Android 14 performed a surprisingly small function in Google’s I/O keynote


There was a cold marine layer hanging within the air above the Shoreline Amphitheater, however the danceable beats thumped on regardless of it. Dan Deacon was enjoying a set that had one thing to do with AI, adopted by an individual in a duck costume dancing on stage. Not the type of spectacle you’re usually anticipating earlier than you’ve even had your second cup of espresso, however that’s Google I/O, child. 

I/O is, in fact, the corporate’s yearly developer convention, and it formally kicked off on Wednesday morning when CEO Sundar Pichai took the stage, headlining a two-hour presentation that was virtually fully centered on AI. We bought a preview of what’s coming to Google Search, Gmail, and Photographs, together with an unappetizing, photo-realistic picture of pizza fondue. It was all AI, prime to backside. We had been reassured, many times, that Google is being accountable with its AI implementation and that the corporate is taking steps to verify the know-how doesn’t finish life on the planet as we all know it.

However what we didn’t hear a lot about — in truth, barely earned a point out on stage — is I/O’s normal visitor of honor: Android. Particularly, Android 14, which is in beta now and is anticipated within the fall. There’s a lot in regards to the apps and companies that run hand-in-hand with Google’s cellular working system, however the platform itself will get little or no time within the highlight.

That’s a serious shift from earlier years. As recently as 2019, the following Android model (at the moment, it was going as Q) commanded a devoted 10-plus-minute section within the keynote highlighting new options. In 2023? Android 14 is talked about virtually in passing an hour and a half into the keynote as new lock display screen customization choices are highlighted. Earlier in this system, we bought updates on merchandise monitoring and a heads-up on unknown tracker alerts that can work with Apple’s AirTags. However these items had been framed as updates coming to the Android ecosystem, not as Android 14 options. 

That’s not an accident. I requested Sameer Samat, VP of Android ecosystem, why Android 14 particularly bought so little airtime. He mentioned that as Google has carried out methods for Android units to obtain updates outdoors of a once-a-year platform improve, like Play System and app updates, it’s develop into vital to border issues a bit in a different way. “So this 12 months, we thought it’s necessary to indicate folks what’s new in Android from a person expertise standpoint, whatever the OS model. Whereas some options that we introduced will launch with Android 14, many will arrive in folks’s arms by means of these steady updates,” he says. 

Moderately than lumping collectively lots of new options in an OS improve that can roll out slowly (or in no way) to sure units, the corporate is sprinkling options all year long as updates to Google Photographs or Gmail. That’s an excellent factor, and it’s a facet impact of Google’s efforts to unravel the familiar problems of Android’s fragmentation. Google has extra levers to drag now to get feature updates and safety fixes to Android telephones quicker. It simply means fewer of these options getting constructed into big-numbered variations of the OS.

It additionally implies that what’s leftover isn’t terribly thrilling. Android 14 has been in beta for some time now, and to this point, highlights embrace updates that I’d classify as nice-to-haves: a different look for the back navigation arrow, support for a new backward-compatible HDR image standard, and lossless audio over USB headphones. Not unhealthy, however not the type of stuff that will get folks jazzed up throughout a keynote.

Google has extra levers to drag now to get function updates to Android telephones quicker

There’s additionally the truth that the smartphone market has achieved a type of maturity meaning year-over-year upgrades are much less thrilling than they as soon as had been. See additionally: basically every device announced last year. Gadget makers, together with Google, are shifting the main target to the earbuds, watches, and tablets that they promote and the way all of them work collectively to make our lives simpler — so the gross sales pitch goes. Telephones simply aren’t the celebs of the present anymore, and neither is the software program they run on.

That’s how we bought to this 12 months’s I/O keynote, which was as a lot a {hardware} launch and AI pep rally because it was a software program showcase. After the principle keynote ended and Pichai walked offstage, we had been inspired to remain in our seats for the following session: the developer keynote. Little tubs of snacks had been distributed as a bribe to maintain us in our seats. 

Nonetheless, nearly all of the gang headed for the exits. We had been there for the Fold announcement or to see how Google was responding to the pressure of Microsoft’s AI developments. Smaller periods later within the day lined Android in depth, however on the corporate’s greatest stage, it performed nothing greater than a supporting function.



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