Google I/O featured so many announcements this year, that it was difficult for us to shortlist the most important. But we did it! If you missed the conference or want to know what these announcements mean for the coming months and years, here are 6 updates that have got the hedgehog lab team really excited.
- Android M:
Google announced their next version of Android, named Android M, which is the 6th generation of the Android OS. This version effectively focuses on 6 key areas:
One of the challenges with permissions on Android has always been accepting them while installing the app, which does not effectively give the users enough time to think about the permissions. There is also no clear indication of the need for some of the permissions in the app, and if the user does not want to give access to a single section, the whole app would not install.
Changes to App permissions will allow for greater flexibility; users are prompted for access when the app needs to use a particular feature, and the user can choose to provide access to features only that he/she would want and deny permissions for others.
Custom Chrome Tabs:
Some apps redirect the users to a web page, which is opened using the device’s default browser, like Chrome. Currently, this drags the user out of his/her app, pushing them into another app (the browser), which effectively spoils their app experience.
To counter this, Android M will allow developers to create custom chrome tabs to appear within the app itself, when the user taps on a link that would have taken them to a browser. The best part is that even though this Chrome tab opens in the app, it still retains all of the user’s details that are stored in the Chrome app, making it easier to use this tab effectively.
Android M will enable apps to interact with each other more easily. If an app features a link to another app, which is verified by both of the app developers, then Android M will enable the app to automatically launch without prompting the user with a pop up dialogue. This gets rid of another step in the user’s path, facilitating a better experience of using multiple connected apps on their devices.
Android M will launch with a new power and charging management system, which will effectively improve the battery life of future Android devices. This process will keep track of the user’s sync activities, and could block background app activities based on the need to provide better battery life to the user.
Android M will come packed with fingerprint support in the OS, just like iOS. This would enable all Android-supported smartphone manufacturers to build fingerprint sensors into the device, without needing to write another layer of code over the core Android OS to access and use these sensors. With Android providing access to the developers to this system, we’re intrigued to see what uses fingerprint support will be put to.
Android Pay is Google’s new mobile payment system, which will replace Google Wallet and compete with Apple Pay. At launch it is estimated that around 700,000 outlets will accept Android Pay; all NFC-enabled payment terminals should be compatible with Android Pay on launch. What’s more, Android Pay will also be incorporated in apps, enabling users to pay for any in-app purchases using this system.
One feature that has caught our interest is the ability to simply unlock the device and place it near a terminal to make the payment, without the user having to perform more button presses or interactions with the device.
During the I/O, Google announced a new OS for the internet of things called Brillo. This OS will let developers easily create interactions for IoT devices, which will enable them to concentrate on creating better devices for IoT, and leave the software to be managed to a large extent by this OS. Brillo is designed to work well with the Google-owned Nest ecosystem. However Google announced that with small minor tweaks to the code, IoT device manufacturers and developers could interact with other similar ecosystems as well.
- Google Now:
Google Now has been a very successful feature on the Android ecosystem, and during the 2015 I/O, Google announced that they are making it even more useful by integrating a feature called ‘Now on Tap’. This enables users to get context-based information relating to anything on their Android device, by tapping on the home button whilst using the app. For example, when the user is listening to music, they can tap on the home button to activate Google Now, to access more information regarding the particular song, artist or album.
- Cloud Test Lab:
One of the challenges that developers have always faced for Android Development has been segmentation. Developers cannot practically buy all of the Android-based devices available in the market to test their app and ensure that it works perfectly. Because of this, developers spend a lot of time post release of the app solving compatibility issues and bugs. Google understands this and has created a platform called Cloud Test Lab. Developers can upload their app file to this cloud system, which will run the app on 20 of the current top Android devices in the world and put out any issues that may occur.
- Google Maps Places API:
Apple is trying to improve its Maps on a daily basis, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, especially outside of the US. Google has long been a dominant player in the Maps field, and has accumulated vast amounts of data from years of investment in various countries along with the US. With the update to the Google Maps API for iOS developers, it enables mobile app developers to ensure that their apps have better integration with all the amazing data available from Google.
- Upgrades to Android Wear:
Google has been listening to its Android Wear users, and has made some changes to improve its Android Wear OS. With Apple Watch being sold at massive numbers, Google will have to work on its OS to provide better services to users. Here are some of the changes being made to Android Wear: -
Detaching from Phones:
Google has realised that users would like to detach themselves from their phones for certain functions. Hence in the latest update Google announced that Android Wear users can now play and control music without a phone, and listen by connecting a Bluetooth headphone. Google also announced that the wifi chip in the watch will be used to create connections with the phone, meaning that users will no longer need to keep their watch in range of their phone.
More Access to Developers:
Google has explained that watch app developers are looking to access more functions and sensors in Android Wear devices, as well as reducing their dependence on phones for functionality. One of the reasons why Google denied this previously was because accessing all of these features would impact the battery life of the device. However Google is now looking at optimising the battery, and subsequently giving developers more access to the sensors.
Focus on Communication:
Google is updating the Android Wear OS to provide better communication abilities, with features like quick response buttons and the ability to draw and send emojis to users from the watch. These will enhance the communication capabilities of the device, as well as creating a better experience for users. Google also explained that users will be able to quickly get in touch with their favourite contacts in future versions of the OS.
These are just a few of the many highlights from Google I/O 2015 last week. What did you think of the event? Comment below and let the hedgehog lab team know!
Did you know that Android users can interact with an app without installing it, using a system called Instant Apps?