Dec 31st, 2012

The year 2013 is just hours away, folks, and another crazy year of excitement and fun should keep us on our toes. We like to do a bit of foreshadowing, though, so the team went ahead and came up with a list of what we think might transpire in the unpredictable land of Android this coming year. Read ahead, and remember that these are just predictions with a dash of wishful thinking — we’d be delighted to see half this list come true. Without further ado… read on!

Battery buster: out with the thin, in with the new (Rob Jackson)

A lot has changed since the first Android devices. The Motorola Droid’s 3.7-inch screen was once considered enormous. Tablets in general were seen as a luxury and 7-inch tablets viewed as a niche market. Hardware keyboards have all but gone the way of the dodo, replaced by responsive 4.5-inch+ touch screens that have rendered keyboard phones endangered.

But one common complaint has transcended almost all of these form factors: poor battery life. Rather than relying on “thinnest phone in the world” type marketing, manufacturers will offer more phones with slightly added heft but incredible battery life. Combined with improvements in battery technology, the typical Android user will finally go a full 24-hours without considering it a miracle.

Google TV gaming controller (Edgar Cervantes)

Google TV has a good year coming and better gaming will come with that. There are many gaming controllers out there, but none are dedicated to Google TV. In 2013, we can expect other third-party manufacturers coming out with gaming controllers to use with Google TV. These may come in different shapes or forms, and more than likely they will also double as a remote for the TV (at least in some ways).
It is a great time for manufacturers to get in the Google TV gaming market. At some point, we might not even need TV consoles like the OUYA. Actually, Google TV devices come with OnLive cloud gaming compatibility, and they can use the OnLive wireless controller with that app. The only issue is that the controller does not work with other Android games compatible with Google TV. We need a Google TV-dedicated controller, and we will more than likely see it this year.

Android and Chrome OS merge for ultimate PC OS (Quentyn Kennemer)

We’ve been dreaming of Android-based computers for quite some time now. Some smaller companies partially fulfilled those dreams as early as 2009, though Android was rough around the edges for anything other than phones. It still had us wet at the tongue as we longed for a day where Android could become a viable PC operating system. Google had a different vision, obviously — that vision turned out to be Chrome OS.

The search giant wanted a netbook OS that could rely on the cloud and web-based apps to satiate those who might miss typical apps, but the reality is that only gets you so far. Trust me, being told that I can’t use an “app” because I don’t have an internet connection is frustrating. Yes, it’s true that we often have access to a WiFi connection at places where we tend to whip out portable computers out, but web-only solutions can’t satisfy the need of everyone.

I predict Chrome OS will continue to struggle to break ground, and Google will finally look to merge it with Android. There’s no good reason why it couldn’t happen. For starters, there’s already a Chrome app on Android. While that implementation of the browser might not fully support plugins and web apps we imagine it can’t be that hard to let the two live in harmony inside some sort of sandbox.

Technical feasibility aside, the marriage of Android and Chrome OS can only help Google realize their dream of being on literally any type of device it wants to be on. You get the backing of the familiarity that comes along with Android and the Google Play Store and a multi-window experience we’ve always longed for, all the while still providing an excellent browser that delivers ad dollars right through Google Search — why not?

Google and Samsung make a Nexus TV (Rob Jackson)

An awful lot has been said about Google’s lack of dedication to Google TV, an Android based platform with tons of potential that has yet to catch on. Most critics blame Google for an absence of effort, and the abrupt launch and demise of the Nexus Q home entertainment device in 2012 added a mysterious uncertainty to the Google TV saga.

In 2013 all of that will change when Google announces the Nexus TV by Samsung at Google IO, made available in time for the holidays. Launched simultaneously with peripheral accessories based on Android Open Accessory, a redesigned UI, and new content partnerships, Samsung will offer a Galaxy inspired TV experience that will quickly lead the new age of internet connected television.

Google fails to release Android@Home light bulbs… AGAIN (Edgar Cervantes)

As a kid, I always wanted one of those small battery-powered Jeeps. I would see the other kids taking all the little girls in the block for rides. Riding around with their plastic sunglasses purchased at the local 99 cent store – I just really wanted one too. I kept asking for one, but Santa, the 3 Wise Kings, the Tooth Fairy and every deity in the world decided to bring me something else… year after year. I find myself feeling the same anxiety with Google’s Android@Home lightbulbs.
Google was all about Android@Home during I/O 2011, with the main attraction being the Android-controlled LED light bulbs. They said these awesome light bulbs would be out by the end of 2011. That didn’t happen. Then 2012 went by, and unless they plan to release them in the coming hours, that didn’t happen either. For 2013, I predict these won’t be coming again. And sadly, there is no reason they shouldn’t, the technology was almost ready to head out the door.
We now have other options, like LIFX, with much more features and Android apps. They work, probably even better, but Google had this idea before them and they should have ran with it. Google would have more than likely given us a much more affordable price, too. But oh well, we can do nothing but complain and go with the competition at this point.

Google and Rayban bring Project Glass to retail (Chris Chavez)

With the first wave of Google Glass landing in developers’ hands in 2013, I think Google will have some time on their hands to focus on the other portion of Glass most consumers are most worried about — design. Sure looking like a Trekkie is fun for — oh, I don’t know… 5 minutes — but once you’re out and about in the real world, nobody wants to look like a total doofus. That’s why I think Google will be working on a fashionable version of Google Glass paired with Rayban that allows the eye wear to almost completely blend in Google Glass, possibly even integrating with it. Couple this with Rayban’s ad team, and they’ll maybe even be able to sell a pair or two.

RIM throws in the towel on Blackberry (Rob Jackson)

The downfall of the Blackberry brand has been well documented: an outdated OS, an archaic internet experience, and disastrous mismanagement have brought a once proud brand to its knees. The company’s remaining gasps of breathe exist in reliable security and their related success with corporate and government entities that can’t or won’t afford the cost of switching.

With value quickly diminishing, RIM will seek a buyer in 2013, hoping to bail out stock holders and management alike. Noting the failed HP purchase of WebOS, rivals Apple and Google will stay on the sidelines. Instead, Microsoft will acquire the company in an attempt to regain enterprise market share, but the purchase will fail to move the needle until 2014, when it’s looked back upon as a success.

Nokia ends Microsoft partnership to embrace Android (Chris Chavez)

Nokia came out the gate swinging this year with a handful of sexy, well designed handsets. There’s only one problem: they’re playing for the wrong team. As much as Nokia’s CEO pretends Windows Phone is the superior mobile OS (he’s either getting paid to say that, or he’s delusional) dismal sales in 2013 will force the once great handset OEM to make some changes, one of those being Android. Say what you will about Elope, he makes some beautiful devices — ones that would look even better with Android running on them.

Google Wallet dies at the hand of ISIS (Quentyn Kennemer)

Google Wallet was poised to be the end-all, be-all solution for the future of mobile payments, but one thing stood in its way: a band of very powerful carriers. Sprint was the only American carrier to get on-board with Google for the NFC payment service, but the other three biggies stateside had other plans.

When Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile banded together to support ISIS they made it clear that they believed Google didn’t hold the answer to the future of payments. Why? We can’t say for sure. Some believe the resistance is due to Google not willing to give carriers a big cut of the pie for payments made. ISIS allows the carriers to scrape a more generous amount off the top, and since business is always about money that is likely the biggest factor.

Google’s done really well to start out as it eventually supported all major credit cards and has some very big names on its partners list, but the mobile payments scene is still fresh enough for ISIS to make an impact and I don’t know if Google can withstand the heat. After all, the biggest carrier in the mix — Verizon — is actively blocking Google Wallet by denying access to the secure element of its devices, and that is perhaps the most damning thing of all.

WiFi Charging will finally take off (Edgar Cervantes)

CES 2010 was quite eventful, but one of the most exciting things for me was hidden in a booth no one ever goes too. It was the RCA Airnergy power system, a new technology that allowed batteries to take WiFi signals (waves) and harvest them for power. Yes, this little gadget allowed batteries to be charged, not only wirelessly, but by simply being around WiFi hotspots. One did not even need to be signed into the network. It wasn’t too slow either, being able to charge a blackberry in about 1.5-2 hours.
I knew then that this was going to be big for the future of battery technology. It never quite took off, but I still believe this technology will make an epic comeback. What better year than 2013? Manufacturers can’t do much more than simply giving us larger batteries, if they want their devices to last longer. And in a world where thinner is always better, the best idea is to follow new technologies.
RCA even mentioned that they planned to build the whole system into cellphone batteries (as opposed to having to carry around the secondary dongle). I believe this is the year these nifty batteries make it to the market. With WiFi hotspots being in every restaurant, home and business, some of us will never have to plug in our devices again.

Google WiFi: Free Hotspots Everywhere (Quentyn Kennemer)

As the world looks to become more connected than it already is (is that even possible?) Google will most certainly look to capitalize on a nice opportunity. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them strive to build the first major network of public WiFi hotspots that can be accessed for the low, low price of “free.” Public WiFi access is nothing new, per se, but the few options out there are government-built, as slow as molasses and offer spotty services, at best.

Attaching its name to a wide-scale (I’m talking about national) collection of free, reliable hotspots would only help Google solidify its already-dominant position in the world of web technology. Google doesn’t stand to gain much at first glance, but if you look a bit deeper you might find it’s something it would actually benefit from.

Google’s MO has always been to encourage and enable everyone to hit the ground running with Google Searches no matter where they are and what devices they have. Some people are more cautious about doing any of that on their phones thanks to the advent of capped data, and many people would love to use their WiFi-only tablets while they’re out and about but loath having to pay for overpriced hotspot options from their carrier of choice. I predict Google will solve that problem, and they’ll be paid back by the thousands of ads you’ll view over your new public access points.

ASUS and Google concoct the Nexus Padfone (Chris Chavez)

Besides quad-core phones finally hitting the mainstream in 2012, one of the best ideas to hit Android was the convertible ASUS Padfone (and its successor, the Padfone 2). With specs soon hitting a ceiling (what’s next after 1080p phones, 4K?) I think Google will snatch the opportunity to shake the tech world upside down, making the next Nexus a Padfone. Consumers will go nuts, everybody will win. Well, except Apple that is. They’ll be left sitting on their hands, looking for more basic ideas to patent.

What about you?

Like we said before, these are just predictions — they’re not meant to be taken as gospel. We just think some of these things have a pretty decent chance of going down in the new year, though we wouldn’t be surprised if this list was more hit or miss. As unpredictable as the world around us is it’s fun to just sit back and daydream every now and then. Why not join in on the fun with us by giving your predictions in the comments section below? Perhaps we can revisit this post on December 31st, 2013 and see just how insane we all turned out to be. Have a happy new year!