True to form, Google I/O 2023 featured lots of significant announcements that will have implications for apps and mobile devices.
All things Google and Android are important to our work at The Distance, so our team closely followed the live stream of the developer conference on 10 May. We’ve summarised some of the key updates across Android 14, new Pixel devices and more:
Android 14 updates
The details of the upcoming Android iOS version, Android 14 (‘Upside Down Cake’) became somewhat clearer at Google I/O – although we’re still awaiting a specific final release date for the OS (usually, these happen in Q3).
We were interested to hear about the following OS updates:
Enhanced security and privacy
For several years, Google has been pushing to improve the security (and perceived security) of its devices and products. It was no surprise, then, that several security and privacy updates were highlighted at Google I/O 2023. These included:
Google is rolling out the option to log in to Google accounts using a passkey, rather than a password. A passkey could be a fingerprint, a face scan or a screen lock PIN. Google heralded this new approach as “the beginning of the end of the password”.
Chrome and Android users will be protected from phishers and other ‘bad actors’ by an AI trained to detect dangerous sites and files.
Control over app data
Users will now receive a permission request when an app shares their info with a third party for advertising purposes, “starting with location data”. If the user declines a permission request, their data will not be shared.
Google also highlighted a previously announced update on user data deletion, which applies to apps that enable user account creation. These apps must now provide an option “to initiate account and data deletion from within the app and online.” Users will be able to access this option within an app’s Google Play Data safety section.
Wallpapers may not be at the cutting-edge of mobile user experience, but they play a big role in defining the look and feel of an OS, as well as showing off some of its capabilities. Google devoted considerable I/O airtime to announcing several new Android wallpaper types, including:
- Emoji wallpaper – made with the user’s choice of emojis and a colour.
- Cinematic wallpaper – the user chooses one of their photos, and AI enhances the distinction between foreground and background, to create a ‘cinematic’ 3D effect.
- Generative AI wallpaper – AI-generated wallpaper, based on prompts selected by the user. This is exactly the type of feature that will train non-expert end users to use AI products.
According to Mashable, the new wallpapers will be released before the launch of Android 14.
We’ve already learned through Android 14’s beta testing that the new OS is set to feature custom sharing options, which will enable developers to add custom actions and shortcuts to Android’s share sheets. This will provide convenient options for different apps to communicate with one another, facilitating a smooth, joined-up, cross-app UX.
New Google Pixel device announcements
It’s always a thrill to learn about the new devices coming out of the Google stable. I/O 2023 didn’t disappoint, with three major hardware announcements.
As app developers and designers, we’ll be thinking about these new devices, and taking their users into account during app testing.
The Pixel 7A is essentially a more affordable version of the Pixel 7. It’s a smart piece of kit powered by a G2 chip, with specs that come pretty close to rivalling the Pixel 7 itself – including 8GB RAM, a 6.1-inch OLED display, and best-in-class camera performance.
Google’s first and only foldable smartphone, the Pixel Fold promises to push the foldable phone format forward, with the thinnest profile and the highest-performance camera on the market.
Used in its folded configuration, the Pixel Fold acts like a regular, G2-chip-powered Pixel phone. Unfolded, it provides a 7.6″ display that’s closer to the dimensions of a tablet.
Google’s first foray into the tablet category promises a winning combination of Pixel, Android and smart home features.
The Pixel Tablet offers an 11-inch touchscreen display, a charging dock fitted with a 43.5mm full-range speaker, and in-built Google Assistant.
Play Store updates
Google announced a clutch of useful updates to help app developers and owners make better use of the Google Play app store. These included:
- Custom listings: app developers will have the option to create custom app listings for “inactive users”, to explain why the user “should give your app or game another chance.”
- AI listing support: a generative AI tool helps you to write fully-optimised Play Store listings for your app (English language only).
- AI-enhanced reviews: users will be served AI-enhanced app reviews in the Play Store (English language only).
- Price Experiments: this feature will enable app developers to test the effectiveness of different app pricings across different markets.
- Automatic update prompts: users will be prompted to update their app, if they experience a crash and a more stable app version exists.
- Play Console app updates: this developer-facing app has been rebuilt around “modern developer needs,” with an integrated inbox and options to customise the metrics shown on the home screen.
Android Studio updates
Google I/O 2023 touched on some interesting updates to Android’s IDE, Android Studio:
- Studio Bot: developers will now be able to get help from an AI-powered conversational assistant in Android Studio. ‘Studio Bot’ can answer questions and provide sample code.
- Automatic per-app language settings: with Android Gradle plugin (version 8.1 or higher), per-app language settings can now be supported automatically.
- Android AGP Upgrade Assistant: this recently launched plugin helps you to upgrade the version of AGP used by your Android Studio project.
- Power Profiler: directly measure your app’s power consumption across a device’s CPUs, GPU, camera, cell modem, and more (Pixel 6 and higher).
Google I/O 2023 also featured some significant updates regarding Firebase, Google’s mobile development database. We were interested to note the following enhancements:
- PaLM API: this will help app developers to add AI experiences to their apps.
- Firebase Cloud Functions: the second generation of Firebase Cloud Functions is graduating to general availability, with support for Python.
- Improvements to App Check: the traffic verification feature has been bolstered through the addition of Firebase Authentication.
Best of the rest
Google I/O 2023 was a jam-packed conference, providing ample food for thought, for mobile and app experts.
Our coverage should have given you a good digest of key developments in areas such as Android 14, new Pixel devices and updates to Google Play, Android Studio and Firebase.
Of course, these weren’t the only interesting updates across Google’s vast portfolio of products and technologies at Google I/O 2023. We’d recommend doing further research into other announcements such as:
- Search Generative Experience (SGE) – the ongoing project to enhance Google Search results using AI.
- Perspectives – a new search feature which filters/highlights subjective opinions, from sources such as discussion boards, in search results.
- Updates to Bard – Google’s AI chatbot now has enhanced coding features, app integration, and capability to use images in its responses.
- New, redesigned Google Home App.
- WhatsApp is now available on Wear OS – beta users can call and message via their wrist.
- Google Photos Magic Editor – new, AI-powered photo editing capabilities.
Here’s what our Founder, Anthony Main, thought about the announcements…
Whilst Google have been a little late to the A.I. space in the public domain, I’m sure their years of work on Deep Mind will allow them to catch up pretty quickly and by embedding it in our every day services, like Bing has, it will quickly become part of day-to-day routines.
By integrating it seemlessly into its Firebase SDK’s and other API’s adoption by developers, like ourselves, will allow app owner’s to quickly take advantage of these cutting edge technologies and make huge strides in app technology and features.
We’re really excited to explore this all further and keen to see how we can use these advancements to our customers benefit
If you’d like to explore how A.I. could elevate your app above the status quo and your competitors, get in touch as we’d love to share our thoughts on your particular use cases.