You will probably see this word a million of times on this blog in the upcoming weeks. Google announced another officially supported language for Android after Java. This is great news for anyone who is an Android developer as it promises a lot of great things. It is much more concise with a lot less boilerplate code. It is null-safe, functional, explicit and understandable, much less verbose than Java and overall faster to work with once you get the hang of it. I will not go into more details here as you can read on it in this other post of mine.
There is no information about the official name of Android 8 but we sure do know a lot about its features and we have got access to the open beta of the new OS version. I will focus on the features that I believe to be the most important.
– PIP – Picture in Picture mode. Basically it is windows support for Android. Starting Android O you will be able to have a video conference or watch a YouTube video while using other apps. It is a greatly needed feature in Android and I am wondering how much of a hassle it will be to allow for PIP as a developer.
– Notification Dots and Channels – Google have also reworked the way the notification system functions in Android. The vendor-specific notification badges turned into auto-coloring dots that look great on all devices. Long-pressing an app icon now opens a more detail view of the notifications. They also better sorting system for notifications by filtering them into categories. Actually that may be a game changer for me.
– Autofill API – this feature that we all grew to love in Chrome will now be introduced to Android as well. Basically, developers get an easy-to-use API to allow for auto-filling of EditTexts with data stored within your Google Account
– Wifi Aware and Adaptive Icons – two small features that I really love. The former is a way of transfering files between devices in one network (IRDA or Bluetooth style). I really feel like this will actually prove useful in some situations where e-mail is too official and bluetooth too personal and old-school. The latter is basically a way of providing better looking icons for different devices, themes and system overlays.
– TensorFlow lite – this is something I am totally in love with. TensorFlow is a widely recognised Machine Learning library available for many frameworks and languages. It makes it really easy to set-up, train and use all the different algorithms and neural networks. Of course, most mobile devices have much too little computing power to train the models efficiently, however when provided with pre-trained models, TensorFlow lite will allow us to totally change the “AI” side of Android Apps. I am really looking forward to trying it out, because I’m really into Machine Learning and I think it can be a real game changer in user-device interaction.
Machine learning all the way
The biggest surprise to me was the amount of time Google spent talking about Machine Learning and their decisions towards using its power to good use. I already mentioned TensorFlow lite but apart from that, Google got out of their way to fully utilise Machine Learning in a lot of their services. Smart Reply, Google Lens, Google Assistant, even latest AI experiments; Google is all-in on the ML training and this is an amazing thing. Several years from now this is going to fully change the way we interact with devices, make user experience much more personalised and probably a lot of things I cannot even think of. During this year’s Google I/O they really proved they believe in their change from “Mobile first” to “AI first” and I love it.