In the build up to Google I/O 2019, just over a week away, Google has been making dozens of changes to the schedule, mostly additions. Sometimes, though, details will get removed from the website, which signals to us that maybe Google included something too early. One such removed detail suggests that Google may be releasing a “next-generation UI framework for Android” in the near future, possibly at I/O.

On the second day of Google I/O, three members of the “Android Toolkit” team are going to give a talk on “Declarative UI Patterns” in Android, with a special emphasis on Kotlin. One of the speakers, Jim Sproch, had his bio on the Google I/O website drastically reduced, which raised some suspicions.

As it stands today, Sproch has a short, single sentence bio that gives the briefest possible description of his role at Google.

Jim Sproch is a senior software engineer on the Android Toolkit team at Google.

Last week, however, Sproch’s description was far more in-depth, giving us a picture of where he was previously employed. More importantly, an interesting detail was removed about his current job at Google (emphasis ours).

Jim Sproch is a senior software engineer on the Android Toolkit team at Google, where he is building a next-generation UI Framework for Android. Prior to joining Google, he cofounded CourseRank (acquired by Chegg a year later) and was one of five engineers building the React.js core at Facebook. Jim’s graduate and undergraduate degrees are from UC Berkeley, where he studied Electrical Engineering & Computer Science.

Outside of Flutter (which is more of a cross-platform framework), this is the first we’ve heard of Google working on an Android UI Framework outside of what developers have long had access to.

At last year’s Google I/O, the Android Toolkit team unveiled Android Jetpack, a collection of components and tools to help developers write better and cleaner Android apps. One of the four main aspects of Android Jetpack is UI components, though much of what the Jetpack website lists under UI has long existed for Android developers.

There’s not much in the way of clues as to what this next-generation framework will look like, but given Sproch’s experience as one of the core engineers for Facebook’s React.js, it has potential to be a major leap for Android UI development. For those not familiar, React.js is a JavaScript-based UI framework, which has gained enormous popularity, first on the web then on mobile with React Native. In fact, according to the 2019 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, over 30% of professional web developers use React.js.

If this framework is to be unveiled at this year’s Google I/O, and if this session is meant to give a more in-depth overview—both of which are big “ifs”—then we can make at least one reasonable guess about this framework. Considering the description of the Declarative UI Patterns talk itself specifically mentions Kotlin, and Android Jetpack’s own affinity for Kotlin, it’s likely that this UI framework will make significant use of Kotlin.

Beyond these two hints, we’re likely not going to know any more about this supposed next-generation Android UI Framework until next week’s Google I/O at the earliest. But even then, there’s no guarantees that we’ll see it this year.

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About the Author

Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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