It took a long time, but the majority of Android users now have Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Tablet users are sitting with Android 3.0 Honeycomb or slowly receiving the 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update. Phone users are feeling the trickle of updates for Ice Cream Sandwich, or are just plain being denied by their carriers.
The promise of Android 4.0 is a nice market share scheme that keeps users from quickly purchasing a new phone from another manufacturer or even another wireless carrier.
Android 4.0 isn’t even a year old, but the talk of Android 5.0 Jelly Bean is starting in front of 2012’s Google I/O Developers conference.
Could Android 5.0 actually unify Google products into a cloud-based system?
Google Drive is one of the first steps toward unification. Offering cloud storage in conjunction with the existing document editor, Drive is one of the best ways Google can bridge multiple devices together. Google Drive replaces Google Docs on phones, and the desktop add-on can access your cloud storage.
Accessing files on your mobile device is also possible once you install the app. You still have access to all your documents, but now being able to store other files online opens the door for greater productivity. If Google updated Google TV with access to Google Drive to make the hardware more useful, it would be great to watch videos streamed from the cloud on televisions (and would also likely take some market share from Apple).
One of the biggest problems that still exists is Android’s fragmentation on many different phones. Many carriers announce their plans to release updates, but it can take more time than people are expecting to actually wait.
The possibility that Google will start selling their own branded phones like Apple is one potential way they can gain control over the huge fragmentation that still exists. As long as they release unlocked phones, they could break the hold that carriers have that causes most of the large fragmentation in the first place.
Theoretically leveling the field with a new OS could also help public acceptance for Android 5.0 and popularize the new features or improvements that get announced.
What could Google reveal?
Other than a set of improvements from Android 4.0 to 5.0, the bigger announcements from Google could be about unification.
Google+ as a social network hasn’t really grown into maturity since its launch. But Google could fully integrate Google+ into Android 5.0. Signing in once could mean access to all Google services without having to reenter your credentials. The same goes for all other Google features like Drive, Google Play Store, and Google Play Music.
Another necessary addition would be to have Chrome as the new default mobile browser. With a connected account, you can sync your bookmarks from the desktop to the mobile browser and switch web browsing from connected services.
Google will probably also update their voice commands, although I can’t imagine they will entirely mirror Apple with a dedicated assistant. I personally enjoy vocalizing my phone location in Navigation rather than typing it in, but the voice recognition still has occasional problems.
What would be awesome, but unlikely
Android 5.0 is the new Chrome OS
It would be great to have Android 5.0 and Chrome OS merged into one product. The Chrome OS was an interesting idea that failed to gain acceptance. The requirement to be connected through Wi-Fi and basically browse through a web interface is very similar to working through a phone or tablet. Why not replace Chrome OS with Android 5.0 and allow the phone or tablet to sync inside a dock like the Motorola Atrix does?
It would allow people to access their Google accounts, but still use their device as the source for data access. It’s already been shown to be possible, but if Google could develop the technology with the proper manufacturers, they could have an impressive all-in-one product.
True Task Manager Control
While Google should lock some of the actual development tools that run the phone software, I’m focusing on removing bloatware or manually adding updates. The phone software should remain locked, but app control should be open and available. Accepting the mod community would also be a big step to force developers to create stable apps and take a bigger step in growing the Google Play App Store.
Total Voice Control
Rather than app-specific voice recognition, I’m talking about programming your Android 5.0 device to uniquely recognize your voice to perform all functions from unlocking the screen, making calls, opening apps, and recognizing dictation. It’s a feature that would require serious development time and probably couldn’t be implemented with 100% accuracy, but it could also lead to some very interesting future development possibilities.
It’s a waiting game
Until Google reveals Android 5.0, everything is just conjecture. They will piggyback on Android 4.0 and make improvements, but it may not be the revolutionary step forward for the operating system that some are hoping for.
The OS works well enough, but the slow pace of operating system update integration is what is keeping Android from growing. It’s easy to purchase a new phone with the newest software, but the software update schedule is disappointing.
If Google announces a set of devices at Google I/O with Android 5.0 and a new development plan, Android may become a much more stable OS that could bridge the connection of desktop to mobile.