. It is rumoured to still exist, probably as an app on iOS in the near future. Android Pay is a new system exclusive to Android (duh!) which is supported by Visa, Mastercard, American Express and ready to use in places like Subway, McDonalds and 700,000 more outlets, this is already a much better implementation than Google Wallet which despite coming to the market 3-4 years before Apple Pay, has not had anywhere near the traction (at least in the US) of Apple’s payment system. Hopefully a worldwide launch will prevent it from going down the road of Apple Pay which like many of Apple’s services, takes it sweet time coming into key markets like Europe.
Internet of Things
This has been a key part of Google I/O for the past couple of years, starting with Google Glass and carrying onto this year with the introduction of Brillo OS and Weave. The former is the software foundation on which Google hopes to build a platform connecting all the key smart devices in a typical household. It aims to connect all those devices using Weave, a binding mechanism which allows the smartphone to connect to the Nest thermostat for example, without the need for an app. I think this has the makings of something very promising and if allowed to be open source/cross-platform, could be something huge in a market which is fragmented big time due to proprietary software.
In my opinion, the most awesome bit of news to come out I/O was news regarding Google Now, specifically Now on Tap. It goes without saying that Google’s Now assistant is the best of all the search assistant. Not relying on personality (great, because it doesn’t have one) and instead doing its job in delivering information that useful and dense, Now on Tap brings another layer of awesomeness by bringing up various results based on key words in a message, email, web article etc. It negates the need for app switching and thus makes the experience fluid. As an iPhone user, this feature won’t be around on the iOS Google app but it throws the ball over to Apple. Can they improve Siri and add similar functionality? WWDC 2015 could be interesting.
Overall, I/O 2015 was an event where Google flexed its muscles in areas it leads like Search and showed off new services where it had to catch up or risked falling behind (Pay). I think it did well but as with anything, time will tell if it succeeds. I would have liked the company to say more about software updates, especially with news about Lollipop taking its time appearing on certain OEM flagships from 2014. That is still a big problem for Google, one that its competitors iOS and even Windows doesn’t have. What it did reveal though, could lay the foundations for something big in the future and for Android fans, that is a massive positive.