Android in 2020: the future of Google's mobile OS explored

Android Rocky Road?

Android in 2020 the future of Google s mobile OS explored

Cast your mind back to late 2008, when the first Android-powered handset saw the light of day. Obama won his first Presidential election, Apple launched its App Store (the iPhone had appeared the year before), Google announced its own Chrome browser and we got our first look at the company's new mobile OS on the T-Mobile G1.

The Android of 2013 is a world away from that 2008 version, where the Android Market was in its infancy, there were no native video playback capabilities and the G1 had no multi-touch support. But Google is going to have to keep innovating and improving its mobile OS to keep the lion's share of the smartphone market.

We've taken a peek into the future to consider what Android might look like in the year 2020. With new Android monikers now appearing about once a year, its codename should start with an "R" - Rhubarb Pie, Rocky Road or Rice Pudding, perhaps? Or maybe even Rolos, given the tie-up deals Google is putting in place these days?

Here are the four key features we think could play the biggest part in Android's ongoing evolution over the next seven years:

1. Maps in Android in 2020

Apple's Maps app may not have set the world alight when it launched, but it's here now (alongside Nokia's offering), and that means Google needs to up its game to stay ahead. The 2013 Google Maps refresh brought with it a greater level of customisation based on your personal searches, and this will only increase in the future.

With Google Now and Google Latitude tracking your every move, you'll see directions to your favourite pub appear on-screen every Friday lunchtime. If the pub in question has an Android-powered bar installed, you might even find your tipple of choice waiting for you when you arrive.

Android in 2020 the future of Google s mobile OS explored

As for all of the services hanging off Maps, Google is already hiring out the Street View cameras and enabling you to peek inside buildings - you can expect Android 2020 to offer better imagery of most public buildings, as well as tappable info as you move around.

There might even be an option to enable Google to anonymously augment its Street View data with the snaps you take on your phone to provide an even more up-to-date view of the world.

2. Android messaging in 2020

Google has already made its intentions clear with the Hangouts upgrade we got at I/O this year. With Facebook, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Snapchat, Skype et al to battle against, there's no doubt we'll see Google push further into the universal messaging game, covering SMS, email, instant messaging and video calling with tools that are baked into Android.

You won't have to have separate apps for each of these, as the UI will be unified in a way that makes it easy to seamlessly slip between each method of calling.

We might even get Google Voice in the UK by the time 2020 rolls around, though don't hold your breath.

Android in 2020 the future of Google s mobile OS explored

How far Google can go depends on the networks and its competitors in the field - it's already launched an ultra-fast internet service in the US, so telecoms could be next. And the company has been sniffing around unused wireless spectrum frequencies, too.

Don't be surprised to see free 5G video calling and texting between Android devices by 2020, with all of your conversations grouped by person rather than platform, and archived and searchable in Gmail.

Eric Schmidt has already predicted that every human will be online by 2020 (no doubt hoping that we'll all have a Google+ page too), and the more people his company can help get connected the better for Google's bottom line.

3. Android payments and security in 2020

Over the next few years our phones will become even more important for making payments, transferring money and verifying our identity (everything from getting through the door at work to logging into Facebook).