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Google I/O 2024: Reflecting on an AI-Driven Future and the Evolution of Android Development

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Google I/O 2024 has concluded, leaving us with a mix of excitement and nostalgia. This year, Google I/O was all about artificial intelligence. From the unveiling of new AI models to their many integrations into Google’s other services. It's clear that Google is betting big on AI. As a digital agency, we see a lot of potential to use some of these new AI features in the products we build. We are starting to research and integrate some of them to improve user experiences, personalise content, or automate complex tasks.

However, the overwhelming focus on AI also means that traditional Android updates took a backseat. We remember the days where new Android versions were a big part of the show. Despite the focus on AI, we wanted to highlight what we thought were the most significant updates for Android developers, including official support for Kotlin Multiplatform, the upcoming Android 15, and the continued investment in multi-form factor devices. 

Enhancing Cross-Platform Development: Google’s Support for Kotlin Multiplatform

Among the Android-specific announcements, the biggest highlight was Google’s official support for Kotlin Multiplatform (KMP), which allows for sharing code between different platforms, including iOS, web, and desktop, reducing the time and effort needed to create applications for multiple platforms.

For now, Google focused on promoting shared business logic between platforms, by adding multi-platform support to several of their Jetpack libraries, and endorsing JetBrains’ KMP platform. We expect a lot more news on this coming up at KotlinConf this week. 

Traditionally, we have not taken advantage of KMP and have relied on native implementations of each platform for all of the code that makes our apps. But after this announcement this might soon change if we can guarantee a good developer experience, and we can keep the high product quality that is expected of us. 

The announcement also raises some questions about Google's commitment to Flutter, another cross-platform development framework. It will be interesting to see how Google balances its investment in both technologies. For now, it appears that Google is supporting both KMP and Flutter, each with its own strengths and use cases.

Android 15: Enhancements in Privacy, Security, and User Experience

As it’s usual in Google I/O, they talked about the new upcoming version of their mobile OS: Android 15. This release, as the few before it, focuses on incremental updates to user privacy and security, user experience, and system performance.

User security and privacy

Android 15 introduces significant security and privacy enhancements, emphasising user control and data protection. This usually means developers now face stricter limitations on what actions they can perform without explicit user permission, ensuring that users are fully aware of and consent to any access to sensitive information. 

A new feature that stood out in Android 15 is "Private Space," an isolated environment within your phone, where you can store sensitive apps and data, which requires extra authentication like the user’s fingerprint to access. 

User experience

The OS update also continues to invest in several long-term bets: Large-screen devices, predictive back gestures, and widget support. But the biggest change we see in the user experience is the forced edge-to-edge mode for all apps, which will force all apps to use the whole space available in the screen, including underneath the top and bottom system bars. This has the biggest impact on existing apps, as there are a lot of apps in the Play Store that do not support this right now. 

Gemini for Android Studio: Boosting Developer Productivity with AI

Some of the AI announcements were also interesting to our Android developers. Similar to GitHub Copilot, Gemini aims to enhance developer productivity by providing intelligent code suggestions, but also has a lot more integrations within Android Studio, like suggesting fixes to crashes appearing in Firebase. 

We are excited to see how Gemini can help us develop better apps, but we are still evaluating the privacy implications of using it on our codebases. 

Final Thoughts: Embracing an AI-Driven Future from Google I/O 2024

Google I/O 2024 has set the stage for an AI-driven future, bringing exciting opportunities for developers. While we miss the days when Android updates were the main focus, the official support for Kotlin Multiplatform and the enhancements in Android 15 are still very exciting. The future of Android development is evolving, and we're ready to embrace it, leveraging new tools like Gemini to create exceptional digital experiences.