It’s that time of year again folks, when Google takes to the stage at San Francisco’s Moscone Center West for Google I/O. This year’s developer conference is shaping up to be one of the biggest I/Os in recent years, with a new version of Android, Android Wear and possible hardware announcements. Today, we’re going to be covering all the news from Google I/O as it happens, which means you’ll be hitting F5 a lot to see more news as we get it. We’ll be watching along live – as can you – and we have Justin Diaz on the ground, packed into the Keynote speech (yeah, we’re just as jealous as you are). This post is going to be the go-to post for today’s keynote, so keep on checking back as we add more information as we get it.
Sundar Pichai, lead for Android as well as Chrome, detailed Android activations, such as the change to measuring active users on a 30-day basis and that Android now has over 1 Billion 30-day active users. Sundar is telling us that we take out our phones over 100 Billion times a day all over the world and that, unsurprisingly, almost a 100 Million selfies are taken every day with Android smartphones. Meanwhile in tablet land, Pichai is detailing shipment figures for the global market share, which stood at 39% two-years ago and now stands at 62% (which doesn’t include the Kindle Fire family). App installs on tablets are up over 200% since a year ago.
Something pretty big that Sundar has just announced is a new initiative dubbed Android One, which is a set of reference hardware designs as well as stock Android software, which carriers can add subtle applications to. Android One is meant for emerging markets that need to build a new device in 9 months or so, all software updates will come directly from Google. An example of an Android One device is a Micromax device in India which is to cost less than $100 US with more OEM partners launching Android One devices later this year.
Pichai just announced that the “L Release” of Android will be previewed during this year’s I/O and that it features a new design as well as over 5,000 new APIs. Matias Duarte has been ushered onto the stage to detail something called “Material Design”, following by a video which showed off a much lighter, more fluid and colorful design language for Android. Duarte talks about an “Elevation Value” which will give developers the ability to create UI with perspective and more. The “L Preview” will feature massive changes, including a new platform called “Palette” to help bring out their brand and UI in each different app. This new design language is certainly a big change to Android and it’s clear that Duarte had a big hand in this new look. Roboto has been updated and Duarte has said that the font will carry over from your phone and tablet to your watch and your laptop.
Duarte gave us a taste of the new GMail app built with Material Design and boy, does this look like the biggest change we have seen in Android design since Ice Cream Sandwich. David Burke, an Engineering Director at Google, has taken to the stage to detail some of the changes in “Material”, it’s all very fluid and individual elements can have an “Elevation” to them, a Z value. The demo on stage is the phone dialer and each element has ripple effects, numbers pop up and stand above elements in the app, bringing some real life to to Android apps. Google will be expanding Material to all other apps in L over the coming months and developers will be able to get a preview of the Material SDK soon.
More than just a new look, the L release of Android will usher in new features like personal unlock, which will talk to smartwatches and allow you to easily unlock your device. If you stray further away from said watch, the security lock will take over. Notifications are taking a big upgrade here as well, and you’ll be able to instantly action a notification in a completely new way.
Android isn’t the be all and all of Google’s mobile offerings though, as the mobile web is a big focus for Google as well. Anvi Shah has taken to the stage to tell us that Chrome will be taking advantage of Material and that Chrome usage on mobile has increased ten fold over the past year. Material Design will be heading to Google’s mobile web interfaces for Google Search and more, with the fluid and responsive UI all running at 60 frames a second. Touch events are passed through to websites quicker and Chrome has been updated to take advantage of a new API in version L. App Indexing is improved, for instance when you do a search for a restaurant in Chrome, you can launch the OpenTable app installed on your phone. Today, this feature will be made available to all apps on Android and Google+ sign-in will be coming as well.
Talking about performance, ART is the exclusive runtime for Material, which means that the next version will be indeed shipping as default in the next version of Android. That’s not a problem though, as all application code will be translated to run on ART for nothing, leaving developers a worry-free transition. ART is 64-bit compatible, as is the entirety of Android L, meaning support for ARMv8 and x86_64 instruction sets. Graphics are getting an upgrade here as well, with Tesselation, and DX11-class capabilities coming to Android L in what Google are calling the Android Extension Pack. On stage, a demo of Unreal Engine 4, the desktop version, was demoed on stage in real time, and it looked great!
Battery life will be dramatically improved in L, with “Project Volta” bringing massive changes to the whole platform. A new measurement system has been included in L and there’s a new Job Scheduler API that can keep the radios asleep for a lot longer, thus saving power and taxing the battery less. This API will introduce a battery Saver mode in stock Android with lots of different settings like sync, data and more to finally control how much more you can get out of your device while away from the outlet. With the Battery Saver, a Nexus 5 running L can get an extra hour and a half in typical usage. Starting tomorrow, Android L will be available in early System Images for the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7, with a preview SDK available from developer.android.com as usual.
Sundar has returned to the stage and has detailed Google Play Services, with 93% of users running the latest version of Play Services. Through Google Play, Google has been stomping down on Malware, resulting in less than a percent of users coming across Malware. Android L is to usher in a privacy menu, with the ability for users to change all manner of settings and control how their data is shared. Talking about evolving Android L to more than just your phone, Sundar is talking about contextually aware devices, figuring out whether you’re at home or at work. Android Wear is being detailed and David Singleton, Director of Engineering for Android has hit the stage.
Android Wear will support both square and round displays, and offer intelligent answers to questions spoken aloud. Again talking about contextual awareness, a live demo of the G Watch from LG, notifications were shown off. Material Design is here as well, and swiping up and down gets you through your cards, swiping these cards away will also get rid of the notification on your smartphone as well. On stage, a verbal reminder was set to remind the user to check their mailbox at home, the phone and watch are smart enough to know where “home” is and so when you get home, said reminder will appear. When a phone call comes in, the user can swipe left or right to answer or hang up as well as up to send a quick text. Swiping down, do not disturb mode can be enabled effectively quieting the watch. As we though, lots of apps are being demoed on stage, like the Pinterest app that works well on Android Wear and will allow him to navigate straight to a restaurant including walking directions using Google Navigations. The full Android Wear SDK will be made available today, allowing developers the ability to create apps to work on the watches themselves, as well as better integrate with apps on the Android phone. Speaking of which, new APIs will be included in the new version of Google Play Services, allowing info to flow back and forth nice and easily. There’s some really great stuff being shown off in Android Wear, which we’ll have more info on later today. Those impatient folk out there, the LG G Watch will be available to purchase later on today directly from the Play Store, along with a surprise introduction of the Gear Live also available today from the Play Store!
Moving on to the car, Patrick Brady spoke about Google’s introduction of Android to the car. “Android Auto” will be focusing on Navigation, Communication and Music and yes, it’s also contextually aware and completely voice enabled. A live demo is happening onstage, once Andy plugs his phone into the car, the display gets beamed to the display in the car and there are some quick hits to tap into some music as well as an always-listening Google Now type of interface. Play Music is shown off here with a subtle design with easy to hit icons, as has Google Maps. On stage, Android Auto was asked “how late is the de Young museum open till?” then he simply asked “navigate there” and Google Navigation started up. The demo on stage was cute and all, but developer support is really what’s needed and an SDK for Android Auto is on its way, with a full set of APIs for audio and music available real soon, with a public release launching with the Android L release later this Fall. Over 40 partners have joined the Automotive Alliance and 25 brands, with some cars leaving the forecourt with Android Auto built in.
Android TV has now been announced and the demo details live TV and a home screen that overlays on top of your currently playing program. The launcher has some suggestions, again built with the material design in mind and apps like Netflix and more are all available with just a few taps. Google Now is integrated into the whole thing, with the ability to find out info about actors and simply ask questions and be presented with content links or simple answers to questions. Android L allows for a 10-foot interface to be applied to apps using “the Leanback” classes, resulting in the Play Movies apk being the same on Android TV as well as tablets. This will be a big boon for developers, we’re sure.
Gaming comes to Android with Android TV, and Burke just picked up a gamepad and started playing a number of games, including NBA Jam. Leaderboards and achievements can be blown up on to the display, with multiplayer enabled with either multiple gamepads or one gamepad and a tablet or smartphone. Chromecast support is built right into Android TV, which will bring Google Cast to even more TVs and devices. Perhaps more important than anything however, is the support already behind Android TV. Sony’s TVs for 2014 (including 4K models) will all be running Android TV, as well as those from Sharp and Philips. Everyone from Intel to Marvell is on board with Android TV, and a developer SDK named ADT1 will be available very shortly.
Speaking about the TV, Chromecast is getting its ego massaged here, with Google telling us that it’s a best-selling in the UK and US on Amazon and a big seller for Best Buy in the States. The Google Cast SDK has made it easier for developers to bring their apps to the Chromecast and for end users, Google is making it easier to find apps that support Chromecast in the app or on the web. Today, Google is announcing that devices don’t need to be on the same WiFi network to share content. Fans of Chromecast’s wallpapers will be happy to see a new feature called backdrop which will allow you to use the Chromecast as a photo frame, beaming images from your Google+ libraries as well as different topics like news as well as art. Screen mirroring is coming to Chromecast and you’ll be able to seamlessly show off maps, photos or games to people in your living room.
Chromebooks are now taking the stage, and Sundar has told us that 8 OEMs are shipping Chromebooks in 28 countries and that in K-12 Education, Chromebooks have come on 6 fold in the last couple of years. In a coming update, your Chromebook will unlock when you are near to it, incoming calls and text messages will appear on your Chromebook and will also tell you when your phone is running low on battery. Android apps are now coming to Android as well, in a window like other web apps and these apps have been ported and will have access to your Chromebook’s hardware, such as their camera and more.
Moving on to business, Sundar details that apps can be bought in bulk for business and then deployed to devices. Android at Work will allow users to own just one phone and have a business life as well as home life on the same device. Samsung has been thanked on stage to help bring enterprise level security to Android L. Meanwhile, native Microsoft Office editing is being built into Google Docs thanks to the acquisition of Google Docs. Suggested Edits is a new feature coming to Google Docs and will bring the whole collaborative slant to the popular comments system Microsoft Office users will be familiar with. Drive for Work has been detailed at a cost of $10 per user, with unlimited storage for each one of these users and that 58% of Fortune 500 companies have “Gone Google” with lots of startups and universities also doing the same.