It’s that time of year again. The current round of 365 days is coming to a close and all the pundits polish their crystal balls to make predictions based on another year of covering technology. Sometimes we’re frighteningly right, and sometimes we’re laughably wrong. Either way, it’s fun to prognosticate about the future of tech. This time around, I’m taking on Android, and I believe (as you might expect), there are big things on the horizon for Google’s mobile platform.
Let’s gaze into the future-verse and opine.
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It’s all about AI
This is probably the safest prediction one can make. Android Pie leaned heavily on AI to make good on a promise to vastly improve battery life. AI is doing its best to help us reply to our contacts and guide us within the realm of Android Assistant. In those cases, the results are pretty impressive. Even so, it still feels like AI is mostly an afterthought to end users.
I predict that 2019 will see AI finally make that leap from charming whim to a must-have piece of the Android puzzle. How? AI will start becoming far more prevalent with user-facing apps to make them exponentially smarter and more convenient. So instead of AI mostly being occupied within the operating system, it’ll become widespread, thus Android, as a whole, will be the platform for AI. AI will finally reach that point where it can successfully (and regularly) predict user behavior and make interacting with apps far more efficient and intelligent. By the end of 2019, we should see signs of what Android and AI together can really become.
By the end of 2019, the majority of our mobile communications with support and customer service will be in the form of AI-fueled chatbots. To take this one step farther, most users won’t have the slightest idea they are communicating with a bot. That’s how far AI will progress in the coming year. Of course, chatbots aren’t really new, but they are becoming more prevalent. I look to see these handy devices find their way into Android mobile apps aplenty in the coming year.
One thing I believe we’re going to see is more devices running a pure Android experience. The Android One project proved that a stripped down Android is not only possible but desirable. Without carrier and OEM bloatware (are you listening Verizon and Samsung?), Android is faster, more reliable, and far easier for users to configure and manage.
My crystal ball says 2019 will see a proliferation of Android One devices, which will help lead the charge for more consumers demanding purer Android devices. The big challenge? Will the likes of Verizon and Samsung heed that call? The tiniest portion of my frontal lobes believes both giants will start to show cracks in their desire to continually load their devices with useless bloat. The move will be slow to gain momentum, but I have faith that the driving force behind Android One will win out in the end.
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Ah, the dreaded notch–that portion of the screen some users love to hate and hate to love. My prediction, bolstered by the rumored Samsung Galaxy S10, is that we’ll see the first Android device that will not only do away with the notch, but the entire front face of the phone will be display. The camera will be tucked behind the display, the fingerprint reader will be built into the display, the speakers and mouthpiece will be placed at the bottom edge of the device, and the earpiece at the top edge. This device will be ridiculously expensive and riddled with issues, but it will prove the concept and other manufacturers will perfect the idea.
Android market share
According to Statcounter.com, at the moment, Android has a 72.35% global market share. At its peak this year, it was 77.32%. The iOS platform, on the other hand, is at 24.44% (its highest for 2018).
In the US, those numbers reflect a different shift, with Android at 62.01% and iOS at 37.57%. Where Android saw a slight global decline at the end of 2018 and iOS a slight increase, I believe we’ll see the opposite in the United States market.
By the end of 2019, I predict that the US market share numbers will come close to equalling the global numbers. The spark for this shift will be stronger offerings in the Android mid-range device market and Apple continuing to fail in that same sector (while they continue to focus much of their efforts on high-end devices).
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As for the name? Maybe Google will invent a new sweet treat called the “Q” (in honor of one of Star Trek TNG’s best bad guys). What we know about Q is very limited. It should start rolling out to some devices (such as the Pixel 3) Q2 or Q3 of 2019. What will it feature? It’s too early to tell, but my guess is that it won’t be near as major of an upgrade as was Pie. I do believe the developers will expand the gesture-based navigation to make it not only more prevalent but more intuitive. One possibility is doing away with the back button altogether and replacing it with something like a two-finger swipe to the left. Clearly, AI will be at the heart of Android Q, as will security. But predicting a complete redesign would be foolhardy, as Android Pie has yet to really gain the momentum it deserves.
One addition we’ll see in Q is support for the …
And from the office of “Do we really need this?” will come the first foldable phone. Although the first device of its kind will release in 2019, the technology won’t be perfected, and it will be met with lukewarm acceptance. However, with the concept finally proved, manufacturers will start getting creative with the idea and (by the end of 2019) we’ll start seeing some fascinating uses and designs for the foldable phone.
SEE: Samsung Galaxy Fold: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
The only devices that will make use of a 5G network in 2019 will be Android. There will be no iOS device on this much-anticipated network, and the only devices powered by Android will be at the flagship level. So if you want to hop onto the latest, greatest mobile data pipeline, you’re going to pay a rather hefty price for entry.
It’s going to be a good year
Even if none of my predictions come to fruition, I believe 2019 will be a good year for the Android ecosystem. With every iteration and each passing year, the platform sees impressive progress toward mobile nirvana, and 2019 will be no exception.