It’s Google I/O again, and this year Google introduced us to Android L, the 5.0 version of its primary mobile operating system, and plenty of other things. Let’s have a quick look at what they talked about earlier today in their 2.5 hour keynote.
Android 5 – “L”
The big news for most Android fans is the new Android L, the as-yet unnamed 5.0 version of their phone and tablet OS. Android L brings notifications to the lock screen, so no more swiping to unlock every time you want to check if anything’s happening. Also upcoming is the ability for Android to recognize when you’re near with a paired Bluetooth device, which will allow the OS to bypass the need to enter a code each time you want to unlock the device. If it detects that it’s in a friendly environment with recognized devices nearby, it does away with that code requirement; you’re just in, no fuss. Nice. They’re also updating Android’s appearance, bringing a consistent look across Android, Chrome OS and Android Wear.
Which brings us to the second big announcement; the Android Wear platform, introduced with three watches as of the time of their keynote. LG and Samsung both have Google Wear watches that you can order today, and the Moto 360 watch will be available to order later this year. Wear puts micro-versions of Android apps on your wrist and allows those apps to communicate with the full-fledged apps on your phone, giving you easy access to phone functionality at a glance and a swipe or two. These Wear apps will update automatically with the apps on your other devices, keeping you in sync at all times.
Your wrist isn’t the only place you want to stay in sync though, and Google gave us more information on their Android Auto intitiative, which they told us about first earlier this year. Android Auto will enable Auto-equipped cars to display apps from your phone on the car’s display, taking your hands and eyes off the phone and keeping you and those around you safer as a result. It also means that, since the apps are running on your phone and NOT on the car, that updating your apps updates your in-car experience, and that that experience follows you around from one Auto-equipped car to the next.
Google TV is no more; it’s being rebranded to Android TV, and it has a bunch of new features. Not the least of these is that it works as a fully-functional Chromecast, so you don’t need a separate Chromecast for the TV it’s connected to. It also has advanced voice searching capabilities that will let you do not only basic searching for shows and movies, but extra information related to them as well, like cast and crew information. It will also be getting native Android gaming support for big-screen play.
Speaking of Chromecast, it’s not stagnating either. It’s getting updated with a mirroring feature that will let you mirror your Android device’s display on your TV. The big demo showcase they used for this feature was a really impressive live mirroring of the Android camera app that showed the audience to themselves.
Though not part of the I/O keynote, Google also debuted Google Cardboard today, a DIY VR headset that you literally make yourself out of cardboard, using an Android phone as the display. The goal is to make VR technology as dirt-cheap as possible for as many developers as possible, which will only be good for Google’s VR aspirations, as well as the VR industry as a whole.
Oddly absent from I/O was any mention whatsoever of Google Glass. It’s hard to say what this means though; I/O is a developer’s conference, so if the developers already have access to the most current information they need about it, it would make sense that they wouldn’t spend a lot of time rehashing when they have so many other new developments to cover.
Did you catch the I/O keynote? Share your thoughts with us in the comments, on the forums, or in social media!