It has long been rumored that Google is working on converging Chrome OS and Android, but the rumors suggesting that this idea could soon become reality began picking up more steam in recent months. Andromeda is its codename, a new OS from Google — or at least a branch of an existing one. It’s Google’s internal initiative to bring Android and Chrome OS together into one platform that’s made to work on all of kinds of devices — phones, laptops, convertibles, and tablets.
We’ve been hearing tidbits off and on about Andromeda over the last couple of months from a few different places, including a hodge podge of our own sources and tipsters and other reports. But now we think we’ve heard enough to really start piecing together the bigger picture of what Google has planned for the future of Android…
For being so early (maybe?), we’ve actually heard a lot about Andromeda. First, some suggested that a tweet from Android’s SVP prior to Google’s big October 4th event was evidence that Google may tease the new OS alongside the Pixel’s announcement — which obviously didn’t happen. Around that same time, though, we were told by a source that Andromeda was being tested internally on the Nexus 9 — and found evidence to support such a claim in the AOSP. Later, a separate tipster told us that this was due to “hardware constraints and availability” and that older Nexus devices wouldn’t support Andromeda.
I also went on a tweetstorm of my own with some information that we had heard from one of the aforementioned anonymous tipsters just before the October 4th event, on the off chance that Google was actually going to preview Andromeda. Among the things I mentioned in those tweets were that Andromeda was being made to run on many kinds of devices, that Allo — which is still confusing — will make much more sense on Andromeda, and that there’s an Andromeda dev kit that… exists.
Now, we’re hearing some more information from this same tipster, and the more we hear the more inclined we are to believe them. Note that we haven’t independently verified any of these details with secondary sources, so we don’t have a super high amount of confidence in this information, but this tipster has been proven correct on bits of information they have shared before.
According to this tipster, two major OEMs yet to be mentioned that are working on Andromeda devices now have access to Andromeda dev kits, with first devices scheduled for Q3 or Q4 (presumably next year, which would line up with the supposed timeline of a “Pixel” laptop from Google). This person also says that “Android 8.0” is already being merged into Andromeda. In the meantime, it seems Google is sticking with its typical schedule, however. “All 7.X software updates will be independent of Andromeda until official announcement,” they say.
This same tipster has also gone into great detail on a new feature that’s supposedly going to be part of Andromeda: notification syncing across devices. This will come pre-packaged with Andromeda, this tipster says, and will be tied to the Google account that you use to sign into your device. It will also supposedly be powered by the same underlying machine learning software that Google mentioned in its release of the latest version of Google Play Music, intelligently displaying notifications only on the device that the user is currently using. It’s not exactly clear yet where the “machine learning” part comes in. If they wish, users will be able to enable repeated notifications in settings (the way things are currently), however, this person says. Of course, anything could change by the time this hits release.
Update: After publishing this article, our tipster provided us with a clarification in regards to Andromeda’s notification system. They say that notifications will in essence try to determine how they’re displayed and on which devices based on a variety of factors, including location, time, and the device you’re using. “The goal is to provide certain information when you need it,” they say.
Our tipster also suggests that some apps’ content — like RCS messages — will automatically sync across devices a la iMessage. This also plays well into what we were hearing before — that Allo is going to make a lot more sense under Andromeda. In its current state, Allo requires a phone number to log in and stores chat history on a device-by-device basis. There’s also no desktop client. If under Andromeda you can access all your Allo chats across devices seamlessly and Andromeda is available for laptops and convertibles, Allo’s shortcomings do indeed make a lot more sense.
Piecing all this together with other information that we’ve heard from David Ruddock’s “two independent and reliable sources,” it’s beginning to be more clear what Google’s game plan is here. This same tipster told us about the “Pixel 3” laptop that David scooped back in September before that piece was published, and if what David said is true, Google seems to lining up a big hardware + software launch for fall 2017 — around the right time for what would be the launch of “Android 8.0”. As you should be able to tell, Andromeda sounds a lot like a reworked version of Android taking advantage of the cloud and adding support for more varied hardware.
We also independently heard about a Huawei “Nexus” tablet from multiple people, with this tipster in particular chipping in that it will be launching with Andromeda — although the details surrounding that are still fuzzy. We have also been independently told about a mysterious (possibly unrelated) Huawei tablet with a codename of “Huawei T1G,” and don’t forget about that Google-made Huawei tablet that Evleaks says should be coming “before the end of the year.” Recently, our tipster told us: “Huawei tablet is undergoing final rounds of field testing. Battery life is good. Really good.” One thing seems certain: There’s a Huawei tablet around the corner, and Huawei is maintaining a good relationship with Google despite not coming to terms on the Pixel. What’s not certain: Basically everything else.
And this part is pure speculation, but if it’s looking like Google is going to officially launch all of this next fall (and if Google sticks with their long-held tradition), Google will tell us about it officially at least a few months in advance. (This year, Google first released dev preview Nougat in March!) And on that note, if perhaps this long-rumored Huawei-made tablet is “Nexus” in spirit, it could be a device that Google sells or gives away to get developers started with Andromeda before the big launch later in the fall. But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself — this is just what I’m speculating based on what I know so far. This tipster told us last month to expect some form of preview in November, but that may have referred to OEMs getting access. Timelines are never clear with these things.
In the big picture, everything we’re hearing seems to play well into what Google wants — or, should I say, needs — to accomplish in the years to come. Fragmentation is a big problem, both for end-user experiences and for security, and it’s something that was highlighted just last week as Google’s latest version of Android only managed to eek out a measly 0.3% market share debut. Google’s Android also doesn’t have any strong presence in the tablet market, and its Chrome OS laptops have basically become Android devices themselves in the last year — albeit needing to be maintained and updated entirely separately. Andromeda, at least as it appears now, would help solve these problems.
It may perhaps find its way into the public eye under the familiar Android brand (which might not be surprising considering how long Google has been building the brand) or it could bear the Andromeda name. Your guess is as good as mine. But it seems clear now that Andromeda is very real and that it’s coming soon — perhaps sooner than you and I might expect given that Google’s Pixel phones running Android 7.1 Nougat are still the talk of the Android town and perhaps the best Android phones ever.
(Tipsters, if you’re reading this, feel free to send us an anonymous encrypted email – we’d love to talk.)