Last week was Google I/O 21. It would be impossible to write all the awesome things that happened, but I tried to write some of the most important things I learned below. Let's see a recap!
Google started the event with the keynote in style with a machine-learning music experience with the AI Blob Opera.
The first topic of the keynote obviously touched on COVID-19 and all the work Google has been doing to support the recovery; working with schools and communities to help keep people in touch, and creating informative dashboards in cooperation with the WHO, FDA, and the CDC.
One of the most interesting topics was the announcement of smart canvas - a new tool to help people collaborate on various different types of documents together. What impressed me was their demonstration of the inclusive language prompts, suggesting more inclusive terms such as instead of writing “fireman” consider using “firefighter”. You can read more about the smart canvas here: https://cloud.google.com/blog/products/workspace/next-evolution-of-collaboration-for-google-workspace
Another interesting announcement was around Google Maps. Soon, Google will let people search for more eco-friendly routes using factors like traffic and road inclines. Google has also increased it’s coverage of cycle lanes, which should make it easier for cyclists to find efficient routes. And finally, there will also be a safer routing option, which will take feedback from other drivers on factors like whether they have had to suddenly stop at any point on the road.
What’s new in Android?
Google has moved Android 12 from Alpha to Beta. The biggest change is around the UI and is the biggest visual change since Android 5! Google announced Material You where the system theme will adapt based on the wallpaper you set. You can read more about the design updates over at https://material.io/blog/announcing-material-you.
Some other changes include revamping the widget API. 84% of Android users have at least one widget on their screen, 66% have more than two! All apps will now get a splash screen which by default will zoom in on the app logo. You can customise this however there may be a noticeable lag time while resources load.
Notifications have also been updated to remove the trampoline effect where you tap a notification nothing seems to happen, then several seconds later you enter the app. This originally happened if developers were doing some background tasks like network requests to get some data before the app loaded. Once you target Android 12, you must launch an activity immediately.
Finally, Toasts also have app attribution so you know where they came from!
What’s new in Flutter?
How do you follow the recent release of Flutter 2.0? By releasing Flutter 2.2! This should improve the quality and productivity of Flutter by creating a more solid foundation for developers to build their apps on.
Google announced that over 200,000 apps on the Play Store use Flutter including Grab, NuBank, and BMW. Google also uses it internally for many of their apps, and alpha test Flutter to ensure increased stability in beta for external developers, including the following improvements to the Google Pay app below:
Many of the developer tools have also been updated, especially around memory management. More information about what was announced can be found in this Medium article.
Flutterflow.io was demonstrated, which is an impressive web based application for developing Flutter applications faster, easier, and with less code. They demonstrated building FlutterMet in less than one hour to build the entire app! You can watch the video here.
What's new on the web platform?
Over the last year, we’ve all spent a lot more time on the web; 70% more time spent on mobile phones, 47% more time spent on laptop computers, and 33% more time spent on PCs and desktops.
Chrome is going to support a few more capabilities, especially in support of PWAs where developers will be able to support quick actions, display badges for notifications, and customize installation dialogs. Something that looked super interesting is the Serial API which allows Chrome to interact with serial ports. Google demonstrated their project Piper Make which allows you to interact and program a Raspberry Pi without installing any drivers. Just plug in and go!
Google also focused on 3 performance metrics:
1. How fast a site displays key content or “Largest Contentful Paint” (LCP)
2. How responsive it is for the first interaction or “First Input Delay” (FID)
3. How much the site’s layout shifts around or “Cumulative Layout Shift” (CLS)
You can track your site’s metrics in the Lighthouse tool. It’s worth ensuring these are optimized as much as possible as they will soon affect how pages are ranked in Google Search!
What’s new in Android Privacy?
67% of people consider a private OS an important factor when they’re purchasing a new mobile device. Google is determined to demonstrate improvements for Android, focusing around transparency, control, data minimization, and the private compute core.
Most importantly for consumers, is the new location permission dialog which demonstrates exactly what a precise or approximate location actually looks like. Additionally, people will be notified by a toast message whenever their clipboard is accessed stating exactly which app requested it.
Developers will appreciate that finally requesting nearby Bluetooth devices will become its own permission, and no longer hide under a location permission! For more developer focused information, check out the privacy best practices at developer.android.com/privacy/best-practices.
Google obviously put a lot of effort into the experience of attending a virtual I/O. In the run up to the event, they had a virtual phone booth encouraging people to get into the spirit by adding a virtual Andy, Dash, Sparky, and Stan. Take a look at a couple of the Bitrisers below (or at this tweet)! 😍
As well as the photo booth, Google also created an entirely digital representation of I/O under the Community Lounge tab called Adventure. You could wander a virtual I/O village, interact with people, collect items, and read more about the items announced. Arstechnica wrote more about how it was almost as good as being there in real life!
Google made I/O completely free and available for anyone to join. Most of the scheduled sessions were US time zone focused, however they had replays of these broadcasts during other timezones later in the event to include as many people as possible.
They also considered the reduced attention spans whilst virtual, and most sessions were either 15 or 30 minutes long (except from the keynotes).
Many people I know were able to get time off work to attend, as if it was an in person conference as part of their training allowance. However many others didn’t get this opportunity due to company processes or restrictions around free virtual events, which made it more difficult for them to attend around work and life commitments. Hopefully more companies will adjust their processes for the new remote world soon in the future!
I genuinely feel that the virtual aspects made the conference more accessible to everyone to attend, and more enjoyable. However, I do hope in the future there is some blend of virtual and in person for those who want it!
I hope that you enjoyed the Google I/O event and didn’t miss any important announcements. In case you did, you can watch our Google I/O playlist for all the announcements and also all the sessions on-demand at Google’s website.
Stay safe, and happy learning!