The Google I/O 2014 keynote has come and gone. Android was the big talking point and the theme seemed to be taking Android beyond mobile devices and into your television, your car, and your Chromebook. Some of the stuff announced feels a little bit like Google playing catch-up with other companies and services, but it was a solid presentation with some pretty appealing hardware and software. Here’s a highlight reel of the big stuff.
Android L features a new design language called Material Design, which brings shadows, subtle textures, and bright colors to the Android operating system. It’s designed to look well on whatever device you use it on.
The new upgrade uses ART, the successor to Dalvik, as its runtime. This will require a pretty big adjustment for Android developers, but it should lead to apps that perform better and suck up less battery life. Users will have greater control over how much battery power each app will use up. Android L will also feature a battery saver mode.
Google is improving Android’s built-in malware protection and security patches will be moving to Google Play, so users don’t have to rely on carrier updates to get them.
Android L will be available in the fall. Rumors have suggested it’s coming with the new Nexus 9.
The LG G Watch, one of the first smartwatches to run on Android Wear, will be available in the Google Play store on Wednesday afternoon.
Making its debut at Google I/O, the Samsung Gear Live is also coming to the Google Play store on Wednesday for $199. It features a Super AMOLED screen, a 1.2 GHz processor, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, 512 MB of RAM, 4GB of internal memory, and a built-in heart rate monitor to make sure you’re still alive and kicking. It can be paired with any Android device running Android 4.3 or higher.
Android Wear will use Google Now cards to display information, allowing you to press and hold as well as swipe them away. The social media integration honestly sounds pretty neat. The example they used showed that if you liked a restaurant on Pinterest, the watch will notify when you’re near that restaurant. You can also use your smartwatch to order a pizza and call a car with Lyft.
If you scroll down to the bottom of the post, you can check out a press release for the LG G Smartwatch.
This was leaked back in April and now Google has officially unveiled their entry in the set-top box market, Google TV. Voice control is one of the key features and users will be able to search YouTube, Google Play, and more by giving the box voice commands. Android mobile devices – even watches – can be used as remote controls.
Android TV will support Google Cast, allowing you to use it just like Chromecast. All 2014 Sony and Sharp 4K televisions will support Android TV.
Speaking of Chromecast, you no longer need your mobile device on the same wi-fi network in order to use it, allowing you to plug it into anyone’s TV and use it.
Google began talking about this in January and Google I/O saw its official launch. Android Auto will let you play music, check traffic conditions, and get directions, all with distraction-free voice commands. Apple’s CarPlay offers these same features, of course, but Android Auto lets you use your Android devices.
Android Auto lets you do more than just navigate. You can also send texts via voice commands without even exiting the maps app. Google has said that they’re releasing the Android Auto SDK soon, so hopefully we’ll see some cool things come out of that.
Google has joined the Open Automotive Alliance and the first cars with Android Auto will be available before the end of the year.
It wasn’t all Android talk. Android Chief Sundar Pichai talked about Chromebooks and how a future software update will allow for closer integration with Android phones (okay, so maybe it was all Android talk).
One of the coolest features coming to Chromebooks is the ability to unlock your laptop with your smartphone. If your phone is nearby, you’ll automatically sign into your laptop. You’ll also get incoming call, text, and battery life notifications straight to your Chromebook desktop. I use an app called MightyText to do this, so I can attest to how useful it is. And MightyText is far from perfect, so it’ll be nice to have this integration built in.
A Lack of Wow
Like I said, it was a little bit of catch-up. Android TV sounds like a lot of already-available services and the voice recognition software makes me think of the Amazon Fire TV ad with Gary Busey yelling at this television. Android Auto just does what Apple’s CarPlay does. These are important and helpful features, but since Google was late to the party on them and didn’t reveal any new phones or tablets, none of their announcements really had the “wow” factor that Google was probably hoping for.