Some last-minute thoughts on Google's big hardware event.
Besides two very obvious things that are definitely coming, it's difficult to know exactly how hyped to get about Google's October 4 event. Sure, new Pixel phones are on the way. As I've already said, Google needs to show us not just two great phones — that's table stakes — but also why two great new phones matters, and more broadly why Google can become a tier-one hardware brand. It's a tough ask.
Pixels will also bring us Android 7.1, which likely means the Nougat we already know and love, along with some new APIs and bug fixes. More interestingly, it'll bring Google's own system UI, distinct from "stock" Android for the first time. That's a big deal, and potentially a bit confusing, as Google differentiates from... well, itself.
There's a ridiculously long list of 'maybes' for this year's Google event.
Things start getting really fuzzy when we look at the myriad things which could be announced. Google Home? Pretty likely. Amazon pre-empted that with its recent Echo and Echo Dot expansion. Daydream? A decent chance, but by no means certain. A new Huawei Nexus tablet? Possible, but then we're into even more confusing territory where Google has to clarify what a new Nexus means versus what a new Pixel means. (And what phones "made by Google" means versus a tablet sorta made by Google, but not really.) New Google-branded watches? Surely coming, but almost certainly not until next year, following the delay of Android Wear 2.0.
The big wildcard is Andromeda, the supposed next stage of Android that involves Chrome OS features being merged in. Defining Andromeda beyond this is like nailing jelly to a wall. If Andromeda is indeed a thing, and it's shown for the first time on Tuesday, that's another thing for Google to explain in what's suddenly becoming quite a crowded event. Where does Andromeda fit into the bigger Android picture. What's the difference compared to Nexus Android or Pixel Android? Is it the next stage of Android, or just something based upon it, like Android Wear? There are more questions than answers right now; hopefully October 4 will bring some solid answers.
Or maybe not. Maybe it's just about two new phones.
Other weekend bits:
- I've finally gotten around to actually using Android Pay in the past couple of weeks — my bank was among the last to add the service in the UK, a pleasant side effect of which is I can use it without enduring the confused reactions faced by earlier adopters. In the UK, where contactless payments are relatively common, I've yet to come across any cashier who's completely oblivious to the idea of paying with your phone. (Compare that to the early days of contactless cards, when one or two stared at me like I was some sort of wizard.)
- Our iPhone 7 Plus review will be going up tomorrow. The iPhone is a big enough deal globally that it deserves a fair shake — after all, it's the default Android competitor. I'll save most of the details for that article, but it's been interesting to see how the other side does things. Simplicity is still key on the iPhone — that's both a good thing and a bad thing. And I think it's reasonably obvious we'll skip straight to an "8" next year, as rumored — Apple's long overdue a design refresh.
- Not too shocking to see Android Wear 2.0 falling back to 2017 — we're only three previews into a five-preview cycle. By the time new watches land, there'll be no excuses for a lackluster experience. Beyond apps, keyboards and app stores, smartwatches are basically fitness devices and notification mirrors. Google shouldn't forget that important core functionality.
- Lots of people seeing battery life issues on the 5X and 6P with Nougat. Hopefully the next round of updates — perhaps to Android 7.1 — will improve things.
- A week later, Allo is already collecting digital dust in a forgotten folder somewhere on my phone. But then I'm not really the target audience. Great piece from Harish this week on Allo's key features for the Indian market.
That's it for this week. Stick with us as we venture deeper into the depths of October. It's going to be a wild few weeks.