When Google I/O was first introduced in 2008, the world of Google-based apps and open web technologies was already gaining momentum in the mainstream, but they have rapidly evolved and expanded ever since. This year’s Google I/O conference featured a rollout of the new Android M and introduced new features on Android Wear, which some experts in the tech industry say is the new frontier, especially as smart watches have been trending in the market this year. Here is a wrap-up of what went down at this year’s Google I/O.
Android M Developer Preview
The new android version was introduced but is currently only available as a developer preview for Nexus 5 and 6 smartphones, the Nexus 9 tablet and the Nexus Player set-top box. The new features are:
Users can now choose the permissions for an app as and when the app requires them, as opposed to having to approve them up front during installation. This is similar to how iOS optimises notification settings.
Overall, this is not something new in mobile development, but these new updates will allow developers to consider new use cases to improve functionality and ease of use.
Previously, there were two ways to show websites within your apps.
- Users could open the default browser or other browsers.
- You could create a webview component and open the site from within that component. This option is highly customizable.
Now there is a third option: a custom transition to a Chrome tab. This is a very powerful feature as it does not look like your app is opening a browser, instead providing a smooth transition to a native Google Chrome tab. However, the best feature for me is that when you open a native browser component, it automatically saves and transfers the cookies and past sessions.
The new version will support deep app linking without a selector prompt, allowing for a custom app link connecting automatically with your server.
Google launched Android Pay, a new payment application based on 3 basic principles: Simplicity, security and choice.
You can add different credit cards and debit cards. It also features a demo app with a simple payment interface. You can now choose between different forms of payment with a user-friendly and sleek design.
This is not a new feature in mobile, but Android has finally caught up. Now developers can use the fingerprint API to:
- Unlock the device
- Pay for store purchases
- API authorization
Power and charging
There were major improvements with the battery life. Now Android has the doze mode. This feature puts your phone in a powered down state when you are not using it for a long period of time.
At the convention, Google showed a test with two different Nexus 5 models. One with Android L and the other with Android M, the latter of which was operating in doze mode. As a result the Android M device had double the battery life whilst on standby.
The new connection, a USB type C, was also faster to charge and faster charging is always great news for users!
There is a new prompt dialog that will allow you to share things with your contacts. When you share things with people, Android will automatically show you a list of contacts who you frequently share with. This is great news for work teams and professionals from any industry, because it optimizes productivity.
Android Wear has a new feature: the always-on mode. This means that the Android Wear device doesn’t turn off the screen; it changes to an ambient mode to save battery and keeps certain apps running in the background. This feature is particularly useful for navigation apps.
It also has support for wrist gestures to change between notifications and screens.
And with the new Emoji recognizer you can draw an emoji on the screen and send it.
Google has also added a new launcher for easier access to apps, contacts, and other menu options.
Android Wear currently has more than 4000 specific apps in Google Play now.
Google launched the new Android-derived operating system Brillo to connect your devices to other compatible devices, such as fridges and dishwashers. With Weave you can now connect these devices to your smartphone and wearables.
The aim is to have companies and developers streamline their app production for a standard ecosystem using Brillo and Weave.
Another thing that Google developers are working on is improving the user experience. Though they didn’t explain too much regarding future plans, the presenters did show some screens for how to connect your smartphone to different devices.
Conclusion: It looks nice, but it could be problematic to have all manufacturers integrate Brillo in their devices with sensors and controls.
Deep neural network
The presenters stated that Google are currently working on a deep neural network to organize the world’s information to make it more accessible, useful and better.
Google Now is an intelligent personal assistant that Google launched on 2012. Some of the new features are:
- More contexts, answers and actions.
- The new “Now on tap” feature only works if users press and hold the home button. Google Now will understand the context that you are in at that moment and then perform a search. The example that Google used at the presentation was with Spotify to search for information about an artist.
- For developers, Google has launched an API to work with Google Now. This API is currently only available in Android M.
Conclusion: Gets more useful information quicker. It’s super cool!
A new app for photos from Google. There’s really nothing new here in terms of photo applications.
- Digital life control. You can move between the timelines easily and with cool animations.
- Automatically backs up on their servers, but now it’s separated from Google+.
- New effect to select photos. You only need to do a long press on one photo and move your finger and all photos that you pass over will be selected automatically.
- Unlimited storage for free.
- Available now.
Google One is the way that Google wants to offer customers the best emerging Android experience without having to make a large initial investment, which in most cases currently means having to pay more than a person earns in a couple of months in order to get a good phone.
Google announced that this service will be expanded into more countries in order to reach a target audience of more than 1.2 Billion people.
- Improvements for Google searches and website loading.
- You can save pages to read offline.
- Watch videos offline. You can access videos offline for two days.
- Offline maps and the navigator ready to be used with voice help.
- Android Studio 1.3, with new memory profilers and support for C/C++ to Android NDK.
- Polymer 1.0 release with new elements.
- All Google libraries have been added to Cocoa Pods.
- Cloud test lab is very nice. Free automated testing on the world’s top 20 devices
- Backend services with Firebase.
- New services on Google Cloud Services.
- GCM (Google cloud services) with new features and support to iOS.
- Google Play is more intelligent and is easier to personalise.
- The family home filter is a new feature to filter content for kids.
- Developer pages are similar as Facebook pages, but now you can create your personal profile page or a company profile page in Google Play.
AdMob and Google Analytics
- Expanded the list of parents on AdMob
- New analytics and measurements for Google Analytics.
- New feature called “Universal App Campaigns.”
Google and Udacity join to launch Android Nanodegrees. The courses are made by Google with different levels (Beginners, advanced, etc.). It’s not only for Android; it’s for all Google technologies. However, the courses are not free.
Last year Google showed us that it’s possible to make virtual reality low cost. The result was well received so Google has launched an SDK to create apps for Cardboard with support for both Android and iOS.
Google and GoPro have created an array of cameras that allows users to take photos and videos with astonishing results. Google has called this new project Jump.
With the help of a new program called Assembler users can create composite 3D photos or videos, however for now YouTube is the only media player that can be used to view the content.
It will be launched this summer.
It was announced that Google will launch a new car prototype.
That’s all for now. We hope you have found this summary useful. At Mobile Jazz we are constantly trying to stay up-to-date with the latest technology news. Feel free to contact us in case you have any comments or doubts regarding your Android mobile apps.