Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

There was a cold marine layer hanging within the air above the Shoreline Amphitheater, however the danceable beats thumped on despite it. Dan Deacon was enjoying a set that had one thing to do with AI, adopted by an individual in a duck costume dancing on stage. Not the form of spectacle you’re sometimes anticipating earlier than you’ve even had your second cup of espresso, however that’s Google I/O, child. 

I/O is, in fact, the corporate’s yearly developer convention, and it formally kicked off on Wednesday morning when CEO Sundar Pichai took the stage, headlining a two-hour presentation that was nearly fully centered on AI. We acquired a preview of what’s coming to Google Search, Gmail, and Pictures, together with an unappetizing, photo-realistic picture of pizza fondue. It was all AI, prime to backside. We had been reassured, many times, that Google is being accountable with its AI implementation and that the corporate is taking steps to ensure the know-how doesn’t finish life on the planet as we all know it.

However what we didn’t hear a lot about — actually, barely earned a point out on stage — is I/O’s standard visitor of honor: Android. Specifically, Android 14, which is in beta now and is predicted within the fall. There’s lots in regards to the apps and providers that run hand-in-hand with Google’s cellular working system, however the platform itself will get little or no time within the highlight.

That’s a significant shift from earlier years. As just lately as 2019, the subsequent Android model (at the moment, it was going as Q) commanded a devoted 10-plus-minute phase within the keynote highlighting new options. In 2023? Android 14 is talked about nearly in passing an hour and a half into the keynote as new lock display customization choices are highlighted. Earlier in this system, we acquired updates on merchandise monitoring and a heads-up on unknown tracker alerts that may work with Apple’s AirTags. However this stuff had been framed as updates coming to the Android ecosystem, not as Android 14 options. 

That’s not an accident. I requested Sameer Samat, VP of Android ecosystem, why Android 14 particularly acquired so little airtime. He mentioned that as Google has carried out methods for Android gadgets to obtain updates outdoors of a once-a-year platform improve, like Play System and app updates, it’s develop into essential to border issues a bit otherwise. “So this yr, we thought it’s vital to indicate individuals what’s new in Android from a person expertise standpoint, whatever the OS model. Whereas some options that we introduced will launch with Android 14, many will arrive in individuals’s arms by these steady updates,” he says. 

Fairly than lumping collectively loads of new options in an OS improve that may roll out slowly (or under no circumstances) to sure gadgets, the corporate is sprinkling options all year long as updates to Google Pictures or Gmail. That’s an excellent factor, and it’s a aspect impact of Google’s efforts to unravel the acquainted issues of Android’s fragmentation. Google has extra levers to tug now to get function updates and safety fixes to Android telephones sooner. It simply means fewer of these options getting constructed into big-numbered variations of the OS.

It additionally implies that what’s leftover isn’t terribly thrilling. Android 14 has been in beta for some time now, and to this point, highlights embody updates that I’d classify as nice-to-haves: a distinct search for the again navigation arrow, assist for a brand new backward-compatible HDR picture normal, and lossless audio over USB headphones. Not dangerous, however not the form of stuff that will get individuals jazzed up throughout a keynote.

Google has extra levers to tug now to get function updates to Android telephones sooner

There’s additionally the truth that the smartphone market has achieved a form of maturity meaning year-over-year upgrades are much less thrilling than they as soon as had been. See additionally: principally each gadget introduced final yr. System makers, together with Google, are shifting the main target to the earbuds, watches, and tablets that they promote and the way all of them work collectively to make our lives simpler — so the gross sales pitch goes. Telephones simply aren’t the celebrities of the present anymore, and neither is the software program they run on.

That’s how we acquired to this yr’s I/O keynote, which was as a lot a {hardware} launch and AI pep rally because it was a software program showcase. After the primary keynote ended and Pichai walked offstage, we had been inspired to remain in our seats for the subsequent session: the developer keynote. Little tubs of snacks had been distributed as a bribe to maintain us in our seats. 

Nonetheless, nearly all of the gang headed for the exits. We had been there for the Fold announcement or to see how Google was responding to the stress of Microsoft’s AI developments. Smaller classes later within the day coated Android in depth, however on the corporate’s largest stage, it performed nothing greater than a supporting function.

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