A lot of exciting, new Android products and features were revealed at last week’s Google I/O event. Here’s a five-minute read on everything you need to know.
The next version of the Android operating system will be publicly available “later this summer”, but a beta version is already available through Android’s Beta Program. New additions in this update include:
- Multi-window mode; split view, picture-in-picture for Android TV
- Notification enhancements; direct reply, more message styles
- Better battery life, thanks to improvements to the Doze mode
- More configuration options; shortcuts in the Notification Area, emergency info on lock screen, home screen management, dark theme
- Native stylus support
- Vulkan API for better 3D graphics performance
- Performance improvements thanks to introducing a JIT compiler
- Multi-language made easier; allowing users to select multiple locales in settings
It’s worth noting that some of the changes were already seen in manufacturers’ overlays, and now they’ve make their way into the stock Android.
Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots
Google Home is a ‘voice-activated home product’ (read: speaker similar to Amazon Echo). It’s a home assistant that integrates with other parts of your smart home and lets you ask Google anything at home, at anytime. It will be able to answer your questions, play music, and control any home automation gadgets.
Allo is a new app from Google offering AI-powered conversations. It includes built-in image recognition which means it can suggest responses based on the contents of received photos (e.g. ‘Cute dog!’ when someone sends you a picture of their dog).
The app does not include end-to-end encryption by default which has already raised some privacy concerns.
If you want to learn more about chatbots, see this post.
Duo is a new video-calling app from Google, offering video calls in up to 720p quality. Its ‘Knock Knock’ feature gives you a live preview of the person calling, so you can see your friends getting ready to sing happy birthday before you pick up.
Wearables, Payments and Cars
Android Wear 2.0
The new generation of Android Wear means standalone Wear devices and apps, making them less reliant on the connected smartphone. This will help iPhone users who can now download apps straight to the watch instead of via a second device.
Glanceable information is now embedded directly on the watch face (e.g. step count, battery status) and there have been improvements to the way notifications are displayed and navigation patterns. You can now choose if you want to type using handwriting, a tiny QWERTY keyboard or a Smart Reply response.
Android Pay has grown to become much more than ‘just payments’. It now targets the whole in-store experience and also facilitates using loyalty cards. We expect new customer-centric experiences to come out of this with one of the first examples being Chili’s who will soon allow ‘tap and go’ contactless payments in some of its restaurants.
Further updates will help simplify the process for card issuers, making it easier for users to add their cards to Android Pay directly from the bank’s app.
Your car does not have to be enabled for Android Auto anymore. ‘Really?’ you ask. Yes, you can now run it directly from your smartphone.
Daydream is a virtual reality platform built on top of Android N. Upcoming Android N devices will have a native VR mode as Daydream also defines specs for manufacturers to achieve full compatibility.
This new feature enables Android apps to run instantly, without requiring installation. In other words, a single module can be run directly from a link – no installation required! This feature, which works with devices down to 4.1 Jelly Bean, brings the best of two worlds together: the ease of mobile web and the features and performance of native apps.
Progressive Web Apps
In the mobile web announcements, we saw progressive web apps – apps that will work faster thanks to having an App Shell that loads fast and can be cached for offline use. The apps have features that put them closer to a native experience, like prompts to add a shortcut to home screen and push notifications.
The PWAs will be responsive across all devices: phones, tablets, laptops (the Google I/O 2016 page being an example of such a page).
Firebase was initially a database that syncs in real time across all connected clients. After being acquired by Google, it has now grown into a full Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) suite dedicated to mobile clients including Database, Storage, Notifications, Analytics and more.
The DMI Android Team
Photo from gilipollastv! (CC BY 2.0)