With Google I/O 2014 currently underway, the Internet is overflowing with Android and Chrome news. For Google fans like myself, this is one of the best times of the year, where the tech titan lays out their plans for near future. This generally includes some huge reveals, some expected, others less so, and this year is no exception.
Although Tech Dissected doesn’t have anyone on the floor at Moscone for Google I/O 2014 (we vow to have someone there next year!), we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least offer you a look at the biggest news to come from the event so far. So, without further ado, let’s dive in!
Day one started off with a keynote by Google Senior Vice President of Android, Chrome and Apps, Sundar Pichai, along with a few guests, and this is where they dropped all the big news, as is customary. Pichai led off the announcements with some stats on Android growth, including the fact that Android now has over one billion 30-day active users.
This was followed by the reveal of the Android One initiative, a series of high quality, sub-$100, Google-approved smartphones for emerging markets. The first devices in the line will be coming to India this fall from Karbonn, Micromax, and Spice, and all will run stock Android, with updates coming directly from Google.
Next came the announcement that everyone was hoping for: a developer preview of the upcoming Android L release (a final name has not yet been revealed). Android design guru Matias Duarte was invited on stage to talk about the design, which features Google’s new Material design interface, and looks quite stunning.
With Material design, developers can now specify an elevation value for design elements, and the Android framework will render it with virtual light sources and real-time shadows, giving the appearance of depth. Advanced, seemless animations are also a big part of the new look. The Material design interface will additionally be coming to the web by way of Polymer, Google’s library of web technologies for creating custom HTML elements.
The Android L release contains over 5,000 new APIs, and was mentioned to be the biggest release in the history of Android. Other notable improvements in L include enhancements to notifications (including new Heads-Up Notifications that appear as a card on top of other apps, and can be acted upon, or dismissed by swiping them away), a redesigned Recents menu, and Personal Unlocking, which recognizes you based on things like other devices you might have on you, and then bypasses the lock PIN.
While the announcement of the Android L developer preview was the highlight of the Google I/O 2014 keynote, they didn’t stop there, not by a long shot. Next up was an update on Google Wear and its capabilities (including a demo of ordering a pizza on a Google Wear device in under 20 seconds), leading up to an announcement of the imminent release of both the LG G Watch, and the previously unheard of Samsung Gear Live, both of which are now available for order in the Play Store for $229 and $199, respectively. Unfortunately for those holding out for the Moto 360, it won’t be available until later this summer.
Keeping with the theme of Androiding all the things, Google next unveiled Android Auto, a platform for making the use of devices while driving a much easier and safer experience. With Android Auto, the most common tasks that drivers undertake on their devices – navigation, music, and communication – are placed front and center in a streamlined, fully voice-controllable fashion. Android Auto will become available with the public L release, and the first cars with Auto integrated will be available before the end of the year.
Not content to stop there even still, Google proceeded to announce Android TV, the successor to its previous Google TV service. Android TV presents a simple, content-centric interface, and includes the full power of Google Search and the Knowledge Graph. Although Android TV devices from various manufacturers won’t begin to arrive until the fall, you can already grab the Android TV Remote Control app in the Play Store.
Additional announcements in the keynote included full Android device mirroring through Chromecast, Android app support on Chromebooks, and Cardboard, a build-it-yourself virtual reality system for Android which I don’t think anyone was expecting.
The sessions following the keynote usually don’t contain any big new announcements, but at least one came during Timothy Jordan‘s Wearable Computing With Google session: Android Wear notifications will be coming to Glass sometime in the next few months. Exactly how this will be implemented was not elaborated upon, but as a Glass Explorer, I’m excited by the possibilities.
Although Google I/O 2014 continues throughout today, there are traditionally no huge announcements on the second day. What we saw yesterday, however, makes one thing very clear: 2014 is the year of Android.