Six clicks: Revolutionary advances in mobile from Android
Android – Big player with a massive install base
When we think of mobile tech, minds invariably jump to Apple. The iPhone and the iPad have been such a success that many see them as spearheading the post-PC revolution. But let us not forget Android, the platform commands some 80 percent of shipments and sees some 1.5 million new devices being activated daily.
And with players such as Samsung innovating like crazy, coming out with new devices what feels like daily, what we end up with is a healthy and vibrant ecosystem, and over the coming months and years we're going to see a lot of new stuff filtering into the Android ecosystem.
This is the first installment in a series of daily Six Clicks galleries that are designed to celebrate revolutionary hardware and software advances that we'll be seeing in the near future. Let the 4th of July fireworks begin.
Previously on Six Clicks:
Smartphones were the first devices to really bring sensors into the mainstream, with positioning via GPS being one of the earliest and most widely used.
But sensors are expanding into new territory. Sensors that detect location and ambient light are being augmented by heart rate monitors and fitness sensors on handsets such as Samsung's flagship Galaxy S5, and these sensors will not only spark a new wave of third-party accessory devices and apps, but also make their way into cheaper devices.
Who as a kid didn't see a spy watch and hope that one day we would have one too? I know I did, and it now seems that this dream will come true in the form of a smartwatch – I'm just not sure I want it now though.
The appeal of a smartwatch is that you have easy access to information, but the problem is that the idea predates the smartphone concept. Back it the day when people wore wristwatches, imagining that it could do more made sense, but the smartphone has in many ways taken what role the childhood smartwatch had and run with it to places that we could never have dreamed about.
I have no doubt that over the coming months and years that we will be bombarded by smartwatches from numerous vendors. I however remain skeptical as to whether they will succeed or not, and worry that their reliance on the smartphone or tablet makes them an accessory, and that it won't be until we have standalone smartwatches that the idea will really take off.
Google exploded into the smartglasses market with Glass over a year ago, and it has had the market to itself for that time. However, over that time Glass has morphed from being a "wow, isn't technology cool" piece of kit to a "get that out of my face you creep" object of derision and hate.
Google was the wrong company to push a product like this because to most users Google is a faceless corporation that deals in information. It's a HAL 9000, but instead of an unblinking red eye, it's an input box featuring a blinking cursor. Sure, Google tries to be cutesy with its logo and easter eggs and stuff, but it's still mostly a faceless multi-billion dollar corporation.
I think that the backlash against Glass may very well have derailed the idea of smartglasses for some time to come.
Health and fitness
Along with smartwatches and smartglasses is the more generic health and fitness category, with devices ranging from pedometers to smart glasses. While many of these will be dumb devices that connect up to smarter devices, other will be smart devices that will be able to store and process information independently.
There are two ways to view this category. The "glass is half full" people see them as a way to collect or process information when you're not carrying a smartphone or tablet. However, the "glass is half full, and there's a fly in it" people see them as little more than an attempt by consumer electronics companies to sell us devices we don't really need.
Given that Apple has put a greater emphasis on health into iOS 8, I predict that we'll see a similar move from the Android camp. It's a feature that will appeal both to those who like to track their training and those who have medical conditions that need to be observed, and it's likely to be a very big wave.
Imagine being able to control your home from your smartphone, turning lights on and off, and raising and lowering the temperature with a few taps on a screen. It's a cool idea for sure.
Android is in a good place to be at the center stage for home automation not only because there are countless millions of devices out there, but also because the operating system itself is open source and so it can be customized to run on a wide range of devices.
There is, however, a catch to home automation, and it is that people are being asked to replace cheap commodity items – such as thermostats, smoke detectors, lightbulbs and such – with expensive, proprietary kit, and once the thrill of being able to control everything from the sofa with a smartphone wears off, people will start wanting to see solid reasons for upgrading.
Android has been in cars since the first time someone put a smartphone in a cradle, but since then things have moved at a snail's pace. Bluetooth has made it possible for smartphones to be connected to car stereos, but there's still a lot of work left to be done on a number of fronts, and Android could be well places to take advantage of this.
The Open Automotive Alliance is "committed to bringing the Android platform to cars starting in 2014," and this, along with strategic partnerships and third party apps and hardware