Each year’s Google I/O is a tough time for me. I’m an iOS user, and have been for many years, but Google’s big annual developer conference always gets me thinking maybe I should switch to the other side. They show off this cool technology that makes me think “whoa that’s amazing, Apple isn’t doing anything like that!” I hadn’t seen the news right away and saw this tweet go by and it got me pumped:
Wow, I'm at Google IO & if I was Apple, Facebook or Tesla, I'd be worried.
— Hunter Walk (@hunterwalk) May 18, 2016
But I came away from yesterday’s news without even an inkling of that feeling.
1. Most of what they announced will work on iOS
Whether it be Allo, Duo, Google Assistant, Google Home, and Android Wear 2.0 all benefit me as an iOS user. This is a big chunk of the cool stuff to come out of the keynote and they’re going to be on iOS day and date with the Android versions.
All this does is make me feel like being on iOS gives me more access to apps and services than any other platform. Google is a 1st class citizen on my iPhone and iPad.
2. Android N had very little new to show off
Android N has some cool features no doubt, but we knew about these a few months ago and Google didn’t have much in the way of new things to talk about with their next major Android release. Multitasking and better notifications are nice, but we’re nerds, and we knew this was coming.
Google did surprise us by showing off Android Instant Apps, which is indeed a clever innovation, and something I was not expecting. This could either be amazing or completely ignored, but it’s undeniably interesting. Still, it wasn’t enough to get me thinking about jumping ship from iOS1.
3. Android Wear 2.0 is pretty blah
I was really expecting Google to put more wood behind this arrow, but they barely moved this wagon forward. As I wrote yesterday:
Frankly, this release feels like Google is still playing catch up with watchOS 1.0. Apple is likely to show off watchOS 3 in a month and pull even further ahead.
Clearly Google did not put the manpower behind this product this year and it shows in the minimal update. There aren;t any big new ideas or substantial changes in how you’ll use your Android Wear watch day in and day out, and that’s a shame.
4. Allo and Duo are not long for this world
Why the fuck aren’t Allo and Duo just new features for Google’s Hangouts app? Google had a serious fragmentation problem 3 years ago when it came to messaging, and Hangouts was supposed to be the cure. It was supposed to be the one place you could go to do instant messaging and SMS together. It sure has flaws, but it’s about as much traction we’ve seen Google get in any of its social platforms.
But now we’re going to a place where you’re going to have to use Hangouts for SMS, Allo for instant messaging, and Duo for video calls. It baffles me why you will need 3 different apps to do what is already handled in 1. And don’t tell me it’s because of bots…
Casey Newton wrote a good piece for The Verge called Why Google’s Allo messaging app is a big step backwards:
Had it integrated with the native SMS app on Android, or allowed you to send messages from the desktop, it could have debuted as a powerful competitor to Apple’s iMessage. Instead we’re getting a relatively standard messaging app augmented by bots, which have taken on a distinct flavor-of-the-month feel since Facebook introduced them to a chorus of shrugs at F8.
Maybe next year
It’s been a few years since Google has not impressed me at I/O, but 2016 has broken that streak. I’m interested in Google Assistant, and I’m pretty sure a Google Home will be mine as soon as it’s available2, but they didn’t do much else to get me riled up. I hope to see more good stuff coming from the company this year, and maybe the products they showed off this week will actually be great, but I didn’t see it at I/O.