It looks like Google wants Android everywhere: It introduced Android TV, Android Wear SDK and Android Auto besides announcing the next Android release tentatively named L-release and Android One at Google I/O 2014, the company’s ongoing annual developer conference at San Francisco.
Notably absent however was Google+, which didn’t find a single mention in the almost three hour long keynote. Remember that Google+ head and possibly one of the biggest proponents of the service, Vic Gundotra had quit Google in April this year. Google’s ambitious Glass project was also missing from the keynote, although there were several Glass announcements running up to the conference. This includes refreshed hardware, UK launch and new Google Glass frames among others.
We will be publishing a separate story on Android Auto & Android TV (Our entire coverage of Google I/O 2014 here). Here is a quick lowdown on all the other announcements made at Google I/O 2014:
- Active Android users: Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice president, Android, Chrome & Apps mentioned that they have switched from cumulative Android activations to 30-day active users. He claimed that Android now has one billion 30-day active users as of June 2014, up from 538 million active users in June last year and 223 million active users in June 2012.
- Android Tablets: Android tablet has a 62% share of the overall tablet shipments as of June this year, up from 46% in June last year and 39% in June 2012. This doesn’t include tablets like Kindle Fire which runs on a custom version of Android operating system. The tablet viewership of YouTube has also increased to 42% from 28% in 2013. The tablet platform witnessed 236% YoY increase in app installs, although this is probably due to a lower base of tablet app installs.
- Other stats: Google Chrome’s mobile app claims to currently have 300 million daily active users, up from 27 million in 2013. Google Drive claims to have 190 million monthly active users.
- New unified design guidelines: In a bid to offer a consistent design across various form factors, Google has introduced a new design language called Material design which uses tactile surfaces, graphic design, and fluid motion to “create beautiful, intuitive experiences.” This design will be spread across Android, Chrome OS, Google’s new initiatives Android Wear, Android Auto and Android TV. [Video Demo]
Web developers will also be able to access the material design capabilities through Google’s web UI toolkit Polymer. In addition to this, Google has also released the first version of its design guidelines as part of this preview.
- Android L developer preview: Google previewed the next major release of its Android operating system, tentatively named as Android L. It comes with the new Material design and brings in features like improved notifications, updated Roboto font, contextual personal unlocking features, new multitasking interface and 64-bit support among others.
Android engineering director Dave Burke said that the notifications will now be prioritized based on user behaviour and users will be able to access these notifications directly from the lock screen. There is also new type of notification called heads up notifications which alerts users of major events like phone calls or text messages through a small floating window, irrespective of which app is in the foreground.
The new recents view aka the multitasking interface now includes all individual Chrome tabs along with the apps in a single card-like interface. Google has also made ART runtime (introduced in Android 4.4) as the default runtime instead of the previous Dalvik engine. The L developer preview is currently available for Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 devices and can be downloaded from L Developer preview site. In addition, Google has also released a beta version of its dedicated IDE (Integrated Developer Environment) Android Studio.
- Project Volta: It looks like there is finally some updates on the Battery life front. Google has introduced a new project called Project Volta to improve the battery life in the L-release by providing new tools and APIs to help apps run efficiently and conserve power. This includes Battery Historian which provides a visual timeline for developers to understand how their app is using the battery and a new Battery Saver mode which can be activated manually, or scheduled to active under specific conditions.
- Google Play Services: Google has released the next major version of Google Play Services that allows app developers to make use of various Google services like Google Maps and Google+ among others within their apps. One of the prominent additions is the introduction of App indexing API which allows developers to feature deep content within in native mobile applications on Google search. This was earlier limited to select partners.
The company mentions that it ships a new version of Play Services every six weeks and 93% of Android users are currently on the latest version of Google Play Services. This is important because Play Services allows Google to roll out new features and services to Android without necessarily rolling out a new OS update altogether, thereby partly addressing the fragmentation issues.
- Android Wear SDK: Google also demoed new features on its upcoming wearable Android platform Android Wear which was announced earlier this year. This includes geo-activated notifications, the ability to control music playback and reject phone calls. In terms of apps, Android Engineering director David Singleton mentions that whenever users install an Android app on their phone, the watch part of app is also automatically installed and updated on the watch. Google has also finally launched the full Android Wear SDK for developers.
The first watches to run on these platforms are LG’s G Watch and Samsung Gear Live, both of which went on sale on the US Play Store. Yesterday, LG G Watch went on sale in the Indian Play Store for Rs 14,999 with Gear Live expected to be available for Rs Rs 15,999 shortly. The long-awaited Moto 360, which is possibly the best looking smart watch right now, will however be available later in summer.
- Chromebooks: Google mentions that they now offer 15 Chromebook devices from eight OEMs in 28 countries. The company has also introduced its own version of continuity features on Chromebooks which will now show call and text alerts to users. Also if users are close, they will be able to use their phones to automatically unlock and sign-in to the Chromebook. Earlier this month, Apple had also released continuity features like the ability to make or receive calls using their Mac as a speakerphone and send text messages from Mac among others.
Another big addition is enabling select Android apps to run on Chromebooks. Pichai demoed an Android version of Evernote, Vine and Flipboard running on Chromebook. However, he noted that they will be bring only “important and favorite” apps to the platform.
- Android for Work: Google is introducing new APIs which enables users to use personal and corporate applications on the same device. Pichai said the personal apps will however be isolated from corporate apps & vice versa and there will be no modification necessary from the developer front. Google is also integrating Samsung’s Knox enterprise platform to Android.
Enterprises can also buy apps in bulk and deploy them for devices running on Ice Cream Sandwich or later. The company is working with OEMs like Dell, Huawei, HTC, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, LG, Motorola and Asus to launch a certified Android for Work program later this year.
- Google Drive for Work: Google announced a new premium offering of Google Drive for businesses. This includes unlimited Google Drive storage, better admin controls and audit & activity APIs among others and will priced at $10/user/month.
The company has also introduced native office editing in Google Docs, which is the result of the QuickOffice acquisition in June 2012 along with an Android app for its presentation program Google Slides.