01
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android-a-look-back-to-2011-and-a-look-forward-to-2012
Last Updated: January 7th, 2013

Happy New Year! It's that time again; with the new year comes our new annual prediction post. I tackled this last year, and rather than do a bunch of crazy, pulled-from-thin-air predictions, I ended up with a link-filled research-fest for the year. It worked out pretty well, so that's what's on the docket for today. First though, I'll take a look and see just how many of last year's predictions and rumors came true, and provide some updates for the more important topics.

A Look Back To 2012

What a crazy year. 2012 brought us two versions of Jelly Bean: 4.1 and 4.2.  We saw a complete transformation of Google Search with the Knowledge Graph, Google Now, voice output, and Google Goggles integration. The Nexus line grew to 3 models: the Nexus 4, Nexus 7, and Nexus 10, and Google's new "sell it at cost" mentality means the Nexus devices are now not only the best, but often one of the lowest cost devices in their respective categories. As a result, popularity of these devices is through the roof, with the Nexus 4 and 10 being continually sold out since launch, and even the older Nexus 7 sold out for the holidays. The Android Market was transformed into Google Play, and now sells apps, games, music, movies, TV shows, books, magazines, and devices.

The most overlooked thing that happened this year is that Google is now selling devices through the Play Store without any carrier involvement. Sure, there have been a few growing pains, but Google has freed itself from the carrier-controlled showrooms and all the limitations that come with them. The Play Store is a legitimate device marketplace for Google, and the primary way to get ahold of a Nexus device. Google somehow figured out how to get lots of people to pay for unsubsidized, unlocked phones in the United States. It's the Nexus One experiment all over again, except successful. This is the most important thing that has happened all year. Google can design, release, and sell devices without carrier intervention. Products like Google Wallet can work without restrictions, updates flow like water, and any future disruptions Google feels like releasing can have a home. Buy an unlocked Nexus 4 and your carrier has truly turned into a dumb pipe.

The other big news this year was that everyone sued everyone else. There was Oracle v. Google, Apple v. Samsung, Apple v. HTC, Apple v. Motorola, Microsoft v. Motorola, and even Fujifilm v. Motorola. I will spare you a recap, mostly because there just aren't enough 5 hour energy shots in the world for me to stay awake for something like that. A bunch of lawyer-y things happened, money changed hands, it was all very boring.

Last Year's Predictions (And Updates)

I made a bunch of predictions last year, so let's see how well I did.

The Android Hardware Division

Check out last year's post if you want the full story, but basically, Andy Rubin used to work at company he co-founded called "Danger Inc." they made the hardware and software for a line of phones called "Hiptop/Sidekick", and that line of phones could be considered the trunk of Android's family tree. When Danger split up, Rubin went on to found Android. At I/O 2011, it was announced that Rubin brought over the other 2 co-founders of Danger. Their primary expertise is hardware, and at I/O they were introduced as the "Android Hardware Engineering Team."

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Android's hardware division did happen in 2012, it was just a complete and total failure. Their only product was the Nexus Q, a beautifully designed, $300 wireless media bridge for your other Android devices. The Q was a crazy product. You could hook it up to your TV and push YouTube, Google Play Movies, and Music to it, and it had a built-in 25W amp and 4 banana plugs in the rear for speakers. That's right, a TV-stack device that comes with a built-in amp and a bunch of speaker ports. Most people already have a kick-ass set of speakers hooked up to their TV and wouldn't need the amp and speakers, so whether you used this as a TV device or a headless bookshelf music player, you were always getting some components you didn't need. The shocking $300 price, limited features, and strange component choices made us wary of this thing before launch, and well, the launch never came. Google took pre-orders for a bunch of these, and then canceled the product.

Android@Home, Google's home automation initiative, was the other "product" to come out of this group - it's also dead in the water. The corpse did twitch recently, though, so maybe @Home is due for a resurgence, or maybe just a "surgence."

Motorola

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I said a few things about Motorola. I mostly wanted to bang home the idea that the Motorola purchase was not just a patent move, which is what everyone else was claiming at the time (and some were even claiming they would sell the phone division). I said that Google wants to turn Motorola into a top-tier OEM. Once up and running, they will use Moto to light a fire under the other OEMs, and hopefully cause them to raise their game with the power of competition. I was expecting innovative hardware with industry-leading update times. I basically thought Google would scoop up Motorola and say "Pay attention OEMs, this is how it should be done." I still expect to see that, it's just taking a little longer than expected. Progress is being made, though.

Google spent most of 2012 getting and then gutting Motorola. They announced the purchase in August of 2011. It took 10 months for the worldwide legal red tape to clear, and, in May 2012, Google could finally play with its shiny new toy. Step one was to install a good group of people at the top. They fired the current CEO, and got a Googler, Dennis Woodside, to run the company. R&D would to be run by Regina Dugan, the former head of DARPA. Mark Randall, a former Amazon Kindle exec, would be running the supply chain.

In my 2012 post, I said there would be plenty of slimming down, and boy, was there. In August 2012, Google announced that the axe man would be working overtime: They intended to fire 20% of the workforce, including one-third of the 4000 US employees. Management was to be slashed, too, with 40% of the VPs getting pink slips. Motorola was also closing a third of their 94 worldwide offices. They also cut ties with many suppliers and would be ordering 50% fewer components. Feature phone production was shut down, and the entire product portfolio would be leaner and more potent. In its 8-K statement, Google said it "sees these actions as a key step for Motorola to achieve sustainable profitability."

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Later we heard of more cuts. Webtop was killed. Motorola's custom dev tools were open sourced and merged into the Android SDK. Websites for unprofitable countries were shut down. Motorola announced they're pulling out of Korea completely in 2013, and firing everyone except the top 10% of their R&D staff. Just this December, we heard the "Home" set top box and cable modem division was sold off for 2.35 billion and that Motorola's largest manufacturing facility in China, which employs 10,000 people, will be sold to Flextronics for an undisclosed sum, along with control of another factory in Brazil. Google is picking through Motorola's carcass for fresh parts to sew into its Googlerola Frankenstein, and the pieces that don't fit are being scrapped or sold to the highest bidder.

With most of the internal slashing over, Google has started to turn to external sources to augment their new creation. They recently poached Brian Wallace, the VP of strategic marketing, from Samsung. He was responsible for the "Next Big Thing" ads, one of which was supposedly the "most viral" tech ad of 2012. So besides scoring Motorola a top-tier marketer, this has the bonus effect of hurting Googlerola's largest competitor: Samsung. Welcome to the 2013 tech world.

Motorola's transformation is happening. When they finally throw the switch and give rise to their new beast, you will see a leaner, smarter, faster, more-focused Motorola. You should be excited.

As for an actual phone? They released a few RAZRs, but those were leftovers from the old Motorola. They've been too busy creating a company to put any real effort behind a phone. Larry Page confirmed this in a Fortune interview this December:

I don't think there's any physical way we could have released a Nexus Motorola device in that sense. I mean, we haven't owned the company long enough.

So, Motorola's renovation is underway, it's just still a work in progress. I would expect a real Googlerola phone to come out in time for Christmas, 2013.

Google TV Is Still A Fork Of Android

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I posited that Google TV would end up being merged into Android, and maybe even renamed to "Android TV." It didn't happen. Google TV is Android based, but when GTV was first being developed, Android was on 2.2, and completely unsuitable for something that wasn't a phone, so they make a custom fork of Android and called it "Google TV." Now, though, all the custom things GTV added to Android are built-in: it can be built for ARM and x86, and handles multiple screen sizes effortlessly. Android runs on smartphones, tablets, set top boxes, and even a TV or two. Then there are things like Miracast that will wirelessly beam your smartphone display to your TV.

Keeping Google TV as a fork doesn't make sense anymore. Every custom need that Google TV has is now covered by Android. Google TV should just be another screen density setting with a few new elements, similar to tablets. Hell, one of Android's density levels is called "tvdpi." Merging the two makes a lot more sense when you consider that Google TV's Android fork has been left to rot. Do you have any idea how far behind Google TV is? It's still based on Honeycomb. That's Android 3.2.

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Pictured on the left is what Google TV looked like at the end of 2011. It's also what Google TV looks like now, at the end of 2012. The last major update was GoogleTV 2.0, which came out in November 2011. The only other sign of life from the GTV division was the addition of Play Movies, TV, and Music just 2 months ago. It's all pretty sad.

GTV spent all of 2012 in update purgatory. For a good example of the kind of neglect this product gets, just check out their web site, which still links to the Android Market. LG did just let slip mention of Google TV 3.0, but the translated document only lists features that GTV 2.0 already has. I feel like Google knows they should have a TV platform, but no one knows what it should do, so they'll let this project simmer on the back burner until someone figures out how to make a TV computing platform good.

Comcast logo 2012

I also said Googlerola would "completely fail" in the set top box market. They did, but I didn't think they would be smart enough to quit so early. Like I mentioned earlier, they sold the whole STB/Modem division to the Arris Group for 2.35 billion. It seems like they never even tried to get the cable companies to play along. This is a really smart move; changing television is a lost cause. The cable companies you want to destroy also happen to own all the content you want. Comcast's new logo, for instance, is an excellent example of what you would have to deal with.

Intel Phones

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An Intel phone was a reality in 2012, there were a couple, actually, they just weren't released in America. Motorola released the RAZR i in Europe, and about a million companies rebranded Intel's reference phone, pictured on the right. Benchmarks were mixed - it will blow away just about everything in Sunspider, but lags behind in other (ARM optimized) benchmarks. Apparently the battery life wasn't horrible, either!

Intel's march toward smartphone relevance continues. It's only a matter of time before they catch up to and crush ARM.

Other Predictions

As for the other stuff, Project Majel, the long-rumored voice activated "Star Trek" computer is now very much a thing. It ended up being integrated into the Google Search app as a big upgrade to Voice Actions, and if you dig through the APK, you can even find references to it.

I said that Facebook would build a phone, and they did not. Despite wanting to own all your contacts, messages, phone numbers, emails, photos, check-ins, calendar entries, and having an app store, a phone isn't something they want to build. Facebook's new strategy is to take over your existing phone. This is a smart move, because a Facebook phone would really suck.

Google did not release a robot, which I admittedly called a "long shot," although they still have a cloud robotics team, and have made a good amount of progress on their self-driving cars. They're legal in Nevada, California, and Florida now. I still think you'll see Google be a major force in robotics at some point. All that car stuff is really autonomous robot navigation, and they are further ahead than anyone else. Robotic intelligence is also one of those big computing problems that Google is uniquely positioned to solve. Larry Page often mentions artificial intelligence when discussing Google. You'd want that in a robot.

A Look Forward To 2013

On to 2013. Google has dropped a ton of information and hints about what to expect for this year. There should be a ton of highly anticipated projects seeing the light of day.

Google Messenger - A Merger of Talk, G+ Messenger, Hangouts, and Voice

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Google currently ships 4 texting apps: Messaging, G+ Messenger, Google Talk, and Google Voice; and 2 video chat apps: Google Talk and G+ Hangouts. This is confusing, a waste of resources, and ridiculous. We've heard Google acknowledge this twice, once from G+ Hangouts Product Manager Nikhyl Singhal in June 2012, and again from Bradley Horowitz, VP of Product for Google+, in November of 2012. So this is happening, and it sounds like the Google+ guys are in charge of it. It's a social/communication thing that involves a friends list, so that would make sense.

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One of Google's most interesting acquisitions in 2012 was Meebo, a company most well-known for their cross-platform instant messaging client. It would mash up AOL, MSN, ICQ, Gtalk, Yahoo IM, and Facebook Chat into one interface. Coincidentally enough, Meebo's acquisition announcement mentioned they were headed to Google+, the same division that is commenting on and most likely to be in charge of the mythical merged messaging app. These guys are probably the biggest IM experts on the planet, they've been hacking together a bunch of services that weren't designed to go together from the outside. So merging Google's various IM clients with access to actual code should be a piece of cake for them.

So Meebo will help build "Google Messenger," which will have an awesome Android app that replaces Talk, Voice, and G+ Messenger. Google+ will be a requirement, as it will use the service for identity and friend lists.  Besides Android, Messenger will be integrated into the G+ and Gmail web interfaces, and there will probably even be an iOS version (if Apple allows it) a few months later. They'll hopefully also have a Chrome extension to replace the excellent Google Talk client. It should be capable of sending data IMs and SMSes, and will just pick the most appropriate communication method depending on the other person's connected status.

A bonus effect from the unified messenger is that it will fix the always-terrible Google Voice client on Android. It has never had the manpower it needs, and the good part of Google Voice has always been the back end, so rolling it into a larger product will hopefully get the client up to a respectable level of stability and usability.

I expect Google Messenger to quickly kill the stock SMS app, just like how the release of Chrome quickly (and prematurely) killed the stock browser. Android's easy forkability scares Google (See: Kindle, Amazon), so bringing another key app in-house as a proprietary Google App will make forkers' lives a little more difficult.

Google Games - A Merger of Chrome, Android, and Google+ Games

I covered this one in my I/O preview (though it didn't happen at I/O), so if you want the long-winded, highly-speculative version, I suggest you check that out. I'll do the quick version here. Punit Soni, the group product manager for Google+, said that Google is looking into merging Google's various game stores into one mega store.

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Google currently offers Chrome games in the Chrome Web Store, Android games in the Play Store, and Google+ offers social browser games in its game section. This is confusing for developers and users, no one really knows what to develop for, and gamers can't play their games across all platforms. Plus, Chrome games and Google+ games are basically the same thing.

Soni announced at the 2012 Game Developer's Conference that:

“By next year, we will not be here talking about Google+ Games, Chrome Web Store games, Games for Native Client and Android games,” he said. “We will be talking about Google games.”

If you're using that "by next year" mention for a timeframe, the Game Developers Conference is at the end of March.

The interesting bit is that he specifically calls out Native Client, a Chrome plugin that brings high performance processing to the browser (you know, for games).  It works pretty well, but no one really uses it for anything. In the I/O preview I theorized that, if they got it up and running on Android, it could be the universal runtime powering games on all these platforms.

I put this section right under Google Messenger for a reason; notice the similarities? Something is currently a fragmented mess, so the multiple versions of it are being unified. They're not just being unified; they're being unified under the Google+ banner, with all the discussion of it coming from Google+ people. This makes sense for Google Messenger, as it is all about communicating and being social. This makes significantly less sense for a game store, because, currently, all the content stuff is handled by the Android branch. Andy Rubin's full title is "Senior Vice President, Mobile and Digital Content," so why is this guy from Google+ suddenly revealing digital content plans during the Game Developer's Conference?

I wonder if this is a sign that "content" is being moved away from Rubin's wing of Google. It probably should be - there is little reason for a content store to be run by an OS division. Just take a look at the Play Store lineup: Books, Music, Movies, TV, Magazines, and some of the devices (Chromebooks) have nothing to do with Android at all. I can (or should) be able to look at all of those in a web browser. The only part of the Play Store that is specifically "Android" is the app section, and that, tellingly, is called "Android Apps," not just "Apps." It almost sounds like Google knows there's no reason for the Play Store to be Android specific. Would it make a lot more sense to kill the Chrome Web Store and just add a "Chrome Apps" section, too? They already sell Chromebooks.

In fact, I really like that idea. 2013 prediction: The Play Store stops being an Android controlled thing, and the Chrome Web Store Dies.

Project Glass Explorer Edition

If you somehow haven't heard, Project Glass is Google's experimental heads up display computing platform. It is also the most exciting thing to ever be created by mankind. Being able to overlay a computer display over top of your vision will change everything. Did I mention I'm plunking down $1500 for the privilege of beta testing a pair? I'm that excited.

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At I/O 2012, Sergey Brin announced "Google Glass Explorer Edition" would be available for pre-order at I/O. They're $1500 and shipping "early next year" - meaning "early 2013"- meaning "nowish." If you signed up for a pre-order, they gave you a clear glass block with your Glass Reference ID number. I would like to take this opportunity to flaunt mine:

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We really don't know much about Project Glass other than "it's coming." It's basically going to be a smartphone for your face, but we don't even know if it will run Android.

What I can tell you is that I will cover the ever living crap out of it here at AP. So if you're one of the people out there that are dying to get ahold of one of these and can't, just know that I'll do my best to paint the clearest picture possible of what the heck it's like to wear one of these.

Quickoffice + Google Docs: A Better Drive App

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In June, Google bought Quickoffice, the mobile productivity company, to help them kill Microsoft Office. The important part of the announcement went thusly:

Quickoffice has an established track record of enabling seamless interoperability with popular file formats, and we'll be working on bringing their powerful technology to our Apps product suite.

Quickoffice has a strong base of users, and we look forward to supporting them while we work on an even more seamless, intuitive and integrated experience.

Translation: We're going to steal all the good ideas from Quickoffice and stick them in Google Docs!

Quickoffice's Android app does a million things that Google Drive/Docs can't do. You can view, edit, and create presentations, for starters. The document editor in particular blows Google Docs away. You have support for line spacing, completely customizable tables (color, width, height, layout, etc), a million different bullet and number options (including automatic outline numbering), and support for inserting pictures. It's a fully featured document editor, where Google Docs is a stripped-down, just-enough-to-get-by editor.

So far the Quickoffice acquisition has led to improved Microsoft to Google document conversion (on their blog post Google used the phrase "legacy Microsoft Office files." Sick burn), and a free Quickoffice iPad app for Google Apps users. The most interesting thing, though, is just how much more functional Quickoffice's Android app is compared to Drive. Hopefully they bring all these features over. They just need to clean up Quickoffice's UI a bit and we'll have a more fully-featured Drive app.

Android On Feature Phones?! Google Races To The Bottom

Yes this sounds ridiculous, but stick with me for a minute. If you remember, way back in April 2012, Oracle was suing Google over the use of Java and a bunch of internal Google documents were released during the trial. The freshly-revealed financial numbers grabbed most of the headlines, but the slide that stuck out the most to me was this one, which laid out Google's 5 year plan for Android:

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I don't really believe this one either, but there it is, black and white, from an internal presentation given by Andy Rubin himself: "Go down-market to feature phones."

Now, it's important to note that this slide is about 2 and a half years old. This presentation was from a quarterly review given on July 2010, and Google's own comments about the released information say

The discussions in the documents date from 2010 or earlier, so don't represent current thinking about our business operations. Our industry continues to evolve incredibly fast and so do our aspirations for our various products and services.

But still - compare this to actual events, and this is pretty accurate. Google's "Phase 3" plan for 2011-2013 was to build out their digital content stores, and reality backs that up: The book store came out a little ahead of schedule in December 2010, followed by movie rentals in May 2011, music purchases in November 2011, and TV shows, magazines, and movie purchases in June 2012. The description of Phase 3 was very accurate, so it makes sense to still take some stock in this slide.

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"Phase 4" is really about scaling the volume of devices. So maybe the phrase "feature phones" is a little heavy-handed. Most people would qualify anything that runs Android as a "smartphone." For instance, check out this china-only Samsung phone, the SCH-W999. It's an Android flip phone, but most people would still call it a smartphone. So maybe a better way to put this instead of saying "feature phones"  would be "make really cheap devices." When you think about it that way, Google's already well on their way. They dominate the tablet space with the $200 Nexus 7, and the Nexus 4 at $300 is around half the price of other unlocked phones. I would say the best way to interpret this slide is that Google wants to go even cheaper in 2013. Maybe keep the Nexus 7 around until the price can be dropped to $100, that's a "feature phone" price range.

If you've ever heard an Eric Schmidt speech, he always talks about the revolution smartphones will cause in poorer 3rd world countries. He expects them to be the primary form of computing in these countries, and Google wants to get their products in the hands of these new users.

An Amazon Kindle Phone

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I know all the Facebook Phone rumors last year were completely wrong, but a Kindle phone is much more plausible because Amazon actually makes devices. They currently have 8.9-inch and 7-inch tablets, the former with mobile data and an in-house modem, so a 4-inch tablet - you know, a phone - seems pretty likely.

Now, I have no idea why anyone would want an Amazon phone. It's just Android's open source leftovers with all the good, Googley parts stripped out of it. The Kindles have been innovative (read: cheap) in the mobile data pricing department, maybe Amazon has the negotiating prowess to bring the carriers down from the usual $70 a month. Their only hope would be to make it really cheap, but Amazon is good at that.

The Google Wallet Card

Remember the Google Wallet Card? The idea was that you order an actual piece of plastic from Google, A Google Wallet Card, that acts as a "virtual credit card." You load all your cards into the Wallet app, swipe the Wallet card, and pick the traditional card you would like to charge from the Wallet app. This will let you use Wallet on terminals that don't support NFC, and allows you to carry around 1 card instead of multiple cards. This also doesn't require NFC, so it will be available for all phones running Android 2.3.3 or higher, iOS devices, and even Blackberries "Other."

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The evidence for this is overwhelming. All the way back in October, Google launched a signup page for "The next version of Google Wallet."  If you go to google.com/wallet you can still see the announcement at the top of the page. A week later, a tipster hit us up with screenshots from an unreleased Wallet app, showing the Google Wallet Card sign up page. And, while I've never actually posted this before, I did a teardown on a recent Wallet app update and all of the leaked Wallet Card stuff is now in the released APK (along with a tipping section!).

So we know what it is, and what it does, and what it will work on, we just don't know when the hell it will get here. What's going on Google? The sign up page went up in October. I doubt they planned on announcing it 3 months ahead of time, so I guess something unexpected came up.

Samsung's Flexible Displays

For about half a year, rumors have been swirling that Samsung will commercialize its flexible AMOLED technology in 2013. We've heard this will be used for everything from displays with no side bezel, to unbreakable screens, to gimmicky flexible devices, or folding screens.

The video is an excellent example of the problems here. Notice how the only flexible thing is the screen, and how it's still connected to a rigid motherboard and battery. You'd never be able to have a totally flexible phone, because all the stuff has to go somewhere.

An unbreakable screen sounds interesting, until you realize the part of a screen that usually breaks is the Gorilla Glass, so a phone with an "unbreakable" screen would mean a phone with no Gorilla Glass. Corning does have a flexible glass called "Willow Glass," but that hardly sounds hammer-proof. "Unbreakable" would probably require a plastic touch screen with a lot of flex to it. Remember the horrible resistive plastic touch screens from the days of the Palm Pilot? They're back.

I'm sure Samsung is in love with this idea, though. "We can extend our shitty plastic to the front of the phone, too? Let's do it!" It'll be the cheapest-feeling phone ever.

Hopefully they use this for something other than just a droppable phone. The possible form factor innovation is exciting - any move away from boring slabs can only be good. Your Galaxy S VI could actually be "S" shaped!

(Note to Samsung: Please do not do this.)

More Google Now Cards!

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Earlier this year, the Verge had a pretty awesome article on the future of Google Now with quotes from a few key Googlers. The most eyebrow raising part was a mention of how future development is coming along:

When it comes to deciding which data to give you, Barra tells us that Google has "a pipeline [...], possibly in the hundreds of cards” from its many engineering teams. Rather than flood users with all of those new cards, Google is taking a slow and steady approach to adding those new features

So then, lots of new Google Now cards are on the way from all across Google, it's a company wide thing, they're just holding back so they don't blow our minds too hard. Go take a look at these mockups and start dreaming.

A Chrome That Doesn't Suck

Chrome for Android isn't very good. The UI is fantastic, but competing browsers from much smaller companies have it beat in the speed and smoothness department. It's also incredibly inconsistent; working fine on some devices and being a slow crash-fest on others. Part of the reason for this is that it just hasn't seen a lot of updates. Chrome for Android has only seen about 6 updates since its introduction, where the desktop version has probably seen about 6 updates this month.

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Just check out the version numbers: Chrome for Android is on version 18. Chrome (dev) for desktop is on version 25. The usual breakneck pace of development for Chrome just hasn't made it to Android, but, according to a post on the official Chrome Google+ page, it should soon.

Q. Chrome for Android is still at v18, while regular Chrome is at v23. When will Chrome for Android catch up?

A. Soon! We expect an update to Chrome for Android starting with a developer update to happen before the end of the year, and we’re actively working towards aligning releases across all platforms, including Android, starting early next year.

We even get a timeframe: "Early next year," meaning 2013. This will definitely make Chrome better at rendering stuff, but even desktop parity isn't a guarantee it will run smoother or more consistently on mobile. It is, however, a sign that they are taking Chrome for Android more seriously.

Conclusion

That's everything substantial I can think of for 2013, and this won't even be the half of it. There's still a ton of stuff we know nothing about: New flagship devices from Samsung, Motorola, HTC, Sony, and LG, 1 or 2 new versions of Android, new Nexuses, and a million app updates - 2013 will be a crazy year. We'll get a much clearer look at things in just a few days - CES 2013 news starts January 6th!

The new year promises to bring us tons of highly anticipated goodies, and we'll be obsessively covering it here at Android Police. Stay tuned and Happy New Year!

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • NoBullet

    Great recap :-)

  • garychencool

    So many tags!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Not enough overlords!

      • http://twitter.com/homncruse Aaron Burke

        You require more vespene gas.

        • http://www.facebook.com/karl.ludwinski Karl Ludwinski

          That made me lol :) Ah, memories...

  • http://www.facebook.com/ajac09 Anthony Evans Jr

    dont use Chrome alot do ya? Its awesome love it better then the others out there!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I can't start using Chrome seriously mostly because it has no extensions support. Dolphin HD has a LastPass extension, and it makes all the difference in the world on enabling real mobile browsing and logging into things.

      I also much prefer Dolphin's start page, and the way you can actually exit out of it to the previous app without backing through all your tab history (by long-pressing Back). Things just take fewer clicks in Dolphin.

      I do love Chrome sync though - it's fantastic. Just wish those extensions came to mobile already.

      • http://www.facebook.com/cole.mickens Cole Mickens

        Open LastPass -> Long press account -> Copy notifications.

        [multitask button] -> Chrome

        Copy, paste your username and password. Way, way better than having to use Dolphin just for LastPass...

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          Not to me - not even close. In Dolphin, the logins are already matched to the site you're on. With having to open LastPass separately, I'd have to first find the bookmark, then copy username and password (or copy password and then type an email by hand - long). It's way too convoluted. Plus, I actually like using Dolphin more than Chrome.

          • HopelesslyFaithful

            agree on using dolphin...password thing no idea. I hardly use my phone because its slow and i hate touch screens. Some how i push on the screen and it reads that i pressed a button a good centimeter away...wtf?

          • http://www.facebook.com/ajac09 Anthony Evans Jr

            I use to love Dolphin and fire fox but both are just so much slower then chrome on my phone.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      Chrome works great for me, although it's not as smooth as Dolphin, I use it because I prefer the design.

      There is no shortage of complaints about it online though, and you always hear about how it works fine on one device and poorly on another. You're just lucky.

  • HGamesTeamCato

    You really should post that Google Wallet Apk Teardown :)

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      I didn't post it because it isn't really new information. You'll see the bits that make up or leaked screenshots and that's about it.

  • Alex Lockwood

    i will read all of this!!!!!!

  • http://youtube.com/user/CurelessSyn CurelessSynergy

    Nice article, Ron. Looking forward to all the happenings of 2013, should be quite interesting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aarontrevor Aaron Sentell

    Please let Google Messenger be a thing. Oh please...! Thoughtful article. Thanks. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/jordan.richesin Jordan Richesin

      Yeah buddy!!!!

    • Aaron Gascoigne

      Sadly its a pipe dream as gtalk,gplus and voice are closed source and sms is open source, and as sms is a core part of the phone experience google cant use a closed source version, Google could do like it did with calender and have an aosp and closed source version, but that leads to fragmentation as every oem has there own spin on sms and apps like handcent/go sms would be useless as they couldnt compete with stock. Also JBQ commented on gplus that do to the different licences that this is not possible but it is possibly to expect a unified experience for free services that dont include things that cost money such as sms.

      • SuperAndroid

        They could go from 4 apps to 2, one calles "SMS" and one calles Google Messenger... Would be easier for normal people to understand aswell.

      • http://twitter.com/Twitteninja ZZ

        Do you have a link to where JBQ said that? His Android posts are gold since ever since he made a point to stop/reduce his Android posts due to spam/off-topic questions.

      • gramps

        Really? Apple have done it with their messaging app (iMessage or whatever), and I've wanted it for Android ever since.

        • 8Charlie

          It wouldn't be that hard. Google Messenger handles SMS for you if it has it nstallen (meaning you have access to Google Apps), otherwise it's the standard SMS app. Would be even better if they somehow manage to link other services right into it, i.e. Meebo. Though Facebook would throw a tantrum.

      • Zak Taccardi

        Google Voice is their integration with SMS. If Google can get Voice integration with more carriers (I believe this is on the roadmap too) like it has with Sprint, then this can easily be an all in one messaging solution

      • mgamerz

        They did it with the browser on the nexus devices - I don't think 'browser' is installed, just chrome.

      • deltatux

        That's true, plus it'll allow someone like me who don't want Google+ to continue to send texts to my friends and family. Not every Android user wants G+.

      • http://kennydude.me/ Joe Simpson

        Easily done. Android 5.0 or whatever could change the messaging content provider system to allow 3rd parties just like the calendar, contacts and gallery systems do.

  • https://plus.google.com/106721695871122826476/posts?hl=en Aja Hemphill

    Sooo... no chance we get a update to Google Books that allows for uploading our own ePubs and PDFs?

  • kool_dude

    Great article. Its delightful pieces like these that remind me why I subscribed to Android Police :)

  • Swoops

    How about KLP?

    • http://twitter.com/redbullcat Phil Oakley

      We know *nothing* about KLP. It may not even be called that.

  • http://twitter.com/trsohmers Thomas Sohmers

    Great article... the only thing that I do disagree with is Intel beating ARM. The new A15 architecture is going to put the nail in Intel's grave.

    • ssj4Gogeta

      I wouldn't be so sure about that. The 5 year old Bonnell core is finally scheduled for a 22nm OoO refresh later this year.

      • HopelesslyFaithful

        I am more interested in Haswell 10w TDP for tablets

  • Dave Alderson

    Good Article man

  • siibel

    Can't wait :)

    Google game center and google messenger :)

  • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai

    Google just doesn't seem to have a plan to deploy certain technology.
    Take Miracast as an example, is it part of the Android OS or not? Nexus
    4 has it, but 7, 10 don't. Galaxy Nexus was rumored to support it
    (since it supports WiFi Direct), but Jelly Bean 4.2 comes and goes, but
    Miracast is nowhere to be seen. Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7 has USB OTG support (limited w/o root), but Nexus 4 doesn't (not sure about 10.) Again, is OTG support part of the Android OS or not? If Miracast and USB OTG are part of the Android OS, how could Google not support them in all its latest devices?

  • Andrew Loiacono

    Great read

  • Ryan

    And yet another fantastic article. Keep it up!

  • HopelesslyFaithful

    I know how to make a flexible device but i am keeping it two myself....it only requires 3 things. 1+1+1=flexible device. Some how i missed your older post on flexible screens. The technology is currently available to make a flexible device. It is really easy...you just are not remember 2 current technologies...well one might be still R&D not sure......damnit...my favorite chair just broke :/ can't find any with a tall back anymore :'(

    • HopelesslyFaithful

      nope all the technology is out to make a thin flexible device. Just finished wikipedia and googling it

  • Martin Nilsson

    I'm hoping that more manufacturers take after Sony. Phones and tablets wouldn't such if they had some protection against the elements. If Sony can the others shouldn't have any problems :-)

  • DeadSOL

    Whew! That blew my mind! :D

  • FrillArtist

    I don't think there needs to be a merger of Google Games (Chrome, Android and Google+ Games). They are three completely different ecosystems and should be kept that way.

    • http://twitter.com/redbullcat Phil Oakley

      Nah. They need to be merged - imagine playing a game on your Android phone on the bus, getting home, turning on your PC/Chromebook, and continuing where you left of.

      Chrome is Google's long-term future, OS wise, but all three need to be together in a way that makes them the same.

  • Drayon

    Although I like the idea of google games, the first thing they need to do is make a game save cloud backup!

    I HATE it when I start playing on my phone, and want to continue on my tablet I can't. If I'll want to complete the game I have to do everything on my phone. Or visa versa.

    Sure, if you're rooted you can use something like datasync, but that's something we shouldn't have to worry about.

  • iboalali

    Tags, Tags everywhere

  • John_Merritt

    Dear Google, Please do NOT merge Google+ with every damn thing. I do NOT do, and never will do social networking, and will never be forced to. If you plan on forcing this on your app store then I'm selling my Nexus 7 and going with the devil, Apple.
    Also, please make sure messaging will be "optional" as well.

    • FrillArtist

      Couldn't agree more.

    • HopelesslyFaithful

      i stopped using facebook and after i stopped using it every single site in the world now uses facebook comments which is annoying since i dont have facebook. hulu got ride of their forum which was stupid

    • Dominic Powell

      you do realize you don't actually have to ever use google +... its essentially just an optional add on for the standard google services. Its just like every other google service, at one point you needed a gmail account to do anything else on google... like sign in to chrome... its the same thing... just expanded, don't use it if you don't want to.

      But if you love to consume news... google + communities is one of the best places to find good poignant content, outside of reddit.

  • smeddy

    "do I get the record for most tags"? lol

  • heat361

    This was a great read as always :)

  • Christopher Iverson

    Due to the way I use my phone I would be happy if they unified G+, gtalk, and GV texting into one app. Hangouts would be a plus as well. That would cover all of my use cases since no one outside of a very select few have my prepaid number. Also what would be great is if there was an option to use facebook chat or whatever.

  • mgamerz

    The new marketing person for motorola, especially on facebook, continuously takes swipes at Samsung's GS3. The people who follow the page like me continously remind motorola what a terrible company it is.

  • hot_spare

    Not sure the title is appropriate with the content of the article. Nothing wrong with the article, but it doesn't match the title at all. You could rather name it "Google in 2012" instead of Android in 2012.

    'Glass' has nothing to do with Android, so does Google TV and even Samsung's flexible displays. If flexible display can be used on an Android, it can also be used on WP or iPhone. Flexible display has absolutely nothing to do with Android.

    Kindle is irrelevant outside US. It's less than even 5% of total Android activation. So, forget about it. It's just another cheap US product (read it like a cheap Chinese product).

    You talk more about a company (Motorola) which is virtually non-existent in the mobile market at present. You could discuss in same lengths about Samsung, Sony, HTC, LG etc., But you decide to talk more about the most irrelevant Android vendor. It's a dead-end for Moto. Moto and Nokia are in same condition. They failed to evolve with the changing business market. Moto was taken over by Google, Nokia would probably end up in same situation.

  • Pegasus195

    Please let all this happen! would be a better OS!

  • gumbald

    I just want Google+ Messenger to be a proper (separate) application so that I could get notifications and not have it flick back to the main G+ app all the time. I'd also like it to not fail so much at sending messages, or attempt to send them again for a while automatically rather just saying "retry/remove". Ultimately, I'd like this to also have a web interface - imagine having access to this new, unified messaging like Mac OS has iMessage...? Vic Gundotra responded to one of my posts about web access months ago saying "we're working on it" - so far not a sign of anything...

  • br_hermon

    I mostly agree but I hope they keep Google Voice separate. Regardless of what you all say and do... Go ahead and send people "texts" though it, but at the end of the day it's a VOICE service, plain and simple. Phone calls first, "texting" second. You can't combine a Voice App with a messaging app. If anything, if it HAS to be merged, it should be combined with the Phone / Dailer / History (and to an extent, already is) And I may be a smaller minority here but, I use GV for my business. I like that it's totally separate from everything else. I only call from it for business purposes and only "text" for the same purpose. I don't want personal and professional communications intertwined.

    PLEASE combine Google Talk and Google+ Messenger, right along with the chat windows in gmail and Google+. That merger is long past due. Enough said there.

    The Messages app... don't combine it. It can't be combined. It's an SMS app. SMS has been around years before Google or any kind of proprietary 3rd party messaging system. SMS is delivered via cell signal. All third party messaging apps, including google's, send via data. SMS is the ONLY universally accepted true texting platform that's available on smartphones, dumb phones, Andriod, iOS and alike.

    You can't just merge all 4 services. Now if you want to go along the lines of Meebo and have one app, one interface for communicating between different services, that's an entirely different story (although potentially a confusing one. Would I have a Gtalk thread and an SMS thread with someone? Where is that one message I got earlier? What service do I use or respond with?)

    Long story short... it's a huge mess and needs addressed but good luck doin it!

  • andrew__des_moines

    You can't talk about Google's vision without mentioning secondary world markets. This is where I believe they will focus ChromeOS and Motorola. Let Samsung and others make the trend setting high-end, high-profit devices while Google focuses on enbiggening its world-wide install base. This is, I believe, why they killed the Q, focused on low priced tablets, and introduced a $300 Nexus phone. What better place to develop Google TV than outside the reach of Comcast and the like?

  • SuperAndroid

    Google, you have a lot to do during 2013...

    1. Make something good of that damn old multitask-thingy menu.
    You know... make it like a "navigation home from any screen", let the user add their favourite apps or most used ones aswell. So you can navigate to more places than just last used applications.

    2. Fix the back button.
    Should be easy; if an app would close itself when you hit it... it should convert into an "x". That would atleast make it somewhat easy to understand. But now... well, you never have any idea whatsoever!

    3. One extra "fixed" button on the homescreen
    The "home" button should be replaced with the "all app" button when you are on the homescreen. Would make it easier to get to all applications fast; just a double click on the button and it's done.

    4. Remove that damn "Google Now" from the menu
    I love the feature; but I really hate the position. Just add it somewhere else (I got an idea presented in number 5). Sometimes when I want to go to the home-screen and click the button, I drag upwards or something and Google Now starts instead. REMOVE IT NOW!

    5. Settings menu - drag from bottom?
    Make it possible to drag the settings menu from the bottom instead. It would be a lot easier and faster instead of that "double drag". The settings menu also need a lot of fixes, but that a whole other problem (not mentioned in this short list).

    6. Remove the "homescreens" and replace with one homescreen.
    Make it work like Windows Phone-style, but it stays in columns. So if you scroll (vertically) it will stay in a row - and not just everywhere. It would make homescreen styling a lot harder, but so much more functional (if you ask me).

    7. Design guide lines for widgets...
    If you want; you should be able to style your homescreen with widgets and make it look like Windows Phone (almost). It will take some time; but with some design guide lines and some small changes to current widgets it should be working.

    8. Resizeable icons?
    Perhaps making icons and widgets the same...? If I could make some icons bigger I would. It would be awesome. And that's it.

    9. Fix that lockscreen!
    The old one was good, the current one is BAD. Why? The old one I could unlock by touching inside the circle and drag outside. The current one I can unlock by dragging to the left and click on the widget, drag to the right to open the camera, click inside the circle and drag outside, double click on any widget and probably five zillions of other ways. Long story short; if you accidently hit the power-button - your phone will unlock. Unless you use another security, but that only takes time when you really want to unlock it.

    10. Horizontal support?
    Shouldn't be that hard to create a phone app with horizontal support... or a homescreen for that matter. Especially if they make it to one homescreen with vertical scroll instead of five homescreens.

  • http://www.tablets-world.com/ tabletandroid10

    Google is really smart, it controls everything online. I think the Google Play would be at last more successful than Apple itunes. But also Google release those Android tablets, phones with so low price would give lots of pressure to other Android devces provider. That would be good for our customers, we can have better qulity digital items but with lower price!

  • http://twitter.com/sagarmakkar Balvinder Makkar

    And more units of Nexus 4 in 2013..because right now it seems there doesn't exist any phone like nexus 4:P

  • Elias

    Keep nexii prices down. Launch more powerful (and cheap) nexii, also keep the current ones as a mid-range option and sell them worldwide.

  • Amit Shaked

    That's a real thorough coverage of the year that was and the year to be... thanks!

    I totally join your wish for a "Chrome that doesn't suck" - I really wish it happens soon ;-)

  • Xye

    Awesome article!!