Any technology conference is bound to be chock-full of new hardware and software to help make users’ lives better. The Google I/O Conference, which took place May 28-29, 2015, was no exception.
During the two day seminar, some of the top Android developers came to showcase upcoming projects for the platform. Their offerings surely did not disappoint the hardcore fans.
While many of the hottest topics were covered in the keynote address, not all the biggest points were restricted to the two-hour talk.
The update on Android Wear was not the biggest news, since there was little to announce at this point, but it still generated a lot of interest. This device is Google’s answer to the Apple smart watch, which is already on the market. While there was not much more to announce, they did list that there are new apps coming to the device.
Uber, FourSquare and City Mapper will be available in the coming months. Some software, like Uber, will be able to utilize the Google voice commands.
For those still unaware of where Android Wear beats Apple’s smart watch, this device has built-in WiFi and GPS. It does still sync to the user’s smartphone, however, it can easily update without the phone being practically attached to the wearer’s hip. The phone doesn’t even have to be powered on for quick access to email.
Seeing that it doesn’t have be in constant sync with a smartphone makes it a better choice than Apple. Of course, there is the wonder why anyone would want to try to read email on a small screen such as a watch face.
But it might be useful to someone who is on the go and needs immediate access and doesn’t have their phone handy.
ATAP: ARA and Vault
Project ARA is something that has been hinted at for a long time. The modular smartphone product is still in the works. However, it did make an appearance. The device was put together onstage for all to see. Once activated, the system detected that the camera module was missing (intentionally left out in order to show that the device will find it).
Once added, the presenter took a picture to show its functionality.
While the modular device may appeal to some, it is a little bulky looking. A single component can be removed and replaced with something else. However, it means that the user will have to have all of those “shells,” as they are called, handy. Yes, the user gets the ultimate in customization, making the device look exactly as they want it, but at what cost. Personally, it seems a bit much for a mobile phone.
ARA made its showcase during the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) team presentation. Projects Vault made its debut as well.
Vault is an exciting program. It works in a micro SD card but can run independent of hardware and software. The idea is to increase security while doing away with passwords, which can be easily hacked. The research completed by ATAP shows that it may even be more secure than a fingerprint lock.
Vault users would be able to communicate with one another without the phones being able to read the information. The design allows this device to be an operating system agnostic and needs no help from the host system to work.
This is actually an interesting program that brings a new level of security to communication. Because the device or phone being used won’t be able to read the information, it could make it a much more secure way to send and receive text or email communication.
With security problems being what they are this could be a great way to add an extra layer of privacy.
When it came to the keynote address, there were many new revelations which took center stage. Brillo was included in the announcements. This new operating system is based off the Android design. It is limited to just the lower levels of the popular software, however, it does support many of the same apps, WiFi and Bluetooth Low Energy that Android users are used to.
The exciting part about Brillo isn’t that it has minimal system requirements. It is the fact that it is the base operating system for Google’s anticipated Internet of Things. The new OS will work with Weave, a communication layer that will allow the different devices to find one another and communicate.
Because Brillo is based on the Android operating system, it works well with devices running this OS. Users will see the same information displayed the same way, no matter what device they are on.
According to Senior VP Sundar Pichai:
“Any Android device connected to a device based on Brillo or Weave, a user will see the same thing no matter what. We want to connect devices in a seamless and intuitive way and make them work better for users.”
Brillo devices are expected to be out in Quarter 3 while Weave systems should be out by the end of Quarter 4.
If Google can pull off making devices connect seamlessly as they want, it could make the Internet of Things a reality. The idea behind making two programs that work in tandem and based on current technology is what could make this system work better than rival software.
We look forward to seeing how this plays out and if it works as well as they desire.
Probably the most exciting announcement for Android users was the announcement of Android M, the newest operating system. The Android M upgrades start with how it handles apps. Instead of having to agree to all preset permissions when an app is first installed, the new OS allows the user to set specific settings which makes updating easier.
In addition, developers can designate which piece of software they want to be able to open their application. New to the Android M is the Doze feature. It is a new way for devices to conserve battery life.
This enhancement uses motion detection to determine when the phone or tablet is left alone for a period. The new type-C USB port makes charging quicker and users don’t have to worry about putting it in upside down because of the bidirectional feature on the cord.
Users can use the new cord to charge their phone or use the phone to charge a second device. Android M users also can enjoy these features:
- Android Pay: Google’s answer to Apple Pay. No account numbers have to be shared with the store, all transactions can go through a banking or Google App. Usable at over 700,000 stores in the US.
- Fingerprint: Instead of relying on the device to be fingerprint enabled, the Android M will have this capability built in to give users additional security. Plans for this feature include allowing API developers to take advantage, such as using a fingerprint to confirm purchases.
- Custom Chrome Tabs: Apps can run the browser on top of it, making the application a custom tab. Customization can also be completed through color or branding.
The idea behind the Android M is to make the devices run faster and more secure. The concept looks promising, the app specifications and battery saver changes alone makes it worth upgrading the operating system. If the system is as successful as we think it could be, it’ll be interesting to see how many other developers utilize some of these features in the products.
Now on Tap
Finally, Google’s Now on Tap application is an interesting change to their on-board assistant. This software is designed to be used within any app by pressing and holding the home button.
Instead of just helping users to remember things like meetings and picking up dry cleaning at the end of the day, it adds reminders, helps find restaurants, or even bring up information about a movie mentioned in an email or text. Now on Tap also takes voice commands and gives instant answers. It works with Android M.
We love the fact that you can check out specific information without leaving the app. It really does make it one of the most useful assistants that mobile devices could have. Being able to look up movie times or nearby restaurants just because it’s mentioned in an email or text, can be a time saver.
Google’s I/O 2015 has many interesting programs up and coming for release this year. You can see the keynote address here.
A few have already been released to the public, such as the highly anticipated Google Photo, which went public late last week.