This year, Google I/O kicked off on Tuesday, June 24th. Many new and exciting features were released in the opening Keynote so we thought we would give you an overview of those updates below. Some of our favorites were: new authentication features for your smartphone and Chromebook, Android Auto, Google Drive for work and Native Office Editing.
In talking about going to India, Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President of Android, Chrome, & Apps said:
“It is exciting to see the impact phones have on people’s lives but it’s disappointing that only less than 10% of the population have access to smartphones. We want to change that.”
The result? Android One. High quality affordable smartphones will soon be made available for less than $100. The goal, of course, is to increase the accessibility of smartphones around the world. Google will essentially be doing the legwork for manufacturers, finding quality components for phones at reasonable prices, and then telling the manufacturers where they can source them. Android One is Google’s set of rules and guidelines to make sure companies produce cheap phones that run Android well, as opposed to cheap phones that stutter and lag.
Android Platform evolution
Matias Duarte, Vice President of Android Design took the stage to talk about the new look developers will have access to for Android customizations.
Guidelines will allow developers to adapt the UI. This will lead to a consistent and predictable interface across all apps, meaning a better experience.
Director of Android Engineering, Dave Burke, unveiled the new Android L as the “biggest release in the history of Android.” So what does it have to offer?
Design – Some material includes new animation capabilities and 3D views with realtime shadows.
Enhanced Notifications – Right from the lock screen, you can interact with your notifications: read, open, or dismiss before you go any further. Notifications are also organized according to user behavior.
Authentication – One of the best parts of the presentation! There’s a new unlocking feature that lets a device know if it’s in a trusted environment based on:
- locations you’ve designated
- visible bluetooth devices
- voice brand
Instead of entering a code or swipe pattern, new Android wearables act as your unlock code. So long as your phone is within a certain distance of the watch it will unlock, saving time and promoting security.
Factory reset protection – Google Device Policy manager was always a bit tough to use. So, the new version of Android is coming with a “kill switch” so you can wipe & brick your phone. No word on how it will be incorporated into your account, but I’m sure we’ll hear really soon.
Universal Data Controls – Users can control what data is shared from the device as well as manage privacy settings.
A Seamless Experience
With so many people being constantly connected to different devices throughout the day, Google wanted to find a way to make the whole experience flow better in these ways:
- Contextually Aware – the ability for devices to know where you’re at and what you need (work or home?)
- Voice enabled – helps users interact with device
- Seamless – “picking up where you left off” no matter the device
- Mobile – making sure all of your experiences can be based off of your smartphone
On your wrist
Hate pulling your phone out of your pocket? It is easier to just look at your watch, isn’t it? Notifications you receive on your smartphone will appear on your watch & buzz to make you aware.Just like your phone, swipe up, down, left, right to get to the info you want.The watches respond to your voice so you can easily set reminders, alarms, ask for directions, etc. There are already thousands of apps that work with wearables so you’ll be able to check your flight status, see your fitness level, and many other awesome things. Another cool thing? They’re water resistant!
In the car
Why chance a ticket or worse yet an accient just to check a text when driving?! Enters Android Auto.
All you have to do is plug your phone into your dashboard, turning it into a large phone interface. Have your car navigate you to a new restaurant or respond to your mom’s text without taking your hands off the wheel and easily change up the music you’re listening to. The key feature here is voice activation so you can focus on driving the entire time, as it should be. Ticket & accident averted!
In your living room
Aren’t TV remote controls so last century? And let’s talk about that horrible interface? Android TV lets you control your TV from your phone! It gives you access to your phone apps and guess what? It’s voice activated because it’s connected to your phone!
Up until now, to use a Chromecast you had to be connected to the same network. Not anymore. It’s now Cloud accessible. So, say your friend wants to use his phone to cast some photos or a video onto your TV. Well, with this new Chromecast feature, all they need to do is press the ‘Cast’ button on the particular App they’re using and their phone will connect to nearby devices.
With Backdrop for Chromecast you can turn your TV into a work of art, your weather source, or a news content hub. Choose to display these in a wonderfully choreographed slideshow.
Remember that cool feature that I mentioned earlier (I know, there’s a lot) where a user’s smartphone can unlock itself depending on the environment it’s in? Now when you approach your Chromebook with your phone, it will unlock and sign you in! That is a pretty cool way to shave some time off your day. (Just makes sure to keep your phone in your pocket!)
Additionally, with Google Now integrations your phone notifications can now show up on your Chromebook. Incoming text? Phone call? Phone battery dying? All things that required you to take out your phone can now be handled from a Chromebook! Yes, even texts and phone calls! Missed a call from a co-worker? Just call them back and never take out your phone.
With so many great apps on the Play store its a shame they aren’t compatible with Chromebooks….Until now! Currently only available on a few apps including, Evernote, Vine, and Flipboard, but coming soon to all Google Play apps is the ability to load them on your Chromebook! Talk about making it easier to get stuff done!
With their release of Google Drive for Work, you can have both your personal and corporate apps on the same device with underlying data separation. No modification of existing apps is needed and bulk deployment is available. This really makes it easier to allow BYOD. Not to mention eliminate the need for a work phone and personal phone. (So, this is what empty pockets feel like?) Other features they shared of this include:
- encryption in transit & on-server
- enhanced Admin controls
- audit & activity APIs
- unlimited storage
Microsoft office is still a widely used software platform and up until now to edit these files on Google Drive we had to use Quickoffice, but not anymore. Google has baked in all of Quickoffice’s editing and saving abilities into Google Drive. Good bye Microsoft office? I think so!
Several new features were added to enhance the Cloud Platform and overall, just make life a little bit easier for developers.
Cloud Dataflow – get actionable insights from your data while lowering operational costs without the hassles of deploying, maintaining or scaling infrastructure
Cloud Debugger – help you debug your applications in production with effectively no performance overhead
Cloud Trace – helps you visualize and understand time spent by your application for request processing
Cloud Monitoring – provides rich metrics, dashboards and alerting for Cloud Platform
Cloud Save – a simple API for saving, retrieving, and synchronizing user data to the cloud and across devices without needing to code up the backend
Ellie Powers, Product Manager of Google Play, first announced that Appurify is joining Google, which will help developers test their applications across a range of different devices.
She also touched on Google Fit Platform which will provide a better, well-rounded visualization of a user’s fitness by blending data from multiple apps and devices.
New features in Google Play games include a Game Profile, Saved Games, and Quests. Lastly, direct carrier billing is now available on Tablets so you can just pay for your apps, games, music, etc. via your monthly phone bill.
What’s your favorite new feature that was announced at Google I/O 2014?