“We have been doing things with AI as a company for a long time. And the advances in generative AI are pretty exciting,” says Sameer Samat, vice president of product management for Android and the Google Play app store. “But these are not that old in terms of putting them into products. So when you talk about producing all of this, it’s very early.”
Another area of Android that gets the GenAI treatment: messages. This summer, Google’s Messages app will be imbued with a Magic Compose feature, which uses generative AI to offer suggested replies based on the context of your messages. Many messaging apps already do a version of this by predicting what word you’ll want to use next, but Magic Compose will generate complete sentences (and suggest them to you before you hit Send).
Magic Compose can also change the tone of your message, if requested, making something sound more formal, more poetic, or more Shakespearean (actually). Burke says this is based on what’s known as a few shots training model, in which a model can learn to perform an application-specific function based on just a handful of training examples.
Ben Bajarin, CEO and principal analyst at Creative Strategies, says Google’s limited implementation of generative AI in Android is a smart approach. “At companies like Apple, and even at Microsoft, there is genuine concern around this technology. So it looks like Google is erring on the side of caution and making sure this is trustworthy before rolling it out to billions of customers,” he says.
Bajarin also pointed out the computing limitations that still exist around these technologies. “AI on the device requires a lot of computing power,” he says. “Native software implementation will require the use of local processing power and not the cloud. If he looks at some of the basic demos of Stable Diffusion that Qualcomm has shown, it really highlights the lack of native computing power in our mobile devices.”
Android’s new generative AI and personalization features are just part of a much larger software update. Android 14, which began rolling out as beta software in February, will also include support for larger screens (like the Pixel Fold), battery optimization features, and enhanced security features like passcodes to replace passwords. Google said today that it has more than 3 billion active Android devices worldwide, spanning phones, tablets, cars and TVs. On the TV front, Google claims the Android TV operating system is the top streaming platform in the world by shipments. And WearOS, its software for wearable devices, is growing rapidly.
On today’s stage, Samat emphasized interconnectivity between different hardware devices, whether it’s giving people the ability to stream media to non-Google hardware or finding their Apple AirPods more easily from their Pixel phone. Samat noted that more than 800 million phones now use RCS messaging, a standard that Google supports but Apple has refused to support. Google executives also reminded the I/O crowd today that the company is working with Samsung to build an Android-based XR system. If you can’t beat them, join them?
Unless it’s generative AI products. So if you’re Google, the pressure is on.