Last week, Google I/O took place and Google came with a good amount of exciting news. Among those were a lot of topics in the areas of apps and mobile.
In this video you can get a quick recap of what happened and get the views on the announcements from our Mobile Lead & Head of Android, Johnny Sørensen, and our Head of Frontend, Themi Tsiotas von Pfaler.
Themi: Hi, and welcome to this recap of the Google IO 2018. My name is Themi, and I am head of Front End.
Johnny: My name is Johnny and I am head of Android. We’re gonna talk a bit about the new stuff in Android P, the Google Assistant and some of the new tools that developers get.
Themi: Yeah. And I will talk a little bit about the Web Talks and one of the things that they have announced there. So, let’s jump right into it.
Johnny: So, at Google I/O, they introduced a new developer preview of Android P. Android P has a new design. It’s looks closer to what we have on IOS right now. In the new preview, they added a lot of animation. They added way more polished [animation]. And if feels like Google has added their own touch to Android. It’s more of a Google product now and it follows what you see on their websites, the newer design that is more wide, it’s more rounded. It has the new front, all that stuff.
Themi: It looks really good.
Johnny: And I’ve been running the base on my own phone for, close to, a week now, and it’s really… I think it’s close to the second biggest release. The biggest release was when they launched Material Design back in…what is it, 4 years ago or something?
Johnny: And, they target a release around October, which they did last year as well, and that’s what do they usually do.
So, they launched a newer system navigation. It’s currently not enabled by default, but you can enable it in developer settings. It’s really close to what we have on the iPhone 10. So, if have used that, or seen that, it’s mostly similar.
Themi: Yeah. It looks very similar.
Johnny: It feels a bit nicer, more modern and stuff, and so you should definitely try it out, if you try out the beta.
Themi: We’ll do.
Johnny: Something Google really put a lot of focused on during the Keynote was Digital Well Being. It’s what they called, you know, if you want to not use your phone as much as you probably do, so they made an app where you can track how much time you use on each app. You can set an app timer so it say that, if you play a game, maybe too much, you can set a time for 30 minutes and then after those 30 minutes pass, when you look at the app icon in the launcher, it’s actually grayscale and you can even set so it’s disabled and you cannot launch it after those 30 minutes.
Themi: That’s sounds very interesting.
Johnny: It is very interesting, and it’s really something that’s, you know, people talk a lot about these days. So, you get a dashboard of how many minutes you spend in each app, and there’s even a feature called Wind Down where the whole display is grayscale so it’s very uninteresting to use your phone. Something you will probably enable during night time, or something you have Wind Down.
Google also launched something called Material.io, it’s like a base for doing Material inspired designs. It’s really cool and a way of getting a head start into a new design for your app.
They also launched something, a couple of companion apps, where you…similar to what…if you know Zeplin, a review and asset tool for app design, and you can comment and review and see the different revisions of all your apps.
Themi: So, you can collaborate a lot better.
Johnny: Exactly. Exactly. You can even export assets for IOS and web, something that you wouldn’t normally expect from a Google Tool, but you can do that now. And, it even has an integration on doing it in sketch, so you can start a template from the new plugin, and you can now sort of all the screens that you will normally have with all the components, if you have a list, if you have logins screen and all that stuff. And you can easily tweak and adapt all the new icons on it.
Themi: I can see this becoming a really good thing for React Native as well and React when building websites, that you can just get a theme from Google.
Johnny: And you can design the same one on Android and IOS, so it looks the same and you have the same identity. So, it’s really cool.
Themi: Very nice.
Johnny: Then a very cool part of the Keynote was the Google Assistant. The Google Assistant obviously is on most Android devices these days, and one thing is usually important in Assistant is it can do stuff on your behalf. And, a thing that they showed during the Keynote was the…So, a lot of business have online booking systems and stuff, but there are some that don’t have it, and Google made a robot that can call businesses on your behalf and it sounds like a human being, which is super scary.
Johnny: It sounded very impressive, and it even have pauses like “Mm-hmm” and stuff like that. So, it’s something very human like. But, the cool thing is that you can tell your Assistant to call, you know, to get a hair cut or something, and then it can call the actual person. It can understand what they say, and it can mention to the person that owns the business that “I want a booking at 10 PM. It should be just a regular haircut,” and stuff like that, and it can interpret order. And then when the actual call is done, you get a push notification that my booking is made, and it’s super cool, and it sounded very human-like, almost scary human-like.
Themi: Yeah. The future is here.
Johnny: Totally. It’s actually super cool and you should check it out. The QR code will be posted right now. It takes you right to a video of it. Super cool.
Themi: Yeah. Definitely check that out.
Johnny: One cool thing is that Google is mostly English, American, so most of the feature start in English, but they’re actually launching Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Thai, a lot of languages; 30 at the end of this year, but they should be launching Danish and Norwegian and all those in the coming months.
Themi: Oh, that’s good.
Johnny: Super cool. One very cool thing they talked about is App Actions. It’s sort of a way to…let’s say that you have an app where you can book tickets in cinema. You can expose that you have that functionality in the launcher, you can expose it for the Google Assistance. So, it’s saying that…in this example, you search for Black Panther. So, the Google Assistant will figure out that my app has that functionality and it will show that that functionality as a suggested action.
What happens then, when you click it is that it continues into an app and you get a lot of information, what are searched for, so you can start the booking right away. It makes sense for, you know, booking systems. It could be like if you have a cab company, you can easily expose that function.
Themi: That sounds very cool.
Johnny: Yeah. And it’s pretty easy to do. It’s like a…you have small .xml file, and you have a, you know…it’s one or two lines, and then you can expose that and you get your app and it can show in the Assistant. It’s really easy.
Taking that to the next level is something called Slices, which is like a dynamic content, or it can be at least. It can also be interactive. So, in these two examples, we show Google Photo, and we’re showing Lyft. So, in this case on the right, it shows that if you search for Lyft, it will take 12 minutes to get home, it takes 4 minutes to get to work. But, it can also be stuff like toggle, it can be, you know… controlling the volume of your speaker at home, and stuff like that. Google has in the documentation, they have a lot of different templates where you can see the different kind of new items you can show. You can even expose dynamic contents so if you change stuff, it can update the text. So, a lot of functionality from your app that you can see directly in your Assistant.
The work load involved is kind of like if you had to do advanced push notifications, because it’s kind a similar. It’s like a lot of deep linking, exposing functionality and all that stuff. So, think of it like advanced push notification.
Themi: Yeah, and I’m sure that when this gets more out there, there are going to be more guides and it’s gonna be easier to integrate.
Johnny: Yeah. The documentation is pretty bare-bones at the moment. There’s not a lot. You can sign up for an early access, and even the pre-defined, the app actions perform, that at least is, I don’t know, there’s like 15 items, and examples they show during the Keynote is not there. So, I think that Documentation will be updated soon.
They also launched something called Android App Bundle, which is like… Think of it as having different builds of the same app.
So, let’s say that you have a lot of different assets, and it could be, you know… you support tablets, and you support a lot of different languages. So, that way it works is that you upload the signing key that you use to sign in the app to Google Play, and then when you upload the APK bundle, then it will recompile it and compile different versions, reasign them. That means that if I were to download the app, it will only have, you know, Danish, English; it will only have the assets that my phone has to use, so you save a lot of megabytes going that way.
Themi: I can really see this being something important for smaller devices.
Themi: They don’t have that much storage.
Johnny: Exactly. And specially for third world countries where megabytes are pretty expensive. It can matter.
This is mostly for the developers. But in the past, Google was very non-vocal about how you should develop apps, and that critism is really something that they understood and now they are kind of dealing with it.
In the beginning, they only had Support Libraries so the new features could be backported. Then, last year, they started doing something called Android Architecture Components, which is…that’s a lot of Libraries for Android, and its actually kind of hard to navigate in. So, Google have their own, and they’re actually pretty good, most of them. And what they did this year is like take it to the next level, and now they have something like a Toolkit Template, where if you use that then you have all the functionality you would normally use. And then they have, you know, sort of a standard way of development.
Themi: Yeah. So, that’s gonna help maintenance, I guess, and taking over new projects and stuff like that.
Johnny: Exactly. So, if we got a project from another client, it won’t be totally different. It would be more well-known and stuff.
Another great feature Google launch was something called Navigation. It’s kind of inspired from what you have in XCode. So, you have this called Interface Builder where you can kind of see the story board…where you can kind of see the connection between each of you. So, let’s say that I downloaded a new project from a colleague, and then I opened the storyboard and I can easily see the entry point, login, signup…
Themi: You can see the whole flow.
Johnny: Exactly. Google was doing that obviously, on Android is purely in code so it was kind’a hard to track down what the flow was, how did you get to this screen. So, they’re really inspired by the XCode and the integration of that. So, they did the same thing and improve a bit on it. So, what you can do is you can easily see that flow of the app, but you can also specify what data communicate between different views, you can specify what animations you want. But the cool thing is you can actually see, if you click on a screen or a transition, you can see the different IDs; that was really hard to track down before. So, that’s also something that’s super cool for when you take over new projects for colleagues or even from another company and stuff. Really good.
Themi: And, do you need to setup the whole thing, or will it come out of the box?
Johnny: It comes out of the box. It’s bundled or included in MS Studio. It’s currently in Alpha, so I wouldn’t really trust or use it yet, but it’s gonna be released probably October. Kind of the same time as Android P is done.
Something they also included in Navigation is Deeplinking. Deeplinking was also something that was really hard to track in code. But now, you can specify wildcard in UIs. You can specify arguments. So, let’s say that you have a Deeplink, it could be a news app where you open an article and you want to go to the article in the app. This way, you can easily see what arguments and what wildcard and stuff in it…it’s all in the same file so it’s really easy to get an overview on it.
This is mostly for the developers; it’s kind a early, but they also launched something called Android Kotlin extensions. It’s kind of like… The whole Android SDK is developed in Java, and that’s pretty apparent. Java is an old language, it’s very robust, so what they did with the Kotlin extension is kind’a like make a Kotlin layer on top of it so you get a prettier code, it’s shorter, and it also has the upside that they can include some of the cleaner or, you now, like in this example, when you show the db stuff, you don’t have to do end transaction. So, you don’t leak data, and most importantly it’s pretty.
Themi: Yeah. And when it’s this short, it also means that it’s easier to maintain because there are less errors that you can make and so on.
Johnny: Exactly. Yeah.
Themi: So, at the Google I/O, they mostly just talked about Android and this AI stuff, that was really what took up most of the talks. But they were also able to sneak in a web thing, so I’m very excited about that.
They announced that for PWA, which was one of this past works that’s been going around for the last year or so, and even more than that. And, it’s about these progressive web apps where you can make websites and they can be added directly to the home screen of your mobile device, and you then will get like push notifications and offline access. So, that’s really, really interesting for the web feel to kind of move in that direction, which has really been something that Google has been the front runner for.
So, last week, the week before actually, Microsoft announced that they’re now also in with the PWA team, so that’s really exciting. And, even more exciting is also that Google, they decided to push PWAs also for the desktop. So, on their Chrome OS, they have now added support for PWAs to be added to home screen of the Chrome Books, and they actually did that together with Spotify. So, the Spotify app that’s running on the Chrome OS is actually a PWA wrapped in this PWA app things. So, it’s really cool, and they have been pushing Mac and Windows to do the same.
And, another very nerdy thing that Google, they also announced, is this Web Assemble. So, it means that you can have C and C++ and then you can compile it and then run it directly in the browser. So, AutoCAD, they did this, and you can sit on website and build the floor plans and so on. Figma is actually using it for their design tool they have online.
Johnny: So that means that, you know, in the past you would usually send some stuff to the server, and then the server would handle that and then send it back.
Themi: Yeah. Exactly.
Johnny: So, now the browser can do that.
Themi: Yeah. Now, the browser can do it so it will open for a lot of newer possibilities. And basically, this is also a way for Google to kind of keep pushing the limits of the browser so it doesn’t just only run static HTML but then have to do more and more stuff. And, that’s very interesting.
Johnny: And I guess it’s also, you know, it doesn’t have to be online. It can be offline as well.
Themi: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly, good point.
And, the other thing that they really pushed a lot because of all this AI, is the VR and AR as well, where they took one of their older tools, the Web VR and then they bumped it up and added new features and made it even more reliable and they called it WebXR. It’s now more combined with both virtual reality and augmented reality.
So, that’s gonna be interesting to see what projects can come out of that because before, you know, whenever you wanted to do something with VR and AR, you kind’a have to download an app or something. But now, you can do it even better in the web.
Johnny: Yeah, and I guess you kind of get around the whole Play Store or App store. You can update directly and stuff like that.
Themi: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. That’s one of the big advantages of the PWAs.
So, another thing that Google, they released in this Google I/O, was the new version of Angular. Like Johnny talked about before, Google has really focused a lot on performance and speed and bundle size and so on, so that was actually exactly the same thing that they were talking about with this new release. They have improved the performance. They’ve cut down the size of the builds, and they also made it even easier to integrate with the new material.io, which, again, just makes it easier to start new projects and get a good head start.
Johnny: And I guess, you know, Google and Facebook and all those guys, they talk about reaching out for the next billion, which is, you know, India and all those countries where internet and more like devices have memory limits and all that stuff. So, I guess it’s pretty important that you get small bundle sizes from stuff like that.
Themi: Yeah. Exactly. And also, more important, or maybe even more than you and me, is the people’s…. expectations is getting higher and higher. If it’s not loading really, really fast, then they’re like, “This is too slow. I’m not gonna use this site,” or whatever it is.
So, there’s a lot of things to come. Yeah. Sure.
Themi: Yeah. I guess…as you can see in the screenshot, Google is hosting it. It’s like it’s very close to you; in case, they have, you know, servers in Denmark, they have servers in Japan. So, the content gets delivered super quick.
Johnny: Yeah. It’s exciting because, I mean, if you are a company and you need to have very, very good servers, then it’s difficult to being able to deliver it at the same pace of every single user out there. So, that’s a good plus. I mean, when you surf for something, your article will actually be shown very high in the Google search, because it’s part of there and that whole environment.
Themi: And one small thing is that under Google I/O, they launched a new all called Google News, which takes advantages of the AMP articles. They have this giant index of data because of all this AMP and cast pages, and they can ensure kind of like take advantage of all the things that they’ve combine usually does.
Johnny: For, the developers, they can really see that this performance is something that’s really important. So, one of the very, very popular tools to go in and make report of your website to see how good it is performing is Lighthouse.
So, at this Google I/O, they announced their release of 3.0 which is just even more precise than before. It has even better guidance for how to optimize, so when you have pictures that are slow or they are too big, they will help you really locate where you can improve your site. So, this is interesting because it could also mean that, for us, when we’re building websites, we can ensure a much higher quality in less time because our tools are better.
Themi: Yeah. And I guess it’s more obvious where you need to cache and what you need to, like, store for offline use and all that stuff.
Johnny: Mm-hmmm. Exactly. So, it’s really helps with all this best practice.
Yeah. So, that was our recap of the Google I/O. I hope you enjoyed them.
Themi: If you have any questions, you can reach out to us. I’m on Twitter at Johnny Sørensen. It’s in Danish, but you can probably find it anyway.
Johnny: Yeah. And if you have any questions, you can just reach out to us. Thank you.