We’ve heard tell that the next version of Android, which most believe will be called “Jelly Bean”, will be released sometime before the end of the year. We don’t know whether this will be a major revision (like 3.x Honeycomb to Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0) or a minor revision (like to 2.2 Froyo to 2.3 Gingerbread) — though we suspect it will be the latter.
With OS upgrades most people usually want the same things: a faster operating system, getting it on their devices quicker, better contacts and social integration, longer battery life, or a more efficient soft keyboard. Those are all fine and dandy, but beyond the basics, what do people really want?
We’ve got big hopes for Android, and here’s what we want to see in the next version.
1. A Better Browser
The Browser app in Android is one of the places OEMs typically change. Why? The stock version of the app does its job, but that’s about it. Honestly, it’s getting pretty old.
Google has been working on porting their desktop browser, Chrome, over to Android for quite some time now. Some of us currently use Chrome Beta as our primary browser on our Android phones and tablets. What nice is how tightly coupled the desktop and mobile versions of Chrome are — especially if you’re logged in on both environments.
It’s looking like “Chrome Beta” is about to shed its “Beta” suffix. If it can do that before the next version of Android is ready, we’d like to see Chrome replace “Browser” as the stock web browser in Jelly Bean.
2. More Intuition
Recently we’ve seen Samsung and HTC include “intuitive gestures” on their devices.
Many HTC devices can be placed into “silent mode” or an incoming call sent to voice-mail simply by turning the device face-down.
If you’re reading a text message and lift the phone to your face, the Samsung Galaxy S III will intuitively dial the person on the other end of the conversation. Another SGS3 feature is using the front-facing camera to watch your eyes and keep the screen from going to sleep when you’re reading a page.
These types of intuitive gestures seem like a simple and logical extension to platform. Google, what’s holding you back from building these (and hopefully many, many more) into the operating system itself?
3. Integrated Theme Engine
People love to customize their phones. Even power-users want to control the look and feel. Changing the wallpaper and the layout of icons and widgets just doesn’t cut it. We want true theme support — without having to install a new launcher, or flash a custom ROM to get it.
T-Mobile built a fairly robust engine to do just this, then released it into the open source. The CyanogenMod team picked it up and have included it in CM7 and it’s just started to arrive in CM9. Why not include this as a standard component of the OS? Hopefully this would encourage OEMs and carriers to build custom themes for their phones rather than include custom launchers. In either case it would still put customization closer to the hands to the users, which is always a good thing.
4. More Voice and Speech Integration
Google has a great start into the speech recognition game with Voice Intents. Sending a text or navigating to a business is super easy on Android by simply talking to your phone. Unfortunately Google’s current solution is nowhere near the friendly experience that Apple’s Siri provides her users, and Google’s solution doesn’t use “natural speech” like Siri does.
Google has to improve in this area and offer something that not only rivals Siri, but leapfrogs Apple in the process.
5. Revamp the “Share via” metaphor
Android has included a “share via” button as far back as I can remember. Third-party apps could tie into this and allow whatever content made use of that button to “share” the content via the app (Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, even FTP).
It’s gotten ridiculous. Today we have to scroll in that list to find the mechanism we want to use to “share” the content, you had better recognize it by its icon or you’re out of luck, and a lot of things either aren’t “share-able”, or you might not want to “share” per se.
Remember Apple’s old Newton? They had something called a “Routing” icon. It looked like a little envelope, with it you could send the content that you were looking at via any one of several methods. You could quickly send a note via email, text message, print it, or even fax it! With the right app installed you could FTP the file. I’ve got an HP e-printer at home. I can send all sorts of stuff to it from the web, or from various computers, but I can’t easily print an email from the Gmail app. Why? Because the “share” button isn’t there! If I could “route” it to my printer app, it’s be great. (Of course I can forward the email to my printer’s email address, but this breaks the metaphor entirely.)
We should be able to “share” or “route” anything we’m looking at on our screen via whatever methods are available: email, text, social networks, NFC, QR code, print, Dropbox, etc. It’s got to be organized, not the buffet-approach that we have now.
- We can route content with someone next to me with Bump, NFC, or QR code.
- We can route content with someone not near me by email, text, or fax.
- We can route content to a printer.
- Or we can truly “share” my content via a social network or website.
But that’s just us…
Now that you know what we would like to see in Jelly Bean, we’d like to know what you are hoping will be included or improved upon in Google’s next OS. Let us know in the comments below!