Live Captions, 5G likely to drive faster Android Q adoption

May 09, 2019 12:52
The Live Captions feature in Google's Android Q could prove one of the most important breakthroughs in mobile operating systems this decade. Photo: Reuters/AFP

On Tuesday night Google unveiled its latest mobile operating system, Android Q, at its annual developer conference in Mountainview, California.

Android, of course, is the market leader with more than 90 percent share of the operating systems for mobile devices. However, adoption of the Android version is slow due to its fragmented hardware ecosystem.

This may change as 15 smartphone models from 11 brands will be able to upgrade to Android Q for beta trials, which could help to convince consumers to try the latest technology for their handheld devices.

Prior to the official announcement of Android Q, Google said some 2.5 billion devices are currently running on the Android platform. That’s a staggering number, and also a huge increase from the 2 billion announced at I/O 2017 two years ago.

But in view of the platform's fragmented hardware ecosystem, it is difficult for all Android devices to update to the latest operating system.

Currently, around 17 percent of all Android devices are running on the Android 6 platform, which was launched in 2015. Android 8.1 has a 15.4 percent share. Other Android versions such as 8.0, 7.0 and 5.1 have more than 10 percent each.

Google is particularly proud of the current version, Android 9, which has achieved a 10.4 percent adoption rate since its debut last fall. That's about 260 million units of the 2.5 billion Android devices.

The quick adoption of Android 9 can be seen as a success for Google, and its public beta program Project Treble.

Google has allowed users of its Pixel smartphones, as well as a range of selected smartphone models from various phone makers, to join the program, enabling them to download the beta version for trial before the launch of the formal version.

That should help Google to speed up the adoption of its latest operating system to ensure mobile security as well as to narrow the gap with rival platform Apple iOS, which has achieved more than 80 percent adoption rate due to its closed ecosystem.

Currently, 80 percent of all iOS devices are running on the latest iOS 12 platform.

Of course, smartphone fans would like to use the latest software to enjoy faster and better user experience. But for general users, they don’t care much about the latest technology. 

That could explain the low adoption rate for the latest Android version; many Android phone users are not really tech-savvy.

Google is rolling out a series of new features to attract phone users to give the Android Q system a try. These include Live Captions, which provides real-time subtitles for any content on the phone.

Live Captions can be played with any app such as YouTube, Instagram, and Pocket Casts. It also supports video chat apps like Skype and Google Duo.

The most interesting thing about it is that one can enjoy the service on an Android Q smartphone without any internet or data consumption. Once speech is detected, captions will appear on your phone screen.

Users can double-tap to show more, and also drag the captions to anywhere on the screen of the device.

That shows that Android Q packs the phone with real-time transcript capability. Now if Live Captions can do its job without committing too many wrong translations, the service could prove a killer application for Android smartphones.

Such an application is truly remarkable as it helps break the boundaries between peoples of different cultures and languages.

Live Captions could enable people to watch more foreign TV programs. Since the service comes with Android Q, handset makers need not be bothered by customization. It could prove one of the most important breakthroughs in mobile operating systems this decade.

This year will see the advent of 5G technology, and Android Q is a mobile operating system that can truly support 5G networks.

Qualcomm has announced a collaboration with Google to enhance Android Q’s developer application programming interface for 5G, a process the companies say will enable faster access to cloud services, real-time video collaboration, multiplayer cloud gaming, and augmented reality schemes for shopping and navigation.

One of the key developer-side changes in Android Q is enhanced access to network performance information, including data on estimated 5G throughput.

The companies expect apps will use this information to enhance video and audio quality for 5G users, as well as app and game responsiveness given the lower latency of 5G connections. That said, 5G will be a key driver for Android Q adoption.

Through Android Q, Google has also responded to users' demand for higher security and privacy protection on their mobile devices. Smartphone fans would most likely want to have these new features on their phones.

And as such, Android Q should have a much faster adoption rate than its predecessors.

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EJ Insight writer