In this edition of the Friday Debate, we look back at a year of Android news. Android has consolidated its lead in market share, the quality of the ecosystem improved by a large margin, and a flurry of great devices gave users more options than ever. Android continued to extend beyond smartphones and tablets, with gaming consoles like Nvidia’s Shield and the Chromecast HDMI stick front and center. Voice activated search, a more intelligent virtual assistant, and a lot of polish came to our favorite operating system.
But what was the biggest development in the world of Android this year? What were the events that changed how we use Android to the greatest extent? What devices and apps had the biggest impact on the ecosystem?
Join us in the discussion, vote in our poll, and sound off in the comments!
The most exciting news for me was in the strides that Google Now has made. When the Google assistant originally came, it was a nifty feature to show off to friends. It worked good enough to use it when driving or when my hands were otherwise occupied. The only issue was it was tough to launch. I had to make a widget for it, and it still felt like a bolted-on application.
When Google Now was rebranded in July of 2012 it really showed the direction of the product. No longer is just a voice assistance, it will now begin to provide information to you when you need it. I’m excited to be there during the infancy of Google Now, and seeing it blossom into a vital part of the OS. Google Now is becoming a selling feature to users. In 2014, I can see it becoming a bigger player in this world of Android. Rumors of a Google Now smart watch are showing in my Google+ feed daily. I know Google is pushing Google+ very hard this year as well, so I wonder how they both will come together to make one awesome package.
Very excited for the future Android has.
Kevin’s answer is really good. I’m quite jealous.
It may seem one dimensional since I spend all day with apps and games, but for me it’s been the evolution of, well, apps and games. This year saw several console-level titles get released to Android including Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Final Fantasy IV, Sonic the Hedgehog (1 and 2), Riptide GP2, and many others. They have pretty awesome graphics, longer campaigns, competent mechanics and gameplay, and while some of them are remakes of actual console games, some are totally original. EA, who wins awards every year for their sports titles, have started releasing sports games on mobile as well (albeit not as good as their console titles because their IAPs are terrible). It’ll be exciting to see them put the same effort into 2014′s titles that do on their console titles every year.
Then you look at the app side of things and 2013 is truly the first year where we’ve transitioned out of the “oh my it actually works” into “oh my it actually works and looks good!” The app maturity in the Play Store has taken a large step forward and developers are focusing on things like design, smaller features, and more unique ideas instead of just adding a little #holoyolo and being on their way. Such apps include Duolingo and Cal Calendar as they have pushed the envelope forward so far in their respective genres that future offerings by devs now have a new standard to strive to.
All in all, it bodes very well for app users and gamers in 2014. I anticipate we’ll be seeing a lot more console-quality games being released (that aren’t remakes) and more unique applications that challenge the standard of design and functionality that we have now and we wouldn’t be at this point if it weren’t for the amazing stuff we’ve seen come out this year.
It was very much a year of evolution rather than revolution for smartphones and tablets, however, one device that did catch my eye was the Chromecast. At only $35, it became the easiest purchase I’ve ever made and it turned any dumb TV with an HDMI port into a Smart TV and turned Smart TVs into Smart TVs that were actually useful.
While it wasn’t a finished product at launch, it’s started to become a serious competitor in the space and as more and more apps start to support Chromecast it will only get better.
Smart watches were definitely the “next big thing” in mobile technology this year, and the Pebble no doubt epitomised our lust for a “Dick Tracy” style smart watch. As a Kickstarter, it blew away all expectations, and forced other manufacturers to rethink their roadmaps. For now smart watches haven’t quite caught up to our expectations of a mature platform, but the market is hungry, now somebody just has to deliver the right product.
Finally, the Ouya, another Kickstarter project which also blew away its target goal. While it isn’t quite the Android console we hoped for, it’s more evidence of Android gaming and its increasing popularity and performance.
2013 was a great year for Android users. Sony returned with a vengeance with the Xperia Z and Z1, HTC proved that the iPhone wasn’t the only premium device in town with the HTC One, Samsung refined the Galaxy S3 design in the Galaxy S4 and made sure it was still the sheriff of the large screen smartphone parish, and LG pulled out all of the stocks with the Nexus 5 and LG G2. With so many great choices for a smartphones, there was a phone to suit anyones tastes. Next on the Android devices agenda, a half-decent 10-inch Android tablet.
What do YOU think?
Join us in the comments and vote in our poll.