17 Android Updates You Need to Know From Today’s Google I/O
Anything UX can do, UI can do better. Or just as good. Or… similar but different. Following Apple’s WWDC earlier this month, it was time for Google’s annual developer conference, Google I/O. During the keynote, the team took us through upgrades and updates, its new OS and how we’ll be seeing a lot more Android in the car, on your TV and your wrist. Some new features might mirror what we already saw for Apple, but Google also gave us a look into a world of wearables that’s seamless, effortless and makes more sense than what you’ve been envisioning for your connected future. Here are 17 newsflashes from Google I/O 2014 to download to your personal cloud (your brain) right now.
1. Women Work at Google: Yes, yes, we knew this and no, their numbers aren’t 50/50 (or 55/45 — get your STEM on, girls ;) but Google kicked off the keynote this year by peeking into different live streams around the world, including an all-female developer group in Lagos, Nigeria. 20% of developers at Google I/O this year are female, up from 8% last year. It’s… a start.
2. Android L Release: One of the announcements that will affect any current, future Android smartphone users, is the next, updated version of their OS, Android L, available in the fall. The interface uses material design to promise a sleeker, bolder, more intuitive experience across all of your devices. It also includes some features that might give you iOS 8 deja vu…
3. Enhanced notifications: Similar to what we saw a few weeks ago at WWDC with the iOS 8 preview, Android L will feature multitasking capabilities and notifications that pop up above the app you’re using (even when you’re in a game).
4. Personal Unlocking: If you’re wearing a wearable, like a Bluetooth connected watch, and go to use your phone, it will automatically recognize you and unlock your phone without prompting you to type your password in.
5. New Gmail: It (old version on the left and new one on the right) is prettttty pretty.
6. Improved Battery Life: Google’s Project Volta aims to bring a better battery life to your device. Use Battery Historian to track and troubleshoot battery suckers. A battery-conserving Power Saver feature allows you to slow down your CPU and turn off drainers like auto-sync, WiFi and Bluetooth.
7. Better Google Chrome on Mobile: Sorry, Safari, we wish you looked a little more like Android’s new and improved Google Chrome mobile web experience.
8. User-Friendly Wearables: Today, Google let us take a serious spin with their new Android Wear devices. We saw smartwatches that will provide “intelligent answers to spoken questions” and be an integral part of your multi-screen life. Enjoy the same seamless design and connected user experience from phone to watch to tablet to computer and back again.
9. Watch + Phone = Perfect Marriage: On your Android-run wearable, swipe between “cards” that show notifications and apps that are directly connected to your smartphone screen. When traveling, swipe through flight info, your boarding pass, the weather report for your destination. As we saw on the I/O stage, ordering pizza can be a 20-second experience.
When a watch is connected to your smartphone, the wearable version of apps downloaded to your phone will automatically be available on your wrist, adding to the seamless phone-to-wearable experience. Helpful when you found a recipe on your phone and are swiping through the steps from your wrist!
10. Like Foursquare, But Better: While walking around town, get pinged with friends’ recommendations when you pass restaurants and bars they’ve Pinned on Pinterest.
11. And the Most Anticipated Android Wearable Is…The LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live will be available to order later today in the Play Store, with a late summer release date promised for the Moto360. The darling device of the event was definitely Moto (pictured above), which got boos only when it was revealed that you couldn’t place your order for it today. It looks we aren’t the only ones looking for the most wearable wearables out there…
12. “OK Google” Is Your New Catchphrase: Get used to talking to your devices even if you’re not a Glasshole. We were digging the demos of how easy (and handy!) Android Wear can be by the power of the OKG. Get notified about a package on your phone, say “OK Google” and dictate a note to remind yourself to check your mailbox when you get home.
13. Android Auto: Your wearables will be connected to your car in a new and big way. Completely voice enabled so you can keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, Android Auto brings Google Now to your car with simple, glanceable controls that let you play your carefully curated road trip mix and (oh, this is more important) navigate from A to B. Ask questions about your destination to find out if it’s open, then get there without having to touch a thing.
14. Android TV: With Android TV, Google has turned your TV into IMDB. In a good way. Just tell your set what show you’re bingeing on (like it doesn’t already know) and it will bring it up along with info about the actors.
Use your wearable like a remote and interact with your TV to choose what you want to watch right from your wrist. Stream music and even your entire screen straight from smartphone or tablet to your TV without the need for a Chromecast. Set-top boxes running Android TV will be released later this year!
15. Google Cast and Chromecast: With its minimal pricetag and myriad uses, Chromecast has been outselling other streaming devices — and is about to get an upgrade. You can connect your smartphone screen to show up on your TV. Take the streaming stick social by allowing people outside your WiFi network to send video to your TV, which could be a lot of fun. And a little dangerous.
16. Backdrop: It might rack up your energy bill, but your TV can now be “the largest picture frame in the house” flashing personal photos, artwork, and beautiful images from “Places” around the world on it using Backdrop. Ask Google if you want more info on any of the photos you see flash on your screen and it will hook you up.
17. Google Fit Platform: Like Apple’s Health Kit, Google Fit will pull in your “entire fitness stream” aka all of the physical and health data you’re tracking with sensors, wearables and apps. It will blend data from multiple apps and devices with a single set of APIs to give you one look at all of your fitness.
BONUS!Cardboard Is SHRN: The jokers at Google didn’t want you to leave empty-handed, with no LOLs to share across the web. Besides free smartwatches, they gave all of the developers in attendance a piece of #cardboard that will turn their tablet into a VR headset.
Are you pro-Android? When looking at the future of Apple and Android, which gets you more excited? Share below!