The Google I/O 2016 keynote wrapped up so we compiled interesting tidbits that we think iDownloadBlog readers might be curious to learn about, because it pays off to keep tabs on what competition is doing.
In addition to a pair of new iPhone apps, Google Assistant and Google Home, the search firm updated its developers at I/O 2016 on the latest on Android N, which launches this summer. It also announced Android Wear 2.0, talked about a virtual reality platform, dubbed Daydream, and more.
Google rewrote and redesigned “some fundamental aspects” of how Android works, focusing on three key themes for Android N: performance, productivity and security. Apps will install faster and take up less storage than before. As for the productivity improvements in Android N, they’re including Multi-Window support and Direct Reply.
Multi-Window mode in Android N.
With Multi-Window support, more than one app can be displayed at a time in side-by-side multitasking mode or one-above-the-other in split-screen mode. On TV devices, apps can use Picture-in-Picture mode to continue video playback while users are interacting with another app.
Notifications in Android N support the Direct Reply feature so that users can quickly respond to text messages or update task lists directly within the notification interface (yes, we’ve had that since iOS 8). Android N should also bring a lot smoother gaming and faster graphics-intensive apps with Vulkan, Google’s version of iOS’s Metal hardware-accelerated graphics framework.
Android N Developer Preview is available on a range of devices.
Android N will be required for Daydream, Google’s brand new reference platform for virtual reality applications, smartphones and controller hardware. By the way, Android N won’t be the actual name of the shipping software—Google is accepting submissions for what to call the system until June 8, 2016 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time.
On a related note, a new feature, called Android Instant Apps, will let Android devices stream apps and games from the Play Store, meaning you’ll be able to use apps without actually installing them. Android Instant Apps are coming to Android Jelly Bean 4.2 and newer devices later this year.
Android Wear 2.0
The next major version of Google’s Android-based platform for smartwatches launched as a developer beta today. Celebrating its second anniversary, the new Android Wear 2.0 brings standalone apps into full view, allowing smartwatches with an embedded cellular data to have direct network access to the cloud, without needing a paired smartphone.
Moreover, Android Wear 2.0 enhances the experience with features like a tiny keyboard that you can swipe to choose letters, customizable watch faces, integration with Google’s Fit platform for fitness apps, Google Assistant-powered smart reply suggestions, a full screen handwriting recognition mode and more.
And akin to complications on the Apple Watch, watch faces on Android Wear 2.0 can now display any piece of information from any other app with no additional work required on a developer’s part.
Android Wear 2.0 will release for public consumption this fall.
Daydream is a brand new virtual-reality platform from Google and one of the surprise highlights of the conference. Promising a high-quality virtual reality experience, Daydream will be coming to compatible Android phones this fall via the free Android N software update.
On Android N, Daydream provides a low-latency experience and includes a user interface for notifications when using a viewer. For those wondering, motion-to-photon latency on Nexus 6P running Developer Preview 3 is lower than 20 milliseconds.
Android phones will need to have certain screens and special sensors if they’re to e Daydream certification. Google says that Daydream-ready phones from the likes of HTC, ZTE, Huawei, Asus, Xiaomi, Alcatel, LG and Samsung are coming this fall.
But, Google took Daydream a step further with the introduction of a reference design for VR headsets and controllers for third-party vendors. A Daydream-compatible controller will work in VR-optimized apps and games and include a built-in trackpad and an orientation sensor for accurate motion control.
Take that, Cardboard!
Latest Google stats
Like Apple, Google tends to kick off major keynotes with a state-of-the-Union segment that basically provides updates on its many initiatives. The search company has its tentacles everywhere these days so we were expecting way more numbers than executives delivered on stage.
Here’s what’s happening with Google’s platforms:
- 600 models of Android-driven smartphones were introduced in 2015
- Chrome has one billion monthly active users on mobile
- Google saw 65 billion app installs on Google Play in 2015
- 25 million Chromecast dongles sold to this date
- Google Photos has 200 million monthly active users
- There are 50 million apps for Cardboard available
Oh, and Android Pay is now available in UK and coming soon to Singapore and Australia.
Google I/O keynote took place Gat the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California.
Firebase is expanding
To make it easier to write cross-platform apps that work together and provide consistent, unified user interfaces, Google announced an expansion of its Firebase solution which is now becoming a unified app platform for Android, iOS and mobile web development.
Android TV and Google Cast
A quick recap of Android TV and Google Cast news:
- Google Cast, which is built into all Android TV devices, is coming to a lineup of TVs from Magnavox, Philips, Polaroid, Toshiba, Westinghouse and more
- Sony and Sharp are adding to their Android TV product lines with Sony’s 2016 BRAVIA and Sharp’s Net Player
- New devices are also on the way with RCA’s first Android TV and Xiaomi’s sleek 4K set-top box
- In Europe, Android TV will be available from Beko, Grundig and Vestel starting in June
- New features available in Android N will let Android TV users play video while browsing other content in Picture-in-Picture mode, record live TV and enjoy crisper 4K UHD video with support for High Dynamic Range
Still can’t get enough of Google I/O?
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Watch Google I/O keynote in VR mode