If history has told us anything, it's that major changes to an operating system brings about serious evolution. Such is the case with Android. Although KitKat (Android 4) brought to light some outstanding improvements to the platform, Android 5 should make those improvements look like chump change.
This update might possibly hit sometime in fall of 2014, and the code name has yet to be announced (though we know it will begin with an "L" — maybe Lemon Meringue Pie?). Clearly, the first device to run 5 will be a Nexus, with all other devices rolling out later (in some cases, much later).
What I'd like to see
When KitKat arrived, many improvements were made, but there's still room for improvement. The primary feature I'd like to see improved/expand is Google Now. Clearly Google is placing a lot of eggs in that one basket, and they've leaped well ahead of the competition with recent upgrades. But here's what I'd like to see happen with Google Now:
- Improve reminders. One of the issues I have with the current state of Google Now is the reminders. It'is close, but it still lacks in a few areas. First and foremost, users need an easier means to cancel or clear reminders — even using Google Now itself ("Okay Google Now, clear reminders").
- Better location tracking. For example, I set a reminder to pick up toothpaste at Target. I visit Target and Google now neglects to remind me — sometimes. So, I go home without my dentifrice. Once I leave Target, that reminder should pop up, asking if I want it cleared or saved for another return trip. If the reminder is not cleared, the next time I visit Target, the reminder may (or may not) pop up, and I'll wind up with way too much Toms of Maine.
- Improve voice calls. If I have two numbers for my wife, mobile and work, I should be able to say "Okay Google Now, call wife mobile," and it should dial the specified number (assuming I have a contact or person set up as "wife"). In theory, this should already work, but it doesn't (at least not reliably).
- Add more cards to Google Now by default. Google Now does a great job of learning what you want/like to see in your card feed. This can take some time (especially for users who don't do a ton of searching on their device). It would be nice to have a card selection process or even "card packs" users can select from (a "deck of cards"). Give the new users plenty of information to select from. Categories (with sub-categories) could include: Sports, Music, Theatre, Outdoors, Finance, Hobbies, Animals, Celebrity News, Television, Movies, Books, etc.
Next, my wish list includes Google integrating a feature like Link Bubble or Hover Browser. Any time a link is tapped (from within an application other than a browser), that link should be opened in the background. And once the link has loaded, the user should be able to bring it up in a pop-up overlay.
A final thing I'd like to see is the ability to quickly shift between modes, like I discovered when toying with the Boat Browser. Imagine, with a double-tap on the display, you could switch between "day" and "night" mode or "sound" and "silent" mode.
Enough with my thoughts. Let's take a look at what we believe could possibly, maybe, hopefully wind up in Android 5. Please understand that nothing here is factual information — at the time of this writing, everything about Android 5 is rumor and speculation.
Android 5 features
Here are some rumored Android 5 features:
Google Now: Bill payments. It's been reported on a number of fronts that bill pay is coming to Android. There's nothing saying that it's slated for Android 5, but Google already has the code, and clearly this feature would set it well apart from the competition.
Google Babble: This new feature promises to unify Android's numerous chat services (Talk, Hangouts, Messenger, etc). This could be a real plus for those users who rely upon various forms of communication. Babble would serve as a sort of unified mailbox for chatting.
App launcher: It's rumored that Google applied for a patent for a feature that would allow users to draw gestures on the home screen to launch apps. That would be a really handy feature, especially for users who prefer a clean home screen over one peppered with launchers.
Lighter theme: Another rumor is that Google is taking Android away from the 4.0 Holo Dark Theme towards a lighter theme.
New Play Store for business: This could be a real game changer for Android's use in the enterprise. Having a Play Store area dedicated to nothing but business-centric apps would give Android a level of enterprise credibility it currently lacks.
64-bit release: Clearly, Apple upped the ante when they released their 64-bit iPhone. Android isn't far behind. With the release of Android 5 should also (finally) come a 64-bit release of the Android platform. Does this mean a 64-bit device will surface? Most likely Q3 will see something in the 64-bit flavor. This change of architecture will give Android a massive leap forward in performance.
Google is notorious for keeping the future close to the vest. No matter how accurate these rumors (and wants) are, you can be sure there are exciting things coming down the Android pipeline.
What changes and/or features would you like to see in Android 5? Do you have a deal-maker/breaker that Google should consider a priority? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.