By Joe Levi | May 14, 2013 8:40 PM
Google I/O 2013 is right around the corner and chances are that we’ll see something Android-related announced at this year’s developers conference — though perhaps not what we’ve become accustomed to from the conferences of yesteryear.
Whether or not we will see another flavor of Jelly Bean or Key Lime Pie is still yet to be seen. Regardless, we’re not going to sit idly by. Here are some of our last-minute requests for Android Key Lime Pie (or whatever they’re going to show us at I/O).
I’d like to see a smarter version of Google Now. Currently Google Now is pretty smart, but it has its limits. I’d like to see a Google Now that can be customized as much as the OS itself. It’s ironic that I ask for this even as much as I’ve said I don’t want to “micromanage” my phone. But Google Now is different.
I’d like to set commute times and days. I don’t go to work Monday through Friday from 8:00 to 5:00. So on Monday (my first day off) I don’t care how long it’ll take me to get to work. Plus, I’d like to be able to decide which cards can be active, and in which order they appear. Google Now thinks it knows me well enough to show me these things, but it really doesn’t. I want sports scores to appear before my commute time, because a sports score I’ll check frequently, a commute just once.
Google Now also pulls calendar events and displays them, but I’d like it to go the other way too, with Google Now being able to pull a baseball season schedule and import it into my calendar for me. Sure, this is very sports-centric, but the Cubs are playing and the Blackhawks are in the playoffs. Sue me.
The Holo UI is getting stale. It needs an upgrade. I’d like to see a turn towards beauty and not just minimalism.
I have a strong belief that Key Lime Pie won’t happen tomorrow, but hey, I’ve been wrong before. My biggest wish is for better integration of smartphone apps into the tablet form factor There really has to be a benefit in owning both an Android smartphone and an Android tablet. Google has proven that they can’t convince developers to build tablet apps, and in that sense, I’m sure there has to be a smarter solution than just bloating something out of proportion.
Google has the opportunity to really shine in 2013 since iOS 6 has been a terrible disappointment and Windows Phone 8 hasn’t taken off. If I were Google, I wouldn’t wait for Apple to change the name of the game again at WWDC.
Regardless of what version of Android we see showcased at Google I/O this year, Google has some damage control to do with the “lag” they introduced in Android 4.2.2. Prior to that, the first iteration of Jelly Bean (4.1.x, for those of you keeping track), Android was finally snappy. Project Butter made everything buttery smooth — Jelly Bean 4.2.x ruined that, and I don’t know why.
Next up is more Google Now integration. Everything you do on your smartphone or tablet should be predicted by the OS (or at least predictable) so it’s right there when you need it — before you need it. 3rd party developers need to take advantage of the framework, too. For example, my smartphone knows where my wife and I are, even if we’re not with one another. Why can’t the Next app on our smartphones tie into Google Now (or vice versa) to set my Nest Learning Thermostat into “Away” mode when we’re out and about, then set it back to heat or cool when we start heading home? Google Now has potential, it’s time for Google to unleash it!
Last, mirroring what others have said, Google has far too many ways to “instant message” someone. Messaging takes care of SMS and MMS; Google Voice handles SMS (and MMS from some carriers), too; Google Talk allows for real-time chatting, audio chat, and video chat; Google+ Messenger lets users chat and “hangout” with video and voice; and none of them are interconnected. We suspect a new project, codenamed Babel, will unify some (though probably not all) of these messaging systems into one. They certainly need to. Additionally, I hope Google puts Google Voice messages into Gmail while they’re at it.
Interestingly, what I’d like most from Key Lime Pie (beside the notification-center toggles I’ve talked about before) is for the forward march of Android’s UI to take a breather. I’m all for pushing on toward the future, especially in terms of aesthetics, but 4.2 introduced some elements of questionable value, in my view. For example, I find the default font in the alarm clock heinous, and while I think lock screen widgets are a good idea in theory, their current implementation leaves something to be desired.
There was a purity, a simplicity, in 4.1 that we lost along the way, a victim of the urge to “complexify.” I’d like to see some of that simplicity return.
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It’s hard to single-out new features Android needs to adopt, because often we don’t know what we’re missing until someone points it out to us. To that end, I’d love to see multi-user support made available beyond tablets and appear on Android phones (at least without some hackery), though I’m not exactly optimistic.
By and large, I’m not a huge fan of OEM skinning, but when it works, it works, and Google would be wise to look for some of the best features out there for integration into Android. The biggest one for me would be some jazzed-up customization options for phone settings in the notification shade. What we have now is serviceable, but all kinds of ugly, not entirely intuitive, and could really use the ability to tweak things.
Really, I’m not expecting too much. There aren’t many areas where Android is seriously coming up short, so I think KLP could be more about gently expanding upon existing functionality than really doing much new.
As an avid Android user, Google I/O is always the conference I look forward to most every year. It’s like Christmas for any Android fan.
This year, the rumor mill has been mostly silent. We’ve only heard a few bits of information, and we’re led to believe by several sources that this year’s conference will be more about developers than new releases for consumers. In other words, this year’s I/O is more about how to make Android and Chrome better for developers, easier for them to make better apps and services for the platform.
Enough babble, though. What do I want from Key Lime Pie? Honestly, I’m only looking forward to one feature. Babel, a rumored unified chat service that will allegedly bring together Google+ Messenger, Talk, Voice, and possibly other Google communication services. Of course, I wouldn’t complain about other updates, such as the rumored Game Center (iOS) competitor or, say, something like shutter speed control in the Camera app.
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Now that we’ve biased you with our last-minute wish list for whatever the next version of Android turns out to be, it’s your turn! Head down to the comments and let us know what your wish list is. Even if we’ve already mentioned the feature you most want, we still want to hear from you!