Developers from around the world are in Mountain View this week. As they have for a decade now, the people behind apps of every size and purpose have joined Google once again for I/O.
The keynote that opens Google’s developer conference should draw you in with excitement weeks and days leading up to it, but I entered largely curious in 2018. Although we figured machine learning and Android P would be given a ton of attention, maybe Google would address wearables, home entertainment, and messaging. Now that we’re past the keynote, I’m perplexed by what wasn’t covered.
Google didn’t spend any time during its globally-watched presentation talking about Wear OS, Android TV, or Android Messages. While they may have been mentioned in passing, none got their own segment.
So if you’re wondering why I/O 2018 feels like a total yawn-fest one day in, there’s your answer. Google didn’t offer us even a peek at what’s new with any of those products despite their importance.
The market for wearables has certainly shrunk, but Google rebooted earlier this year to be platform-agnostic. Android Wear, which launched at I/O 2014, was rebranded with a new name but not much else. Many people, myself included, thought the company would overhaul the user interface and introduce new features at I/O.
Google didn’t bring up Wear OS during I/O 2018’s keynote at all. Instead, last week the company issued a software update for Google Assistant on the platform.
Wear OS is new on paper, but it’s otherwise identical to Android Wear. That’s as true today as it was the day Google made the rebranding official. Why toss a fresh coat of paint on if it’s still the same product? The better strategy would’ve been to wait on rebranding Android Wear until the new look and feel is ready.
Google screwed up by ignoring Wear OS at I/O, especially since LG is working on some type of smartwatch that’s both traditional and connected.
The longer Google goes without pouring significant resources into fixing Wear OS, the further Apple and Samsung will carry their lead. Wear OS works with both Android and iOS devices; however, the experience is far inferior to watchOS and Tizen.
Meanwhile, fashion brands are carrying the platform aimlessly. Wear OS needs direction, and that’ll only come from Google. Partners entrenched in the technology space won’t give Wear OS a second chance if Google refuses to do anything that’s actually new.
We’ll have to wait until the fall to see if Google launches its own smartwatch. There’s a strong push into hardware being made, and maybe a completely rebuilt Wear OS is in the works to coincide with a smartwatch’s arrival. Either way, the decision to announce Wear OS in March and ignore it in May is very strange.
Android TV and the Chromecast are separate products although they serve the same purpose. Both are tasked with meeting your home entertainment needs. Google, though, isn’t sure about which one it should embrace.
Its $35 dongle is one of the company’s best-selling products ever. Android TV, on the other hand, has struggled to find an identity. The little-known platform is more robust, though. Google’s Cast technology, by the way, does ship with Android TV. So it’s a mess for consumers to understand.
Now we’re about to see a wave of hybrid devices. The company worked with JBL to create the Link Bar, an Android TV-powered soundbar that hosts Google Assistant. Built-in, too, is a Chromecast. Over the summer, expect similar devices to debut.
Google should’ve taken the stage at the Shoreline Amphitheatre to explain why Android TV is the best place for home entertainment.
The brainpower of Google Assistant in the living room should speak for itself, but here we are with another flood of devices that won’t have guidance. As we’ve seen before, Google’s love for more devices typically leads to more confusion.
Google shocked us all by staying mum on Android Messages during the keynote. If there was anything to look forward to heading into I/O 2018 that needed details, it was the future of messaging on Android devices. Yet the app wasn’t name-dropped a single time.
Android Messages should succeed where its predecessors failed. Hangouts, which is pivoting to focus on enterprise customers, connected users by their Google accounts while the all-but-dead Allo did nothing but showcase machine learning. Android Messages is pre-installed on quite a bit of the Android devices currently in commission, so there’s no need to create a new app.
The new Android Messages will feature Chat, the company’s take on Rich Communication Services (RCS). It’ll be distributed through the app to hardware manufacturers and carriers. Based on the features it’ll usher in, Android Messages should become the iMessage rival we’ve been wanting for years.
By revealing more about Android Messages’ next phase, Google would’ve doubled the buzz it generated at I/O 2018. Whether you have an Android or iOS device, you’re interested in seeing what happens with this one app.
Google delivered an underwhelming presentation. Somehow we didn’t get to hear about core products that are still meaningful. Android P didn’t make serious noise because the company unveiled the latest version of its operating system months ago. Had this been the first time Android P was brought in front of our eyes, it’d be the top story.
I/O 2018 could’ve served as a launching pad for Wear OS, reigniting interest in the platform. It also would’ve been the perfect time and place for a new Android TV set-top box to call out the Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. Then there’s Android Messages, which begs to be mentioned and given a release date for its major upgrade.
Apple’s turn is next, and to be blunt, it won’t be difficult for it to upstage Google. This year’s I/O will come and go with silence.