Beyond Android Marshmallow
In the 20th century many products that we use daily and take for granted were invented. Televisions, telephones and computers (and more) were invented in the past century. This current century, the designs of each of these products has almost been perfected. These days everyone owns a TV that can do everything a TV should do, and well. The only step now is more pixels and additional features to help integrate into a smart home. Telephones nowadays are so good people have stopped wanting smaller phones, instead the general trend is bigger is better. All flagships released today are excellent devices, ranging from the iPhone 6S to the Nexus 6P to the Samsung Galaxy S6. Even software is trending towards the point at which it’s hard to get a bad software experience.
Google’s latest flavour of Android, Marshmallow 6.0, is easily the best version yet, and it brings together so much of what they’ve been working on in the past few years, from Jelly Bean to Kitkat, in a package that’s finally pretty much consistent throughout the whole OS. Design wise, there’s not much further left to go. Animations look great, menus are well designed, and performance is excellent as well, with Marshmallow being able to run well on phones with only 512MB of RAM, thanks to KitKat’s optimisations. Updates have become increasingly more sparse of new features and less drastic, with a diminishingly obvious question looming ahead: Where to next?
Obviously there are still areas in which progress can be made, and I’ll be discussing these here, expanding beyond simply “performance improvements” and “less fragmentation”.
Using the potential of Google Play Services
Google Play Services easily has the potential to fix the fragmentation problem within the Android ecosystem. How? Google has already partly done this, by moving almost all of its core apps into apps from the Play Store, meaning that individual app updates to things such as the browser (Chrome), your camera app, music player (Google Play Music) and more don’t require an entire system update, and can be done with a simple app update pushed to the phone via the Play Store. Google easily has the potential to move more of it’s core services onto the PlayStore and rely less and less on entire software updates, with the exception of fixing glaring security bugs (StageFright being a good example). Another reason why it would be impossible to get rid of software updates entirely is that it would be a security nightmare moving core elements of the Android OS to the PlayStore. One might only need temporary access to one’s Google account to not only uninstall important features of the OS, and replace them with malicious modified ones. Of course, solving these security issues is possible but it would be tought for Google to fully implement this.
This is an issue that is increasingly gaining attention, as governments around the world increasingly spy on their citizens and gather information that most would’ve thought should be and was private data, even though this doesn’t actually help to stop any security risks (if governments are unable to effectively search through and scan all the data they already have now, as the Paris attacks have shown, what could they possibly do with even more information?). Google and other tech companies have expressed interests in keeping their customers data safe and inaccessible for governments. Currently Google has access to all of your data, even the passcode that you use on your phone. Although encryption is an option on Android OS, it should be enabled by default. A higher level of transparency is needed about what data is being sent to whom. Google has made progress with app permissions directly asking the user before proceeding, however it could make its own practices more visible to the user, with the ability to option what data can be retrieved and used in their servers.
Better integration with your PC
This is something that apps have been able to emulate, with varying degrees of success, for a few years now. However Google needs to do this themselves, as proper integration with a desktop is not only something that could win over lots of customers, but also is extremely useful for everyone. I’m thinking specifically of Chromebooks in mind, since you can’t even connect your Android to a Chromebook at this point (c’mon Google, you can do better), but a way of seeing notifications and replying to texts e.t.c would be extremely useful on desktop. Of course there are web services for various things, such as Google Hangouts if you are one of the 10 people worldwide that actually uses Hangouts (funnily enough, I am one of those 10), but there’s no way to reply to texts and other messaging services that don’t have their own web clients. One Chrome extension or website or program to handle all integration with an Android phone (preferably wireless) would be excellent, as a first party solution from Google is long overdue.
In my opinion stock Android Marshmallow is still the best smartphone experience you can get today, but even though the updates have been slowing and the OS itself is more refined than ever before, Google has some way to go before it’s done adding features.