Android was the sole focus of the first day Google I/O keynote on Tuesday, with the company talking about three topics: mobile, momentum and more. The presentation lasted nearly an hour and was packed with historical information and the current state of Android’s growth as a platform, what’s coming to Android devices and what new devices will use Android in the future.
One day prior to the keynote, we made five predictions about the Android keynote. Here’s how we fared along with additional thoughts on what Google did, and didn’t, announce for Android.
- Stats, stats and more stats. It’s a given that yearly smartphone product news will include sales figures as well as downloads, so this expectation wasn’t much of a stretch. We did nail the Android activation figures however, saying Google would announce 400,000 Android device activations per day. Additional numbers from Google I/O show the Android army growing in every measure: 100 million cumulative device activations, 200,000 apps in the Market and 4.5 billion apps downloaded. Google TV devices will gain such application support via the Android Market. With this momentum, Google’s mobile initiative is blossoming in terms of market share, but Apple still earns far more profit from iOS.
- Google Music Plays. This wasn’t a huge surprise either: Google did launch an updated Music application that supports music streaming from Google’s servers. Users will have to upload their own tunes through the beta service, which is currently only open to invitees, although anyone can request an invite. Like most Google services, simply signing in on an Android phone will provide access to tunes stored in the cloud. The app will locally store music recently listened to, enabling offline audio. But Google failed to bring a full music offering as there was no store or subscription service launch. For now, Google Music looks like a pale comparison of Amazon’s Cloud Player service already available on Android devices. Google did add support for movie rentals, however, which helps expand the media ecosystem for tablets and smartphones.
- Honeycomb Improvements. Sorely needed and expected, Google’s tablet platform gained new features, functions and visual changes. Android 3.1 adds widget resizing, wider support for USB devices, and an expanded recent task list. Although I haven’t used the updated software yet, I’m hearing reports that the performance of Honeycomb has improved as well. This is welcome news, as my own first impressions on three different Android 3.0 tablets, each with very similar hardware, showed sluggishness. Google also announced new developer tools and APIs, which may have a bigger impact going forward, as third-party apps for Google’s tablets haven’t appeared in large numbers.
- An Ice Cream Sandwich. We broke news in February that Honeycomb’s feature-set wouldn’t be limited to tablets, and Google confirmed it yesterday. The next version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, will unify software and features on slates and smartphones. The new Music app is a good example, as the same app runs on both small- and large-screened devices. Google expects to launch Ice Cream Sandwich in the last quarter of this year. That indicates current phones won’t likely see the update until 2012, if at all, as it takes time for carriers to test and deliver software updates.
- The Next Nexus. Our only prediction that didn’t come true was a new Google-branded Nexus device, but it was a long shot. Instead, Google handed out Samsung Galaxy Tab slates to all attendees, nearly a month before the device goes on sale. However Google’s SVP of Mobile, Andy Rubin, did hint at a new Nexus device in the future, saying “there’s always going to be new ones.” My take is that a new Nexus handset will debut before the end of 2011 in order to showcase Ice Cream Sandwich.
Four out of five predictions isn’t bad, but Google had even more to announce in terms of Android. A new Android@Home initiative, complete with a new wireless protocol, will bring smart appliances and lightbulbs to the Android army. As a home automation geek that controls lights and thermostats with my handset, I like the initiative here. I’m not sold on the need for a new wireless protocol, however.
Overall, the Android announcements were largely expected and all welcome. But the event seemed “flat” to me as I watched the live-stream and I walked away after the hour keynote wanting more. For those of you that watched or read the coverage, do you agree, or do you think Google hit a home run with its Android news? I’m leaning toward a double, or maybe a triple, at best.