Google IO is the ComicCon of devs. Being there is being square and damn proud of it! The three-day hoopla was kicked off this morning with the much anticipated two hour keynote speech at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View and I am glad to say I was there for every syllable of it.
I’ll be honest – when Sundar Pichai took the stage, I was giddy as a schoolgirl, ready to throw my shirt on the stage like your common average groupie.
And then they proceeded to blow my mind. If you thought Google was seeing and hearing everything before, the announcement of Google Home, as well as the new messaging app Allo (or the counterpart video chat app Duo and its knock-knock feature to let you see the caller’s video before answering), emphasized that Natural Language Processing is the future and what Google is all about in 2016. This was definitely not one for the paranoids who worry machines are about to rise up against us J
The second hour of the keynote focused on advances regarding mobile, which is really what caught my attention. Those devices that have become the center of our universe are what drew me to IO in the first place, and there were some interesting notes to take from this particular keynote.
First and Foremost: Firebase
If you browse through the Google IO schedule, you’ll get lost trying to count the number of sessions there are around Firebase. Let’s just say, you need much more than just two hands in order to count them. With Android N already in preview, this seemed to be the biggest announcement and launch for Google this time around.
During the keynote speech, Google announced the official release of Firebase at 2pm (coincidently the time of the “Firebase Overview” session).
So what’s Firebase? It’s an uber-SDK providing app developers with any capability possible – advanced Analytics, engagement, crash reporting, attribution tracking, storage space, secured SSL hosting for app’s server-side, runtime dynamic databases and the list goes on. The capabilities are so versatile, from rich and complex back-end services to basic UI features. As James Tamplin said during overview – “the days of seeing ‘pull to refresh’ will be over”. Looks like Google is trying to take the space left by Facebook announcing the end of Parse!
Yes, Google’s Play services already has Analytic capabilities, as well as push notification (Google Cloud Messaging) and storage and even App Indexing. Well, Firebase does not only take advantage of existing Play Services packages (for example, analytics on In-App Purchasing), but improves on the existing packages. Everything an app needs will be in one dashboard and the various features can communicate with themselves.
But it wouldn’t be a Google event without a lot of Android and the Android N anticipation is gaining momentum. Much like Firebase, most sessions in IO also talk about Android N. I was already ready with my thumb on twitter to tell the world what N is going to be, however finding a good candy seems to be a toll order this time around and Google are actually asking for the public’s help here. So if you have a good candy – you can suggest one at www.android.com/n.
But it’s not really about the name. The keynote didn’t really delve into the dev side of N, but more into the user experience part. And let me tell you – I already want my N device.
You want picture in picture or multi-window? You’ve got it! (Don’t tell me you’ve never been frustrated when exiting YouTube to look at another app and the song you were listening to stopped playing… that’s over with!)
You want to go back to the previous app you were at with a simple click of a button (and not, say, four buttons?) You’ve got it!
You want to clear all recent apps? It’s now possible.
Edit the settings menu? Sure.
And hey, for you android developers struggling with UI and all those relative and linear and whatever layouts, you now have constraints layout developed alongside the UI in Android Studio. The demo definitely looks cool.
And there’s so much more to Android N, I really could not do it justice here (I haven’t even mentioned JIT yet…).
Android Studio 2.2
But speaking of Android Studio, during the keynote Android Studio 2.2 (beta) was announced.
Android Studio was announced three years ago at Google IO and is today the primary Android development platform. “92% of the top 125 Android Apps use Android Studio”, they boasted.
“92% of top 125 apps use Android Studio”
And if you’ve been following the latest Android Studio versions, and enjoying Instant Run, you should know that Google is improving it even farther, trying to make compilation as fast as possible.
“The latest emulator of Android Studio is three times faster and is probably faster than most devices in your pockets right now“ was the message conveyed to the audience.
Android Instant Apps
And then came what I found to be the coolest of them all.
Say you’re inside an app and it tries to open an intent on another app. For sharing, or reading an article, or payment etc. and say you don’t have the app installed on your device. A shame. You now need to download the app, install it, go through its initial process of registration etc. It’s both a hassle, as well as annoying. In time crunching situations (for instance, trying to pay for parking), and when not on Wi-fi, it’s a disturbance to say the least.
Well, Android Instant Apps are basically installing just the relevant part of the app – just the Intent you’re linked to – thus saving you precious time. It’s a giant leap forward in Android’s overall vision that app install time should be zero.
But wait, ‘cause it was at the end when the real jaw-dropper was announced: It’s backwards compatible all the way to Android Jelly Bean! Way to bury the lead…!
Introducing Android Wear 2.0
Next, the new generation of Android Wear was announced. The hugest advancement is not only the synchronization between your watch and your phone, but the fact that they can sync offline. Your smart wearable can show you pictures from your phone even if your phone isn’t next to you, even if it’s turned off.
Messaging from your smart watch is easier now too. You can simply draw a message with your finger, and the watch will translate it to text and send it. So if you get a message while bicycling with nothing on but your watch, you can still respond easily.
Will Android Wear really catch on? Honestly, I haven’t seen many developers aiming their apps for it. It seems to be for a specific niche (health / fitness apps), but I’m still doubtful Android Wear will get the strength Google so hopes for.
Can you say “Tip of the Iceberg”?
And the keynote talked about so much more projects – from Virtual Reality to the new Vulkan graphics engine and the launch of DayDream. It was a riveting two hours, I could not truly tell you about all of it, so I just kept it to the major ones in mobile. Well, the major ones that left an impact on me.
Surprisingly enough, there was barely a mention of Google Car in the keynote itself (it’s very much present at the convention!), so looks like 2016 isn’t the year where we’ll finally stop driving. Ho, well…
However the bottom line is this – machine learning is where Google is going, Android N looks very intriguing and Firebase is the basket in which Google is putting most of their proverbial eggs.