Google Is Racing to Bring More AI to Android
“We’ve been doing things with AI for a long time as a company. And the advancements in generative AI are pretty exciting,” says Sameer Samat, vice president of product management for Android and the Google Play app store. “But these aren’t that old in terms of putting them into products. So when you talk about productizing all of this, it’s extremely early days.”
Another area of Android getting 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 responses based on the context of your messages. A lot of messaging apps already do a version of this by predicting which word you might want to use next, but Magic Compose will generate entire sentences (and will helpfully suggest them before you hit Send).
Magic Compose can also change the tone of your message, if you prompt it to do so, making something sound more formal, more poetic, or more like Shakespeare (really). Burke says this is built on what’s known as a few-shot training model, in which a model can learn to perform an app-specific function based on just a handful of training examples.
Ben Bajarin, chief executive and principal analyst at Creative Strategies, says Google’s limited rollout of generative AI on Android is a smart approach. “At companies like Apple, and even at Microsoft, there is a genuine concern around this technology. So Google seems to be erring on caution and making sure this is trustworthy before bringing it to billions of customers,” he says.
Bajarin also pointed out the computing limitations that still exist around these technologies. “On-device AI requires a tremendous amount of computing power,” he says. “Rolling it out to native software will require using the local processing power and not the cloud. If you look at some of the basic demos of Stable Diffusion that Qualcomm has shown, it really highlights the lack of native computing power on our mobile devices.”
Android’s new generative AI and customization features are just part of a much broader software update. Android 14, which started 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 password-replacing passkeys. Google said today that it counts more than 3 billion active Android devices around the globe, spanning phones, tablets, cars, and TVs. On the TV front, Google claims that Android TV OS is the top streaming platform in the world by shipments. And WearOS, its wearable devices software, is fast-growing.
On stage today, Samat emphasized interconnectivity across different hardware devices, whether that’s by giving people the ability to cast media to non-Google hardware or to find 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—and that Apple has famously withheld support for. 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 ’em, join them?
Unless it’s generative AI products. Then, if you’re Google, the pressure is on.