Thoughts on Google I/O 14

googleio.pngHere are my immediate thoughts, from a developer perspective, on the announcements from Google I/O.

1 billion 30 day active Android users is huge. It’s also impressive that Android has managed to achieve 62% tablet market share. These are the headline numbers that should attract developers and cause apps to be created. While wearables, TV and automotive might have potential, they won’t (yet) be attracting that much investment for 3rd party apps to be created.

AndroidOne, formerly rumoured to be Android Silver, is a hardware reference platform to allow OEMs to get to market quickly. It will be stock Android with quick updates from Google and promises phones under $100. This has the potential to cause new low end phones to run Android 4.x+ rather than 2.x. It could also upend other mobile OS initiatives at the low end: Nokia X and Firefox OS. However, this primarily depends on takeup by China OEMs. Let’s wait and see. UPDATE: More on Silver (and Nexus).

Android ‘L’ rethinks the UI design, called ‘Material’ design. It’s still in development and it will be the end of the year before it’s on shipping devices. I do wonder if a UI re-design was really needed. As with iOS, I think this will cost developers and stakeholders a lot of development time. Some iOS developers I know have said that the iOS re-design cost them a year of app innovation – and so it might be on Android. Even then, there will be old apps and old devices so it will end up being a mishmash anyway. I am not yet liking the common desktop/mobile metro-esqe feel that in some ways looks like it was invented at Microsoft – and killed the Windows 8 interface. However, I might eventually be won over when I examine in more detail.

On a more positive note, pre and post activity animations will improve look and feel. The new z arg for views to give depth/shadow is interesting. It can be used to show something can be pressed. This is often missing on Android list views where iOS has the disclosures (chevrons). Being able to colour widgets is also interesting as I have had to do this in the past to create/configure white label apps. Currently, it’s possible but difficult and it will be great when this can be done easily – but probably only for new devices which kills my excitement somewhat.

And this leads me to the support library. The usefulness of all of this depends on how much Google supplies in the support library for use by earlier devices. If it’s only for new devices then we have yet more fragmentation and less consistency across the platform. Here’s a vote for getting as much as possible in the support library. However, I suspect this is a big wish given ‘L’ will be "The biggest release in the history of Android". Google have over 100 teams working on Android and there will be over 5000 new APIs in ‘L’ ….

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As rumoured, Android ‘L’ devices will use ART instead of Dalvik leading to up to 2x performance improvement, less invasive garbage collection and fewer out of memory errors …

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