Google IO has taken off in San Francisco, CA and we know today’s announcements will be as juicy as a ripe watermelon! We are ready to give you all the news and announcements, so let’s jump right into the biggest stories coming from Google.
After plenty of rumors surrounding Android Silver, Google has announced Android One. This is a tool designed to help emerging markets and manufacturers that don’t have the resources to keep up with updates and support.
What Android One does is offer manufacturers and carriers a stock Android experience, Play auto-installs and automatic updates. In essence, small manufacturers would be able to turn their devices into Nexus-like smartphones. This will help manufacturers release less phones and spend less resources on older devices.
Android “L” and Material Design
Google is not ready to completely announce the next version of Android, but they are willing to give us a preview of the “L” release. Developers will be able to download a preview very soon, but the main announcement revolves around the new design language.
Material Design is Google’s effort to make Android more lively while merging mobile, desktop and other platforms. The design will be parallel across all of Google’s services and apps.
The new design involves layers, lively shadows (with elevation and virtual light sources taken into account). The system font (Roboto) is also updated for every screen, and the new, simpler design allows you to customize your apps while keeping them uniform with other apps.
In a way, the new design language looks much like what we have seen with Google+ in the bast. I must say I actually love Google’s new look and flatter apps. But they are not exactly flat, animations and shadows make the UI more alive than ever. It’s a great combination.
“We took real inspiration from paper and ink, but unlike real paper our digital material can reform and shape.” Matias Duarte – Google
What is all this without a good performance bump, though? Android L will come with a nice kick, as Google has announced the new Android version will run on ART runtime. To make things even better, developers have to do nothing to get the improvements, which are quite substantial. Compared to Dalvik, ART is said to double performance!
ART is also 64-bit compatible, bringing you a series of great improvements like increased registers, more addressable memory space, cross-platform support and more. Other improvements include improved battery life, memory managing and graphics.
Google will be making the L developer preview SDK available tomorrow morning. Early system images will also be posted, allowing developers to start developing right away.
Of course, Android Wear could not be absent at today’s Google IO keynote. Based on Google’s popular mobile platform, Android Wear is meant to give a common OS to smartwatches, bringing an end the mess that wearables are right now.
Google did give us a live demo of the LG G Watch, one of the first Android Wear devices. They showed off features we already know, mostly showing off the UI and how navigation works. The Search giant also demonstrated how you can set reminders and take on certain actions, making Android Wear “work for you”.
Of course, you can also control your music and use all kinds of voice actions. It really does do most things Google Now can do. You can take a look at your reservations, flight information, steps taken, heart rate and more. You can even use navigation and order food!
It’s stunning how well-integrated Android Wear and Android are. So much that notifications and apps stay in sync. This means that if you slide away a notification in your Android Wear device, it will also disappear from your smartphone.
Google is making a full Android Wear SDK available today. No longer is there a need to use the test versions or developer preview. This means developers can get working right away.
The Search Giant has also clarified that all smartwatches at Google IO are water resistant, so no need to worry about liquids splashing on your expensive wearable. This was a huge factor the manufacturers weren’t clear on, so it’s a very welcomed announcement.
Android Wear availability
And just in case you were wondering, the LG G Watch will be available today from the Google Play Store, along with a newly-announced device from Samsung! This would be the Samsung Gear Live. The Moto 360 will be a bit late to the party, launching later this summer.
Android Auto makes driving safer by simplifying your experience and bringing you full voice commands. This will keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. Google Auto’s functionality focuses on three main functions: navigation, communications and music.
It can take advantage of Google Now features. You can start playing any song or ask about local businesses, only to then ask Android Auto to navigate you to that location. You can also ask Android Auto to read your messages, to which you can also reply completely via voice.
Google is announcing that over 40 new partners have joined the alliance. The first cars with Android Auto will be available for sale before the end of this year!
Android TV also made it to stage today! Unlike Google TV, Android TV is not exactly a platform. Instead, it is treated as an extension of Android… a different screen size. The previously-leaked “Pano” UI is showcased as a very simple and straightforward experience.
“Home” is overlaid on top of your content, making it simple to change what you are doing without severe interruptions. You can also use other forms of input, though, such as voice search. Simple voice search any show or movie and Android TV will get working for you.
Voice searching is not limited to shows, though. You can ask Google anything. Because it is based on Google’s Search knowledge graph, you can even ask general questions. One example demoed by Google was the question “Who plays Katniss Everdeen?”, to which Google responded with the following:
To make matters more interesting, you can even use a gaming controller to play on your Andorid TV. You can even play against people with other types of devices. But what really got to me was that Android TV also works as a Chromecast. It comes with full Cast capabilities, allowing you to stream all your content from your smartphone.
When can you get it? Google has announced that the entire 2015 Sony HD and 4K smart TVs will run on Android TV. Also in the list are the 2015 releases from Sharp and Phillips, so there will be no lack of Android TVs. There will also be some set-top boxes, which should come with much more affordable price points, for those who already have a good TV.
Developers will be able to start building apps today, as the SDK will be available very soon.
We know how complicated it can be to find Chromecast apps. There is no Chromecast-compatible-apps aggregator, so Google has given us a website to help us make the most out of our $35 investment. Just go to Chromecast.com/apps and get started.
Google has also announced that there is no longer a need to be in the same network in order to cast to a TV. As long as you are near the Chromecast-enabled TV, you can get permission to cast videos.
You can connect via the cloud, as long as you are given permission, of course. This will allow your visitors to share videos and other content without having to give them your precious WiFi password.
Google uses a series of technologies that allows them to authenticate users as long as they are in the same area. If they can’t be authenticated you can always enter a custom PIN number. The owner can always control who casts, of course.
But the best feature of the day is… wireless mirroring! This is a long-requested feature and you can’t imagine how excited we are to see Android mirroring coming to Chromecast. To make matters even better, it seems to work very smoothly! Latency is almost unnoticeable.
Chromebooks and Android “L”
Chrome OS is taking off like a space rocket, so a good Chromebook announcement comes with no surprise. Google is bringing mobile devices and Chromebooks together. The Search Giant announced a new feature that allows your smartphone to unlock your Chromebook laptop.
Certain APIs allow the computer to know when your smartphone is close to your smartphone. Simply reach out for your computer and the laptop will be unlocked. No need for passwords or anything else.
Users can even get notifications and share Android apps with their Chromebooks! If you open an app on your Android device, you can literally continue working with it straight from your Chromebook. It works much like the popular Wine software.
Google Fit is a platform that allows apps to come together. It allows fitness apps to share your fitness activity, but only under your control. It will allow developers to create fitness apps and experiences with a single API. The SDK will be available in a few weeks.
Google Games gets Games Profile and Quests
Google Games also made it to the spotlight this morning, offering a new Games Profile system that will give you a unique identity based on your achievements. Quests will allow developers to run online time-based events, all with no need to send out any updates.