10 things that we’re excited about from Google I/O
Yesterday, we asked Google a series of questions that weren’t answered to our satisfaction at Google I/O’s keynote. But we’re not completely negative Nellies here at Pocketnow. But while that list of questions is pretty long, the list of great things coming out of Google I/O thus far is pretty great in and of itself. So, to balance the negative with the positive, here are nice things from Google I/O that have impressed us here at Pocketnow.
It has been asked for for years. Samsung has been doing it, first on the Note, then on the S-series of phones. So we all asked Google to make Split Screen a thing on Android across the board. Now it is here and we’re all pretty stoked about it. The reality is that with phones getting bigger and bigger, there is a real need for split screen multi-tasking on phones. Watching the I/O keynote on my Nexus 6P was a little frustrating because I could not tweet about it while watching it. Going forward, that will not be a problem. So right off the bat, well done Google.
And speaking of multi-tasking, the multi-tasking menu alone deserves it’s own place on this list. There were two aspects of Multitasking that were very attractive. First, Google is limiting the task switcher to only the last seven apps that were accessed. This is pretty great because I don’t need to have 7,000 tasks open at once and switch between all of them. Seven is about right for me. And according to the data, Google says seven is about right for most people. Personally, I would have liked Google to have a configurable task-switching option that allowed you to limit the number of tasks or not. But we won’t pick nits.
Next, the button I have been calling for for years is finally here – Dismiss all! God, I’ve been wanting that button. It’s frankly one of my favorite features of TouchWiz. Why we need both seven recent apps and a dismiss all button, I don’t know. Seems to be a bit of a mystery. But, we get both. I won’t knock it though, anything that saves me the trouble of six extra swipes is just fine with me.
Quick Switch is one of those features that I think I’ll probably use a lot – if I can remember that it’s there. Quick Switch, for those not familiar is a double tap on the Recent Apps button that switches you to the last active app – Google describes it as Alt-Tab for Android. There are definitely times when I bounce back and forth between two different apps, so this one is pretty exciting, but it seems like Android’s buttons are beginning to get the same problem as iOS’s home button – too many actions for one button.
Google Assistant is basically a conversational Google Now. Like Google Now, it still tries to anticipate a user’s needs, but it does so by having a conversation with the user and following that natural path. If you ask for movie times, Google Assistant will offer to book tickets for you. That kind of thing. Rather than trying to guess what you want, like Google Now does, Google Assistant gleans your desires from you directly, which makes the platform more powerful.
That being said, Google Now better not be going anywhere.
Google Assistant is also the driving force behind Google Home, a.k.a. your friendly air freshener. Google Home is Google’s answer to Amazon’s Echo, but with a platform that frankly makes a lot more sense. Amazon is an ecosystem basically built around shopping, while Google is an ecosystem based around searching. Having a device like Google Home on hand to take down lists, and search for things, makes a lot more sense to me than having a shopping app send me reminders. I guess it’s just the perception of the two services, and the fact that Google is present in more mobile spaces than Amazon. It’s a freakin’ great move by Google, ties in nicely with Nest and Chromecast. It’s a win.
Allo and Duo
Google also introduced its third and fourth messaging app. Google is to messenger apps as webOS was to Twitter apps. So much variety and not a single one of them alone will tackle all of your needs. Ok, all joking aside, both of these apps bring something really slick to Android. Duo brings a great video chat service to a platform that is bereft of them for the most part. Before you stand up and yell “Hangouts!” c’mon, seriously? Duo is a REAL video chat service. Hangouts is…well, hangouts.
Allo is a messaging service on steroids. In addition to the normal stuff – small and large text, emojis, etc. – Google takes it to 11 by building Google Services into the app. Things like search, predictive responses that learn over time, and Google Now-like cards that are relevant to your conversations. Plus, both Allo and Duo are cross-platform compatible, so there won’t be any platform lock-in like FaceTime and iMessage.
Android wear 2.0
Android Wear 2.0 made an appearance, billed as the most significant OS upgrade yet. The thing that caught my eye were the two new input methods in Android Wear – handwriting and a tiny little keyboard. Totally honesty, I likely won’t use either of them myself, but both of them represent a new way to interact with your watch that isn’t just voice. Plus, standalone apps in Android Wear 2.0 are addressing the naysayers who won’t buy a watch because it needs to be tethered to a phone. Well, now it does necessarily have to be.
Android launched into VR in a pretty big way at Google I/O by introducing Daydream. I’ve said on the record that I’m not all that into VR, even after Vive and HoloLens demos, I can see how they’re cool, but I’m just not feeling it for me. That being said, it’s still incredibly important to enter this space, and Android is doing that, which is exciting. If Google can bring to VR the same level of contributions as it has brought to mobile, then VR is about to get really sexy, really fast.
Android apps running natively in Chromebooks
This wasn’t part of the Keynote, which in and of itself is a shame, but today, Google confirmed that Android apps are coming to Chromebooks. The big news is that these apps are coming, not as some hacked in version, or running in an emulator, but these apps will run natively. This is huge because every Chromebook in the world just got a massive App Store upgrade. Games, productivity apps, and more will suddenly run on Chromebooks like any other Android device. Your cheap Chromebook ain’t so cheap any more.
Overall, Google has had an impressive event thus far, and it’s not even done yet. All Android devices are poised to get a great upgrade in the near future, and it’s all pretty exciting. There are still some questions, don’t get me wrong, but if Google can deliver on everything it has promised so far, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.