This year I had the opportunity to attend both Google IO and WWDC, the developer-centric events hosted by Google and Apple respectively each year in Silicon Valley.
As a mobile developer, I am deeply invested in both the Android and iOS ecosystems, and develop apps for each platform, both natively and with cross-platform tools. I’ve been developing Android apps for just over 3 years, working with React Native for just over 2, and am currently part of the iOS team at Shopify. I’ve always been interested in attending the events, and now that I’ve graduated university and am working full time, I could finally spare the time and expense to attend.
Given that I had the mostly unique opportunity to attend both of these conferences back to back in 2018, I wanted to write about my experience with each of the conferences, and compare some of the similarities and differences between the two.
Each year Google and Apple make long-awaited announcements across their respective suites of products about the work they’ve accomplished in the previous year. It’s hard to compare these two events to one another fairly since each company tailors their announcements to their fan and developer bases.
To me, some of the highlights from IO included Intents with Google Assistant and Google Duplex. On the WWDC side of things, I’m excited for macOS Mojave Dark Mode (of which I’m already enrolled in the Beta for) and Siri Shortcuts on iOS 12.
Throughout the three days of IO and four days of WWDC, each company hosts a number of sessions from their engineers, designers, evangelists, and leaders to offer a more in-depth look at some of the announcements from the keynote, and many more announcements which didn’t make it to the main stage.
One of the benefits which IO has over WWDC is that Google is simply involved in a broader variety of projects and disciplines. While WWDC typically had 3 to 4 sessions schedule each hour throughout the conference, IO had more like 7 or 8. Sometimes there just simply wouldn’t be any talks you were interested in at WWDC, while there always seemed to be something attention-grabbing at IO. Even if you weren’t necessarily affected by the changes being discussed or announced at a certain talk, it was hard to not be excited by at least one talk in each time slot.
Sessions aren’t everything though, and they’re all recorded, available to be watched at a later date. The real value in these two events comes from the labs offered.
The labs at each conference are hugely beneficial to any developer, offering insights from engineers and designers involved in many parts of the development of certain APIs and tools. At IO there were opportunities to talk to engineers on the Android API, many of their web tools, and tonnes of other platforms I didn’t have much interest in, but others certainly would. The same can definitely be said for WWDC, with labs being excellent opportunities to speak to the engineers working on UIKit or AppKit, and some of the other tools announced like CreateML.
I was glad to have had the opportunity to speak to some of the accessibility reviewers at IO, who walked through my own personal Android app with me and showed me how I might improve some of the functionality for those with vision, hearing, and motion impairments.
At WWDC, I had the chance to discuss the new Siri Shortcuts API and how I could get it correctly implemented on a pet project I explored while at the conference, and some of the best practices around the new API.
Overall, the labs offered at both conferences were comprehensive, encompassed everything I was looking for as a mobile developer and more. I wish I could have had more questions to ask since there really isn’t more of an opportunity than at the labs!
One huge difference between IO and WWDC were the product showcases scattered throughout the venue at IO. Google has so much going on at once, across such a huge variety of disciplines, they can’t possibly feature everything in a 2-hour keynote. Instead, they had tents throughout the Shoreline Amphitheatre, each of which focused on a different set of projects in related spaces — web, Android Things, Machine Learning, and more.
My favourite showcase was a toss-up between Android Things and Machine Learning. Both had some really cool projects, inspiring me to put my own Android Things kit and Raspberry Pi to use in a small project in the near future.
Though the sessions and labs typically close down by 6, neither Google IO nor WWDC had finished for the night. Every evening you could expect at least a couple parties hosted by Google and Apple themselves, or by other companies at nearby establishments.
I had the opportunity to attend some of the parties on a couple of evenings, and I really can’t say which I preferred! Both conferences hosted great evenings with great food and drinks. I met some cool people and hung out with both old and new friends every evening. The parties really are what you make of them, and I did my best to make the most of each.
In summary, both conferences were incredible experiences. I’m incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to attend both this year, something which I think will be unique to 2018 for me!
From the perspective of someone actively developing for both platforms, I really have to say that IO won my heart. There was so much going on outside of my own discipline, it opened my eyes to all the opportunities out there to explore and bring back to my own domain. At WWDC, I really felt locked into the iOS ecosystem and while I love iOS development, I loved getting a peek into so many other disciplines at IO.