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I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting for some big Android news. 2013 has been quite boring frankly for Android, I don’t envy the mass of tech. journalists who go to sleep at night wondering how they’re going to spin an original article from some incremental update Samsung made to the Galaxy S67… For someone who loves specs, the only spec that really matters to me anymore is mAh for battery capacity. The rest? Pretty much “meh” if you use your phone to stay organized and do business like I do.
I held my breath for the Motorola X, I thought that phone was going to be nuts! While reviews have been good for the X, it was nowhere near the innovative leap I’d hoped it’d be, it was underwhelming. The last time I was really excited about Android was the 2012 Nexus 7. It wasn’t so much that the Nexus 7 was ground-breakingly-innovative, no, it was that it was such a great product for a seemingly ridiculous price. It was a smart play by Google to build the tablet market and it worked to keep everyone buzzing about the OS.
Has Android matured to the point it’s lost its excitement and ability to innovate? Fortunately for us it doesn’t look like this is the case and in the near future we should begin to see some of the biggest innovations ever made to smartphones, period. Depending on how good Google and partners are able to capitalize on these developments, future versions of Android could make smartphones of today look rather pathetic. Some of the biggest Android innovations are just around the corner:
What’s ART? Well, allow me to simplify: right now Android uses a less than optimal solution to interpret Java code into instructions the smartphone can utilize. This solution is called the Dalvik runtime and it’s named after a town in Eyjafjörður, Iceland by the dude who wrote it. Google knew Dalvik wasn’t the best solution and that’s why for the past two years they’ve been secretly working an a replacement.
As you may have guessed ART stands for Android runtime. ART has been tailored (through REAMS of user data) by Google to deliver the fastest and most efficient Android experience physically possible. ART promises to replace the compromises which were necessary under Dalvik and already performance gains of up to 100% have been seen using ART (before optimizations). ART is expected to be the game-changer that takes Android to the next performance level. ART will put Android back on par with iOS in terms of requiring much less hardware horsepower to perform fast, buttery-smooth UI actions.
Think ART may be snake-oil? I don’t blame you, but check out this video showing an ART Nexus 7 (on right) vs. Dalvik Nexus 7. Keep in mind this is before any optimizations of ART whatsoever, much greater gains should be expected.
Google Now will start asking you questions to refine your search queries and it’ll do it intelligently. On November 13 Google is expect to announce that Google Now will now (ugh) be able to “deep scan” apps and use their information to refine your searches. So if you say, “Ok Google call John”, Google Now may reply, “should I call John Smith or John Doe?” if you had multiple Johns stored in your contact’s app (hmm that doesn’t sound quite right).
The implications of app “awareness” are great for both developers and users alike. When I enable deep scanning in my app Saving Made Simple, eventually users will be able to ask Google Now how much money they’ve said for their vacation, car insurance, mortgage payment, whatever, and Google Now will report back it’s findings directly from my app! There’s some extremely powerful possibilities here, Google is the master of interpreting searches and their understanding of context is like no other. Combining these two abilities will produce what I believe will be the closest thing to artificial intelligence on mobile devices today. Siri will look like utter crap if Google gets this right.
Android hardware has been pretty damn boring, sure, it’s all faster, shinier and lighter, but who really cares. I myself still use a Galaxy S2X every day, I haven’t seen a compelling argument for me to upgrade. I’ve tweaked the phone to be nearly instant in most regards, instant is instant, more instant doesn’t really excite me.
Luckily, if Motorola has its way with a much smarter person’s idea, modular phones will be mass marketed in 2014 turning the entire industry on its head. Modular phones provide the ability to swap out components much like swapping out different shaped bricks of Lego. A modular design would give users the ability to upgrade whatever components of their phone they wished at whatever time they chose. In my case, if the S2X was a modular phone, I’d simply swap out the CPU/GPU as everything else is quite good.
Imagine the feeling of a new phone for under $150! It’s just around the corner…
Are you excited about the future of Android? What do you think the biggest development will be in 2014?
Man I need a modular phone…