What can we expect in Android 5.0?

January 5, 2013
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jelly-bean

There is so much good stuff in the Android universe. We have amazing phones, tons of apps and games and the best operating system around. Even with all that awesome at our fingertips, we are still looking to the future of Android. With Google I/O closing in, we expect to see the next iteration of Android. What will we see? What’s it called? When can we have it?!

So many questions, and so many long months of waiting. Waiting in pure agony, fretting about what’s coming around the corner. We know it’s going to be good, but how good? Let’s take this opportunity to ruminate and be hopeful. Let the speculation begin!

Now, Google Now!

Google Now, the search and voice assistant for Android, is already the best around. Faster and more accurate than its competition, it’s the most intuitive interface ever. Someone have a birthday? You might forget, but ‘ol Google Now won’t. When does that package arrive? Just pull up Google Now!

Even with all it does for us, it can improve. The voice actions are a little hit-and-miss, and its email intuition is suspect at times. Sometimes it notices when an email has packaging info, sometimes it doesn’t. Those kinds of things improve with feedback and time, so look for Google to polish the edges of Google Now just a bit. It would be nice to be able to launch an app or play music just by barking orders and the inclusion of offline voice typing we have now lends itself to that. I know we’re going to have cars that drive us around someday, but until then it’s hands free driving.

GTasks

Take a note

I love Google Tasks. I know, I know… there are a bunch of really cool note taking apps with wonderful integration. You know what? The Google Tasks Chrome extension is phenomenal. Simple, clean, effective… and it links to my Android widget in real time. That widget is a third party widget, and isn’t really integrated across the board.

It would be nice to have an official Google Tasks app and widget which was baked into Android 5.0 like all the other Google services. With so much talk of which note taking app is everyone’s favorite, I think some official Google Tasks incorporation would work well.

By going all-in and adopting Tasks, Google could have a huge hit. Having that feature sync across multiple platforms would be the best part. Just starting with inclusion in the header bar would be nice, but why stop there? It’s integrated with GMail, but not well. We have a ton of white space in Google+, so it has real estate available. It has a naturally symbiant relationship with Google Drive that is being ignored, also.

Think of it… you look up an address in Maps, and Google Now picks that up and gets you directions. The calendar notification that pops up on your phone knows you have a note about this event in Tasks, and links to it (Calendar and Tasks work together now, just not that well). That note keeps you aware of what you need to do at this location, which involves bringing a Google Drive document. You link to that document in Tasks (which could be integrated into Drive to make that easy), so when you get there it’s simply a matter of opening Tasks and getting things done. Tasks could be a bit of a hub for productivity. How great would that integration be?

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More Buttah!

When Project Butter was announced with Android 4.1, or Jelly Bean, the initial reaction was “project what-now?”. However silly the name is, the proof is in the… butter. Scrolling and other gestures saw a remarkable improvement and it really made the entire Android experience better (bettah?). Like anything else, as good as it is, we want more.

Project Butter has room to grow, and I think it will. In a nutshell, Butter improves response time of your touch to the command given, making the whole experience faster and smoother. With so many improvements on the hardware side of things, there is no doubt we’ll see some improvements here. With faster processors come the ability to handle more info, giving Butter room to grow, or bloom, or whatever butter does.

Look around

As with just about any other Android update, we’ll get a camera fix. I like the camera on Jelly Bean a lot. The zoom is intuitive to how we interact with our devices, and the menu popping up wherever you touch is sublime. The panorama feature is still amazing, and the filters make photos fun again.

What does need improvement is photosphere. A really cool addition, it just doesn’t work that well. The “stitching” of the photos is usually off, often by a lot. I’d like to be able to say it’s my fault, but I just go where the next little blue dot is in photosphere. I have very little control on how the photos get cobbled together.
I’d also like for there to be some sort of Snapspeed integration. Google spent a lot of money on that acquisition, so I’m expecting it to be baked straight into the camera function at some point. With so many cool effects for pictures, it seems only natural to make it an integral part of the camera. Experienced photographers everywhere would love to be able to tinker with the shot before it’s taken.

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Lockdown

Better lock screen widgets, and more of them. Right now, Google’s selection of lock screen widgets is weak. If lock screen widgets are here to stay, we need some variety. Checking the clock or email is great, but what about all the other great stuff Google has to offer us? I’d love to get a Google Currents widget with a shortcut to Android Authority!

Google has so many amazing services, it’s hard to believe it didn’t have more lock screen widgets available when it launched Jelly Bean. The possibilities are endless, really. A map widget for lock screens would be great, especially for travelers. With Ingress taking off, maybe we’ll see a widget available for it. It makes sense to have a Play Store widget, also. Linking directly to your revenue stream seems like a no-brainer for Google.

Quickly, now

The quick settings menu is a stroke of genius. No more diving deep into the menu, or occupying screen space with a bulky widget. Now, it’s a simple drag-down menu. All the normal stuff is there, like Bluetooth, WiFi, and Airplane mode. Definitely more handy that what we dealt with before, but it can improve.

The only niggle I have with the quick settings menu is the lack of customization. I travel quite a bit, but someone else may not. A person who doesn’t travel has very little need for Airplane mode. Sure, Airplane mode is just a name, but for what it accomplishes in turning off all transmission ability, people just aren’t looking for that. The point is to be connected, not turn the world off. It would be nice to be able to add and remove functions. It would be especially cool if we could bury apps in there, specifically apps that control services. Each user has their own needs and wants and settings are an integral part of how we each use our device.

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Everyone is talking

Google Talk is one of my favorite things on earth. It’s the easiest chat function, and travels across platforms. I can be chatting on my desktop, leave the house and continue on my phone or tablet. I never miss a beat with a conversation and I don’t have to make excuses for why I can’t chat anymore. With text only working cross platform if you’re registered with Google Voice, Google Talk is really the best option.

Then again, Google+ has a messenger function while Google Voice integrates with text messaging. You can video chat from either Talk or Messenger, but not Voice. It would be great to see all these consolidated into one amazing chat function. A nice cross-platform tool that unifies those disparate services. Android has a problem with fragmentation, both in OS and services. It needs to be addressed on all fronts, and combining these services is a great place to start.

google-glass-front

Android wears glasses

Maybe we’re ready, maybe we’re not. If we are, then Google needs to start getting ready now. If we’re getting Glass in 2014 as predicted, it needs integration now. That’s right, our new Android update may come with some very deep Google Glass features built in. As we prepare for the probable launch of Google Glass in 2014, it makes sense that the head-wear will run Android. The issue may be that Google Glass needs a hacked version of Android, so the full version may just not be in the cards.

In reality, we have no concept of Glass. We have no real idea what Google Glass is supposed to be, or do, or how it’s intended to work with us in our world. We know it’s pretty cool, and puts a camera on our head. We know it is meant to show us things on this little screen in front of our eyes. We know it will make pirating movies easier. You know what, forget that last one. I shouldn’t have even said that.

Seriously though, if Google Glass is really gonna happen, Android will have to see some integration. While Google Glass is a pretty cool concept, I don’t see it as a standalone piece of hardware. I see it as a complement to your Android device. I don’t think we’ve thought much beyond pictures and video, and it will give a great first-person perspective, but what else? If Google Glass is going to have voice integration as we’ve heard, then the aforementioned updates to Google Now will have to occur. It makes the most sense for the glasses to run Google Now for that function.

How’s this look?

Rumors abound that the new Android will bring us an updated user interface. I can’t see that happening, honestly. I think the point is to even out the changes, not increase the quantity of them. If you recall, Google recently asked developers to produce apps that were tablet friendly, and gave them a checklist of sorts to follow to accomplish that goal. Making them fit into the UI was a large part of that.

If you really want to raise the ire of a developer, change something without giving them proper notice. Developing apps is not easy, and changing the way you want it to look would go over really poorly with the group you’re asking to support your platform. While for us as users it’s fun and cute, to someone making their living from development, it may not be. I think there may be some very minor UI tweaks, but don’t look for something like we saw when Gingerbread morphed into Honeycomb.

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A longer life

No, not for Android 5.0. I’m talking about battery life. More to the point, a battery management widget. There are many apps and widgets available from developers. Good ones, too, but I’d like this kind of thing to be built right in to Android. It seems that everyone’s complaint with their awesome new Android phone rounds into a battery life discussion at some point. With so much focus on battery life, Google should really integrate some robust battery management features.

While something as simple as a ‘battery saving mode’ would be great, I’d like to see a little more depth. For instance, perhaps the ability to program how your phone acts during certain hours of the day. If you’re at the office from 9 to 6 on weekdays, maybe the phone could be programmed to stop accessing data service for those hours. You may be at your desk, and having the phone accessing the same data as your desktop can is just wasteful. It could also be useful for task management. If your Google Play Music turns off at noon, you can spend the afternoon working diligently rather than fiddling with a playlist. If I can program an NFC tag to do these things, I should be able to get straight to the heart of the matter with my device settings.

Dear Google

Google, if you’re listening, please hurry. Once the rumors start, I get restless. Just bump up I/O and give us our new dessert! Each Android iteration is a wonderland of fun, both exciting and revolutionary. Whatever Google does, I’m sure it will be amazing. I understand going into it that it won’t have everything I want, but more than I need. Just, you know… don’t forget December this time.

Like each Android release, it drives the roots deeper. As Android gets better, everything else seems that much further behind. Each Android iteration cements the OS’s place in this world, and this release may do so more than we know. If you’ve noticed, I never referred to the new iteration by name. We’ve heard ‘Key Lime Pie’ tossed around, but nothing official has been announced. So, what would you name our new Android baby?

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