Top 14 Android Trends To Watch Out For

In terms of market shares in the smartphone industry, Google’s Android stands head and shoulders above all its rivals. A recent worldwide survey (by Gartner) revealed that, close to 88% of all smartphones in use globally run on the Android platform. Taken together, Android and iOS make up for more than 99.5% of the total smartphone market (with Windows and Blackberry scrapping for the remainder). In what follows, we will do a roundup of all the interesting Android trends that are likely to prevail in 2017 and beyond:

  1. Moving towards Android computers

    Google’s ambitious Project Andromeda has been in the news for some time now, and there are fairly strong chances of a Google OS for desktops/laptops being launched later this year (the Pixel 3 laptop, expected to be released in the third quarter of 2017, should have the new OS). According to rumours in mobile app development forums, some form of Android application extensions might also be launched for the Chrome OS. Google has been looking to deliver a seamless mobile-desktop continuity to users for years – and Project Andromeda can be just the perfect rival for Microsoft’s Continuum.

  2. Android Instant apps

    Limited testing for Android Instant apps started in January – and before the year is out, this trend is set to gain proper momentum. In the long-run, end-users would certainly find it easy to use applications without having to actually install (or partially install) them on their devices. According to reports, around 28% of all Android app installations happen through the web (the bigger share, obviously, is for Google Play Store). With Instant Apps gaining in popularity, this figure is also set to increase. At present, Android Instant applications can be run/tested on the latest version of the mobile OS (Nougat) – but the backward compatibility will gradually be extended to Android 4.1.

  3. Stranglehold on emerging markets

    Apple might be the growing in popularity in the developed markets (say, United States, Japan) – but Android has commanding leads in most new and emerging markets in the world. In China, it dominates with 83% market share, while Google’s market share is even higher in Mexico and Brazil (92% and 94% respectively). Even in the EU5 countries, 3 out of every 4 smartphones sold is an Android device (in 2016). Interestingly though, Android’s market share has been declining on a YoY basis in the US.

  4. More immersive VR/AR experiences

    Google Cardboard arrived in 2014, and it took the standards of VR on the Android platform to an altogether higher level (the first VR goggles were mighty impressive). Last year’s Google Daydream plugged most of the early problems with Cardboard – and 2017 should be the year when VR and AR (augmented reality) take off in a big way. In addition to an increase in the number of VR-powered Android apps, there should be a spike in new hardware devices (including wearables). 3D mobile gaming is also set to become more immersive than ever before.

  5. Android Wear to find its own space

    In a surprisingly congested market, Android smartwatches have struggled to register encouraging sales – and have been squeezed by Apple Watch on one side, and the Samsung Gear watches on the other. The considerable delay in the release of Android Wear 2.0 (it debuted on LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style in early-February). Software developers expect a couple of Google smartwatches, running on Wear 2.0, to launch later this year. The wearables market is not easy to make big profits from – but Google seems prepared to have a go at it.

  6. Better artificial intelligence support

    At the MWC 2017 (held in Barcelona from February 27 to March 2), it was announced that Google Assistant would no longer remain exclusive to Pixel phones – and would be rolled out to all Android devices operating on the Nougat or Marshmallow platforms. Over the last couple of years, there has also been a steady increase in the quality of the Android virtual assistant (quality index up from 89.6% (2014) to 94% (2016)). Mobile app developers have been allowed to customize the assistant with their own app commands as well. More advancements in machine learning, probably with the help of neural networks, are expected this year. By the end of this decade, a fully functional robot application should reside in most Android phones.

  7. Phones with larger displays

    Instead of coming up with larger handsets per se (with phones starting to resemble phablets in their form-factors) – hardware designers are focusing on increasing the screen area of devices, keeping the overall product size the same. In most cases, this is being done by squeezing out the bezel area and enhancing the screen real estate. Phones with bigger display areas are likely to find favour among users and app-makers alike – and they are certainly more convenient than, say, the 6.44” Lenovo Phab 2 Pro.

  8. Arrival of 4K Android phones

    Sony announced the very first 4K HDR Android phone – the Xperia XZ Premium – at this year’s Mobile World Congress. Going forward, handsets and ‘pocket devices’ with 4K support is likely to become more and more mainstream – thanks to the constant improvements in VR application standards. There are concerns about the power/battery performance of 4K phones though – and ideally, these handsets should have built-in Quad HD (or 1080p). However, there remains some doubt regarding the usefulness of 4K features, aside from the improvements it will bring about in the VR Mode.

  9. Android security to get more robust

    Concerns about smartphone security are not going to go away anytime soon – but expect Google to tighten things up in the foreseeable future. With more detailed permission requests and automated security updates, using mobile apps will become a lot ‘safer’ – and more dedicated security features are expected to be integrated in the upcoming Android updates. Android Instant Apps already work within a strong permissions model (embedded within the latest Android platform). The volume of sensitive, personal information stored on mobile phones (on fitness apps, banking apps, m-wallets, etc.) is increasing all the time – and the security assurance needs to become more robust too.

  10. Digital utility apps vs shopping apps

    On average, only around 5.2% of smartphone-owners actually spend money on their mobile applications. While iPhone-users are generally perceived to be ‘more willing to pay’ than their counterparts on Android – a closer study of digital utility apps throws up surprising results. In April-May 2016, the average purchases from mobile utility apps were to the tune of $8 among Android-users, significantly higher than the $3.82 figure for iOS-users (interestingly, the latter had higher in-app purchases). On shopping apps though, iPhone-owners display a greater propensity to spend, in comparison to Android-owners (average purchase $75 for iOS and less than $28 for Android).

  11. The biggest rival of Samsung in Europe will be…

    Huawei. The pathetic flop-show of LG G5 has put that company on a back foot, while the HTC 10 has not been favourably received either (very few carriers have taken to it in Europe). All this has put Huawei in pole position to be most relevant rival of Samsung in the EU5 markets. The new handsets have received great reviews, are supported by leading carriers and are being aggressively promoted. Samsung, on its part, promises a really optimized Galaxy S8 in 2017 – that would cover up for the Galaxy Note 7 ‘fire debacle’. It is going to be a fascinating fight between the South Korean and the Chinese companies in Europe.

  12. Rise in m-transactions

    Google Wallet was not a big success, but that hasn’t held back m-payments from gathering pace over the last couple of years or so. A September 2016 report showed that close to 65% of Android phone-users are aware of the NFC-powered Android Pay service, 9% of these users have actually used Android Pay at least once (the corresponding figures for iPhone and Apple Pay were 90% and 31%). Samsung Pay has also witnessed a steady rise in adoption rates in the last few quarters. This year, the volume of mobile payments happening through Android Pay will continue to grow – and people will start to make transactions via smartwatches as well. There are some usability-related complaints at present (8% users report a long-drawn card registration process). Expect those to be resolved soon.

  13. Demand for prepaid service

    Project Fi – Google’s virtual network operator – is changing the game in this regard, together with the Pixel phones. Users are increasingly liking the concept of availing ‘pay-as-you-go’ data service – with the option being particularly attractive for those who do not put too much demands on the carrier data limits. The idea of making advance payments for only the service space required (along with unlimited voice and text options) has the potential to bring about sweeping changes in the way people use their Android phones.

  14. Lower price tags

    The average price of smartphones is slowly but surely going down – and this trend is almost exclusively being driven by the progressively cheaper Android devices. Since 2012, the average price of an Android phone has fallen from $318 to $272 to $237 to $216 to $208 (in 2016). Software and app developers expect many new low-priced, budget Android phones to come out in 2017 as well. iPhones, on the other hand, have always been positioned as ‘premium products’ – and not surprisingly, their average prices have remained mostly static ($621 in 2008; $651 in 2016).

In-app search is yet another activity that is fast gaining in popularity among owners of Android phones. This year’s Google I/O event will happen 17-19 May at the Shoreline Amphitheater (Mountain View, California) – and the event will give us clearer ideas about many other fascinating Android trends to look out for this year (Android O (v. 8.0) will be announced). The mobile ecosystem is evolving rapidly, and Android will remain one of the biggest drivers (along with iOS) in this domain.

Connected Cars In 2017: Scopes & Opportunities

A fully autonomous vehicle, one which drives about by itself, remains a distant dream. That, however, has not thwarted the growth of ‘connected cars’ over the last 4-5 quarters. By the end of 2016, the yearly revenue figure of the connected car services industry had inched towards the $15 billion figure. What’s more, the growth is likely to become even stronger, with the CAGR staying steady at around 30%. Obviously, as technologies become more and more sophisticated, connected vehicles will become increasingly advanced. In what follows, we will highlight the most important scopes, opportunities and challenges for this sector at present:

  1. Burgeoning revenue and profits

    There will be no dearth of demand for connected cars over the next few years, going by the financial trends in this sector. Experts from the field of smart car sales and car APIs have estimated that the overall revenue figure for this industry will soar to $7.8 trillion by 2030, while the profits would breach the $600 billion mark within the same time-frame. Interestingly, the share of profits from car sales alone will witness a significant fall (from >40& to <30%), while that from high-end mobility services will spike.

  2. OEMs need to work with software developers

    There is a lot of data under the hood in a connected car, and this data can be used to create high-utility custom applications. However, for that to happen OEMs (who, by default, own this data) need to become increasingly open, and share the data with third-party app developers. In the next half a decade or so, the two parties will closely collaborate, to establish a vibrant and rapidly growing ‘connected car ecosystem’.

  3. The Brought-in vs Built-in debate

    Software that work independently in smart cars provide stronger connections and lesser chances of connectivity interruptions. However, relying only on such ‘built-in’ software would be a folly – since there are plenty of users who prefer a ‘brought-in’ technology architecture in their vehicles. The latter refers to a structure where a connected car can be controlled with custom smartphone/tablet applications (people only have to pair their phones with the cars to access the controls). There are scopes for improving both built-in and brought-in technologies for connected cars in future.

  4. Need to provide personalized drive experience

    If a person is spending big bucks to buy a futuristic car, (s)he should (and in most cases, does) expect to get a completely customized experience in the vehicle. Car manufacturers and software makers have to work together, to ensure that a ‘connected car’ can actually ‘recognize’ its driver(s), and its services can be adjusted to suit his/her preferences. These adjustments can range right from the cabin colour of the car, to the volume of music and media type being played, to on-road navigation and the type-of driving assistance provided. Smart car services should never be of the ‘one size fits all’ type!

  5. Shortening the development cycle

    On average, it takes around 5 years to make a fully-functional connected car. Compare that with the fact that every year we get a new iPhone (last year, we got two!), while many Android vendors also launch at least one flagship phone annually. The challenge for car manufacturers in the next decade or so lies in shortening this development cycle – to keep demand levels high, and to showcase innovation on a regular basis. Also, the average price of connected cars need to gradually fall in future. At present, the figure is ~$55000, outside the affordability of the masses, and not surprisingly, the demands are limited.

  6. Inclusion of smart car services value in the listed price

    At present, only around 40% of the value of ‘connected car packages’ is reflected in the list price of smart cars. Going forward, the scenario will change, with these smart car technologies gradually being treated as commodities/solutions for value-addition. By the end of 2022, it can be reasonably expected that the list price of cars will almost fully reflect the value of the technologies present in them. Moving deeper, safety packages and autonomous packages will be growing the quickest between 2016 and 2022 (at 32% and 28% respectively).

  7. More power to customers

    A TNS/BearingPoint survey conducted some time back revealed that, for 1 out of every 4 car-buyers, the presence of connected capabilities is the deciding factor. In addition, nearly 67% customers stated that these features were an important influencing factor in their final vehicle-purchase decision. OEMs and software developers have to ensure that drivers get as much advanced capabilities as possible in the smart cars they buy. While things like car speed display on windshield has already become fairly common, expect steering-wheel vibrations to ‘wake up’ drowsy drivers, advance information of heavy traffic and parking space availability, custom navigation guidelines and warnings about probable car damages (a rapidly deflating tyre, for example) to become important in the foreseeable future.

Note: In the same survey cited above, it was found that 40% of car-buyers were simply not aware about the connected services present in their vehicles. Increasing these awareness levels will also be a challenge for marketers/sellers.

8. Opportunity to penetrate deeper in the mass market 

The steepling price figures prevent connected cars from becoming products with mass appeal, as already highlighted briefly. By the end of 2017, only about 35% of the total revenue from connected cars on road will be from volume-based models, while 65% would be from the high-priced premium/luxury models. There, hence, are considerable opportunities for smart car technology to move into the volume market – a fact that is not lost on the big car manufacturer companies. By 2020, revenues from premium models and volume models will be on the same level, with the latter probably just edging it.

9. That thing called security

By 2018, it will be compulsory for every vehicle commuting in the European Union (EU) to have an in-car modem, for dialling emergency numbers(s) if and when an accident happens. However, the bigger concern lies with probable threats related to data hacking and privacy breaches. A recent report showed that close to 55% consumers were worried about hack attacks (which can lead to loss of confidential data, and even car controls becoming accessible to hackers). The fragmented structure of the connected car ecosystem at present – with vendors, suppliers (tier 1 and tier 2), partners and external car app/API developers all working independently) adds to the complexity of the situation. The sooner security-related loopholes in smart cars are ironed out, the better will it be for the sector as a whole. If customers do not feel the need to worry, they will be more willing to try out cars connected to the internet.

10. Moving on from ‘owned vehicles’ to ‘shared vehicles’

This is particularly important for the developed Western economies. Over here, the percentage of ‘urban population’ in the total count of connected car users is steadily going up – and a large section of this population does not want/need to own smart cars. For the millenials in this country, affordability is also a big factor. As a result, the focus is gradually shifting from buying a new smart car, to availing the services of shared connected vehicles. These services can range from on-demand cabs (read: Uber), to more advanced robo-taxis and buses with 3D prints. Both vehicle-sharing and ride-sharing are likely to grow in popularity.

11. Big opportunities for new players

Unlike many other business sectors, there are ample opportunities for new startups to venture into the field of connected car development. Already, companies like Google, Tesla and Apple – none of which has car-making as its focal area of business – have started research on their very own smart car models. In the last 6-8 quarters, a large number of startups have also set up base, with constantly evolving technological innovations and greater range of feature/service offerings. The connected car market (like other branches of Internet of Things (IoT)) is dynamic, and it allows new players to grow and thrive.

Note: Many of these new startups are being acquired by the existing OEMs, like Ford and General Motors. Also, the biggest players in this sector are looking to build connected car software tools in-house, as opposed to outsourcing the task.

12. Scope of growth in developing countries

More specifically, in the BRIC (China, India, Russia, Brazil) nations. Between 2017 and 2022, the share of these markets in the overall revenues from connected cars will jump by almost 4% ($42.7 billion vs $12.3 billion). On the other hand, the share of Western EU will remain mostly static, while that of the United States will fall slightly. It would be too naive to conclude that developing companies will drive the connected car market in future, but they would certainly be the fastest-growing ones.

The way in which smart cars are marketed also needs to evolve. Manufacturers need to emphasize the benefits of the connected car packages in vehicles to prospective buyers in detail – so that no hassles are faced while using these features. Using a connected car needs to move on from being a ‘lifestyle statement’ to an activity that has important ‘lifestyle benefits’.

Uber launched its first fleet of ‘driverless cars’ in Pittsburgh last September. While the cars were impressively designed, they had their fair share of glitches as well. Full-blown autonomous cars are not expected to hit the roads for at least a couple more years, with Apple Car widely expected to launch in 2019, and Ford eyeing a 2020 release of its autonomous cars. Connected cars are here to stay, and they will keep evolving in technology features and form factors in the years to come.