Unlike in 2012, this year’s Google I/O was not a distinctively Android-focused event and that’s telling: Google has realized that the key to mobile does not rest with Android itself. Google does not win mobile by competing against Apple and iOS. It wins by being Google, focusing on servicing its customers across platforms.
While there were some significant product announcements such as Google+ Hangouts—which launched on Chrome, Android, and iOS simultaneously—I’m going to highlight the interesting Android developments that caught my eye. For further details, check out Google’s wrap-up of the Android announcements on their blog.
Google Play Services
The big three here were new location services, Google+ sign-in across devices, and improvements to Google Cloud Messaging. Having worked on applications that heavily rely on location, I’m pretty excited about the low battery consumption aspect, along with the new activity monitoring that can detect movement type (e.g., walking versus running).
Making Google+ immediately more relevant as an identity provider, is the automatic sign-in to an app that’s been downloaded across your Android devices. This update is something that is extremely difficult to execute if you’re Facebook or Apple, without having to rely on one another.
On the Google Cloud Messaging side, there are some goodies for developers like upstream messaging and persistent connections. As a consumer, however, I’m looking forward to the fact that notifications are now synced across devices. Dismiss a notification on one device and that’s respected across your Android devices.
Google Play Developer Console
Thankfully, we’ve found a great localization partner in Applingua and they’ve helped us localize about a half-dozen iOS and Android apps. I believe that has definitely increased our success, which is why it’s surprising that more developers don’t take the time to localize their apps. That’s likely going to change with how easy Google’s making it to localize apps by submitting the strings file through their developer console to approved localization vendors.
I am initially concerned with this approach providing the right context to the translators, as a strings file alone won’t do that. We always give a build to Applingua and even when doing that, we sometimes have to tweak strings after a release. Provided that there is some level of interaction or quality checks involved, it’s a great addition.
Another welcomed update is the ability to do alpha and beta distribution via the console. I don’t love, however, that this seems wrapped up in Google+ itself by sharing with specific people or Circles. Hopefully it won’t be. In any case, we’ll still be using Hockey for the foreseeable future since it’s a one-stop shop for doing distribution across platforms.
One strategy mobile game developers have done for the last few years, is to initially launch an app in Canada to see how it performs, make revisions, and then tackle the U.S. market. With Google’s new “staged” rollouts, that might be a thing of the past on Android. Along with referral tracking, optimization to do’s, and the new revenue reports coming to the console, Google is finally bringing its algorithmic DNA to mobile app developers.
If you have spent any time around developers, you know they regularly complain about all and any IDEs. Thus it wasn’t surprising that my Android team members were immediately skeptical at this announcement. But within 10 seconds (literally) of Android Studio being demoed, they became very interested in it.
The verdict is still out obviously but Android Studio appears promising. Having an IDE specifically focused on Android is going to reinforce Android as a platform and at least in theory, reduce the learning curve and speed the development of Android apps. It’s a smart move by Google and the Android team.
While I have a to do app on my iPhone, I usually also have an app that lets me quickly jot down ideas, points I need to discuss with my team, and similar items that really aren’t task-driven. Historically, I’ve been using Drafts for this purpose but I’ve wanted something that was more structured yet still lightweight. Listacular may be that app.
What I like about Listacular thus far, aside from its clean design, is that it’s not overly focused on being a task manager. In particular, each entry on a list can actually just be a note or a bullet—instead of a to do—without the need to “complete” it. To accomplish that, there’s a very clever formatting toolbar to define item types, create headers to separate items, and control indentation.
I’m giving Listacular a chance in my dock. If it sounds interesting to you, check out Christine Chan’s full review on AppAdvice.
There are many iOS jailbreak tweaks for the Lock screen but Jeff Benjamin’s post on “JellyLock” caught my eye. No, not because it’s inspired by Android but because it allows shortcuts to your favorite or most used apps.
I’m looking forward to see what Apple has in store for the Lock screen in iOS 7.
Anyone with success across app stores knows that having a strong launch is just the starting point. For an app to have staying power, high search visibility is key. That’s a major reason why the “card-based” search results of the App Store in iOS 6 had iOS developers very concerned.
Historically, there’s been little more than anecdotes to highlight less visible changes, when it comes to shifts in the ranking algorithms themselves. That’s why MobileDevHQ’s “Sonar” caught my eye last week,
Sonar is a fascinating and incredibly valuable look into each of the app stores’ algorithms. Sonar allows you to see large-scale algorithm changes to an app store’s search algorithm. As an app marketer, you can use this data to find out when an algorithm has changed and how it might impact your app.
I’ve been bouncing between SearchMan and AppStoreRankings but Sonar is prompting me to give MobileDevHQ another look.
Benedict Evans has some smart insight on Android as a brand,
Android in China (or an estimate thereof) plus Samsung (excluding its sales in China to avoid double-counting) adds up to 60% of all Android unit sales. Samsung never mentions Google services; China, by and large, doesn’t have them.
With Android Chief Andy Rubin stepping down and Android being subsumed by the OEMs, the brand “Android” may very well become a historical reference only.
Robert Scoble writes about his experience moving over to Android and what he’s missing on iOS and Apple in general,
But since I have been an Apple fanboy for so long I have Apple TV’s everywhere and even our video switcher has AirPlay built in (which lets me push video from my phone onto my TV). I really miss this, and I’ve already reached for my iPad a couple of times because of this.
There are many things I like about Android but I haven’t used an Android device as my main device since early last summer because of iMessage and AirPlay. In particular, iMessage has also been integrated into our workflow at savvy apps, which allows people to get a hold of me even when I’m not at my desk via my iPhone. iMessage is now the singular reason I no longer switch back and forth between other handsets.
What this research tells app designers and developers, is that it’s important to know what kinds of other apps are placed around your app, because it can speak to your users’ needs. For example, if users have put your photo editing app next to Instagram or Facebook, maybe you should add “share with…” functionality to your app. (This is a basic example, of course – most photo-editing apps have sharing built-in.)
I’m particularly interested in customers who fall into the first three categories because they’re the most engaged: usage-based, relatedness, or usability-based arrangements. These are the customers where you fight to get your app on their Home screen. For example, I know that Ben Brooks has discussed his usability arrangement on a couple of occasions.
I personally am a mix of usage-based and usability arrangements, and would think there’s significant overlap between these two groups. Also, for some time now, I have not kept folders on my Home screen. About six months ago, I basically eliminated using folders entirely. My Home screen now contains apps I either use regularly or need fast access to (e.g., Maps) while my second screen has all my work apps, etc.