Google I/O event recap

Google I/O’s keynote happened today at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Let’s recap what you might’ve missed.

The Numbers

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At last year’s Google I/O, the company announced that 900 million Android devices were activated, and now this figures has hit the billion mark. Over a 30-day period, 1 billion people now actively use Android, according to Google’s Android and Chrome chief Sundar Pichai. Pichai revealed that phones are checked 100 billion times a day.

The selfie phenomenon is thriving on Android, with Pichai revealing that 93 million are taken every day with Android devices alongside the delivery of 20 billion text messages per day. Pichai was also keen to highlight that Android tablets account for 62 percent of world market share, up from 46 percent last year.

AndroidOne

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Google wants to see Android smartphones in every hand worldwide, and today it’s beginning its AndroidOne program to help accomplish it. The program creates hardware reference models that other manufacturers can use while building their phones. These handsets will be running stock Android and will receive automatic updates, though individual manufacturers and carriers can add their own apps. The program will begin this fall in India.

Material Design

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In terms of what you’ll be seeing on your Android or Chrome OS device, Google has announced its new Material Design language, which includes splashes of color, refreshed iconography and a more consistent interface. The entire interface is based on a “unifying theory of a rationalized space and a system of motion.”

Google on the new design language;

“Our material is grounded in tactile reality, inspired by our study of paper and ink, yet open to imagination and magic.”

A new feature called “personal unlocking,” you’ll be able to swipe open your home screen without an unlock code. If the watch is off, however, you’ll need to do it the old-fashioned way. It also won’t ask you for a code if you’re in pre-programmed locations or it recognizes your voice.

Android L

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Android’s next redesign made its debut today as well. Known as the L Developer Preview, it brings a complete visual refresh that spans the entire user experience.

There are 5,000 new APIs in the new software, but the big changes are visual. There’s a new Gmail interface, new Android buttons, and a shift from square to round icons. The L preview code will be available for developer devices to download later today.

Its upcoming version of Android also includes “Project Volta,” which takes the problem of battery life head-on. A “battery historian” gives more info on exactly what’s draining energy, while a battery saver mode allows users to squeeze up to an extra 90 minutes out of every charge by doing things like lowering the screen refresh rate.

Gear Live, G Watch available today

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Samsung is creating a smartwatch that runs Android Wear, a new version of Google’s operating system tailored specifically to wearables. Called the Gear Live, it’ll be available to order from the Google Play Store later today. LG’s previously announced G Watch will also be available to order too, though there’s no word on when either watch will ship.

Dr. Jong-seok Park, president and CEO of the LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company:

“As one of the first to market with Android Wear, LG wanted to develop a product that functions as an essential companion device but most importantly, was simple to use. We wanted a device that would be simple to learn and so intuitive that users wouldn’t even have to think about how to use its features. That’s what the LG G Watch is all about.”

Pichai:

“Watches powered by Android Wear aim to show you the right information and suggestions you need, right when you need them. It’s been great to work with LG on the launch of the G Watch — especially given its simple, easy to use design.”

At the core of the LG G Watch is a powerful and energy-efficient 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor. Paired with a low power 1.65-inch 280×280 IPS display, the G Watch enhances the functionality of Android smartphones by providing quick access to useful information. The Always-On screen makes it easy to tell the time with a quick glance. Connected via Bluetooth, the G Watch displays messages, shows who’s calling, controls music playback and more without the smartphone ever having to be removed from a pocket or bag.

Integral to the LG G Watch and Android Wear is a simple user interface designed around Google Now cards, which provides useful information when needed, and voice recognition which allows one to ask questions and get things done easily. With voice recognition, LG could design the G Watch to have no buttons or keys. Users can send text messages and search for useful information by saying “Ok Google.”

With an IP67 protection rating, the LG G Watch is designed to be protected from dust and is water resistant for up to 30 minutes at a depth of one meter. The LG G Watch will be available in black and gold — and is constructied of PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coated stainless steel with a rugged silicone wristband of matching color. The G Watch can also use any standard 22mm strap.

Here’s the spec sheet:

  • 4GB internal storage / 512MB RAM
  • Dimensions: 37.9 x 46.5 x 9.95mm, 63g
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0
  • Sensors: Gyro, Accelerometer, Compass

JK Shin, CEO and President of IT & Mobile Division, Samsung Electronics:

“Samsung has been a pioneer in the quickly-evolving wearable market, and the launch of Gear Live furthers our efforts to deliver a simple and intuitive wearable experience to consumers. Through our long-term close collaboration with Google, we have successfully incorporated the capabilities of Android Wear into the Gear Live, in a way that only Samsung can do. I am confident that Samsung and Google together, we will grow the smart wearable market to positively impact consumers’ life.”

Pichai:

“Watches powered by Android Wear aim to help people get access to useful information the moment you need it, at a glance. It’s exciting to be working closely with Samsung on the launch of the Gear Live — with its all-day battery and vibrant display – to bring more smart wearables to the market.”

The Gear Live features a 1.63″ Super AMOLED (320 x 320) display and easy customization of the clock face and utilizes simple one-touch device wakeup for instant access. The Gear Live meets IP67 qualification, protecting the device against dust and water immersion, and comes with a standard 22mm band, so users can change the band to express their taste and personality. Finally, the Gear Live has a built-in heart rate monitor that works seamlessly with multiple fitness apps.

The Gear Live will be offered in black and red with interchangeable strap options. It will be available to order 25th through the Google Play Store and will go on sale in Samsung retail stores.

Here’s the rest of the spec sheet:

  • 1.2GHz processor
  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • Acceleromter, Gyroscope, Compass
  • 512MB RAM, 4GB internal storage
  • 37.9 x 56.4 x 8.9mm, 59g
  • 300mAh battery

Android Auto

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Google  is finally laying out its grand plans to bring Android to your car. It’s called Android Auto.

At the beginning of the year, Google and several automakers announced the Open Automotive Alliance, a collaboration that will prove vital to Android Auto’s destiny. The group’s stated goal is “making technology in the car safer, more seamless and more intuitive for everyone.”

Google’s Patrick Brady:

“There has to be a better way.”

Android Auto makes heavy use of Google Now to help make driving more convenient and safe; the system gives you quick, voice-based access to Google Maps navigation, text messaging and apps like Google Play Music. Android Auto is fully compatible with the dials, knobs, and buttons on your dashboard and steering wheel. An SDK for Android Auto is coming soon, but in the meantime, apps like Spotify, Pandora, MLB.TV, Sticher and Pocket Casts already support the new platform.

Android TV

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With the success of Chromecast under its belt, Google is officially renewing its assault on the living room with Android TV. Running on Android L, Android TV will run on hardware to setup boxes with an added focus on gaming.

Entertainment is paramount this time around, as the software surfaces content from Google’s own Play Store and partners like Netflix and Hulu, and provides recommendations based on what you watch. Search is also baked into the experience, using Google’s Knowledge Graph to provide contextual information for your favorite programs. Users can even control the software using an Android Wear watch.

Android TV will be making its way onto all of Sony’s 2014 smart TVs as well as models from Sharp and TP Vision/Philips. It’s also working with familiar TV providers overseas like LG U+ in Korea (not the LG that’s moving to webOS) and SFR in France.

Chromecast

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Google is making the answer to the question “Which is better, huddling around a 5-inch smartphone or a 50-inch TV?” by upgrading its HDMI dongle. Chromecast can mirror your Android device’s screen to the flat panel in your living room. The demo made on-stage at Google I/O included using Google Earth and the ASOP video camera app. You’ll soon be able to customize the images that populate your TV screen when the Chromecast is on and idle with your own Google+ photo albums.

If you’re happy with your own pictures or don’t use Google+ for photo storage, you can enable geographically filtered pictures from Google’s image catalog. These albums are curated by the search giant, so they’re ensured to be safe and high quality, at least in theory. The feature is being dubbed “Backdrop,” and it’s rolling out to all users this summer. If you’re still not pleased with those choices, Google is working to open this up to third-party developers, too — so you could see images from Flickr or 500px go prime time.

Google also announced that other users can cast to your TV without being on the same WiFi network too. All your pals need to do is enter the PIN that appears on screen and Google will determine that they’re in the same room by location.

 Google Fit

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Google’s new health initiative is called Google Fit. It’s a service that’ll track all of your health metrics — sleep, steps, etc. — and it’s built into Android L. This means that the health devices you’re using will play nice with the scores of Android devices out there. It also means that all of your health data ends up in one place, in one app, rather than spread across a variety of applications.

Adidas, Nike, Withings, Intel, RunKeeper and a variety of other fitness companies are involved with Google Fit.

The Fit initiative is a platform for health device manufacturers trying to make their devices interface with Android. Google product manager Ellie Powers described it as using a single set of APIs for all health products, meaning all devices could technically work with all health/fitness software.

Android apps on Chrome OS

201401lb2-5272JT_thumbnailGoogle’s making Chrome OS work better for Android device owners. A new feature announced at Google I/O lets users unlock their Chrome OS device by using their phone automatically. Notifications that appear on either device will show up on the other, so users don’t have to go back and forth.

The changes come as Google announced support for some Android apps on Chrome, including the option to launch Android apps through the Chrome launcher. Some of the apps include Evernote, Vine and Flipboard, though it’s currently unclear what app developers will need to get their software to be compatible.

Google Drive

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Google’s presentation software, Slides, is now available on mobile. It will be available today on Android and will also come on iOS once it receives App Store approval. Like Docs and Sheets, it’s a standalone app that sits apart from Google Drive, which is mostly focused on storage now — though all four apps are still tightly integrated. More importantly, Google has finally made it so those apps can handle their Office counterparts — Word, Excel and Powerpoint files natively without conversion. Previously, users had to resort to QuickOffice, which the company acquired in 2012.

To extend its lead on its biggest innovation: real-time collaborative editing, it’s adding track changes. Instead of merely commenting on a piece or prose, multiple people can simply change its direction and the document will use Google Docs’ comment system to track the chdanges. Different editors will have their change appear in different colors, and the document’s owner can accept or reject those changes as they like.

Ryan Tabone, director of product management, Google Docs, Sheets, Slides & Quickoffice:

“At the end of the day, people just want to edit documents. They shouldn’t have to be rocket scientists to figure this out.”

Drive for Work

The Drive for Work program will offer unlimited storage on Google Drive for $10 a month per user — and will accept files up to 5TB in size. In addition, Drive for Work will include enhanced administration controls better suited for corporate environments, and a set of APIs that will help administratiors keep track of the work employees are doing.

Drive for Work is available globally now.

Android for Work

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If you’ve bemoaned the ability to use your personal Android phone for work, Android for Work may cease your complaints. Android for Work is a code platform that lets your business and personal information coexist on a single device. The technology that’s derived from Samsung’s Knox system keeps the data types separate without requiring any changes to existing apps.

Every major Android manufacturer should have Android for Work certification in the fall, with promises of both guaranteed updates and full security. The feature is baked into the Android L release from the start, but Google promises that similar functionality will be making its way to devices running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or later via an app.

Injong Rhee, Senior Vice President of Samsung’s KNOX Business Group:

“I am very pleased and welcome this groundbreaking partnership with Google. As a driving force of Android powered mobile devices, Samsung is in a unique position to meet the rapidly evolving mobile security and privacy needs of Android users. We are delighted with the opportunity to work with Google to help build Android’s enterprise ecosystem and establish Android device as the leading choice for businesses. This represents an amazing transformation in workforce mobility.”

Hiroshi Lockheimer, VP of Engineering, Android:

“Samsung has been pioneering to bring Android to the enterprise. We are grateful for their contribution to the Android open source project. Jointly we are bringing enterprise-grade security and management capabilities to all manufacturers participating in the Android ecosystem.”

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