This year’s Google IO event is all about Android, Apps and Chrome! Google’s Senior VP, Sundar Pichi leads the tour this year, and what a tour it is. Diving right in, there were apparently over 1 million viewers watching the event via the live stream. With live satellite events all over the world, London and Brazil were featured. Interestingly, Mr. Pichi notes that there was 20% female participation this year vs only 8% last year in 2013.
Google Loves Talking Stats!
In the opening statements, Mr. Pichi talks about the momentum in mobile and how Google is evolving their platforms to support mobile first. Smartphone manufactures ship over 1 billion devices each year now, and there are currently over 1 billion active 30 day users of Android. Android tablet use is up dramatically since 2012, from 39% to now at 62% in 2014.
YouTube usage was at 28% from Android devices back in 2012, up to 42% now. There has also been an increase in app usage of over 236%! We’re living in a world, that’s radically going mobile.
Android One Announcement
Google’s plans are to reach the next 5 billion, meaning they are intending to offer smartphone technology to emerging markets such as India. The Android One project, is intended to offer a set of hardware specs so that mobile providers can easily build new smartphones in these new markets. Just as with the Google Nexus devices, the Android One will receive all auto updates from Google directly. Meaning, that users of the Android One won’t have to worry about not getting the newest features or security enhancements.
The new device is set to cost less than $100, and will launch in the Fall of 2014. Mr. Pichi notes that he’s been using an Android One for sometime now, and it’s very functional. I take that to mean the device works as we’d expect a modern smartphone to work, without performance problems.
Google Material Design
Google intends to unify their design experience, across platforms and across the web. The Material Design concept is based on the idea that people should be able to intuitively navigate a user interface. Material Design is simple, easy to understand with a focus on content. There’s a pallet feature, which helps developers extract colors from images to include in their design. The system uses grids, to maintain user experience across devices. More information about Google’s new design standards can be found here google.com/design/
This is Google integrating Responsive Design into their own Material Design design system. App developers will be able to specify a new dimension for user interfaces, which is elevation. Basically, elevation is the distance from the design surface that objects appear to be. Virtual light sources, and real shadows have also been included.
Google has also updated their Roboto system font to work easily on screen sizes from your phone all the way up to your TV. Material Design surfaces respond to touch, with animated feedback. There are also seamless animations between activities and apps.
Google Polymer & Google Cloud
Polymer is Material Design extended out onto the web. Not only will all the features of Material Design be available on smartphones and tablet apps, but now with Google Polymer these experiences can be natively developed for the Web also. Not to be outdone, Google has enabled Polymer to run at 60 frames per second.
Running at 60 FPS means that user experience with Polymer Web applications will be extraordinary. Your experience of using local apps vs using Online apps will begin to grow much closer together. With the Google Cloud Platform, the Polymer and app experiences are enabled and backed by accessible hardware too. Meaning that businesses will have easy access to the computing power necessary to provide these connected, mobile experiences to their customers.
Evolving Platforms, Android L!
Android L represents the biggest update to the Android mobile operating system since its inception. With 5,000 new APIs (that’s tech talk for loads of fun new stuff), a new design, a new user experience and major performance enhancements.
This gif gives you an idea of what Material Design looks like in the new phone dialer app for Android L. The experience has been totally resigned, with bold Material colors and shadows. There are animated, ripple touch effects when moving between areas of the Android L phone dialer. Also, we have the hover effect in action on the blue dialer button (although it’s a bit tough to see in the gif).
You can see more of Material Design in action with Android L, at around minute 49 of the embedded video at the top of this article. Something Google is calling, “nested scrolling” is also being used here. Essentially, nested scrolling subtly changes your view as you scroll to help highlight important focal points within on screen. There’s also a view animator seen when switching into the actual call mode of the device.
Google will be extending Material Design throughout all of their mobile apps in the coming months. Android L also comes with new notification settings, that are intended to be fast and simple. For example, there will be new in-app notifications which you can quickly respond to or ignore while remaining in your app.
In addition to the new notifications, Android L enables personal unlocking. Basically, as your Android smartphone detects its own location (you can pre-set this), your voice print and or an Android Wearable device, you will be able to unlock it securely without needing to enter a pin or password. Contextual awareness is a big part of where Google has been going with Google Now, Hummingbird and the semantic web.
Android L Performance Enhancements!
There is a completely new Android runtime called ART, which is considered to have a 2x performance improvement over the current Dalvik runtime. For the end user, this translates into less app stutter and a smoother overall experience. ART is far more memory efficient, and it’s fully 64 bit compatible, meaning it can address more memory. This translates into being able to run more apps without having to worry about your phone getting sluggish.
ART is cross platform compatible, which means it supports the major chip manufactures. Translating into more compatibility across devices from companies like Motorola, Samsung, LG etc. Project Volta was also discussed, which is basically a series of battery improvements so your devices last longer on a single charge. There will also be remote factory reset protection built into Android L, so if your device is lost of stolen, you’ll be able to remotely disable your phone.
Android L, and PC Level Gaming in Your Pocket
I didn’t think this was possible, but Google is bringing the graphical capabilities of your home PC into the palm of your hand. During the IO event, there was a demo of the Unreal Engine 4 running on an Android tablet complete with all the visual effects you’d expect to see in a fully featured gaming system. Just incredible to see!
Google Chrome & App Linking in Search
Google is also integrating many of their new Material Design features into Google Chrome. Meaning, we’ll start seeing fast, fluid transitions and animations right within Chrome. Much of this experience is being enabled with the Polymer UI toolkit for developers, which (as mentioned above) brings much of the app experience out onto the broader web.
“Recents” is a feature also rolling out, which will enable you to flip between apps and web pages easily, with the flick of your finger. We’ll also start to see apps being indexed directly in Search results, so now people will be able to click a link within Search to be taken directly to a business locally installed app.
Google has worked hard to bring Android wearable devices to market, and their attention to detail shows. Essentially, these wearable devices look like a large watch. Android wearables come in both square and round form factors:
“Sensors will help them understand your context, so they can provide useful information when you need it and help you reach your fitness goals. And, as the device you always have with you, your watch will provide intelligent answers to spoken questions..acting as your key in a multi-screen world.” (David Singleton – Google Engineering Director)
There is complete integration between your Android smartphone, and these Android wearable devices. For example, you’ll see notifications in context such as package arrival information when you get home so you remember to check the front door when you have a new package. You’ll also be able to quickly respond to phone calls by swiping to either answer, or respond with a quick text saying you aren’t available at the moment.
These devices are fully voice activated, so you can do things like set alarms or make quick notes at any time. Here again, these are all synched with your Android phone so you’ll have access anytime on every device. There was also a mention of having a Google Hangout video call app on Android Wearables! Not to mention the Maps navigation app to help you discover where to go around town while walking, and bring you home safely at the end of a long day.
All the Cooks, is a new recipes app that sounds really cool. Basically, you install the app on your phone and wearable so that you can choose a recipe from your phone and have it display on your wrist while cooking. Oh, and all Android Wearable devices are water resistant so you won’t have to worry about spilling ingredients on them in the kitchen!
Android in the Car, with androidauto
Google has created the Open Auto Alliance, as a way to work with car manufactures to bring android into your vehicle. Placing apps like navigation, music and communications front and center. All the features are voice activated, so you’ll be able to maintain hands on the wheel and eyes on the road while using androidauto.
Androidauto runs on your phone, and casts (ie streams) the androidauto features from your device directly to a compatible car. Google has partnered with 40 members of the Auto Alliance, and we should start seeing Android compatible cars rolling off dealer lots before the end of this year!
Android in the Livingroom, with androidTV & Chromecast
Google has outdone themselves, bringing Android into every aspect of daily life. With AndroidTV your TV can be controlled by any device with the proper app. This version of Android overlays your live TV, with entertainment apps like music, shows and games.
AndroidTV will also be voice activated, understanding abstract questions like, “Who played Katniss in the Hunger Games?” Google will answer this question, and display relevant information to your question on screen.
Chromecast is also getting updates, to include the ability for your friends to cast YouTube videos to your connect TV, without having to be on your local wi-fi network. Basically, your friends will be able to show you their favorite videos on the big screen anytime you like. Discover more Chromecast apps here chromecast.com/apps
Google also announced a new Chromecast app coming later this Summer, called Backdrop. With the Backdrop app, you’ll be able to stream ambient photos to your TV while it’s not in normal use. You can choose from some standard categories like news or lifestyle. You’ll also be ability to add your own Google+ photos or featured Google+ photos so you can catch the latest photos or see your family photos.
Mirror will enable any Android app to be cast to your TV. The example given in the presentation was quite powerful. Basically, the Google Earth app was streamed to a TV so people could explore the world together from their couch. There was a fun moment, when the smartphone on stage was turned around to show the audience on the big screen being cast from the device in real time. This all happens at about 2:05:00 in the embedded video.
Google for Business
Google is making giant leaps into the world of business. With innovative approaches to work and home environments. Gone will be the days where you’ll have to carry multiple devices for work and for personal life. Google enables devices to have two completely separate and secure environments for work and for home. These features will be available with the Android L release later in 2014.
Google has also acquired QuickOffice, so Microsoft Word documents can easily be edited directly from Google Drive. Businesses will now get all the document collaboration features, as well as new enhancements like interactive messaging within documents.
Google Drive has grown by 85% in the last year, and now has 190 million 30 day active users. Google Drive for companies gives unlimited storage for $10 a month per user. Data is also encrypted both during transmission, and while residing on Google’s servers.
Google is aiming to provide a comprehensive office suite for businesses, looking to replace Microsoft Office products.
I covered Google I/O 2013 last year here, and was blown away then by the speed with which Google moves and innovates. Google I/O 2014, if anything, has struck me even more. Google intends to offer the least expensive, most advanced, easiest to use, most secure, innovative apps and platforms the world has ever seen.
More than any other company, Google will be shaping our lives for the foreseeable future. All this innovation is not without growing pains, as twice throughout the keynote audience members began protesting in the background. You can hear one such protest at about hour 1:11:00 and the other around 2:28:00.