Google I/OAnother successful Google developer conference is in the books. Google recently concluded their 2017 Google I/O conference where so many new features and announcements were unveiled over the three day event. Whether you made it to the conference, followed online, or are just now trying to catch up, it's hard to digest what is most important for your organization's mobile app.

Luckily for you, we attended the conference, took notes during the sessions, and have digested all the information to help you understand the latest announcements impacts on your organization's Mobile program this year. Here is a look at the six biggest takeaways from the 2017 Google I/O developer conference that all mobile app programs should be aware of and add to their roadmaps:

1. Android's growth isn't slowing down any time soon

I/O PresentationOne fact that was highlighted early and often throughout the I/O presentations was the growth of the Android user base - currently 2 billion active Android users monthly. What this means is if you aren't thinking about your customer or end-user's experience within Android apps and devices, then you are missing a huge piece of your audience. Android can no longer be an afterthought or a backlog item for your organization.

The growth doesn't stop there. Google also made announcements about its plans for further expansion to reach "the next billion" with "Android Go". This is a lightweight version of the operating system which targets low-level devices and data-limited environments. A lot more to come over the next few months and years, but be prepared for the user base growth to continue.

2. O is for - ???

Google provided updates around their next operating system, "Android O". While they did not reveal what tasty treat the "O" will be name after, they did provide plenty of exciting updates. The latest OS is set to launch this Summer and is currently in Beta. Following Apple's model of the iOS Gold concept, Google has released the finalized APIs for Android O. Now is the best time to get started learning what new possibilities Android O has to offer.

Some of these alterations may not impact your company's mobile app program, but here are a few you need to examine closely:
  • Carefully test notification channels - Now, you must tell Android what channel a notification belongs to, or it will not be displayed. Be sure to thoroughly test all notifications when targeting Android O. This change allows users to unsubscribe from some notifications, for example opting out of content ads but not promotional offers. This feature will help to get users to read their notifications.
  • New background execution limits - To improve phone performance and battery life, Android is enforcing new rules on what an app performs in the background as well as broadcast limitations. If your app refreshes data or makes behind the scenes updates, you may be required to follow new guidelines. Google is recommending that apps using Android O replace background services with JobScheduler jobs. You will be able to tell if these create conflict when your background services stop themselves which could break functionality.
  • Adaptive Icons - Android is creating adaptive icons to ensure your apps icon renders and looks the best no matter what device they are run on! What this does is provide safe zones in the icons to give designers more control on how the icon will render regardless of the device its used on.
  • Test, test, Test - As with all new OS updates, you need to ensure you test all changes before deploying a new version of your application compiled against Android O. Below is Googles recommendations for migration to Android O support.

Android O Compat Flow

Kotlin Android

3. Kotlin is officially supported! Wait, what does that mean?

For any developers, out there, this is a big deal! But for anyone out there like me who thinks Kotlin is the destination for your next vacation, here is what you need to know about this announcement:
  • What is Kotlin - Kotlin is another development language like Java or Swift. The language has been around for five years, but now is officially adopted by Android. Kotlin is supported within Studio 3.0. It is Open Source and will continue to grow. However, Java is still supported and considered the primary Android development language.
  • No big bang approach needed - Kotlin works with your existing codebase and Android libraries.
  • How do you get started with Kotlin - check out our blog
  • Start slow - Our recommendation is to build up your Kotlin experience and try building a component of your app in this language. Once you realize the benefits, you can gauge whether continuing Kotlin is a fit for your organization or not.

4. Instantly reach users with Instant Apps

If you company struggles to get users to install your app, Instant Apps may be the answer! Instead of pushing users to the Google Play store to download your company's app, Instant Apps removes the obstacle of installing while still allowing users the same interface and experience they would get through the native app. This can greatly expand the reach and experience of your company's mobile application.

Sound complicated? It's not! Android Instant Apps uses the same code and tools featured in the native apps but break them down into smaller digestible modules that can be accessed without installation. Based on your apps architecture, developers can make your app an instant app in a few weeks.

Android Instant Apps

Installation is still encouraged, this is just another method to get users to experience your product and brand faster and easier. Google has added a Play Install API which allows users to install without having to go through the Google Play Store.

Android Phone5. Voice continues to get louder

Google continues to invest in the Voice space, otherwise referred to as Natural Language Processing, by adding Google Assistant to iPhones. Google takes this one step further by allowing users to interact with Google Assistant by Voice or Text. This will enable an entirely new way for your users to interact with your app. The Google Assistant SDK is now open to the public and simple to use for any organization looking to build apps or even hardware that is compatible with Assistant.

Google Assistant also boasts Actions and Transactions similar to Amazon's skills, except that with Assistant you do not need to install these. The new Transactions feature would work like Android pay which opens new doors allowing Assistant to go beyond typical tasks like setting alarms and into the monetary realm buying a product or ordering food. There is more documentation around these features on the Google Developers Blog.

Between the Amazon Echo, Siri, and now Google Assistant, if you haven't come up with your voice strategy, now is the time! Users are getting more comfortable and reliant on voice commands to tackle tasks on their mobile devices.

6. AI & Machine Learning is the Future

Major improvements in mobile devices and image processing technology have led to leaps in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). Google is attempting to be the leader in AI and ML research by leading in both the software and hardware for respective researchers. Google's software platform is called TensorFlow which is open-sourced is allowing many to enter the field. The partnering hardware announced during this was around the TPU and the upcoming Cloud TPU which allow for advanced Machine Learning practices.

Google demonstrated some of these advances with "Google Lens" which will allow people to use the cameras on their smart phone to interact with the world around them, from identifying restaurants to accessing Wi-Fi credentials. This is a huge project involving AI, Computer Vision, AR, and more concepts that can only be done with Machine Learning.

While Google didn't announce when Google Lens would be available, it's a strong demonstration of the capabilities open to all through TensorFlow. It's exciting that the future is closer than we thought. The next chapter of user interaction and engagement is right around the corner!

Our team is excited about the new opportunities from Google I/O this year and how your organization can leverage them to advance your mobile app experience. Be on the lookout for more releases around Google I/O and WWDC on our Blog Page. Maybe you can even get your Google Assistant to read it to you!

Interested in finding out more about CapTech or how to build these new enhancements into your mobile strategy and roadmap? Check out our Contact Us page!

CapTech is a thought leader in the Mobile and Devices spaces, and has deployed over 300 mobile releases for Fortune 500 companies. Additionally, CapTech was identified by Forrester as one of top Business to Consumer (B2C) Mobile Services Providers in their 2016 Wave.

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