Takeaways from Google I/O 2013

Google I/O 2013 Lobby

Intro

This week I attended the 6th annual Google developer conference in San Francisco, which featured technical sessions revolved around cutting edge web and mobile technologies. With the three day ceremony now over, lets take a look at some of the exciting things announced and some of my favorite parts of the event.

Android

Number of Android Devices  It has been a big year for Android, seeing over 900 million activations since October of 2008. This high number doesn’t necessarily reflect the active user count but a later announced number of over 100 million users on the Android Gmail and stock mail app, certainly sheds some light on a total active user count.

Android Studio  My favorite Android bit was the announcement for Android Studio, based on the community version of Intellij IDEA. I have long been using Intellij for its incredible search features and autocomplete. Along with that, Android Studio brings a rich layout editor allowing you to view your design on multiple devices on the fly.  It also comes with a template wizard to help you scaffold commonly used components and reduce the need to write boilerplate. And more more…

Chrome

Active Users – My best friend Chrome was announced to have over 750 million monthly active users (was previously measured in weekly active users, but was moved to reflect industry standard measurement). These are some impressive numbers that I like to see in the battle over global control with Internet Explorer.

Developer Tools – A great step forward to effective editing using DevTools, Paul Irish showed off how to map the DevTools to a local folder so that changes made in the browser persist to disk. For those on OSX that develop for Android, check out the ADBPlugin, a Chrome extension that runs an ADB daemon and enables remote debugging for mobile.

Compression – Two impressive compression standards that caught my eye:

  1. WebP (Images) – Examples showed 30% file size reduction over similar SSIM images (png, jpg) while keeping same quality. The downfall is it is  only supported on Chrome 28+, Opera 11.10 and Android Ice Cream Sandwhich. You can use a tool such as PageSpeed to serve WebP optimized images to clients that support it or through checking accept headers.
  2. VP9 (Video) – Something Google has been working on since 2011, it promises to reduce your bandwidth costs by 50% if you encode your videos with VP9 vs. H.264. A good resource if you want to learn more, Ronald Bultje praises for fast and early adoption in his I/O talk this year. I was looking at some examples at the Chrome booth and a 100mb VP9 video looked exactly the same as a 350mb H.264.

Come on other browsers, lets support the web’s latest and greatest!

IGNITE talks

I had never heard of this prior to I/O, but I would have to say this was probably one of my favorite talks. There were fifteen participants who spoke for five minutes on personal and professional passions. Each speaker had 20 slides that changed every 15 seconds without their will. These rapid fire are all about learning many new things in quick succession, or as Ignite puts it, “Enlighten us, but make it quick”.

Participants topics included: effective online education in Spanish, comic book story progression, K-pop music history, building a 40-foot statue for Burning Man, preserving digital memories effectively, electronics from Gongkai, the process of idea to startup, visualizing prime numbers, and a couple more on the effects of technology outside of the United States.

I’m really looking forward to another one of these in the Bay Area sometime soon.

Conclusion

Keep An Eye On – In no particular order: Web Components, WebRTC, Angular JS, Google Compute Engine.

Person to Person – My favorite thing about I/O, was being able to talk to the huge range of Google developers in person. It made me realize how important it is to be on a personal level with other people, to build a relationship. How so much can be learned, accomplished, and answered when you are speaking face to face. Forget that long thread on Twitter, Google+, or email. The level of talk accomplished online can never be the same. When you have the opportunity to be personable, don’t forget to use it. Talk face to face, in person. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Resources:

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Nexus 4 has arrived! Initial impressions

After a long two week wait, Google has brightened my day with this beautiful box (see below).

image

Here is a quick overall rating on the Nexus 4 components:

Performance: 5/5
Extremely fast and fluid. Never hiccupped even once throughout heavy daily use. Helps that it’s running 4.2.1.

Battery Life: 3.5/5
Four hours on WiFi and GPS have drained my fully charged battery to 42%. This beast is power hungry but is expected for these specs and screen.

Screen Quality: 5/5
Clean, crisp and bright

Screen Size: 4/5
Akward space on the sides for some apps. Doesn’t feel as big as it should because of the dedicated spot for buttons at the bottom. [Update] On a second thought, after using it for a week the screen size is perfect!

Camera: 3.5/5
Crisp, clear daytime shots. Up close night time shots are too white/bleached when using flash. Not as good as the iPhone 5 camera for night shots

Overall: 4/5
Although it has some mishaps, it’s overall an amazing phone.

My initial impression as soon as i opened the box was the phone’s weight. It feels extremely light, almost too light, but is quite solid unlike the iPhone 5. After using the phone for a couple hours I got the feeling that the screen is a bit too wide. In a way it feels like I am using one of the wide blackberries from 2006. Its probably an illusion because of the way the buttons are displayed on the bottom of the screen. [Note: I’ve come from using a long line of Android phones with hardware buttons on the bottom]. But after about a weeks use the screen size has grown on me and is ideal.

To keep it short, those upgrading to the Nexus 4 from a 2.3 android device or a smartphone of about two years, the transition is going to take a week or so but you will absolutely fall in love with the phone in the process.

Nexus 4 Launch

“Imagine that this had happened in a brick and mortar store: you wait in line for a new product, you get inside, you get the product, you go to the checkout, then the cash register breaks, so the manager takes the item that you were going to purchase and puts it back on the shelf, and tells you to try again. So, you fight through the crowd again to get the product, then as you’re walking to the checkout, the manager takes the item and puts it back on the shelf, but this time when you go back, the shelf is empty. That’s what happened to many people in the Play Store today.”