What developers should care about at I/O this year

Every year for the past 7 years the tech industry, financial analysts and tech aficionados alike post numerous blogs with rumors about the years I/O. This year is no exception. To give a different perspective, and maybe an altogether different approach, I have decided to come up with a few major things that Android developers should care about this I/O. It's not to take away from the others who have spent time on an "I/O Prediction" article in the slightest, as I still love seeing what the rumor mill has to say. Hopefully, if you are coming to I/O to get something more out of your experience than just the keynote this will help you guide your course selection.

Code Labs

If I remember correctly, last year’s I/O did not have these. In 2013, I attended my first I/O which actually had the code labs and I was amazed how helpful it was. It makes a huge difference having someone there to help walk you through new APIs, to ask questions directly to a human being who has spent a good deal of their time working to understand how to use these APIs. In short, the code labs add great value to your I/O experience because it gives you scheduled time to work directly with all the cool things you just heard about in a subsequent talk.

This could be helpful not only with announcements related to this I/O, but could provide an opportunity to gain knowledge about other parts of Android you may be struggling with. Last year the lack of Code Labs meant that when I got home from I/O is when I really got deep into trying out new APIs and at that point it was much harder to solicit feedback. For some it was months until they were able to work with any of the Lollipop offerings and even worse for Material whose general support in pre-lollipop was decent, but still left us spending time exploring and asking questions on StackOverflow.

Battery, Rendering, Memory and Network Performance Tooling

This is a no brainer for many Android developers, but I feel it needs to be mentioned because making performance changes can be hard once you have written the code and even more complicated if you are reacting to bad press due to lots of jank. Colt McAnlis is a Developer Advocate for Android and has a series of youtube videos called Perf Matters. If you haven't watched this series yet, you have the rest of the day to catch up on these and if not please check it out after I/O. These are really great resources and worth your time to take a look.

Whether you are trying to get your app off the battery hog list, trying to make your UI snappy, helping to be a better user of system resource or trying to shave off data usage these talks will be a great jumping off point to making your app more performant and hopefully result in happy users.

It's important to note that this is in fact 4 different sandbox talks and thankfully they do not overlap at all, so be sure to attend them all.


Last, but not least is testing. I am unsure if this topic has even been covered at Google I/O in years previous, but I feel that in the 2 years that I have been in attendance I have yet to see anything major on this front. Hopefully this will be a really great series as well. Google will focus on both Unit (White box) and System testing (Black box) which is monumental and well timed with the recent announcment of the Android Testing Support Library which helps unifiy all aspects of testing in Android. Testing like many things in computer science is not a silver bullet, but makes a considerable difference in reducing your tech debt and in turn giving you and your team more time to work on adding all the new features we get tomorrow. It's also important to note that Google has done a lot to make testing a first class citizen of Android Studio. There is no doubt that these talks will be heavy in talking about how to structure, write, integrate and run tests. Not to mention a few years ago Google created a framework for system testing called Espresso, and this will be the first I/O talk that they will give about it so expect to learn a lot!

I feel like after seeing this years I/O schedule we are going to have a lot of tough decisions ahead of us. Not to say that any of the other talks are not going to be informative or worth attending. These are all extremely important topics and while the new stuff may entice you away from these just remember, the new stuff is recorded and when you are deep in a heap trace or debugging visual jank in your UI, was missing these worth the extra hours you will spend now going to look this info up?