The past few years have seen an immense growth in terms of Google Devices. From the Nexus mobiles and tablets to the Chromecasts, Chromebooks, Nexus players and Androidwear, Google has come a long way in bringing Android to the user. At the previous Google I/O the focus was on the products being developed but this year’s event saw a major break from the norm. There are so many great google products available in the market that perhaps Google did the right thing by focusing on polishing the existing products and creating better experiences with the devices already available.
This year’s focus was solely on the quality of devices, end to end. Dave Burke, Vice President of Engineering, gave a preview of the new M release of android, which aims to improve the core experience of android. One of the key areas of focus with the M release is App Permissions. Applications no longer require permissions during the installation but instead asks for permission when you use it for the first time. This way, as a user, you are completely aware of what permissions you are allowing each app to have and you no longer have to agree to permissions that you don’t understand. Modifications of existing app permissions also becomes much easier with the M release.
Mobile payments have become easier with the arrival of Android Pay. This process is simple, secure and convenient to use. Whenever you see the Android Pay logo, you can just use your android phone to pay by unlocking your device, place it in front of the NFC terminal to pay and there is no need to open any app. When you add a card for use with Android Pay, a virtual account is created which is then used to process the payment. Your actual card number is never shared with the store during transactions. Android Pay will work with over 700 thousand stores across the US and will also be available within apps, helping users to purchase items with ease and comfort.
A big area of improvement with the M release is with Power & Charging. Managing power has now become smarter with the introduction of a new feature called DOZE. Android uses significant motion detection to learn if a device is being left unattended for a prolonged period of time. In that case, it will limit the background activity to go into a deeper sleep state. It’s a basic tradeoff between app freshness for longer battery life. While the android device is “dozing”, it still triggers real time alarms and allows for incoming communication requests. So how well does “doze” work? Devices seem to last up to twice as much in the standby mode while actively dozing. Android has also developed a USB type C charger which means not only faster charging but also no more grappling to find the right direction for the charging port. The USB Type C is bi-directional, enabling it to get charged and also act as a charger to the device it is connected to. Here’s to sharing the power!
They say it’s the little things that matter, which resonates true with the M release. Small changes in the volume control, easy word selection, easier direct sharing with people and apps, go a long way in improving the user experience with android devices.
The androidwear which was launched last year in June has evolved quite a lot over the year with four major OS releases and seven major watches. Watches no longer just tell us the time but now include offline music and GPS maps. The latest updates within androidwear allow for Screen lock and WIFI options, taking your android experience to the next level. Android devices now come with an “Always ON” option for apps without having to shake your arm or tap at the display to get the app active again. This is particularly helpful while using Maps and looking for directions. New wrist gesture recognition allows for scrolling through apps and notifications with a simple flick of the arm. Another interesting addition which helps you play with your android watch is being able to draw emoji’s and send them to your contacts through messages. As David Singleton, Director of Android Wear, said, “Ultimately wearable apps should be actionable, glanceable and effortless. Just like checking the time.” Android wear now puts all the apps and contacts at your fingertips with the new launcher which makes the experience with android wear a simple and enjoyable one. It looks like androidwear is getting all the updates that should have been there in the first place with wearable technology.
Aparna Chennapragada, Direct of Google Now, talks about getting things done, in as few steps as possible, to assist you in the moment with Google’s pilot program ‘Now on Tap’. This is one of the updates I am most looking forward to. Imagine when a friend asks you to catch up on a movie through an email. Now on Tap helps you take immediate action with a simple tap and hold of the home button. It brings you the movie reviews, the IMDB page, the rotten tomato scores and even the trailer on YouTube, all by simply catching the phrase “movie” and then identifying the movie being mentioned. Imagine your spouse asking you about dinner plans and also requesting you to pick up the dry cleaning. When you tap and hold on the home button, you’re asking Google to help you with the present context. In this case, Now on Tap will give you a rating of the restaurant mentioned along with the options of calling them, getting directions, reading a yelp review and more. At the same time it also creates a reminder to pick up the dry cleaning. Talk about getting a personal assistant! Now on Tap can assist you with practically anything and everything within the context that you need help with. Not to mention, it is incredibly accurate.
Scrolling has become a part and parcel of owning a smart phone. Especially with the constant selfies and goupfies and random “I-am-an-awesome-photographer” moments which leads to too many photos of one sunset. And when you want to show someone a particular photo, you start with the finger exercise. Scrolling through hundreds and hundreds of pictures to find that one moment of interest. And then scrolling some more because you can’t remember when it was taken. And then just going mad scrolling up and down before finally giving up. Well, worry no more with the new Google Photos app.
Storing, Searching and Sharing photos has become smooth and effortless with Google Photos – A home for all your memories, big and small. With a simple pinch and zoom action you can view photos across days, months and even years. Your photos are automatically organized according to the people, places and things that matter the most to you. Tapping on one person, you can access all the photos of that person organized over time, without you ever tagging the photos yourself. You can search for particular photos by simply typing in the details of the photo you need. Sharing has become so much easier with multiple photo selection by simply dragging your finger over the photos of interest. Sharing comes with no strings attached which means you no longer need to worry about having a particular app or login when sharing photos. You can simply send a link to another person and they can access it without a hassle.
Oh, and let’s not forget the very best part about the new Google Photos. Holding on to the memories that matter the most to you has become as simple as ABC. You can now backup and store unlimited, high quality photos and videos, all for free! All you photographers out there, amateurs and professionals, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. No more storage limits or having to buy extra space. Enjoy the freedom and share your love for photography.
In a world where data connectivity is a concern even if you have access to the internet and where data transfer is often too intermittent or slow, many of Google’s core products have been redesigned to work better and faster to improve the internet browsing experience. Pages are optimized so as to load up to four times faster and use 80% fewer bytes and make it easier to find the information that users want. Offline capabilities are being developed for later access so that you don’t have to worry about your internet connection when you need it. YouTube offline is an exciting improvement which lets you take videos offline for up to 48 hours and watch even if you don’t have an internet connection. Maps is another area of focus that is crucial to all the wanderers and travel enthusiasts. Offline Maps is a vital feature which helps you find places and get directions for a previously saved map without an internet connection! And to make things better? Turn by turn directions, helping you navigate and explore the world in an effortless manner, any place, any time. As JRR Tolkein said, “Not all those who wander are lost.” With the new upgrades on Maps and connectivity, you truly won’t be lost anymore.
For all the parents out there who are concerned about the content and apps that are available for your kids on their smartphones, worry no more. The Play Store is filled with apps and games to cater to every individual’s interest and these apps only grow in number with each passing day. With so many choices available, it becomes impossible to browse through each and every app description and read the ratings before you can decide if the app is indeed child-friendly. It only makes sense that the play store that you see on your smartphone is different from the play store that’s available to your child on their smartphone. With Google’s new ‘Family Star’, parents can now find great content that is family friendly, whether its apps, games, books, TV shows or movies. A special badge indicates what age group the app is designed for and the star acts a sign of trust for the quality of content. Android is truly becoming satisfying for parents and families all around the world.
Keeping the Android enthusiasts in mind as well as those who are interested in developing their own apps, Google in collaboration with ‘Udacity’ is launching the Android Nanodegree – a six months course for just $200 a month which covers the entire lifecycle of android development.
Last year Google introduced the Google Cardboard with which you could experience the real world for all its glory using just your smartphone to achieve virtual reality. Reaching one million users, Google Cardboard has come up with some impressive changes, with a simplified three step folding process and improved software capabilities. The world of Virtual Reality has billions of possibilities. With the importance of education in mind, Google now launches ‘Expeditions’ to help children see the whole world with just a piece of cardboard. Teaching and learning becomes a wonderfully enriching experience for everyone involved and promotes a thirst for knowledge. If your school or college wants to join Google’s Expeditions and make your place of learning better, you can sign up online with Google and make a difference in the field of education and help mould the leaders of tomorrow.
Technology is constantly improving and surpassing even our wildest expectations. This year’s Google I/O proved exactly that. The evolving mobile platforms seems to be proving Sir Arthur Eddington celebrated quote – “Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we CAN imagine.” Let’s hope the android M release rolls out soon and keeps up with all the promises made.
Manju Gopinath A