On Wednesday 15th October Google made some ‘big’ product announcements involving brand new mobile devices and a new operating system. As an iOS developer I was an obvious choice to make a totally objective and unbiased review of all the information (that’s the theory anyway). However before that I must add that I only found out about the event very last minute as, especially in comparison to Apple’s earlier event and the upcoming event on the 16th October, there seemed to be little fuss and advertising for it (though this could very easily be my ignorance to the issue!). I was disappointed still to find out that there wasn’t going to be a live stream of the unveiling and even more so to see that the only report was done in writing via Google’s own blog. An interesting marketing ploy Google, I’m sure you had your reasons.
Let’s start with the new operating system, previously dubbed ‘Android L’, but revealed to not be a diversion away from their previous desert naming convention with the full name being ‘Android Lollipop’ (sweet tooth required but not included). From what images/demo videos that have been provided on varying websites it can be seen that the new look does in fact look fantastic. The bright colours are a great way to keep up user enjoyment when using mobile devices and I can see designers everywhere greatly looking forward to diving head first into new designs to support it.
All demonstrations of app workflow and general user interactions look very well thought out and intuitive. I can’t say that anything is particularly ground breaking, in my opinion, however I will admit that the advancements in the handling of notifications that Android is making is still way ahead of Apple’s iOS (despite the much needed updates to the Notification Centre in iOS 8). Other features that are being raved out include the ‘hand-off’ and ‘seamless integration across all devices’ (allowing you to move between devices without having to stop/start tasks) look impressive, and will be useful, however to me aren’t as ground breaking as is being made to be.
From a developer’s point of view there are 5000 APIs for them to get stuck into and the new Volta battery optimization package (built in) will allow for apps to get more performance out of the phone with less strain on the battery life expectancy of the device. Regardless of device/OS this is always a welcome improvement to any developer so will be greatly appreciated.
Nexus 6 phone
First of 3 new Nexus products was the new Nexus 6 mobile phone. I want to make it very clear that a very large portion of the office felt that the iPhone 6+’s 5.5” screen was a bit on large side (thus putting them much more in favour of the smaller iPhone 6) so the 6” Nexus 6 is completely outrageous. I genuinely can’t possibly imagine carrying it around with me and using it comfortably, let alone holding it against my ear without looking like….. well looking a bit silly. Everyone is aware of the #bendgate issue with the iPhone 6+, so with a fully aluminium shell and a bigger screen it will be very interesting to see how the Nexus 6’s build quality stands up to scrutiny.
However, plus points of the phone are that, for starters, it looks great and the new screen also looks impressive. If only it was smaller. Coupled with a good line up of processors and graphics card it’s certainly going to perform well and it certainly doesn’t skimp on memory with 32 & 64 GB versions available. As a total ‘audiophile’ I’m always very dubious about mobile phones proclaiming great audio listening experiences, so as much as having forward facing speakers is indeed a great improvement, I’ll withhold judgement on the ‘audio standard’ until I hear one. With prices between $650-$699 to buy the phone outright, it puts itself right in the Apple market place, is this Google’s first statement for matching price with supposed product value? It will be interesting to see how outright sales of the Nexus are against the new iPhones.
Nexus 9 Tablet
Now the announcement of the Nexus 9 tablet was a wholly more successful venture in my eyes. A great screen size of 8.9” and very stylish ‘brushed metal’ design make it a very appealing alternative to the current iPads available (and if I’m honest will remain to be so even after the unveiling of any newer iPads at the next Apple event). Again a good spec of processors is implemented, which coupled with Android Lollipop will really provide a great platform for media display. It’s also being advertised as a great gaming platform (also making use of the new ‘Stereo Sound Front Facing Speaker’), which is a little bit like a sprinkling of sugar on top but I think will be more governed by the quality of the games it comes to support in the future as to whether or not that has any real grounding. The only draw back, and a really surprising one at that, is the memory options available for the tablet. With only 16GB/32GB options available people might think they’re being skimped out on when compared to the phone alternative. Though I’m sure this is purely just to keep prices down it just seems strange to me.
The final product was the Nexus Play streaming unit. This is basically a way to turn your TV into a ‘Android/Google TV’ and run a similar User Experience in your TV to all your mobile devices. Again first impressions looks nice but this is by no means a ground breaking technological offering with alternatives in the Apple TV and integrations from Playstation and other gaming companies. I won’t focus too much on this as, with the other alternatives, it’s not an area that is being widely adopted and I don’t think it will for a while.
While all these products are all just videos and images at the moment and, especially as a mobile developer myself, we all know better than to trust what we’re presented with in the press without getting our hand dirty ourselves. I am very curious to see how the market adopts these new ideas from Google. The war between Google and Apple is still strong and looks to wage on with strong offerings from both sides.