Google’s keynote is over and we are left with a whole heap of newness to revel in. We have new features in Android N, Android VR/Daydream, Instant Apps, new messaging apps, Android Wear 2.0, boy oh boy! Good times are ahead folks. But as the announcements rolled out, I was left with a few nagging questions about some of what we saw.
Why can’t you name your own damn product?
After months of speculation and thought. After website polls and scouring of recipe books from sea to shining sea, Google finally reveals…nothing…about what that darn “N” stands for. Instead, it’s turning to the internet to ask what “N” should stand for, because that is always a fabulous idea? Then, just when we’re halfway through typing “Namey McNameface” they shout out “Oh, we’ll have full discretion on the name we pick.” Well then pick one already! Look, I put in my vote, Neapolitan (#ThereIsNoSpoon), but Google, you have like a bazillion dollars and make critical decisions every day. Name your own damn product.
How many messenger apps does Google need?
By my count, Google now has Messenger, Allo, Duo, and Hangouts. Will all of these services work together? Will Google be retiring some of these? Not just yet as it turns out, but maybe some day. If so, please God can it be that awful piece of garbage called Hangouts? Can Allo become the default SMS messaging app? If so, how will all those little Google Assistant tricks play with other SMS messaging apps? Is the world really aching for another messaging app, especially when it already has some from the same developer?
Why are Allo and Duo separate apps?
Allo and Duo, a.k.a. the yin and yang of Hangouts were introduced as Google’s new text and video messaging services respectively. Cool stuff going on there. But what I didn’t understand was, why these apps are separate from each other? There’s no reason why Allo or…hey how about Duo (since it’d be two things after all)…can’t be contained in a single app. By separating the apps, all you’re doing is potentially confusing customers. Instead of one messaging app, you’re making them figure out when it’s appropriate to use two of them. Doesn’t make sense to me.
Why aren’t all Allo conversations E2E encrypted?
One of Allo’s key features is incognito mode which acts much like Chrome’s incognito tab – it’s clearly for Ashley Madison subscribers. Incognito features discreet notifications and messages that aren’t saved anywhere. Plus, it gets end-to-end encryption baby! But wait, why do only incognito messages get E2E encryption? In an age of security and privacy concerns, why aren’t all Allo messages E2E encrypted? Does that just seem off to anyone else? Is that just so people can feel like secret spies or to justify having incognito mode in the first place? It’s not a bad thing, just weird.
Why chat with Google in Allo if you can already chat with it in Google Now?
Allo allows you to chat with Google directly, asking questions, getting cards and directions, and whatnot. Funny enough, Google will make conversational suggestions while you’re chatting with Google, so it could literally have a conversation with itself. That little quirk aside, why do I need to chat with Google in Allo? I already do that with Google Now. Any information that I could ask Google in Allo, I could already ask for in Google Now. So what’s the point?
Are you killing Google Now?
One of the biggest announcements today came regarding Google Assistant. Google Assistant is pretty much Google Now, but without the cards. Actually, it brings up cards in context with your searches and queries, but doesn’t try to passively anticipate your needs. Google Assistant goes a little deeper in its integration with third party services to allow for buying tickets, ordering food, and the like. This is all done conversationally, which is wonderful, but with all the tech Google talked about today, Google Now was not in your playbill. Which begs the question, what’s up with Google Now? I guess we’ll find out, but I for one know that my life will not improve in the absence of Google Now.
P.S. I’m still looking for a replacement for iGoogle.
Price/Availability of Google Home
Google Home is Google’s answer to Amazon’s Echo. How well it performs remains to be seen. Sure, it looks a little like an air freshener according to our editors here, but it also looks like an outstanding product and I will likely be first in line to buy one. One of the main things holding me back from the Amazon Echo was tying into yet another app ecosystem for reminders and notes and the like. Since I’m pretty firmly entrenched in Google’s ecosystem already, dear God, just take my money!
But that’s the thing, there was nary a word on pricing or availability for this product. I mean, it’s one thing to say “OMG I want this” but if Google prices it above the Echo, that will be hard to justify. But there was nary a hint over when it’ll be available or how much it will be. And speaking of which…
Why was everything “this summer, this summer, this fall, this fall”?
One impression I was left with after the Keynote was, “Ok, so what to do we get…you know… now?” Allo and Duo are later this year, Google Home is later this year, Google Assistant is later this year. The only thing we got right now is the beta for Android N. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still pretty freaking cool. I’m looking forward to getting it installed and playing with it. But everything else was “this summer”, “this fall”, or “later this year.” If nothing is ready to ship, delay the conference.
Why no PiP outside of TV?
As a child of the 80’s, I was always jealous of TV’s with Picture in Picture functionality. Just imagine being able to watch two things simultaneously! Future stuff right there. Google has brought PiP back to the mainstream by adding that functionality in Android N, but only on TVs. This is a little ironic because as much as I wanted PiP on TV’s back in the day, I’m a little miffed that PiP is limited to TV’s today. Why isn’t PiP available on phones and tablets as well? What gives? Sure, maybe a phone is too small for PiP, but give me the option at least.
On the other hand, yay for split screen!
Who are Instant Apps helping?
One neat innovation that Google brought to Android N was the concept of Instant Apps. Basically, an instant app is an app that loads when you need it without actually installing on the phone. The theory being that instead of a sub-par mobile browsing experience, a user could tap into the potential of an app without being bothered to get the app, sign up for an account, etc. It’s a cool concept, but who is this really helping? Consumers, clearly. Getting the convenience of a simple app without having to install it is a hit. Large companies, to be sure. Allowing customers to access their app without forcing them to install with a splash screen or some other nonsense is sweet. But for small developers who are trying to create a service to live off of, Instant Apps probably won’t help them. Much of their livelihood probably comes from folks downloading and installing and paying for apps. I might be a bit short sighted on this, but I don’t see an indie developer utilizing this much.
Bonus question – Why wasn’t Sundar Pichai more excited?
Maybe I’ve been spoiled by my fellow hat-enthusiast Bryan Roper, but man, Pichai looked like he was reading out of an encyclopedia. I’m not saying he has to go full Ballmer, because it’s rarely a good idea to go full Ballmer, but the man looked bored.