Posted May 18, 2017

Google I/O 2017 – More than just apps

It’s that time of year again where Google hold their I/O conference and give us a taste of what exciting developments are going to come to Android development over the next year. A lot of exciting announcements have been made but there were a few that stood out to us most:

Kotlin officially supported

Kotlin has been announced as an officially supported programming language for the Android platform. Kotlin is a language similar to Java but that has taken a lot of influence from other modern languages such as C#, Groovy and Scala.

At xDesign we’ve been using Kotlin on new projects since the start of the year and are delighted to see Google officially endorsing the language for Android development. Our transition from Java to Kotlin did involve getting used to a slightly different way of working but the benefits have helped us to write clean and concise code more productively than ever . This announcement should hopefully lead to more libraries being written in Kotlin and a healthier Kotlin ecosystem going forward.

More information: Official announcement that includes a basic overview of the language: https://android-developers.googleblog.com/2017/05/android-announces-support-for-kotlin.html

Instant Apps available to all developers

At I/O 2016 Google showed off Instant Apps. The basic idea behind these is that you can have a native app experience without having to go to the Play Store, search for the app, download the app and then navigate to the content you want. You can just tap on a URL or scan an NFC tag and a instant-app version will be downloaded, installed and run automatically on the user’s device. They can then choose to install the full version of the app if they wish or just interact with the instant version.

This is a great way to engage with users and deliver them a native app experience but without the friction of having to find and download your app. The announcement this year is Instant-Apps are now available to all developers instead of just selected partners. We are really looking forward to working with our clients to help make high-quality native experiences even easier for users to engage with.

More information: Verge video from last year that shows off some possible uses – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Di8SLFxPz0g

Google Assistant Rollout

Google Assistant is Google’s equivalent of Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. You speak out loud and can interact with it. This has been out for a while now on some Android devices but what’s really exciting is they are now starting to accelerate their rollout. Assistant is being supported on more Android devices but it will now also be available on iOS. You can now also type to interact conversationally with the assistant for those situations where you don’t want to be seen in public talking to your phone. Google also announced the Assistant SDK where device makers can integrate the Assistant into their products. Think of smart-fridges, TVs and even light bulbs that you can speak to.

This rollout is exciting to us because it makes it more worthwhile for us to develop and recommend creating custom actions for our clients. We can now develop “actions” for the assistant SDK where you can just talk aloud and interact with a product/service in a rich conversational manner. It makes a lot more sense to start looking at this technology if it’s not just limited to working with some Android devices.

More Information: Google Assistant blog post discussing the rollout: https://blog.google/products/assistant/your-assistant-getting-better-on-google-home-and-your-phone/

Other interesting developments:

There are a huge amounts of talks and news coming out of Google I/O and there are a few smaller pieces of news that will have an impact on app development:

  • Google will be partnering with HTC and Lenovo to build stand-alone Daydream headsets.
  • Project Tango, their AR initiative, will be available on more devices and can now accurately locate a user’s position inside a building.
  • Google are providing “Architecture Components” for Android which provide an opinionated way on how to architect apps. We already have our own version of several of these but it’s nice to see Google paying more attention to architecture.
  • Android O brings Picture-in-Picture support and notification dots for icons on the home screen.

Published by

Rory Bennett

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