Google I/O 2015 Musings

It’s that time of year again… Google I/O time! With less than a week to go until the 2015 keynote breaks I thought I’d throw around some ideas about what I hope/expect to see this year. There’s a few updates very likely to be announced, supported by recent leaks or increased chatter over the last few months, while others might just be wishful thinking. Either way I think they would all be welcome changes – so it should be an exciting couple of days. Welcome everyone to Google I/O 2015…

google-io-2015

Android M

It’s no secret that Android is moving towards a yearly release cycle with a dev preview announcement at I/O and a full public release in the fall, along with new Nexus devices. This schedule makes sense for devs, manufacturers and users so its a pretty safe bet we will get a look at the key features of Android M next week. Native biometric support, Android Pay and Google’s new ‘Nearby’ communication tech are all rumoured to be part of this new flavour – you’ll get no complaints from me.

Google Photos

For a few months now theres been growing evidence that Google+ Photos will get its own standalone app outside of Google+. This is really exciting news for me as I’ve been a long time user of Google+ Photos (and the standalone Picasa before it) and I take a lot of photos that need an online home for easy viewing and sharing. Unfortunately any benefits Google once had over the competition have been slowly eroded away recently while very few updates have pushed things forward.

I’ve been looking into moving my online catalog to somewhere more powerful and flexible to be honest but am holding off to see what they come up with. Any announcement next week would be good news but I also think there is an opportunity for Google to do something really special and put itself back on the map.

It would need to offer something better than just online storage though. Proper support for RAW images at the very least and preferably some integration with Adobe Lightroom would be very useful. All of this is available on Flickr already plus they give you 1TB of free storage – add to this a recently reworked UI (which is awesome by the way) and it completes a very tempting package indeed… Google Photos has a lot of catching up to do – so I’ll be eagerly watching this space.

Android Wear

Theres been recent rumours of a new generation of Android Wear devices being readied for this summer and although leaks have been a bit few and far between I think its likely we will get a peak at at least one new device at I/O – most likely the new Moto 360. With the rollout of Android Wear 5.1 happening as we speak it seems unlikely they’ll release a new OS version one week later, but maybe we’ll get a look at the Android Wear “M” features that will be drop later in the year.

Whatever happens I think an update is sorely needed as Android Wear is now under threat from a few other wearable ecosystems which are pretty damn good – and it can be a bit underwhelming when compared to the latest competition.

The wider Android ecosystem

It’s likely Google will give us a deeper look into the next phase of the Android ecosystem this year. With Android Auto now actually starting to be a thing, Android for Work and Education having been pushed out recently and there’s rumours of Android “Brillo” (the foundation to Google’s Internet of Things) being announced as well. Android has grown beyond just a mobile OS now and I think we will start to see more into Google’s vision of where it is heading.

 

Further down the scale of likelihood to be announced at I/O 2015 are a few things that would be very nice to have and in some cases sorely needed. But the chances are slim I fear – lets delve in…

Hangouts

Hangouts can be a bit of a pain if I am honest. I use it for 99% of all my communications at home and at work and its so close to being the complete package, but so far away at the same time. Connection issues, unsynchronised messages and notifications, transferring between videos and chats is usually hit and miss and the desktop apps either seem to get in the way of my workflow or completely forget to notify me of new messages. It really needs a solid set of updates.

Assuming they use Hangouts for internal messaging at Google they must share the same frustrations – it seems unbelievable that it is not completely polished experience by now. I would love to see a range of updates announced across the Hangouts platform just to smooth off the rough edges and polish it up for the primetime. Please?

Google Calendar for web

Google Calendar for Android has come a long way recently. It had a huge overhaul not long ago with some really interesting concepts and a full Material Design makeover. It looks beautiful. The web app on the other hand… not so much!

It has, along with Gmail and Google Groups, been left out in the cold and as a result is falling behind heavily when compared to similar apps like Sunrise. Sunrise has an awesome user experience on mobile and desktop, looks gorgeous, and boasts full integration with too many third party APIs to count. It has become my calendar of choice for the time-being but I would really like to see what Google can come up with. If they can repeat what they did on Android they might just tempt me back.

Android Wear companion app

I have been known to complain about Android Wear and it’s no secret that I think it could be amazing if it was just given some love – so excuse me while I rant for a moment…

A good first step towards the fantastic Wear experience I’m after would be an update to the companion app. It wouldn’t need to be a complete rework or anything but just enough to make the watch a bit more configurable. Little things like having finer control over notifications and being able to configure different Google accounts separately. Being able to toggle app notifications on and off quickly, or all in one go, instead of each app requiring multiple clicks and 2 screens – I still have not been bothered to go through all 100+ of my apps to do this. Is this too much to ask so I can control how my watch integrates with my phone?

Also, any app you install on your phone can push its Wear components to a watch and you have no control over this – there is no native way to configure apps you actually want to use. Choosing what the voice actions trigger rarely gives you the option to pick a more useful target even if it is something that the phone does natively. The devices certainly don’t feel fully integrated at all yet.

Its been over a year since Android Wear launched and it still seems like its a bit of an afterthought without even having companion apps for most of Google’s core products. Richer Gmail integration? A Google Now browser? A Hangouts companion anyone? Come on Google! </rant>

Nexus 5 2015

Finally, it’s time for a positive post-rant pipe-dream… I got the original Nexus 5 on launch day and its been a fantastic purchase. It was cheaper than anything else with similar specs and has done itself proud – for my purposes it really was the perfect device. Time moves on though and its getting a bit long in the tooth now so it’s time for a refresh. Put the latest standards (and another normal sized screen) in it and same again please Google! Obviously I’m not expecting any Nexus 5 announcements at I/O (wouldn’t it be nice though?!) but some indication of the 2015 Nexus range would be handy so I can plan my next upgrade. I can dream….

See you all again in a week or two after the dust settles. I can’t wait…

Take it easy.