Android O was just announced by Google yesterday, and they didn’t have the good sense to release any wallpapers based on their logo for the latest version of their mobile OS. So, as has become my habit, I made some for them. These are based on the new OS’s logo as shown on their developer website which I have also recreated it in high resolution (2000×2000) so you can use it in as well.
There are quite a few variations in this collection, so in order to keep this page manageable, I have my 2 favorites of each version here but the rest can be downloaded from the links below.
Android O was announced and released to developers in beta form today, and I was very excited to see what was in this new major update. I live half in the Android word as well, so anything new and wonderful for Android is good for me too, so I really want to see something great coming out of Google.
What we got today initially seemed like the most boring update to one of the most important computing platforms in the world. Let’s take a quick look at some of the additions to Android.
Battery life is better, but for real this time…maybe
The headline feature of this release is better battery management. Yes, the headline feature of this OS is “I know we say we fixed the battery life every year, but this time we’re really serious, trust us!” This is after Google introduced Doze 2.0 in Nougat and Doze in Marshmallow, and battery life on Android is still less impressive than it is on iOS. My iPhone 7 Plus has a 2,900 mAh battery which would get it laughed out of the room compared to the other 5.5 inch phones on the maret. Meanwhile the regular iPhone 7 has a 1,960 mAh battery, which is simply unheard of in 2017, and gets better battery life than just about any phone out there. But I digress.
While previous version of Android made tools available to developers to make their apps behave better in terms of battery, it seems Google is getting more aggressive with this release and will now have system rules in place to proactively start cutting off apps that are not playing nice with background processes. The optimist in me says this will work better than any changes they’ve made before. The pessimist in me thinks this will be as inept as their previous attempts to wrangle in battery issues. And the realist in me knows that people will be figuring out how to turn these rules off so their favorite battery sucking apps can continue to go nuts in the background.
This is also where I note that this is how Apple has handled multitasking in iOS since iOS 4 in 2010.
I’m a little unclear how this feature works exactly, but it seems to have to do with letting users set notification settings for multiple, similar apps all at once. Google did do good work in Android Nougat to allow each app’s notifications to be grouped together (again, requiring the developer to implement this, so most apps don’t do this), so anything that makes that system better sounds good with me.
I do have to say that the fact that I don’t even quite understand the second biggest update to the system does not bode well for this release.
Picture-in-picture and autofill APIs, oh my!
Android O will allow videos in certain apps to play in a window over other apps. Think of an iPad, and then think of it’s PIP mode, and you’ve got it 👍
Meanwhile the autofill API will allow developers of password managers to no longer ask you to enable accessibility access in your system settings anymore. The behavior seems to be mostly the same, just without asking you to turn on a setting that you never quite knew what it did. This seems like a win for developers who enabled something by hacking around the system.
Icons in Android O will be displayed in multiple shapes and sizes, and after reading the developer docs, they also will be made out of 2 layers to enable more interesting animations. Essentially there will be one background and one foreground layer, so your logo can sit on top of the background and the two can move around in different ways.
If that doesn’t make sense, here’s Google’s example:
I actually think this is really cool, and continues the Material Design idea that Google began a few years ago in a nice way.
Better keyboard-only navigation
This is also a really nice one, and is something I would like to see Apple adapt in some way as well. Basically, the upcoming availability of Android apps on Chrome OS means that people will need to interact with apps without a touch screen, and navigating a UI with the keyboard is important to making that a reality.
iOS does this to an extent with apps being able to create shortcuts to do tasks, and the system doing a good job of making almost all system functions accessible via the keyboard. But Android O takes it a step further by allowing you to tab your way through buttons and touch targets in an app and using them with just the keybaord. This is honestly quite similar to what iOS has with its accessibility features, but iOS does not allow you to use a keyboard to navigate this interface.
And the rest
The rest is just little stuff, such as adding new audio codecs for better sound quality over Bluetooth, Java updates, and wide color gamut for apps, and a few more little things. There’s not much of note there, so we’ll just more right along.
Overall – yawn
Overall, this release of Android looks to be the most boring we’ve seen in a long, long time. I was honestly quite shocked with how little new things were in this release. As someone who thinks Android has a lot of work that needs to be done to make it a better operating system, this feature list is disappointingly anemic.
Although I guess when a grand total of 2.8% of Android users are even on the latest version of Android, what does this release even matter in 2017? The biggest set of Android users are currently running Lollipop which came out in 2014. By that math, this Android O beta is a preview of where the platform will be in 2020, so look forward to that.
Mass Effect: Andromeda comes out next week and it will hopefully be yet another excellent entry into the Mass Effect series. To celebrate this release, as is customary on this site, I’ve created a pair of Mass Effect wallpapers for your smartphone that will bring the Mass Effect hype to your pocket. They’re in 4k as always, enjoy!
As much as Google wants us to think that it’s a hardware company that can keep up with the likes of Samsung and Apple, their actual market performance indicates the opposite. The company has been dabbling with hardware for a few years now, with Chromecast being their first big success, but now Google Home and Google WiFi are new entrants into the ring, and time will tell how well they do in the long run. But the hardware that really matters, and the hardware that seems to be the most iPhone-esque, is the Google Pixel.
Initial reviews were quite positive on the phone, with some on the Android community saying it was even better hardware than the iPhone. I don’t think it is, but people can have their own taste and opinions. I actually would like to get my hands on a Pixel to get the best Android experience possible.
But here’s the thing: I can’t buy a Pixel today even if I wanted to.
If I took $850 of my hard-earned dollars into a Best Buy or Google’s own online store, I can not walk out with the Pixel of my choosing. In fact, according to NowInStock.net the only Pixel I can buy today is the 32GB small model in black from Best Buy. Great, that’s not the one I really want, but it’ll do, right? Well, it’s available, but it’s the Verizon model, which I can’t use on T-Mobile. Shit.
No problem, surely this third party site is wrong and there are some more models available from Google’s own store.
Seriously Google, what the fuck is going on? The Pixel was released in October 2016, which was 5 months ago. 5 months after launch and I can’t even put money down to have one shipped to me in a couple weeks, instead I have to add my name to a waitlist and they’ll let me know when my model is in stock…maybe.
Meanwhile, that impossible to find Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus that everyone was trying to get last September? Yeah, I can get it shipped and delivered in 2 days.
Or even better, I can walk into my local Apple Store and get one tonight if I want.
And it’s not like I’m writing this article at a particular hour of the day where Google just doesn’t have them in stock and it will all be better tomorrow. Oh no, this has been going on forever. The 128GB Pixel XL model in white is what I really want, and it hasn’t been in stock from Google since November 30, 2016! Other models have better dates for last being in stock, but Google is having massive issues keeping this phone in stock. The Verge complained about this back in January and the situation has not improved since then.
Morgan Stanley projected the Pixel line to sell 5-6 million units by end of calendar year 2017, or 400,000 phones per month on average. Meanwhile Apple sold 212 million iPhones in 2016, or 17 million per month. In other words, Google is completely unable to satisfy the needs of 2.2% as many customers as Apple.
It’s one thing to be able to make one good thing, but it’s a whole other to make 200+ million of a great thing every year and make sure anyone can get one within 48 hours at just about any point.
I will continue to complain about Apple bizarrely not being able to make AirPods fast enough, but their ability to keep all of their other products in stock at incredible scale is something we often take for granted.
UPDATE: If you would prefer to listen to some of the reasoning behind these ideas, my latest episode of The BirchTree Podcast has some additional reflection on these ideas.
As much as Apple has left their home screen largely unchanged since its inception in 2007, the lock screen has proven to be much more of a playground for Apple’s UI designers. The lock screen has added features over the years, and is now a place where you can see and act on notifications, access Control Center, take a photo or record a video, and view interactive widgets. None of this came at once, with each new year bringing at least some small change to how this essential part of iOS operates.
iOS 11 will all but surely be revealed at WWDC in June this year, and I would expect something to change on the lock screen there. So before Apple shows us what we’re getting in iOS 11, I decided to design my own new lock screen for iOS.
All changes are based on things I think Apple can actually accomplish this year. This is not one of those mockups that suggest Apple should just throw everything out and start over. Let’s take a look!
Starting at the top we have a simple addition, the weather. How neither Apple nor Google has added this as an option at the OS level is bizarre. One function I would wager everyone with a smartphone does is check the weather, and making the current temperature and conditions visible right on the lock screen just makes sense.
Thinking longer term, Apple could even translate the idea of “complications” over to the iPhone and iPad. Complications are great on the Apple Watch, as they give users quick, glanceable information to their most important apps. Weather is a universal need, and is something Apple could easily add, but third parties could surely get use out of this too.
Next up are notifications. The biggest change here is that iOS 11 will bundle each app’s notifications together, so they are more manageable. iOS 10’s strictly chronological list of notifications makes no sense to me. This solution is very similar to what Android has had for about a year now and helps make triaging your notifications much easier.
In the above screenshot I currently have 3 messages that have come in. One is from Matt (I hear that guy’s cool), and 2 more from Michael. By bundling those notifications together, I can see all my messages at once without scrolling through everything that has come in since I last looked at my phone. I could either swipe this off the screen to clear all notifications, or I could press into (3D Touch) the notification to have each message broken apart and reply or clear them as I see fit. This solves the issue with Android’s implementation of this feature where bundled notification can’t be unbundled and managed one at a time.
You’ll also notice that there is a location marker next to Matt’s message. That would be an optional feature for people you have added to Find My Friends so you can see where they are messaging you from. Obviously this could be turned off or only shown after the user authenticates with Touch ID.
The second notification on this page is for Fantastical, and is a persistent notification that I have set to stay on my lock screen until I clear it. This would be done using Apple’s new smart notifications that I also hope Apple brings to iOS 11.
“Smart notifications” are notifications that are triggered by your location, time, and activity. In this example, Fantastical presents this alert to me because it knows I have an appointment at 11 AM and I don’t want to miss it. Theoretically this could also have access to Apple Maps’ transit information and would calculate travel times based on my current location and change its display when it knew I needed to leave.
And no smart notification system is complete without the ability to edit how they behave, or to just turn the damn things off, so swiping from the edge of the screen on notifications would bring up a settings icon that would let you configure this app or service’s ability to display notifications.
I talked about the potential for more apps like this in a piece last week, so check that out if you want to read more about this idea.
So here is where we get into potentially controversial ground. I think Apple should have certain third party apps accessible straight from the home screen. These could either be user-selected in their system settings, or they could be intelligently selected. Siri has it’s own app suggestions right now, and it works alright, and it is certainly possible Apple could pick these apps for you if they felt confident enough. For the sake of this mockup, let’s say this user selected Spotify, Snapchat, and Tweetbot as their 3 most used and important apps. They use one of these apps over half of the time when they unlock their phone, so why not just cut to the chase?
This would be made even better with an iPhone 8/Pro/whatever that is rumored to be able to either authenticate with either your face and would not require you to use Touch ID before letting you launch the app. Even better, what if Apple was able to embed a fingerprint sensor into the screen right below these icons so you would authenticate just by tapping on them? Apple has been working on making this work for years and this would be a practical use of that new tech.
You’re probably wondering what’s going on with the notification markers on Snapchat and Tweetbot. I’m open to other ideas, but I like the idea of more powerful notification markers. This may not scale to the home screen were space is at more of a premium, but the lock screen is rich with space, and could be a good place to test users’ reaction to this change.
Snapchat’s marker is effectively the same as what we have today, simply telling you how many alerts you have. Tweetbot is taking advantage of this new feature to a further extent and is able to break down your alerts better than before. So while iOS 10 would show this as “6” and you’d have to launch the app to see what’s in there, this feature would let it show you that you have 4 new mentions and 2 direct messages.
At this size, apps would have 10-12 characters they could use to display whatever they want. Tweetbot displays your latest communications, while calendar apps could show the time of your next event, podcast apps could show the remaining time in the current episode, and app developers would find countless interesting things to do here.
And because of course they would, you can press into any of these lock screen apps to reveal their widgets.
The iOS lock screen is not a mess, and it is not in dire need of fixing like some other parts of iOS, but I think Apple has a chance to make marked changes that push it forward. The lock screen is something that you interact with 100% of the time you use your phone, so anything they can do to make it more pleasant, more helpful, and overall smarter can go a long way to make people love their phones more.
In the ideal world, you would be able to raise your phone and the screen would illuminate with exactly what you need to see at that moment. We’re still quite a ways off from that being the case, but little things Apple can do today can get them closed to that goal. They don’t have to do everything I listed today, but I at the very least hope it is along the same lines as what they have brewing over there in Cupertino. We’ll see in June.