Google I/O 2017 Distilled

With 157 sessions this year, Google I/O can be a lot to take in. Google, in keeping with their mission to organize the world’s information, published a post outlining 101 announcements from Google I/O 2017. It is an excellent recap of all the major things that came out of I/O. I am going to quote what I feel are the most significant announcements and offer context, especially as it relates to how you can build better products.

I have separated the announcements into three categories: Numbers, APIs & Features, and Reporting Tools. Numbers will cover key metrics to give an overview of the scale and adoption of Google’s products. APIs & Features will cover anything that Google announced that will allow you to build better and more engaging experiences. Reporting tools will cover two important announcements that will help you better iterate on the apps you have released.

Numbers

As you read through these stats, think about the importance of having an understanding and an investment in Android. Android is not simply a mobile OS, it’s quickly becoming the OS of everything. From Wear, to Auto, to Things, leveraging Android opens doors to plenty of possibilities and experiences for your users.

We reached 2 billion monthly active devices on Android!

The importance of this cannot be understated. No computing platform has ever reached this kind of scale and Android shows no signs of slowing down. Google has always placed a large emphasis on “building for the next billion” and this continues with their announcement of Android Go, designed “for people who have limited data connectivity and speak multiple languages.” This version of Android will also showcase special lightweight apps in Google Play. Though it is a huge investment to support a regular and “lite” version of your app, it may be worth it if you are looking to make inroads in emerging markets.  

Android Auto is now supported by 300 car models, and Android Auto users have grown 10x since last year.

Android Auto is the in car experience you get by pairing your Android device with your car. It is very similar to Apple’s CarPlay solution.  What’s nice about Android Auto from a development point of view is it does not require you to build a special Android Auto version of your app. You simply have to expose certain parts of your current app to Android Auto, and it handles the rest. Currently, only messaging and media apps are allowed to be exposed through Android Auto. So if your app doesn’t fall into that category, you are out of luck for now.

This is not to be confused with Android Automotive which is a project to have Android be the underlying OS that runs the car. Everything from controlling windshield wipers to air conditioning.

With partners in 70+ countries, we’re seeing 1 million new Android TV device activations every two months, doubling the number of users since last year.

Android TV intends to do for the TV market what Android has done for the mobile phone market. It is an attempt to fuse all the disparate TV manufacturer OSs to allow developers to target one platform. Android TV exists as both separate boxes that plugin to the TV or built into the TV itself. It is a perfect platform for media and gaming apps.

With new partners like Emporio Armani, Movado, and New Balance, Android Wear now powers almost 50 different watches.

It is generally safe to assume that when exact numbers are not revealed, it is because they are not very good. Android Wear has only been moderately successful since its release. Even Apple, who is selling more smartwatches than everyone else combined has not released specific figures. If an Android Wear is necessary for your core app experience, it is probably not worth investing time building for it. Though adoption has not been great, Google continues to support and update the platform.

We honored 12 Google Play Awards winners—apps and games that give their fans particularly delightful and memorable experiences.

A great reference of apps to consult to best understand what a solid Android app experience looks like.

Thousands of developers from 60+ countries are now using Android Things to create connected devices that have easy access to services like the Google Assistant, TensorFlow, and more.

Android Things is a stripped down version of Android meant to run on connected devices without a UI. Though it has not officially been released yet, it is already looking very promising. IoT devices have a bad reputation for being insecure given many manufacturers fail to push security updates to them. Android Things will address this, with updates directly from Google.

Over the last year, the number of Google Play developers with more than 1 million installs grew 35 percent.

Dynamism in Google Play remains strong, it is not simply dominated by major apps.

The number of people buying on Google Play grew by almost 30 percent this past year.

Commerce is consistently strengthening on mobile, proving itself to be the go to platform where consumers make purchases.

APIs & Features

Google has built a massive infrastructure to give you a range of tools at your disposal. Leveraging them can be the difference between a good and amazing experience for your customers.

For developers, we’re bringing Actions on Google to the Assistant on phones—on both Android and iOS. Soon you’ll find conversation apps for the Assistant that help you do things like shopping for clothes or ordering food from a lengthy menu.

During the keynote, Valerie Nygaard gave an amazing example of what Actions look like in practice. No app, no website, just interfacing directly with the Google Assistant to make a food order. Your customers want to give you money and the less friction they have, the more they will come back.

We shared an early look at TensorFlow Lite, which is designed to help developers take advantage of machine learning to improve the user experience on Android.

Dave Burke, VP of Android Engineering put it eloquently in the keynote, “We think these new capabilities will help power the next generation of on-device speech processing, visual search, augmented reality, and more.” If your app is looking to solve problems using any of those features, leveraging TensorFlow Lite is probably the route you want to go.

We’re making Kotlin an officially supported programming language in Android, with the goal of making Android development faster and more fun.

Though at Raizlabs we had already begun building apps in Kotlin, we were still apprehensive given no official acknowledgment from Google. Now that they have announced first party support for the language, it will be our default language for Android apps going forward. Many devs prefer Kotlin to Java, let them use it! Happy devs make happy users.

Android Instant Apps are now open to all developers, so anyone can build and publish apps that can be run without requiring installation.

Instant Apps allows Android users to run your apps instantly, without installation. Native app experiences are great, often times better than their equivalent mobile web version. Unfortunately, the barrier of downloading and installing an app often prevents users from doing so. Instant Apps allows users that visit your website on their Android device to be given the option to use the Instant App version instead of the web version. Even better, in Google search results those websites that support Instant Apps will have an “Instant” tag, which will encourage engagement. Plus, giving users an Instant App will allow them to be presented with the option to download the full app.

There are many examples available, Vimeo’s Instant App experience is particularly solid, and I encourage you to visit this link on an Android device to try it out.

We’re expanding Daydream to support standalone VR headsets, which don’t require a phone or PC. HTC VIVE and Lenovo are both working on devices, based on a Qualcomm reference design.

Daydream is Google’s virtual reality platform, and though it is still in the early stages, it is definitely something to keep an eye on. Here at Raizlabs we have experimented significantly with VR, and though a nascent technology, that means there is even more opportunity to differentiate yourself.

We worked with the Google Maps team to create a new Visual Positioning Service (VPS) for developers, which helps devices quickly and accurately understand their location indoors.

This is something you really have to see demoed in order to understand it. It is Google’s answer to the question of how users can determine their location indoors. This is not publicly available, but definitely something to keep on your radar. RIP maps in malls, we hardly knew thee.

We’re bringing phone number authentication to Firebase, working closely with the Fabric Digits team, so your users can sign in to your apps with their phone numbers.

The quicker users can sign in, the more likely they are to do so, simple as that. Make it as easy on your users as possible and allowing them to sign in with their phone numbers is one way to do just that.

With a new Google Payment API, developers can enable easy in-app or online payments for customers who already have credit and debit cards stored on Google properties.

The more barriers you remove from your user experience, the happier your users will be. Don’t make your user supply their credit card if they don’t have to, leverage the Google Payment API to make the experience as frictionless as possible.

Reporting Tools

As the saying goes, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Google’s newly announced reporting tools are low hanging fruit that can greatly improve your user’s experience if they are acted on.

We’re updating the Google Play Console with new features to help developers improve your app’s performance and quality, and grow your business on Google Play.

The Google Play Console is the website for managing the release of your apps on Google Play. It has added a ton of new features which offer you excellent information on app performance, user acquisition, financial reports, and much more. Use these insights to iterate on your app and prioritize your backlog.

New Firebase Performance Monitoring will help diagnose issues resulting from poorly performing code or challenging network conditions.

Unlike the improvements to the Google Play Console, to take advantage of the Firebase Performance Monitoring, you will need to integrate the SDK into your app. The good news is it is very easy to do and can be done on both Android and iOS. This will also be an excellent tool allowing you to better prioritize your backlog and focus on issues that will have the greatest impact on your user experience.

I hope you enjoyed this read and have a better understanding of both the direction of the market and the tools that are available to you. If your team is interested in learning more and would like to collaborate, get in touch.


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