Ahead of we start, a snappy confession: It’s not that i am a psychic.
Regardless of what you’ll have heard, I will’t if truth be told are expecting the long run. Actually, I do not even consider within the time-tested custom of constructing tech predictions (neatly, excluding for one foolproof prophecy I foist upon the Twitterverse each and every January, however that is a unique kind of forecast).
You recognize what I do consider in, regardless that? Traits. Looking at the sometimes-subtle tendencies inside a tech ecosystem over the years is helping us perceive the larger image of the place issues are shifting and why. That is the type of “future-gazing” that we could us make trained guesses a few then-tiny-young-platform’s chance of exploding and, towards all well-liked odds, changing into the arena’s most generally used OS. That is the type of “crystal-ball studying” that we could us see the seeds of 2 separate Google platforms beginning to come in combination and no longer canceling every different out (as well-liked opinion persistently predicted).
And it is that very same form of procedure that we could us make significant statements about what is prone to occur within the realm of Android over this coming 12 months — no longer in super-specific, “Corporate X will liberate 3 telephones in Would possibly!” varieties of phrases, however in extensive strokes that talk to the full actions around the ecosystem.
On the finish of 2017, I printed an “Android 2018 primer” — a look back at some of the insightful analysis from the past year as we prepared for a (theoretically) fresh beginning. I selected the stories in that lineup for a very deliberate reason — namely the fact that they got at those deeper trend-oriented narratives that are so frequently overlooked and lost amidst the more sensational and surface-level headlines. And, you guessed it: also because those same narratives can go a long way in informing us about the likely twists and turns in the road ahead.
With all of that in mind, here are four themes you’d be wise to watch when it comes to Android in 2018:
It’s the biggest Android story most of the tech world missed (and continues to overlook in significance today): the slow-cooker-style coming-together of Android and Chrome OS, two different but complementary platforms with their own distinct but complementary purposes. It’s a trend that’s been underway for nearly three years now, albeit almost unnoticed for much of that time — and it’s a trend that’s practically certain to continue picking up pace in the months ahead.
It helps to think of 2017 as the official “coming out party” for Chrome OS and Android as a symbiotic couple. In the past year, Google seriously cranked up the gas on the two platforms’ alignment, with the launch of a new Android-reminiscent launcher and navigation system for Chromebooks, the debut of Google Assistant on Chrome OS, and, of course, the formal introduction of Android apps on Chromebooks — perhaps the most transformational move of all in a big-picture view.
As I mused last fall, all of those moves helped set the stage for Chromebooks to effectively become the new Android tablets — Google’s next-gen focus for the large-screen computing experience. The next steps of convergence between Android and Chrome OS will only help to solidify that reality as more and more hardware-makers get on board with the concept.
To wit: Numerous signs suggest Google is preparing for Chrome OS to support fingerprint sensors (something that seemed to be in the initial plans for the company’s inaugural Pixelbook, even if it didn’t end up making the cut). Code changes indicate developers are also working on a system-wide voice-to-text function for Chromebooks — another Android-like touch that’ll bring the Chrome OS and Android experiences closer together while simultaneously filling in the gaps of a Chromebook as a touch-oriented device.
Beyond that, Chromebooks are soon expected to get Android-like support for inline notification replies, an Android-like system for more secure OS-level VPN connections, better multitasking capability for Android apps running in the background, a native system for reading and replying to Android-based text messages, and even more Android-like Material Design elements (part of an ongoing design shift that’s been happening bit by bit, mostly unrecognized by the masses, for months on end).
This ain’t a fluke, folks: As I’ve said countless times throughout this process, each individual piece of the puzzle may not look like anything monumental in and of itself — but add ’em all together, and you start to see the forest for the trees.
Keep a close eye on that woodland in 2018, and you’re bound to see some interesting things.
2. Security, with an eye on the enterprise
Android security is always a hot topic — and despite the fact that most of the buzz tends to be sensational hype with subsequent to no real-world affect, the fear-inducing headlines truly do create a belief of Android being a digital Wild West the place threat is repeatedly lurking.
Faulty as that perception is also, the very life of the sort of belief is an issue Google has lengthy sought to unravel. And the corporate’s strikes during the last 12 months make it relatively transparent that safety will proceed to be a significant center of attention for Android within the months forward, particularly because it pertains to Android’s undertaking adoption.
Some noteworthy nuggets about what is within the works: In past due December, Google introduced a new plan to verify app authenticity within the Google Play Store. Google also launched a fresh effort to warn users about mobile apps and websites that might collect personal data without consent (a far more pressing concern than malware for businesses and individuals alike).
In addition, 2017’s Android 8.0 Oreo release included a number of not-so-obvious security enhancements, many of which were designed to lay the groundwork for future technologies. In researching those enhancements, I also learned that Google is working on “a lot more” with encryption, particularly as it pertains to the enterprise, for 2018’s Android P release.
If all of that isn’t enough, in recent weeks, Google’s been pumping up its managed version of Google Play for enterprises — a system that allows companies to “safely and quickly distribute private enterprise apps,” as the company put it in a late-November promotion — and at the same time highlighting how its own Pixel hardware features a new type of tamper-resistant security module created “for enterprise-grade security.”
See the pattern? And speaking of Google’s hardware ambitions…
3. The notion of Google as an ecosystem — and an enterprise-friendly one, at that
The underlying theme to Google’s massive 2017 hardware push wasn’t just that Google was making its own devices. Beneath the surface, the real message was much deeper: that Google itself — not Android, not Chrome OS — was becoming the unifying thread for the company’s mobile tech vision. Google, in other words, is now the primary ecosystem.
This reframing may seem subtle, but it’s significant — and it’s a trend we’re bound to see more of in the coming year. By focusing on Google as the common denominator, the company can exert greater control over its user experience. It can ensure its software and services, particularly Assistant, remain front and center, and it can eliminate common Android pain points — like disjointed user interfaces, the presence of too many overlapping apps and superfluous services, and the pitiful lack of resources most manufacturers devote to ongoing device updates. (At the same time, of course, other manufacturers can continue to do what they want outside of Google’s newly contained universe.)
With HTC’s hardware-making talent now on the home front, Google is poised to turn this shift up a notch. Its focus on software as a differentiator gives it a unique advantage among Android device-makers, and if it can figure out the tricky pickle of marketing and distribution, it could — in theory — reshape the Android ecosystem as we know it.
That’s a big fat “if,” as we all know. But what seems certain is that Google is going to keep pushing forward and trying. A more diverse and aggressively promoted device lineup seems all but inevitable, as does an expanded emphasis on the benefits of using multiple Google devices for a cohesive and connected experience that continues to improve over time — something no one else in the Android world can truly offer.
On a related note, remember when I asked how long it’d be til the true Google retail store arrived? As I wrote at the time:
Google plainly wants to be a hardware giant — and in the mobile tech realm in particular, owning your own fully controlled retail experience is an enormous advantage when it comes to developing positive customer relationships. And yes, we can pretty much sum that up by saying “just like Apple” here, because Apple most certainly has gotten the retail and in-store support side of its operation exactly right.
At this point, it appears to be less a question of “if” and more a question of “when.” And with new reports that Google could be working to open physical retail stores in India within the year, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to say the Google ecosystem effort we see today is but a short introductory chapter in a story that’ll take years to unfold.
4. Obsession over bezels and other silly surface-level distractions
While all this fascinating stuff is going on beneath the surface, most third-party Android manufacturers are giving every indication they’ll continue to focus on superficial surface-level qualities to sell their devices. And yes, that means lots more likely attention to the always-exhilarating subject of bezels, bezels, and more bezels.
Just like the obsessions over extreme thinness, maximum megapixels, and utmost display density in years past, the current fixation on bezels is more about moving product than providing anything of practical benefit. And it’s no surprise: When a company doesn’t control the software and has no interest in providing meaningful ongoing software-oriented enhancements over a product’s lifespan, diverting attention to a device’s superficial qualities is about the most sensible tactic it has for selling incrementally improved new phone models.
“Bezel” appears to be hanging onto its place as the preferred mobile-marketing buzzword of the moment, and over these next 12 months, manufacturers will likely be clamoring to show off how close to the edges their screens can creep (despite the practical downsides such designs may present). Heck, we’ll probably even see an Android cellphone that emulates that foolish iPhone notch sooner than lengthy. (If Apple does it, it has to be excellent, proper?!)
That is all par for the path, and as soon as the “low bezel” bulletpoint loses its oomph, phone-makers will transfer onto every other meaningless metric to make their wares glance new and thrilling. It is a constant development within the cell tech international, and there is not any reason why to suppose it is going to prevent anytime quickly.
The ones people with standpoint, regardless that, can proceed to appear previous the outside and evaluation a product for all of its qualities, tangible and in a different way — together with the extra vital differentiating elements that’ll if truth be told have an effect on us on a day by day foundation over the software’s multiyear lifestyles.
However hi there, you are right here and studying this. You realize all about that stuff. And now you recognize what else to stay up for on this bizarre, wild international of Android as we mission into the uncharted terrain of 2018.
So buckle up and cling on tight, my buddies: This trip is leaving the station, and regardless of how a lot context we can have about its basic trail, tendencies are the rest however a blueprint — and you’ll wager we will stumble upon a variety of unexpected peaks, valleys, and detours alongside this subsequent leg of our jolly ol’ adventure.