It’s been a crazy week for Android. Not only was Android L announced and released as developer preview, Google also formally unveiled its plans for Android Wear, Android Auto and Android TV. Not to mention the developer sessions which gave us a closer look at what Google ATAP is doing, and so much more.
Honestly, there’s a lot to take in, and plenty to be excited about. For this week’s Friday Debate we discuss what announcements excited and impressed us the most. Conversely, we also discuss what, if anything, disappointed us about this year’s developer conference.
As always, be sure to join in the discussion below and answer in our poll!
I am extremely excited about two things and that’s Android TV and Material Design. I never hated Holo but it seemed utilitarian and functional and not beautiful. I think Material Design is beautiful and I can’t wait to see it implemented more in applications. With Android TV, well, I just hate using my Xbox 360 for Netflix, Hulu, and NHL Gamecenter. I’d like a more dedicated TV interface and Google TV was nice until they stopped supporting it.
I was disappointed in one thing and that’s PC/Mac integration in that there was none. You look at Android and you see a mobile operating system that has a billion active users. The only other operating system that comes even close to that is Windows. As a long time Windows-Android user, it would be nice to see some legitimate integration between the two operating systems. I’m not buying a $300 Chromebook just so I can answer texts and phone calls on an OS level without third party support. That functionality is obnoxious not to have but it’s not something I’m willing spend that much money (and desk space) to achieve. I’ve had people tell me to use Bluestacks and AirDroid and they are fairly functional but it’s not the same as having it done by Google. It’s disappointing that I have to use a third party apps (many of which are in a permanent state of beta) to get what iOS and Apple users will get.
I’m also disappointed that they did literally nothing to address the pitfalls of Chrome OS. Yes the majority of people browse the web a majority of the time but for people like me who spent a year eating Ramen Noodles so I could buy a $600 copy of Adobe’s software suite, I want more than just a web browser in a box with a keyboard. I’ve been waiting for a couple of years now for Google to announce something that actually makes Chrome OS functional enough for me to use and this year came and went without any such announcement. I can’t edit videos in Premiere Pro on a Chromebook without forking out way too much money to use Creative Cloud every month. Cloud monthly subscriptions may work for storage but they sure as hell don’t work for complex video editing solutions especially after a poor (not figuratively poor like “aww poor guy”…literally poor like “I rob the take-a-penny dish) person like me shovels out the down payment on a used car to get software so I don’t have to pay every month.
TL;DR – Yay for Material Design and Android TV. Boo ChromeOS, you’re a disappointment.
I am going to share my insights in the most boring way possible: I took notes of the keynote presentation – yes, the entire presentation, start to finish. Every time I had an excited reaction to something, I punctuated it with an “!” Here is what I !’d:
Android L is exclusively ART!
With 64 bit support!
Sure, I am excited about Android L, but really, who isn’t?!? I won’t even bother rambling on, gushing like a school-girl over it. It is announced, it rocks, I can’t wait to use it. But what new Nexus device will I get to run it on?
- Android Wear full SDK available!
- LG G Watch available today! (Well, Wednesday, obviously.)
- Moto 360 later this summer (crowd groans, boo!)
We can get into how much we all love or hate the current round of smartwatches later, for now, let me just say that I am absolutely stoked that devs can now put Android Wear to use to create new things.
- Android Auto!
I got caught up in the hype – remind what Google Auto does that a well docked tablet cannot? My Nexus 7 slides in, connects to my audio system…. Sure, having your phone ‘cast’ to the in-dash screen is super cool, and the interface provided is very concise and safe(?) but I think they could have better supported existing hardware. I have measured, my Nexus 7 2012 is the exact same size as the face of my car stereo, hint, hint.
- Chromecast can cast from different networks!
- New standby mode called Backdrop!
- MIRROR ANDROID TO TV!!!!!!
Seriously, that’s what I wrote. This is the clear winner for me for the entire conference, I had given up on device mirroring with Chromecast, and boom, here it is. Now to see it in action.
- Android for work!
I will be honest, I must go back and re-watch this entire segment, but I am very interested in the idea of work vs home usage experience. We all have multiple accounts and/or separate devices running to accomplish this, what if just one account on one device could instantly swap between the profiles? I’m all for that.
OK, that was more a WTF than it was an “!”, but it had to be included. Obviously, Google’s goal was to surprise us. Mission accomplished. Cheap VR gear, very cool! One word of advice folks, the Cardboard app is really hard on the eyes without the actual cardboard and lenses. Or so I’m told. [cough]
I was really pleasantly surprised by Android TV, the Google integrations look spot on, as does the layout and functionality, and the same goes for the content too. Pairing it up with other Android devices, both as a remote and to cast content, seems like a no-brainer, but I’m so glad that they included it.
Android TV gaming was a nice surprise too. As someone who’s been playing on a PC for years, even I’m excited about the prospect of getting back to multiplayer gaming on the big screen, so long as quality games actually come along to make this a reality. This will be a really interesting area to watch, especially with the new CPU and GPU hardware heading our way over the next year.
As for Android L, unifying the look and content across a range of products is certainly one of Android L’s greatest attributes. Not only will this ensure that more of our devices play nice together, but it should help developers reach the widest possible audience with their apps. Google was clearly paying a lot of attention to developers later on in the keynote, which is something we’ll be thankful for later on I’m sure. Then there’s 64-bit, support for new graphics APIs, software tweaks and the like, which are great additions too.
I’m pretty pleased with what we’ve seen of Android L, feature wise. However, I just can’t shake the feeling that the new UI might be a bit horrible on the eyes after a while. The flashy animations look cool in demos, but I don’t really want to see them every time I click something, and the color pallet seems totally off to me. Honestly, I prefer the look of Holo, but I guess that’s nit-picking. I’ll reserve judgement until I see it in person.
One software feature that I thought was particularly neat was the way that partner apps are installed for Android Wear devices. You just install the main app on your phone, and the wearable version is sent to your smartwatch. It’s a little touch, but a really helpful one, and sums up how seamless Google is trying to make the Wear platform. Overall, Android Wear looks sleek and highly optimised, which is great, but my biggest complaint with the whole market is that it doesn’t seem to be moving away from dependency on a smartphone any time soon.
On the whole, Google I/O has left us with a lot to look forward to.