￼I watch Google I/O every year, but then again I also watch WWDC, Microsoft build and all others I can. Im a tech fan, but I have chosen to use Apple products because they fit into my life the best. I review Android hardware on a regular basis for mobiletechtalk, and host two podcasts — so Im not fanboy.
With that out the way, I usually see these sorts of things written towards Apple, WWDC and iPhone events so I thought I would write some of my thoughts down. I discussed some of these on our latest podcast, but I have lots more thoughts from outside the Google bubble.
We all saw this one coming didn’t we, “why wasn’t this done by Google” was the cry when Amazon released the Echo. This small and sleek looking home assistant is Googles answer to the Echo and Google rightly gave Amazon some congratulations on stage. The features are purely speculator at the moment, but they demoed some exciting aims for the device in a promo video.
Googles aim to make this integrate with Chromecast (audio and video) is a brilliant move, and will make this a product to have for any Google home automation system. This uses Googles new ‘assistant’ — which is Google new name for the tech powering Google now. They are making it more conversation based, and aim Home to feel more like an assistant than just voice responces.
If they get the price right, which I think will be £200 or less, this is an instant buy for any tech nerd. I already have Chromecasts all over the home so a purchase is a no brainer for me.This could also majorly sway me back to using an Android device.
Google Allo and Duo
Google revealed that around half of all mobile notifications are from messaging apps, so they built another one! Allo is Googles answer to rich messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Wechat and Facebook messenger. They have built in similar features, and a way to whisper or shout, but with all that said this feels like playing catch up.
Google already has Messages for SMS, Hangouts for Google accounts and now another messaging service for some other reason. This will be available for Android and iOS, and ties into the phone number so you wont need to sign up for a Google account. Which is great, but this means learning will start from day one, and wont learn from your Google account activity. Or will it, and Google will just learn your phone number too? Who knows — but does the world really need another messaging app?
What it does need apparently is another video calling service, specifically one that feels a lot like FaceTime. Google made Duo its own app, for god knows what reason, so get a folder ready on your homescreen for all these new apps. I presume GMS will mean that pre loaded on your new Android device will be Messages, Dialer, Hangouts, Allo, and Duo — thats not confusing at all.
Apple usually get a bit of stick around WWDC for copying Android features, but lets be honest here, Android just got iMessage and FaceTime. Slight touge in cheek.
Google Daydream (VR)
I just cant get excited about VR, but clearly everyone else is. I put VR into the same hype level as 3D TV — remember that? If everyone keeps telling us its the future maybe we will believe it eventually, but Google gave us its own platform anyway. Google built Android for VR, but actually paid some attention to what VR users need. They didn’t do the usual thing and chuck all Android abilities at VR and see what people use — they provided an Andorid TV esq interface for VR apps. Expect Games on the same level as the Nintendo Wii, Google streetview and media apps. Ever wanted to watch Netflix in VR? No me neither.
Google also gave some schematics of reference designs for headsets and a pretty interesting motion controller/remote. The hope is that OEMs will take these designs and produce their own versions, with the Android Daydream enabled brand. Google hope for Daydream devices that start hitting the market later this year. If ever there was a ‘me too’ device this is it.
Android Wear 2.0
You might have thought your current Android wear watch is running on Android wear 6.x but nope. Google introduced Android wear 2.0 with the ability for custom ‘widgets’ in watch faces, along the same lines as Apples complications. Google also weirdly spent over an hour telling us how good their voice recognition and machine learning is, and then put a keyboard on the smallest screen you have. A keyboard on a smartwatch?!? I cant wait to get a stylus for my watch.
This was a completely different Google I/O to ones of old, and not just because it felt like a rock concert. Google should have had their conference later this year, because everything seems to be coming out then. Jason Howell has already commented on the lack of demo areas and hands on experiences, because Google aren’t actually launching anything.
It felt very Apple, with all the presenters using words like “we think you will really love it”. There was much less for the press to take away, and much less freebies. 7,000 people were present for this keynote, and it felt more like a developer conference than previous years.
For the first time I have experienced I have seen die hard Android fanboys confused over what Google is doing. A lack of confidence in services, and how long it will last is a genuine concern for some. With that said there is the usual Android blinkers, so I am sure some with think every product is perfect.
I am genuinely interested in Googles Assistant, its integration into Google home would be a massive pull back to using Android for me — and then things like Allo and Duo would be relevant again. At the end of the day thats what these products are for, Android users.