NextParadigms 7 Hints About Upcoming Android 3.0 Gingerbread
August 7, 2010
August 7, 2010
The guys at Lifehacker met with Yu-Kuan Lin, Android’s Product Manager, in Australia and took an interview with him, asking him about what Android 3.0 Gingerbread will be about, and what can we expect from it.
Here are some quotes from the interview and 7 hints on what he really means, on why Google is taking Android in those directions, and Android’s future:
1. About user experience
What we’re really focusing on is how do we take the user experience to the next level. In the last year, you saw us take a step in the direction of hardware where we did the Nexus One which was really our experiment in terms of how far we could push the envelope in terms of hardware development so that it matches and can showcase all the great stuff on the software platform. Now that we have a lot of basic pieces of the platform done, the next step is really to improve the user experience beyond what it already is, so to really have a polished experience.
With Matias Duarte, the WebOS designer, leading the design team at Android, there’s a high probability that Android Gingerbread will be even more polished and with a better user experience than iPhone’s iOS. WebOS was regarded by a lot of people as a more elegant OS than iOS, and I’m sure Google wants him to create something much better. Google also acquired the BumpTop team in Spring (demo video here), so they might use some of those UI elements, as well. Android 3.0 has the potential to move the mobile experience to the next level.
This will be the core UI Android will have going forward, and will only get incremental improvements from now on as Android becomes more mature and popular. They can’t dramatically change the UI every year because that will angry a lot of people. If Android wants to be the Windows of mobile (and more) they need to have a standard UI that everyone can recognize and know how to use. This is why they’ll need to get the basics right, and just improve on it later on.
2. About fragmentation
What you’re seeing with a lot of the existing devices is that they were built a while ago and targeting a different price segment. What we’re seeing happening in the market naturally is that the really successful devices are the ones that are on the latest platforms, because by having the latest hardware to show off the features, that’s what makes the phone stand out. I think through natural selection of the market if you will carriers and OEMs will start to note that and push the latest and the greatest.
Google wants OEM’s to push the growth of smartphones, by adopting the latest and greatest hardware. They want this because Android works well only with a minimum set of requirements, that right now is higher than what the cheapest phones can have.
However, manufacturers are having the greatest success with the highend phones, and so they are already motivated to focus on them, rather than the cheap phones. This will push a lot of Android capable smartphones into the market, which will eventually drop smartphones’ prices until they are low enough that anyone can afford a 1 Ghz Android smartphone.
3. About battery life
One of the challenges of course with third party apps is that it’s a bit hard to control or mandate what they do — after all, it is an open system. That said, one of the things that we’re working on to improve that is providing better statistics and feedback to developers in general to know that their app is sucking up a lot of battery. We took a first step on that; we’re now providing lot of rich bug reports for installs, and the next step is tell them how much CPU cycles you use on average and how much battery you drain on average. By providing these stats, we hope to raise awareness with developers to improve their apps over time because they can now measure how their app performs.
Android has been criticized that, perhaps, they leave too much control to developers when making their apps that become resource hogs, or battery drainers. Google doesn’t want to put big restrictions on developers on how to create their apps, so this was kind of a dilemma. Now, apparently, they are thinking of giving them tools to monitor their apps’ performance, so they can make great apps that are appreciated by their users. Without these tools, some developers might not even realize their app’s low performance or not know what they need to fix to increase that performance and decrease the power draining.
4. About core OS performance
Another thing that we’re doing also on the platform is continuing to optimise things that we don’t need. This is mostly under the cover so it’s hard to be seen by consumers. Even just between Eclair and Froyo, there have been a lot more features added in the platform, so we work very hard to keep the battery life about constant. Even keeping it constant is a win. Eventually we don’t just want to keep it constant, we want to make it better. The first step after adding new features is to tread water, and then we’ll improve over time. That’s definitely an ongoing area of work and innovation for us.
Google has been rapidly improving Android over the past year, adding features and increasing its performance, perhaps faster than anyone else. They want to keep this pace of innovation, but even though the latest version Android 2.2 Froyo has also been the one with highest core performance, this performance might drop when the more polished and visually improved Android 3.0 Gingerbread appears. But it seems they want to keep at least the same performance on future versions, even if they keep adding more features and making it more polished. This is great news because it means hardware won’t have to keep up with new versions of Android (unlike Windows).
5. About scaling
The way we’re thinking about it is we want to make Android work great across a variety of hardware form factors and device configurations. Instead of targeting a specific thing, say tablets, we just want to make Android work great across a bunch of different types of devices and then let developers and hardware manufacturers utilise that to build different things. It could be Android on tablets, it could be Android on smart displays, it could be Android on TVs.
I strongly believe that you can’t just take an interface that a form factor has, with a certain type of interacting with it, and move it to another form factor, which has a different type of interaction. If you do that, the experience will suffer, and will not be maximized for that certain form factor and type of interaction. The most obvious example is taking Windows and putting it on a tablet. Windows is designed for the mouse type of interaction, and tablets work best with your fingers. Even if it does “work” more or less, the experience can’t be maximized, and the user will feel more frustrated than he would using an interface that is designed for that form factor and for the finger based interaction.
Android could have the same problem. Google wants to put it on TV’s and in cars, and I’m sure in other types of devices later on. Will you have the same Android experience as you have on a tablet on smartphone? Normally, no. Every form factor that has a different type of interaction needs an UI specifically made for it. Google wants to minimize this probable by making an extremely scalable UI, that works on TVs, cars, GPS devices, and so on.
6. About personal productivity
There’s a couple of things I do all the time with my phone. One is we have this Chrome to Phone feature which lets you take whatever on my browser and hit a button and it gets sent to my phone when I’m running out the door. Just that seamless integration between the browser on my phone and my desktop is really fantastic.
Another thing I really love and I find very useful is that I manage all my contacts through Android. Before, when I used to switch phones all the time, they’d all end up on my SIM and then sometimes I’d lose my SIM. Now with Android automatically syncing everything to the cloud, I either add something via Gmail on the Web or I add something to my phone and it automatically syncs to all my phones.
I, personally, love the Gmail contacts syncing with my phone. It’s great knowing that you can just login with your Gmail address and password into another Android phone that you bought, and everything is there. you have all your contacts into the new phone. I think it would be great if Google manages to integrate a lot of more things like this with your phone, so you can do a lot more with it, and improve your life by getting you closer to technology.
7. About Android’s ultimate goal
….scaling across different devices and different form factors: different screens, different types of input, camera, GPS, all those things. That’s the big direction in which we’re moving in now, and I think you’ll see a lot of new features being released going forward.
“The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet”, said William Gibson. Smartphones are the true computer of the future, because it’s the most portable computer, so you can have it with you at all times, it’s generally cheaper than other types of computers, and 5 billion people will soon get access to one (there are 5 billion phone subscriptions in the world). Google wants Android to be at least on most of these phones, and in other devices as well. With the explosive growth Android is experiencing, like doubling in just 2 months, it has a high chance to do that.
If you think that vision is huge, I believe Google goes even further than that. They not only want to be on all smartphones, but they want to be on all types of devices going forward, especially touch enabled devices. Since touch is the future of computer interaction, Android can be the standard OS for all future touch devices.