Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference, kicks off tomorrow as a two-day event in San Francisco. We’ll be on location to keep in tune with Google’s announcements, and the phrase “tune in” may be very apropos as it’s likely a music streaming service will be announced. But that’s certainly not the only development Android mobile device owners should be expecting to hear this week. Aside from 110 developer sessions, one of the two main keynotes will focus solely on Android, although Google hasn’t said which day it will use for Android news.
Here’s a rundown of likely announcements, predictions and few wishful thinking ideas:
- Stats, Stats and More Stats. The smartphone market has heated up into a war of numbers: how many daily device activations, how many apps are available and are downloaded. Google is sure to quote their progress in these areas, especially now that the number of apps in the Android Market is set to surpass that of Apple’s iTunes store in August, according to one research firm. I expect daily device activations to be a record high, given Canalys determined Android phones are now outselling all other platforms around the world for the second quarter in a row. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear 400,000 Android devices are now activated each day. Another long-shot prediction is a greater number of countries that support paid apps in the Android Market.
- Google Music Plays. As mentioned above, it’s almost a given that Google will officially announce, if not launch, a music streaming service. I caught evidence of this back in December, when I installed a leaked Music player for Android and saw that I could enable music synchronization with Google’s servers. Technically, Google looks to be behind with a music service for a few reasons: Amazon recently launched its own streaming service for Android devices and Google actually demonstrated Android music streaming at last year’s developer event. At the very least, a music offering that stores music purchases in the cloud will be heard about at Google I/O, and it’s possible a music subscription service could arrive too.
- Honeycomb Improvements. Now that Google Android tablets are finally arriving, it’s clear the hardware has ouptaced the software. Dual-core processors with advanced graphics are powering Honeycomb devices such as the Xoom, G-Slate, and Acer Iconia Tab A500, but the software interface needs a little more polish. Third-party applications are still unstable, causing app crashes, and there are very few new tablet-optimized software titles available. An updated version of Android 3.0 is likely to take center stage with a number of performance and user interface improvements. Watch for improved developer tools, new APIs and optimizations to the core of Honeycomb that will make the current tablets more desirable.
- An Ice Cream Sandwich. No, this won’t be a literal frozen dessert; it’s the rumored name of the next Android smartphone version. Upon the release of Honeycomb, Google’s tablet platform, there were hints of bringing some Honeycomb features to smartphones in an effort to unify the software. We’ve already seen the first scoop of Ice Cream delivered. Late last month, Google added Google Talk video chat to Android 2.3.4 smartphones: a feature that debuted on mobile devices with Honeycomb tablets. I expect Android smartphones to see many additional Honeycomb-only features such as an improved graphics engine for dual-core handsets, changes to the notification system and new developer tools for a richer smartphone interface.
- The Next Nexus. Google’s Nexus One phone helped spur Android handset and software development when it launched in January 2010. Using the latest and greatest hardware at the time, Google showed what Android was capable of, and a number of high-end handsets followed. Google’s Nexus S, a successor to the Nexus One that launched late last year, was only a marginal improvement, although there’s a new WiMAX version for Sprint . But I don’t expect a new Nexus phone; instead, I think the odds favor a Nexus tablet, which can help advance Honeycomb adoption. It’s a bit of a long shot in either case (phone or tablet) but Google tablets need a shot in the arm, just as smartphones did. Although I’d like to see a 7-inch Nexus tablet, my gut says an 8.9-inch device that accepts a SIM card is the more likely candidate. Such a Honeycomb tablet would be updated more often than its peers, as Google would push new software directly to the device.