Google I/O, held last week in Mountain View, CA, is the tech giant’s annual event that features “experiential learning, Google’s latest developer products, and talks from Google Product Managers and Engineers.” We tuned in to the conference because we expected some of our favorite topics would be highlighted, including the updated Android operating system (OS) and virtual reality (VR).
We weren’t disappointed! Not only did Google I/O cover the topics we anticipated, it also highlighted new tech and other exciting news. Google CEO Sundar Pichai kicked off the conference by sharing about the impressive growth of Android; the OS now powers 2 billion devices, from phones to tablets to wearables. Here are a few key announcements, whether you be a developer or consumer:
Android OS versions are named alphabetically for sweet treats, so far from D (Donut) through the current version M (Marshmallow). This year’s conference unveiled more information about the next OS release, Android O (all signs point to “Oreo” as the name).
In April, O was only in developer preview, but as of the Google I/O conference, Android O moved to beta status, meaning it is more stable and easier to use. The complete version of Android O, and its full name, will be released later this year. We’re excited about some features that will allow us to make better apps, more quickly, for our clients:
Font Resources. Developers at the conference cheered loudly at the introduction of new font resources and downloadable fonts. Instead of manually bundling non-standard fonts as an app resource, fonts can be requested from a Font Provider and Google Fonts currently provides 800+ fonts. This feature reduces app size and makes using fonts much simpler.
Notifications. The update to notifications will allow users fine-grained control over which types of notifications they want to receive. As developers, we’ll use Notification Dots and Notification Channels to promote app activity, increase app visibility on the home screen, and give users the means to control their notifications.
Security. Android continues its security improvement updates, and with O they are actively fighting ransomware. The permissions typically abused by ransomware applications are no longer able to overlay critical user controls and disallow uninstall of the ransomware application, leading to safer and more secure apps across the board.
Google introduced the next generation of their Daydream VR platform. Daydream 2.0 is built with standalone VR in mind, boasting wireless, self-contained headsets. Wearers of the Google Daydream View HR headset will be able to share what they’re seeing with friends in the same room by using Google technology. It’s exciting because VR is fun, but can sometimes be a lonely activity leaving users feeling isolated from others. With the sharing-enabled headset, everyone in the room can participate, or at least react, with the user. Since Google’s option eliminates cords, it may be more attractive than the more expensive HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The release date for Daydream 2.0 was not revealed.
Two Other Cool Things
With Google I/O spanning 3 days worth of sessions, there are many more things we could share! We’ll limit ourselves to two we feel will have broad impact… One advancement is the launch of an updated Gmail app for iOS and Android. The new app introduces a “Smart Reply” feature based on machine learning technology. The tech will read messages and suggest canned replies. For example, if a person is asking whether to meet on Friday or Saturday, the smart replies could be “Friday works for me,” or “Let’s do Saturday,” or “Either day works.”
Google also announced a version of Android that’s less demanding on devices and intended for budget phones in 2018. Android Go will allow smartphones with even as little as 512MB to 1GB of RAM to use the latest Android software. With this announcement, Google positions its latest software to be a scalable solution for users across a wide range of income levels. This announcement is particularly significant for those seeking to bring devices and apps to emerging markets.
While it will take some time before these changes and new releases are felt at the consumer level, we’re excited about what’s in store. We’d love to talk with you about how to leverage these capabilities in your app, so please get in touch.