Every year that Google holds its I/O conference there's a flurry of speculation during the run up and then there's a whole buzz of activity all across the web afterwards. Here at Android Headlines, we're no different and as such we'd like to let you in on what we hope are going to be the biggest things to come from Google I/O and why. Read on, won't you?
A Nexus Tablet
I think it's safe to say that we all want a Nexus tablet, I mean, why wouldn't we? Our man who will be in attendance at I/O Justin Diaz has written an awesome write up on the Nexus Tablet and you should definitely go and check that out. The Nexus tablet is such a big device that it deserves its own praise and Justin has done a stellar job with his piece.
We Have Plenty of Android Tablets; Do We Need A Nexus Tablet?
The Nexus tablet is going to be a lot more than just a stock Android device, especially if Google pull it off right. It's going to be Google's first entry into the tablet market proper and I can't wait. Let's take a look in-depth on what it could mean.
Aside from the fact that I'm sure many of you want a Nexus tablet regardless of whether you think it's necessary for Android as a whole, I believe that it is needed for Android to continue to be successful. We already know that Apple are winning the tablet war and for good reason, whilst the iPad is still a giant iPod Touch it has what something Android tablets are still sorely lacking, a boat load of apps. Good apps, the kind of apps that make you think this larger screen is well worth it. Granted, more apps are going to come with a bigger adoption of Android 4.0 on tablets and also thanks to Google's innovative 'fragments' system but, there's not that much of an incentive for developers to try all that hard.
Honeycomb was not a good start for Google. It seemed like it was going to be, with faster hardware and a number of partners rallying behind them it looked like they were going to get Apple's feathers ruffled but, it didn't work that way. Firstly, it wasn't open sourced, something that I didn't agree with and didn't understand and I think that hurt Google. Secondly, Google didn't really do much with the XOOM even at release; sure, the Google Apps were all optimised for tablets but, aside from Google Body there was nothing new for tablets. It was the same stuff, just bigger and even with partners like CNN announcing apps for tablets content providers were still flocking to the iPad.
With a Nexus tablet Google can show the developer community that their looking to not only "double down" but also secure Android tablets as a viable option to consumers and entice developers to focus on making on good, great even, tablet applications. It's all about apps and if we don't have the apps then we don't really have an ecosystem. If developers see that Google are, themselves putting them name out there in a fashion akin to their phone strategy then I think that it's going to instill a lot of faith in the platform going forward.
Google Assistant – Majel Makes its Debut
By now, we're all familiar with Voice Control on mobile devices in some sort of fashion as the technology has been around for years now. However, with the likes of Siri from Apple and now S Voice from Samsung it looks like the time for us to talk to our phones, Star Trek style, is almost upon us. I've used Siri and whilst it works well for some things the power of the app is certainly a little limited and as Apple updates Siri, Google are apparently busily working on bringing their competitor to the market.
It's said that the app is going to be called "Google Assistant" and will, of course, have intense tie-ins to the Android OS, delivering a complete voice solution on the OS. This type of stuff is where Google really ought to be competing at the forefront but, they're a little late to the game with this. The company was the first to market with Voice Actions that tied in loosely with other apps on Android and voice recognition as a text input has been successful and a welcome addition to text input on Android.
Beyond that though, there isn't a lot Android can offer you in terms of voice services and this is where Google Assistant is going to come in. I envision the Assistant to be the major new feature of Jelly Bean – more on that later – that will tie in to every service that Google offers. Now if Google do bring this to the table then I believe that Apple will have another battle on their hands
I Don't Like Siri and S Voice is A Gimmick – Why Google Assistant
Siri is something that you can use with the iPhone's core apps – of which there has never been that many anyway and S Voice will only integrate with the apps that are part of TouchWiz 5 with some fallback on Google services. This is all fine and well but, this limits the respective services that the apps can offer. If Google were to release their own service it would be a big coup for the company as Google have access to every one of their services, obviously.
This will allow the Assistant to float from Gmail through to the dialer, through to YouTube, to your Google Calendar and so on and so forth. All of this is then going to be synced throughout your devices making the whole thing seamless. Google have, for a long time, had strong voice recognition software in Android and if taken to the next level it could well outdo Siri. Whilst Apple's assistant may well recognise key phrases I don't believe that the technology can strip out these phrases from a true conversation. If Google could perfect the technology to understand a conversational phrase such as "Send this YouTube video to my friends Chris, Mike and Justin and make sure to e-mail me the times for the next meeting and then send a text to my girlfriend tell her I'll be busy on that date". If Google can tie all of this together and execute on it then this will become a serious competitor to Siri and S Voice.
A Handful of Jelly Beans
It's been well rumored that Jelly Bean is the next version of Android and in fact, Google themselves put out a bowl of the little guys for attendees at this year's MWC in February. Jelly Bean however isn't said to be Version 5.0 of the OS but version 4.1 and with this comes the idea that this won't be as much as a jump as we've enjoyed recently. I believe that Jelly bean is going to an incremental jump from Ice Cream Sandwich with more polish to the OS and perhaps a couple more features.
This isn't going to be one of those updates that is going to reinvent the wheel or anything like that, this is going to be the kind update that solidifies the platform's strengths and irons out any kinks that may well be left over Android 4.0
Less Is More At This Point
At the end of last year Google announced Ice Cream Sandwich alongside the Galaxy Nexus and displayed a phone OS that acted a lot more like Android did on tablets and bought some of the features of Honeycomb back down to the phone and, added a lot more as well. Android 4.0 was a massive leap for the OS not only thanks to the improvements on the Holo theme throughout but, from a functionality and polish standpoint. Having the same version of an operating system on your phone and your tablet works wonders for the user experience, it finally felt that whether you were on a tablet or a phone you were on Android, regardless.
What Google need to do with Jelly Bean is improve on the great foundation they laid with Ice Cream Sandwich and improve where it's needed and leave the UI alone for the most part. They need to release an iterative release that brings speed improvements, better memory management and battery life and include new features like Google Assistant. To reinvent the wheel this soon after Ice Cream Sandwich is not going to help anybody and cause fragmentation needlessly.
Shiny Chrome, Everywhere
It's obvious that we're going to see something come from the Chrome team at this year's I/O conference but, I think this time around Chrome will seap into Android in a bigger way than before, just like I believe it should.
Chrome on Mobile has been successful since the browser's first release earlier this year and has only gotten better and better with each update. Hopefully the team will announce and release the final release of Chrome on Android. This would combat Apple's recently announced tab syncing across Safari nicely and will be needed to show off Google's presence on the web.
Why Chrome on Android
The web browser from Google is not only important for the company because of their many services and of course, Chromebooks but also because the stock Android browser is just another browser. You can say that's fine but where's the pizazz behind an icon reading "Browser", even Microsoft know they need something to catch people's eye and have Internet Explorer on Windows Phone. With Chrome's large market share on the desktop side of things it's synonymous with users for a great experience throughout the whole web and if they bought this to Android it's going to show the community and new users alike that if you're using Android then you're going to enjoy the web, for sure.
If you've stayed with me this long then you've probably been wondering where all the glass is well, here it is. We've seen a lot from Project Glass throughout year in the form of snippets here and there and the more we learn, the more we want to know.
We've seen screenshots, we've seen people wearing them and we've heard a little about their UI but, I/O is the place that Google will want to put Glass at the forefronts of people's minds. To refresh you on what Project Glass could well mean I'll send you to the video below:
Glasses Are Glasses; Why Are These Going to Be Special?
Project Glass is going to be the opportunity for Google to show the rest in the game that they're getting ready for the future, big time. Imagine Google Assistant working in tandem with these? That's going to be some serious productive horsepower and make Siri look like a toy. With smart watches coming to the market from Motorola with Sport Actv as well as imWatch and others it looks like glanceable info is going mainstream and more people want to get more information quicker and easier. Glass is going to enable people to do this so easily and seamlessly it's going to better than having your own assistant.
Add that to the camera inside of it as well as the device's tie in to Google's services and you've basically got the whole web covered with you right at the middle of it. If Google didn't release more information or even do a demo of this then I think they'll have missed an opportunity, for sure.
So! There you have it! Android Headlines' Premium Preview of Google I/O! Now, you're fully prepared for next week and of course, prepared for the awesome coverage that we'll be bringing you all week thanks to Mike and Justin who'll be in attendance for us!