At Google’s annual developer conference, the company outlined their latest ventures, which (expectedly) included Android M, as well as updates on Google Cardboard, and the Levi’s partnership you didn’t see coming. Let’s recap what happened at Google I/O 2015.
Over a billion people use Android, Chrome, YouTube, search
Google kicked off the keynote with one key figure: one billion. That’s the number of people for each of the company’s core services: search, Chrome, Android, and YouTube. Gmail is not that far off, with a total of 900 million monthly active users.
“Each of these products work at scale for everyone in the world.”
-Sundar Pichai, Google Senior Vice President, Chrome, Android, Apps
There are over 4,000 apps for Android Wear, which have all been developed in the past year. With the rest of that growing library, the platform not features apps like Uber, Foursquare, and Citymapper.
Uber for Android Wear allows users to say “Ok Google, call me a car” and summon an Uber driver to their location. Apps like Foursquare will provide glanceable updates, and Shazam will do what Shazam does best. Spotify has also given you the ability to browse and stream music (preferably the songs you Shazam).
Brillo, Google’s Internet of Things answer
Google has rejoined the Internet of Things war with Brillo, the “underlying operating system for the internet of things,” with a developer preview launching in Q3, according to Google. Brillo is “derived” from Android but “polished” to just the lower levels. It supports WiFi and Bluetooth Low Energy.
Additionally, there’s Weave, the cross-platform common language that will let Brillo devices, phones, and the internet all talk to one another, which is coming in Q4. Android devices will also auto-detect Brillo and Weave devices.
Android M will succeed the current version of the OS, Android Lollipop, when it launches later this year. Android M, which is available now in prerelease, brings a host of new features and performance enhancements, according to Pichai, but the company has “gone back to the basics” and improved the platform’s quality.
There are only eight categories of permissions available to apps now, and the apps will ask for those permissions when needed. Apps will also not have to ask for permissions with every app update.
For Android M, Google is also revamping the Chrome browsing experience. Chrome Custom Tabs will let developers insert webviews directly into their apps, giving them the power of Chrome without having the user switch apps. Chrome mainstays like automatic sign-in, saved passwords, autofill, and multi-process security are all also available to app developers within their apps.
Android’s built-in app linking system also receives an upgrade, allowing apps to open content directly instead of stopping them every time with a dialog box. For example, if you click a Twitter link in Gmail, the Twitter app will open directly instead of asking you if you want to use Twitter to view it.
Android M introduced Android Pay, which uses NFC and Host Card Emulation for tap-to-pay services and essentially is the successor to Google Wallet. Developers can also integrate Android Pay into their apps for in-app payments and purchases.
Android Pay will be preinstalled on AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile devices, according to Google, and be accepted in 700,000 US stores. Android Pay will also support fingerprint scanners natively like the one on the Samsung Galaxy S6, and devices running at least KitKat.
M will also bring Doze, a feature that lets the system better manage background processes. It relies on motion detection to determine when someone is actually using a device, and shuts down processes when activity hasn’t been detected for a certain period. This can extend the Nexus 9’s standby time by up to two times over Lollipop, according to Google vice president of engineering Dave Burke.
Android M also introduces native USB Type-C support, which allows for faster and easier charging. It also lets users charge other devices with their Android phone.
Google also addresses little things like volume control and copy and paste to make M the “most polished Android version to date,” according to Burke.
Android M is available now in a developer preview for all Nexus devices from the Nexus 5 on.
Hands Free allows shoppers to do their thing without pulling out the phone
With Hands Free and Android Pay, customers can walk into a store, say “I would like to pay with Google” and walk out without touching their wallet or phone.
Hands Free will start in beta at select McDonald’s and Papa John’s locations.
“[Google] got the banks and the carriers on board. They made it friendly to merchants reward programs. Add in this kind of delightful technology, which solves a real pain point for the consumer, and you are talking about a sea change in payments occurring over the next three to four years.”
-Osama Bedier, helped create Google Wallet
New Cardboard headset supports iPhones
Google has announced a new version of its Cardboard virtual reality viewer that will fit devices with up to a six-inch screen and gets rid of the magnet controller to instead use a cardboard button that will work with every phone. It also takes fewer steps to assemble, and can be used with your iPhone. Users can explore city environments, use a virtual kaleidoscope, and view 3D objects from a museum collection. For developers that have created their own Cardboard-compatible apps, the platform’s software development kit also supports iOS.
Google is also introducing a school program that turns VR into a learning opportunity by handing out kits. Expeditions is a box of Cardboard headsets costing around $20 each, and a tool that allows teachers to control students’ VR experiences from a tablet. Teachers can now sign up for the program.
Google Maps adding offline search, navigation
Google has announced that offline search is coming to Google Maps with offline turn-by-turn voice navigation. Aimed for users in developing countries, the new feature will let people use Google’s mapping service even without “super reliable connectivity.” The new functionality is coming to Google Maps later this year. Chrome can also reduce data consumption by 80 percent, according to Google.
Google Photos comes with unlimited photo, video storage
Google has released a revamped Google Photos that offers unlimited image and video storage of 16MP photos and 1080p video, but it will tap into Google Drive storage if you need to upload a higher resolution file. Photos is available on iOS, Android, and the web.
The other big feature here is organization. Google will analyze your images and automatically sort them into groups. Google can sort out photos of certain scenes like skylines and beaches or identify people, so you can scroll through images of them over time, tracking them as they age.
That allows Google to use its search prowess, allowing you to search for specific moments like “snowstorm in Toronto” and receiving images of snowy Toronto days.
With the new Photos, users can also share groups of images without the recipient needing the app, just making a web gallery.
Google Now gets even smarter with ‘Now on Tap,’ ability to work in apps
Google Now is getting even smarter if you thought that was even possible. Basically, Google Now is seeping into every aspect of Android.
“You’re deluged with a lot of information on your phones. We have the biggest investment in machine learning over the last few years, and we believe we have the best capabilities in the world.”
“We want to proactively bring you answers.”
“Not just geometry, but when are they busy, when are they open, and what are you likely to need when you’re there?”
-Aparna Chennapragada, Google Now product director
For example, you could be playing a Skrillex song, and ask “What’s his real name?” and it provided the answer.
With an email about a movie on screen, you can tap and hold on the screen and Google Now will present detailed Cards for each film. Now analyzes the content on screen and instantly searches for relevant context and potentially useful data. If you’re texting someone about dinner ideas, Google Now can automatically pull up restaurant ratings and the hours for any place mentioned in the conversation. Tap on any word in Chrome and Google Now will be able to pull up a definition card.
“We’ll share a lot more details over the next few months.”
Inbox by Gmail now generally available
After eight months of being invitation only, Google’s Inbox is now available to all users. Available on iOS, Android, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, Inbox has a number of useful tricks like the ability to snooze messages, automatically bundle emails together in groups like Purchases, Travel and Updates, and a Google Now-style card system that scoops important details from your emails to save you from the bundle of searching for when that flight is.
As part of the update, Gmail users can now undo sent messages from their phone, with Inbox allowing them to take back a message “right after sending” if they spot a mistake. Google also added the option to make deleting the default action when swiping emails, and is integrating Keep a little more tightly with the note app’s reminders now appearing in Inbox, and the app will suggest adding reminders for any to-dos received through email. Google is also partnering with HotelTonight and Eat24 to let users do more without leaving the app, like making reservations and food orders directly accessible from Inbox.
Levi’s wants to put Google’s touch-sensitive fabric in your jeans
Google ATAP’s touch-sensitive fabric will be leaving Mountain View, as Levi’s is partnering with the company to turn what ATAP dubs Project Jacquard into runway material.
“We’ve got the genius pirates at ATAP who can help us develop and deliver this platform.”
-Paul Dillinger, Levi’s vice president, head of global product innovation & premium collection design
Jacquard is a “dazzling opportunity” for the two companies to partner with each other, according to Dillinger.
“If there’s a chance to enable the clothes that we already love to help us facilitate access to the best and most necessary of this digital world while maintaining eye contact with the person we’re eating dinner with, this is a project worth doing.”