2016 marks the first year I’m more excited about Google I/O than Apple WWDC. It may not be the Steve-Jobs-pulling-a-laptop-out-of-an-envelope kind of excited, but I did watch the entire keynote live on the TV and enjoyed it a lot.
Some of the news has been circling around the Android community for a while now but I was pleasantly surprised by a few items.
Here are my top 5 favourite announcements from Google I/O 2016, in no particular order.
Android Instant Apps
This one is huge. In my mind, “app” has been slowly turning into a dirty word. It’s this clunky black box which I need to dig out of an app store, which downloads way too long and takes up way too much space. It’s yet another icon in my already cluttered drawer with yet another name I can’t be bothered to remember. And it’s been pretty much the same since 2008 when Steve Jobs introduced the App Store for the iPhone.
With Instant Apps it feels like someone sat down and honestly thought “Hey, maybe it doesn’t need to be just that?”. It’s liberating this poor Java code stuck in this black box that no one wants and actually letting it do some useful work for a change.
And then they say it will work all the way down to Jelly Bean. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this one.
Play Store on Chromebooks
Now this one is curious. I’m not a Chromebook user. I’ve never even held one. They’re not very popular here in Poland with only a few models available in official distribution. And yet now I look at this platform with interest.
I’m excited about a new userbase opening up to Android. But more than that, I’m simply excited about this as a step forward for the platform. To me this is a strong message from Google saying “we’re serious about this Android thing, stay tuned”. Even more so considering this is not ARC 2.0 but a completely new implementation.
Having said that, I still feel that RemixOS – or the general aim of “Android Desktop” – is an even bolder direction for the platform. And I would love to see it coming from Google.
Multi-Window mode in N
One indication of this direction is the Multi-Window mode in Android N. Bigger screens, a lot of power to spare and to top it off, iOS has it already. In some form this was obviously coming to Android sooner or later.
I’m most interested to see the freeform mode in the wild. From the documentation:
Manufacturers of larger devices can choose to enable freeform mode, in which the user can freely resize each activity. If the manufacturer enables this feature, the device offers freeform mode in addition to split-screen mode.
This feature was explored in some depth in this Ars Technica writeup a couple of months ago and it appears to be officially on track for the N release.
As with Chrome OS, VR is another platform I haven’t yet invested in. I’ve played with Cardboard but only briefly. I’m not much of a gamer so I’m not really looking into the “big boy” headsets. But I wouldn’t mind trying out some of the casual stuff. Hey, I might even try Minecraft eventually.
There’s obviously Gear VR but this means getting a Samsung phone and I’m too much in love with my Nexus to give it up.
Daydream feels like it could be one step closer for me to dive into VR.
News in Android Studio 2.2
I hadn’t heard about ConstraintLayout before the keynote so I’m curious. I’ve used Auto Layout on Mac and recall it being quite convenient – although you’re placing quite a lot of faith in the constraint resolution mechanisms.
The new layout designer looks cool. You can edit layouts, menus and prefs. I’ve been staying away from the current one and editing the XML by hand. Perhaps this will change now.
And yes, I should definitely do more testing. Maybe the Espresso test recorder will help.
I’m downloading the Preview 1 as we speak. Stay tuned.
All in all, I’m pleased – excited even – with the announcements from I/O 2016. I’ve also started watching some of the sessions released on the Android at Google I/O 2016 playlist. So far I can recommend: