Google I/O: Taking Android Beyond Mobile

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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

Android L, which everyone is pretty sure refers to “Lollipop”, is the latest and most ambitious overhaul of Android yet. It borrows elements from both iOS 7 and Windows Phone 8 to deliver an OS with new notifications and a new design.

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.

Smartwatches

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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.

Android TV

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.

Android Auto

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.

Chromebooks

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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.

LG G Smartwatch Press Release »

LG EYES MAINSTREAM ADOPTION OF WEARABLES
WITH FIRST DEVICE POWERED BY ANDROID WEAR

“Glance-able” Interface of LG G Watch to Appeal to both Consumers and Developers

SEOUL, June 26, 2014 — With an eye on transforming wearable devices into more than just a conversation piece, LG Electronics (LG) today introduced the highly anticipated LG G Watch, one of the first devices powered by Android Wear™, Google’s new operating system which extends the Android platform to wearables. As a wrist wearable device featuring a button-less design, the G Watch will appeal to a mass audience with its simple minimalist design, quick and “glance-able” access to useful information and seamless connectivity with other Android devices, keeping users connected wherever, whenever.

“As one of the first to market with Android Wear, LG wanted to develop a product that functions as an essential companion device but most importantly, was simple to use,” said Dr. Jong-seok Park, president and CEO of the LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company. “We wanted a device that would be simple to learn and so intuitive that users wouldn’t even have to think about how to use its features. That’s what the LG G Watch is all about.”

“Watches powered by Android Wear aim to show you the right information and suggestions you need, right when you need them,” said Sundar Pichai, SVP, Android, Chrome & Apps. “It’s been great to work with LG on the launch of the G Watch — especially given its simple, easy-to-use design.”

At the core of the LG G Watch is a powerful and energy-efficient Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 400 processor clocking in at 1.2GHz. Paired with a low power consuming Always-On 1.65-inch IPS display with true-to-life color reproduction, the LG G Watch enhances the functionality of Android smartphones by providing quick access to useful information. The Always-On screen makes it easy to tell the time with a quick glance. Connected via Bluetooth, the LG G Watch displays messages, shows who’s calling, controls music playback and more without the smartphone ever having to be removed from a pocket or bag.

Integral to the LG G Watch and Android Wear is a simple new user experience designed around cards, which provides useful information when it’s needed, and voice recognition which allows one to ask questions and get things done easily. With voice recognition, LG was free to design the LG G Watch without any buttons or keys. Users can send text messages and search for useful information just by saying, “Ok Google”. LG and Google worked closely together from the outset to design a truly integrated experience.

The LG G Watch combines form and function in a subtle, minimalist design with an intuitive touch-based user interface. And with an Ingress Protection rating of IP67, the LG G Watch is designed to be protected from dust and water resistant for up to 30 minutes to a depth of one meter. The LG G Watch will be available in two colors — Black Titan and White Gold — and is constructed of PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coated stainless steel with a rugged silicone wristband in matching color. The LG G Watch can be personalized with any standard 22mm strap available in the market.

The LG G Watch will be available for pre-order on the Google Play Store starting June 25 in 12 countries including key markets such as the United States, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, South Korea and Japan. The LG G Watch will also be available soon after at retailers in 27 markets such as Australia, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Russia. Additional details will be announced locally at the time of availability.

Key Specifications:

Chipset: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 400 processor
Display: 1.65-inch LCD IPS (280 x 280)
Memory: 4GB eMMC / 512MB RAM
Battery: 400mAh
Operating System: Android Wear
(compatible with smartphones running Android 4.3 and above)
Size: 37.9 x 46.5 x 9.95mm
Weight: 63g
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0
Sensors: 9-Axis (Gyro / Accelerometer / Compass)
Color: White Gold/ Black Titan
Others: Dust and Water Resistant (IP67)

About

Dylan Duarte is a freelance writer who's covered videogames, film, television, and now tech! Be sure to check out his site, Dylan Reviews Everything, and follow him on Twitter: @dylanduarte.

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