Editorial: I/O 2015 Keynote Keys Part One: The Android Platform
Packed with the lion’s share of groundbreaking announcements that from one of the largest tech companies in the known universe, Google I/O has been one of the biggest holidays events in the tech blogosphere for years and this year’s edition didn’t disappoint. Here are a few trivia bits, random thoughts and knee-jerk reactions to today’s I/O 2015 keynote address:
I definitely enjoyed the multimedia intro featuring a “tour” of the solar system to the beat of “High Roller” from the 1997 album “Vegas” by the Crystal Method:
It certainly seemed to fit the theme of the keynote address.
First, zoom in on the speaker’s wrist in this photo:
How likely is it that the speaker just wore some random watchface on his smartwatch during one of the biggest presentations of the year in an age of high-res mobile cameras? I think we can rule out “Marshmallow”, “Macadamia Nut Cookie” or “Meatsauce” as the culinary nickname for Android’s next major iteration.
Android M Developer Preview
If you’ve been following Android news regularly over the last couple of weeks, you probably saw this coming, a reprise of last year’s successful L preview. It’s already available for your Nexus 5, 6 or 9, but if you’re running a custom ROM you’ll no doubt want to nandroid your current setup before flashing this. Too bad none of these devices will enjoy Android M’s USB Type C support and native fingerprint scanner support upon final release.
Android M Permissions
The key to success for this feature is that Android will prompt you to choose whether to allow each permission as an app tries to access it, rather than at the time of install. This is more important than simply the ability to pick and choose which permissions to grant from the settings menu (also a new feature of Android M). This will not only make it easier for most users to understand how permissions work and easier to decide which ones to grant, but it should also spare developers a lot of headaches. For example, it decreases the likelihood that users will just arbitrarily deny permissions crucial to the functioning of the app and then 1-star it in the Play Store because it doesn’t work properly (of course it didn’t work, you didn’t give it permission to!).
Oh, suuuure, now the banks, merchants and carriers want to play ball, after Apple blew the door open on NFC payments that Google Wallet had barely cracked.
Android M Fingerprint Scanner Support
I saved my thoughts on native fingerprint scanner support until now because I wanted to comment on its relationship to Android Pay. Far from being a mere lockscreen gimmick, Android M’s implementation has the potential to take Android Pay to the next level. One of the biggest drawbacks to Google Wallet is that it was extremely cumbersome and buggy at the time of launch, a reasonable level of security coming at the expense of convenience. For many of us, it was easier to simply reach into our pockets and fish our plastic out of our real wallets. Fingerprint support promises to make the process reasonably secure without making it too complicated to be worth using. The key to success is the accuracy of the initial fingerprint scan compared to any subsequent scans taken at the point of sale. The biggest potential pitfall is that now determined hackers can potentially steal your digital fingerprint in addition to your social security number, credit card numbers, etc.
Chrome Custom Tabs
This should make it much easier for app developers to seamlessly include a full mobile browser experience, so it still looks like the user is in the app while enjoying all the benefits of the full Chrome browser (not being constrained by the limitations of Android WebView). For example, users can benefit from Chrome’s stored site logins and form fill information while not having to fully leave the app. This might actually be the biggest improvement coming to the Android experience in my opinion.
Present and upcoming updates to Google’s wearable platform promise to make wearable devices more relevant for everyday users, possibly relevant enough for smartwatches to actually achieve mainstream adoption (especially now that Apple Watch has “paved the way” /s). One example is the ability to switch between apps with a mere flick of the wrist. Another improvement is “always-on” visibility for the active app, so the screen won’t time out when you’re following turn-by-turn navigation directions on your watch, for example.
By all means, I encourage you to stay tuned for the next part of my I/O 2015 editorial series, which widens the focus to the Android ecosystem.