Today was Googleâ€™s annual developer conference, dubbed Google I/O 2014. As is custom, Google announced a host of new features, designs, products, and improvements to itâ€™s most important product lines. From revealing a Developer Preview of the new Android L, the all new smartwatches powered by Android Wear, Android in cars with Android Auto, and even Android pushing its way back into the living room, Google is bringing out the big guns and here are all the most important announcements of the day.[divider][/divider]
Android One is a brand new initiative that Google is starting which will create reference designs in both software and hardware that are both easy to manufacture, and cost effective. In addition, they will offer the ability of carriers to be able to automatically add their applications without having to spend so much time on them. The point of Android One is to greatly reduce the cost of smartphones, so that they can be purchased for under $100 in the developing world. With Android One, Google is trying to reach the other 5 Billion people in the world who donâ€™t yet own a smartphone.[divider][/divider]
Google is changing its design across the board. They call this new design language â€œMaterial Design.â€ Material Design is colorful, minimalistic, and clean. But itâ€™s not just flat. It possesses a multitude of fluid and beautiful animations that bring the design alive and make every element feel like it interacts with each other, but is visually separate. With this new design language, Google is making everything it has, have the same look and feel so your GMail, Google Calendar, Google Search, and everything else will look the same (yet have their own expanded features) whether you are on a Desktop, Tablet, Smartphone, Car, TV, or even Smartwatch. Even further, Google is bringing Material Design to the web, so this isnâ€™t just something youâ€™ll see on Android devices. Developers can now make apps that follow this design language. It really looks great and should give users a more consistent user experience across all their devices.[divider][/divider]
Google revealed a peek and a developer preview of the all new Android L (not sure if this is the actual name itâ€™s going to be sticking with). L incorporates the Material Design that Google is bringing to itâ€™s products and services to give Android a fresh new look and feel.With it comes enhanced notifications which allow you to see and interact with notifications on the lock screen, heads up notifications which pop up above any apps you are currently running and allows you to interact with it there, adds your chrome tabs to your recents menu and more.
If you have a smartwatch or other device that can interact with L, L will allow you to use â€œPersonal Unlockâ€ which removes the need for you to enter your PIN code if the two devices are close to each other and brings back the PIN when they are separated. Theyâ€™ve changed the main runtime of the operating system to ART which should be a lot more memory efficient and provide tons more speed for your apps performance and responsiveness. Now, when you Google something, it can open results directly in apps if you have them installed, as opposed to taking you to that website.
Theyâ€™ve also included multiple improvements to Androids overall battery consumption. Google introduced new tools for developers to use that will allow them to discover how their apps are consuming battery life, and how they can reduce it as much as possible. And a new Power-Saving mode which will turn off your data, gps, and more so that you can squeeze out the last bit of juice out of your phone. Lastly, Android L includes a â€œkill switchâ€ which lets users remotely wipe their device if it has been stolen, so that at the very least, their information wonâ€™t be in the hands of the wrong people. This feature already exists in iOS and has significantly reduced the theft rates of iDevices.[divider][/divider]
Android Wear is essentially a stripped down version of Android that retains only the most important needs for a Smartwatch. This way, it doesnâ€™t use unnecessary activities, thereby reducing battery life. It features itâ€™s own design (modeled after Material Design) which gives you clear card based information on your apps, notifications, Google Now cards, and more. And itâ€™s all voice enabled. You can dismiss a notification on the watch, and it will be gone on the phone. You can control your music, check your heart rate (if it has a heart rate monitor like the Samsung Gear Live), or keep track of all your steps. And if youâ€™re busy or are at a movie or something, you can swipe down from the top and turn on the â€œMuteâ€ function which keeps it from bothering you. Itâ€™s really awesome. There are 3 announced Smartwatches that are powered by Android Wear so far. And you can actually order 2 of them today. First, thereâ€™s the Samsung Gear Live which will cost $199 and will be shipping July 7th. Second, thereâ€™s the LG G Watch which will cost $229. And finally, the Motorola Moto 360 which is rumoured to cost about $249 and will only available later this summer. The big hype is around the Moto 360 for being round instead of square, and being downright gorgeous, but the other two are not bad options. The Samsung Gear Live has a heart rate monitor and is better looking than the G Watch, and the G Watch has an always on screen.[divider][/divider]
Android Auto is Googleâ€™s push to bring Android L to your cars. The idea is that you connect your phone to your car, and you can then do all your most important functions through the controls in your car, whether by buttons on the dashboard or steering wheel, or by voice. Google Search, Navigation, Maps, and more will all be available in Android Auto. And Google isnâ€™t stopping there. Apps can be developed for Android Auto so that you can listen to your Spotify or Pandora straight from Android Auto. They already have the support of major car manufacturers like Dodge, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Audi, and even Bentley.[divider][/divider]
Android TV & Chromecast
Chromecast has proven to be a massive success for Google because of itâ€™s super low cost of $35, and fantastic ease of use. It has sold millions of units and stands as one of the top selling devices on Amazon in over 16 countries. To improve this further, Chromecast will now allow you to control it without being on the same WiFi network, change the wallpapers to anything you want, or you can even cast your own Android deviceâ€™s screen to your TV to demonstrate things on the big screen. Google also announced Android TV. Different from the failed Google TV, Android TV features a beautiful design, connects to your tuner to watch live TV, has voice enabled actions and search, and much more. And you control it with your Android smartphone or tablet.[divider][/divider]
Office and Drive
For a while, when you tried to edit documents on Google Drive, it would convert your Word files to a Google Doc file and then you would edit it. Now, with the acquisition of QuickOffice, not so. Youâ€™ll be able to directly edit Word files in Google Drive, and collaboratively work with other people as they add â€œsuggested editsâ€ and highlights and things. A small change, but one that fans of Google Drive that have been wanting to rely less on Microsoft Office have been clamoring for.[divider][/divider]
Similar to how Apple announced the HealthKit, Google announce Google Fit. This will basically offer a set of APIâ€™s that let developers make apps that interact with it and store their health information. Then other health and fitness apps can leverage that data. For example, an app like Noom Coach will be able to retrieve information from your Jawbone Up app or Nike Fuelband. This allows apps to work together to give you the best health information possible.[divider][/divider]
Google did an excellent job today at Google I/O. They delivered almost everything they promised and then some. Android is growing into an ever larger ecosystem which promises to make your whole life interconnected and easier for it. Android L will be available this Fall for the public and Iâ€™m sure it will impress many out there as I was today. Iâ€™ll be installing the Developer Preview when it comes out tomorrow and having a tour of it so stay tuned for that.