10 Takeaways From the Google I/O 2016 Premier Keynote
10 Takeaways From the Google I/O 2016 Premier Keynote
Google is thinking well beyond its core businesses of search, mobile and advertising to keep pace with the likes of Apple, Facebook and others.
Google Touts Its Success
Google couldn't help but gloat at its annual I/O developer conference. The company noted that more than 600 Android smartphones have launched in the past year and there are now 100 Android Auto-equipped car models on the market. Google Photos, the company says, has 200 million monthly users and more than a billion people are using its mobile-based Chrome browser. Google also announced that people around the world have downloaded 50 million apps designed for its Cardboard virtual-reality product.
Android N Takes a Bow
The big news out of Google I/O was the official introduction of Android N. The latest iteration of Google's mobile operating system doesn't have a substantially different design. Instead, the company says it's focused on improving "performance, productivity, and security" in the new OS. Android N will do a better job of efficiently running apps and will automatically install updates in the background. In addition, the app will feature multi-window support, letting users view two apps simultaneously. Android N also comes with improved multitasking. Google didn't offer an exact launch date, but Android N is still months away from hitting devices.
Watch Out, Facebook Messenger
Google is taking on Facebook Messenger with a new app it's calling Allo. The new messaging app allows users to communicate with friends and family, similar to Messenger or WhatsApp. Users can also share search results from within the app, and it even includes a Smart Reply function that suggests responses based on the context of the conversation. Allo also has an Incognito mode that automatically turns on end-to-end encryption and the ability for messages to self-destruct after a certain time. Allo launches this summer on Android and iOS.
Google Duo for One-On-One Communication
Google Duo is designed to be a simple app for two people to talk to each other over video. The app, which works on both Android and iOS, allows users to talk to anyone in their Contacts. It also has a Knock Knock feature, which shows users a live video preview of who's calling before the call is picked up. Google has promised that Duo will work well on "spotty networks" and will come with end-to-end encryption. Like Allo, Duo launches this summer.
Google Assistant Could Be Useful
Google Assistant is essentially a high-powered virtual personal assistant designed to help users be more productive. In a statement, the company said that Google Assistant can be brought up on mobile or desktop computers and will use contextual clues, like a person's location and previous responses to intelligently answer requests. The service can do everything from facilitating the purchase of movie tickets to making a reservation. It will be bundled in some of Google's new launches, including Allo.
Developers Get Some Extra Help
Google at I/O unveiled some improvements to its developer platform. Google talked about Android Studio 2.2 Preview, which includes a new layout design that it says, will make it quicker to build apps. In addition, the new platform has added some important "intelligence" features, including an analyzer that does a better job of finding coding bugs. Google even announced a new version of Firebase, its developer-management service, which comes with several usability tweaks.
A Significant Android Wear Update
Android Wear 2.0 is official. Google called the platform "the most significant Android Wear update" since its launch in 2014. The wearable operating system comes with a bundle of new features, including more watchfaces, enhanced support for messaging and the ability for apps to run natively on the device. Google says the operating system will improve battery life and even include handwriting recognition. It'll be available this fall.
Google Believes in Virtual Reality
Google says that Android N will come with a VR mode that will enable developers to build apps that fully support virtual reality. In addition, Google unveiled Daydream, a new platform that's designed to create "high-quality mobile VR" experiences. Google says Daydream will require a smartphone with high-end specs, but added that it's working with device makers and app developers to create virtual-reality experiences that could eventually try to match those found in stand-alone VR devices.
Google Home Takes on the Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo has a new challenger in the form of Google Home. Similar to Echo, the cylindrical device has a built-in speaker and the ability for users to shout out commands. The service also works with Google Cast, allowing users to stream content with ease. The app lets users play music, set reminders, turn on the lights and, well, do just about everything Amazon's Echo does. Google Home will launch later this year.
Google Keeps Improving Android Auto
Google talked about Android Auto at its annual conference. Chief among the platform's new features is upcoming support for Waze, the crowd-sourced mapping app Google owns. In addition, Android Auto has added better support for voice commands and will work wirelessly over WiFi in compatible cars. Google says that it expects Android Auto's footprint to expand to 200 car models by the end of the year.