5 Big Updates We Want From Android In 2016

5 Big Updates We Want From Android in 2016

Google I/O, the company's annual developer conference, will be taking place in Mountain View on May 18-20. The only thing we know for certain is that we'll get our first look at Android N, the mobile operating system's next big update.

Sure, part of the fun of I/O is hearing about all those far flung ideas, but before we get into autonomous cars, drone delivery, and other moonshots, here's a modest, here-and-now wishlist for Android in 2016.


Make Google Now on tap better

When Google announced Now on tap, it felt like the future of Android because it had the potential to change the way we interact with our smartphones. Long press any word and a personal assistant was ready to serve up every piece of information you could possibly need.

So far the feature hasn't delivered. For most queries, Now on tap simply performs a Google Search. Convenient? Sure. Transformative smartphone experience? Not really. But almost every single Android feature gets better and better with every new software release. I'm hoping for the same with Now on tap.

Get Android working better on bigger screens

With an all-metal casing and a weird-but-great magnetic keyboard, the Pixel C was designed like a winner. Sadly, Android couldn't keep up with the tablet's "get things done" ambitions.

Android's been known to adopt features from its more antsy hardware partners — like Samsung. Last year it was native support for fingerprint sensors, and this year I'm praying for just a little bit more focus on productivity, whether that's split-screen support on tablets, which the Pixel team says is coming, or even better, support for many arrangeable windows.

Make Android Wear more useful

A new report says that in less than a year, Apple gobbled up 50 per cent of the smartwatch market, while Android Wear hovered at about 10 per cent. With the great variety of Android smartwatches available in various sizes, colours, finishes, and price points, it seems clear that the hardware isn't the main issue here. The problem is the software.

That's not to say Android Wear is terrible — it's not. It does simple notifications well in a relatively clean way. Still, while it's simple to operate, the bare-bones approach undermines some of the potentially awesome things a smartwatch could do. Is a smartwatch really just a screen for notifications with a rudimentary fitness tracker tacked on?

In part, another problem is that Android Wear's relationship to hardware is needlessly one-dimensional. Where the Apple Watch has the digital crown and Samsung's Gear S2 has a dope rotating bezel, Android Wear watches don't have much going for them when it comes to inventive hardware. We need more than just a simple home button.

Create an Android messaging app worth using

Google messaging has always been underdeveloped — it's not as graceful as iMessage (as long as you don't try to move to Android) and not as useful as other clients like WhatsApp. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google agrees and wants to shape things up. A Phandroid report says Google might remove SMS/MMS functionality from Hangouts, while a WSJ says Google's looking at building an all-new messenger with integrated chat bots that can carrier out search queries and other tasks when asked.

Either way, it looks like Hangouts and messaging on Android will be getting some much needed attention.

Lay more substantial groundwork for VR

Google Cardboard is a great, cheap solution that's helping expose VR to the masses — and it's getting better all the time. But when it comes to more high-end VR — think Oculus — Google has been curiously quiet.

An almost year-old rumour suggests that Google was working on an Android operating system for virtual reality. However, 2015 came and went, and Google remained quiet on the matter. Now, looking at all the resources Google's throwing at VR, including forming a dedicated division within the company to focus on the tech, Google could pull the sheet off an Android-based VR system in 2016. Please!

However Google isn't forsaking cheap VR completely. Quite the opposite, actually. Reports hint that Google's been talking to chipmakers about making mobile processors that can handle the heavier workload required for VR applications. It's not clear that any manufacturers have actually teamed up with Google, but with rumours circling on both the hardware and software side of the VR conversation, I'm holding out that Android has big VR plans for 2016.

What other things do you hope come to Android — mobile or otherwise — in 2016? Let's discuss.


Comments

    I've found that Google Now seems to be going backwards, and has removed a lot of useful features. IE: For the stocks card, they've removed the graph. Other small things that were a nice touch as well like for sports, they've removed the team logos (except when there's a game on).
    The notifications for Google Now has also removed a really nice touch. Before, the notification icon would display the latest update whatever it was; a cloud for weather, ball for soccer, football for NFL etc. Now it just displays a "G", which tells me nothing, and I have to go to it see what the update actually is.
    Yes, I realise the notification will be displayed on my lock screen, before I even get to see what the "G" icon in the notification bar is about, but that's not the point.

    While it's a very useful function overall, it needs some aesthetic love.

      Curious - do you have Google Now as your left most home screen? I find that really useful for checking in quickly.

        Yep, on a Nexus 5.

          Nexus 5 here too. Didn't really notice any detrimental changes but then again I don't really follow sports.

          I do love it telling me when there is a traffic jam on the way home.

    I think Hangouts is light years ahead of iMessage.
    I can use it on an Android device.
    I can use it on an Apple device.
    I can use it on a PC.
    I can use it on a Mac.

    And if I don't have it, messages will get emailed to me instead of disappearing into the ether.

      I use hangouts and I also like how it can be used everywhere, but it can be a bit of a pain, I get a lot of errors lately when I try and send a picture via MMS, it either doesn't send or it tells me it didn't send but it did so I end up sending the same thing like 20 times. Sometimes it's slow, I'll send my partner a message and it won't show up on his phone even if we're sitting right next to each other until like 20 minutes later. I get similar problems with SMS but I don't know if that's my provider or hangouts since I can't have two SMS programs accepting them at the same time to compare with.

        I use another app for SMS and hangouts has been rock solid for me.

    I'd like to actually get android updates. Thanks Samsung.

      So much yes to this. One of the reasons I recently went back to Apple.

        So much yes to this. One of the reasons I got a Nexus ;)

          Had a N5 but the battery life was woeful.
          Liked everything else about it though.
          But the battery life really made it almost unusable in my opinion.
          I admit I'm probably a heavier user than most though. :)
          Also getting the phones through work (work for one of the major telcos) so slightly limited in my choices.
          I could have gone the 5x.
          But after being with android phones for a number of years now and never really being satisfied with any of them thought it time to change back.
          Don't really regret it either.
          Some iOS things I don't like or find annoying but overall I am finding a lot of things better.

            I use mine heavily and admit the battery got a bit low in the early evening but you must have been on it a bit more than me.
            I'm really loving the latest version of Android though, I haven't had to charge it before the nightly charge since it hit several months ago (unless I hit ingress during the day).

    The main thing I'd like is an update to Play Books to facilitate actually organising your books.

    You can sort in various ways and show your most recently read books first. But that's about it; the search facility searches over the entire Google Play book library, not just your own books. The web interface to your Google Books collection has a way of organising books into "shelves" but the Android app doesn't use that feature.

    If you have more than a few dozen books it makes finding a book difficult and tedious; you may remember the title but if it starts with Z you may have a lot of scrolling ahead of you. If you remember part of the title you'll probably wind up scanning through your entire book collection by eye.

    It's astonishing that a company that specialises in organising and indexing information makes such a botch of letting you access your purchased book collection.

    I do find Hangouts and Google messager much better the iMessage but can use big improvements anyway but they don't need a big software update to fix that just an app update. Android wear improvements is what I want.

    I just want the ability to be able to turn down notifications without turning down the message and ringtones.

    What I want is a 3D touch screen with larger RAM and battery life will be much much longer than current status.

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