What will Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie be like?
How can Google improve Android with the next iteration, version 5.0 Key Lime Pie?
Rumours, history and indeed logic all suggest we’ll be seeing a new version of Android at Google I/O in May 2013 and, for a long time, it’s been believed the new build will be version 5.0 and dubbed Key Lime Pie (KLP).
What will be different in the next version of Android? Only Google knows for sure, but we can certainly suggest what we’d like to see.
Built-in video chat
Android really needs built-in video chat going forward, because it’s a popular feature and on this aspect Google is bringing up the rear rather than forging the way ahead.
Apple has had FaceTime for donkey’s years and both the company and Apple users are rightly proud of the feature because it is very well implemented.
The newly announced BlackBerry 10 also has video chat built into BlackBerry Messenger.
Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 has integrated Skype functionality, although this only activates once you install the app and is fairly poorly implemented from what we’ve seen so far.
The benefits of video calls are obvious, especially to people who have relatives or friends who live in far-flung corners of the Earth. Sometimes voice chat just isn’t enough.
Yes, there are plenty of video-chat apps on Android but built-in functionality would mean that when you tap on a contact you can select either a normal call or a video call rather than booting up an app each time. Ease-of-access and fluidity are important factors here.
More homescreen customisation
Some of the best improvements to Android in recent iterations have been things drawn directly from either third party launchers or OEM interface overlays. Things such as the drop-down quick-settings from Android 4.2 spring to mind, which has long been a fixture of Samsung's TouchWiz and HTC Sense.
We think these launchers and UIs present a rich vein of ideas Google would do well to mine further.
As a prime example of what Google could add, one thing we really like on launcher apps is the ability to add and remove additional homescreens – stock Android 4.2 comes with five, but you can’t reduce it down to three or one, and you can’t bump it up to seven or nine. Install Launcher Pro or a similar app, however, and you can.
We think this needs to change to a built-in option as customisation is at the core of Android.
Vanilla override mode
Slightly controversial this one. We’d love to see Google take the bull by the horns here and make it so that if a phone has Key Lime Pie you can basically opt in or out of third party interface overlays at the flick of a button.
It probably won’t do this, because OEMs would likely throw the toys out the pram and potentially stop updating devices or even making Android phones full stop. Which would, of course, be entirely reactionary and the wrong thing to do, but c’est la vie.
Messaging/Social Networking aggregation hub
This is absolutely vital in this writer’s opinion.
Windows Phone has the People Hub, which while admittedly not perfect, is a really rather nice way of putting all your texts, instant messages, emails and social networking stuff in a one-stop shop. This is pretty much the only thing we miss when we switch from a Windows Phone to an Android one and what’s more we think Google could do a better job of it too.
Add to this the fact that BlackBerry 10 now has a similar and actually better-looking setup and you can bet it will fast become the thing to have in a modern platform. Android needs to keep step.
This also could extend to an improvement on multitasking.
On Android, multitasking is already excellent, but that does not necessarily mean it cannot be improved. Whether BlackBerry 10’s execution of the concept is good or not remains to be seen, but BlackBerry (formerly RIM) is certainly right in its assessment that the ‘in and out’ between apps really isn’t that good a way to do things on smartphones.
However, this is closely wrapped up with messaging and notifications, so to try and separate these would miss the point entirely – nine times out of ten the reason we're multitasking is to view a message received in another app and this doesn’t have to be the case.
The reality of the situation
Being realistic for a second, some of our ideas here are really entering the realm of fantasy and it's quite unlikely they will actually make an appearance when Key Lime Pie is announced.
Others, however, seem quite plausible, but it’s important to bear in mind that the reality of Android updates in recent years has been quite consistently a small number of changes in each one, but each change having a substantial impact on the look, feel and functionality of the platform.
In other words, we only expect to see perhaps at most three or four big feature additions which change the face of Android in the next update, but they will be quite revolutionary if history has taught us anything.
That is, unless Google has gone the way of Apple and run out of ideas – somehow we doubt it.