The annual Google I/O conference is where the search giant gets to show off the new features in both it’s Android and Chrome operating systems. With the keynote address now complete there is a lot of new information about the direction that Google is taking with its operating systems as well as a few new projects that you will be hearing more about in the coming months.
1 – Android One
Facebook isn’t the only company looking to the developing world for growth opportunities, Android One is a new reference design program from Google that promises smartphone manufacturers a way to create low cost smartphones that run the pure, stock Android operating system. This would mean that phones following the guidelines would be entitled to automatic Android software updates like Nexus devices receive.
The program will kick off in India later this year with the likes of Karbonn Mobile and Spice Mobile already on board to make Android One smartphones. To give an idea of the kind of hardware that Android One will bring an upcoming phone from Micromax was shown with a 4.5 inch display, dual-SIM capabilities, an SD card slot, and an FM radio which will cost less than $100.
2 – Design
The look and feel of Android will change with the as yet unnamed ‘L’ release that will replace KitKat (the ‘K’ release) in the next few months.
The new version of Android will continue Google’s card- based, layered style of design that first came to the fore with Google Now. Users will also notice a lot of bright colours and vast white spaces with lots of animations and a host of effects that give feedback for touch inputs from the user.
It’s something that Google is calling Material Design and it won’t be confined to just Android as it makes changes to the design of Google’s vast software portfolio.
3 – Notifications
Notifications have been given a major upgrade in the latest version of Android with a host of new features making their first appearance.
As with iOS, notifications will be viewable on the lock screen and, again, as with iOS you will have the ability to customise which apps will be able to show their notifications there. Better still, if you would like to still receive notifications but not have the contents viewable to anyone who picks up the phone, you can set the details to only be available once you unlock the phone.
Actionable notifications, like the kind seen in Apple’s latest iOS 8 update, will also make their way into the Android L release. These will be in the style of Windows Phone or iOS’ banner notifications at the top of the display. Clicking on a message notification for instance will allow you to reply or if you don’t want to deal with the notification you can swipe it away.
4 – Personal Unlocking
Users of Samsung’s Gear smartwatches or something like the Pebble will have had the chance to use these accessories to unlock their Android smartphones instead of using a password. The theory being that if your smartwatch is connected to your phone you’re more than likely close by and the one doing said unlocking and therefore passwords can be forgone.
Personal unlocking will also refrain from asking for an unlocking code when you are in pre-programmed locations, like your home or office, as well as if it can hear your voice.
5 – Performance improvements
The old Dalvik runtime of Android is being replaced with the shiny new Android Runtime (ART) that is fully 64-bit compatible and should have apps running much faster and more smoothly once implemented. The new L release will also have increased addressable memory space which could see the first 4GB of RAM in an Android smartphone or tablet within the next 12 months.
6 – Gaming
Gaming is becoming a big part of Android with the release of Android L with drastically improved graphics capabilities and gaming profiles among the upgrades. Deon covered the gaming enhancements in Android already.
7 – Battery life
Samsung spent a large part of its Galaxy S5 announcement touting the new Ultra Battery Saving mode that could extend the battery life of the phone by shutting down non-essential functions. Google’s Project Volta introduces a similar Battery Saver feature into Android that has the ability the shut off a host of features and clock down the hardware to add up to 90 minutes of battery life to Android smartphones.
8 – Android Wear
Google released the full Android Wear software development kit or SDK at the conference giving developers access for the first time to all of the functions that the new operating system will bring.
There were live demos of the new LG G Watch as well as the crowd favourite Motorola Moto 360 at the conference. Samsung also announced its Galaxy Live smartwatch which will use Android Wear instead of the Tizen OS used for the Gear and Gear 2.
Apps will be able to run independently n Google Wear devices as well as showing notifications from apps running on Android phones paired to them. Everything will be synchronised between the two so that dismissing a notification on your Android Wear smartwatch will dismiss it on your Android smartphone as well.
9 – Android Auto
Not content with letting Apple dominate the automotive realm with Apple’s CarPlay, Google announced Android Auto, a Google now like service built into the cars of most manufacturers that will allow you to use voice commands to check your schedule and reply to messages.
Car manufacturers already signed up include Acura, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Bentley, Chevy, Chrysler, Dodge, Honda, Hyundai, VW, Subaru, Maserati and Volvo who will all have models rolling off the assembly line this year.
10 – AndroidTV
As if Android in your bag, pocket, on your wrist and in your car weren’t enough places to have Google’s influence, you will also be able to get Android on your television.
Android TV is Google’s third attempt at carving out a niche in the living room and this time it has the likes of Sony and Sharp on board to make televisions with the service already built in. Razer and Asus will also be making Android TV boxes that will plug into other makes of television.
Whether we will see Android TV in South Africa is still up in the air, but should it arrive we hope that it will herald the coming of television show and movie sales through the local Google Play Store.