Google’s I/O 2014 keynote just wrapped up and while the conference carries on through the rest of the week, this keynote knocked out all of the biggest announcements in a single sitting. We’re talking everything from smartwatches to Android in practically everything you can find. So without further ado, here are the major highlights of Google’s I/O 2014 keynote.
Google gave us a look at the next version of Android, codenamed Android L. Android L brings a host of improvements, including speed improvements, notification enhancements, and improved multitasking. The notification shade and lockscreen are now paired for faster access to notifications. Multi-tasking was amped up with the introduction of Chrome tabs being integrated into the task switch. Android L also ushers in a massive new visual refresh entitled…
Material Design is Google’s new design language for just about everything. Android, Chrome OS, and more will be using Material Design to bring in consistency between all Google platforms. Material Design has core elements such as splashes of color, fluid animations, and a sense of depth. UI elements can slide over top of one another but they give the appearance of being on different levels with dynamic lighting and shadows. New animations give a fluidity to the UI by having a smooth transition between every action, just as in real life. The splashes of color are brought to life by Palette, which instantly detects a primary color in an image and can color related UI elements the same way. In short, Material Design sets the new bar for software design.
Project Butter was the big push of Jelly Bean, and Android L’s big push is Project Volta, an initiative to improve battery life. Project Volta includes a Battery Historian feature to allow you to quickly and easily pinpoint exactly what is using your battery. The Jobs Scheduler API is designed to use less power while the phone is sleeping, by scheduling background jobs for efficient downtimes. And like everyone’s doing these days, there’s a battery saver mode to knock out some unnecessary things in order to improve battery life.
ART is now default
This change has been coming for a while now, but it’s finally here. The ART runtime is replacing Dalvik as the runtime in Android L. The switch will bring 2x performance increases as well as cross-platform support for different processor architectures. Along with those things, majorly improved graphics are on the way with PC-level graphics now available on mobile due to ART.
We got a look at Google’s platform for wearables a few months ago, but we really saw it take off today. Android Wear is all about quick, at a glance info, with the option to swipe for more info. You can also say “Ok, Google” or simply tap the screen to initiate voice commands on Android Wear. There are too many uses to name, but rest assured, Android Wear has you covered. If you’re looking to get your own Android Wear device, two of them will be available later today. The LG G Watch will sell for $229 while the Samsung Gear Live will go for $199. The Moto 360 was announced to be coming later in the summer but no price was mentioned.
The theme of this year’s Google I/O was Android, everywhere. Thus, Android Auto was born, a platform for Android in the car. Android Auto is an in-car entertainment system that relies on Android, and specifically your phone, to keep it running at full steam. The layout is designed to be glanceable and quick to interpret what’s on the screen, while also relying on heavy voice controls for almost every task. Cars with Android Auto built-in should be arriving later this year and into next year. While there was no word on it, we’re also keeping our fingers crossed for 3rd party in-car entertainment systems that use Android Wear, thus enabling it to be integrated into older vehicles.
Google’s onslaught into every aspect of your life carries on with Android TV, the latest way to invade your living room. After an unsuccessful attempt with Google TV, Google is back with Android TV to try and create the perfect OS for your TV. Android TV has a user interface designed for the big screen. It also places heavy emphasis on search, which is improved to recognize more vague requests and also tailors itself to you over time. Google Play Games allows you to game through Android TV. Android TV will either be integrated directly into TVs or can be added via a set-top box. Both options will come with a dedicated controller for gaming, but Android TV itself can be controlled either by voice or by an Android device, including Android Wear smartwatches. Sony, Sharp, Razer, and ASUS have all been announced as partners currently working on Android TV hardware.
Chromecast mirroring and Wi-Fi free streaming
Let us not forget the humble Chromecast! Several improvements are coming to the Chromecast. For one, you can now use it to turn your TV into a giant, beautiful screensaver using a feature called Backdrop. More importantly though, is that devices near your Chromecast can now connect without being on the same Wi-Fi network as the Chromecast. The greatest feature is that you can now mirror the screen of your Android phone or tablet to the Chromecast with almost zero latency, allowing for even more flexible sharing.
Android apps on Chrome OS
One cool announcement is that some Android apps can begin to be ported to Chromebooks. While this is still very early in the beta process, the demonstrations showed them working quite well. The only caveat was that it’s slower to use the mouse for many things than it is to use a touchscreen. But such is the life, eh?
Google Fit is Google’s new platform to aggregate all of your health and fitness data. The set of APIs can be plugged into apps, allowing them to access all of your Google Fit data. Info can come from wearables as well, which can transmit things like heart rate, pedometer stats, and more. Nike’s Fuel points will even be a part of the system. THe only thing we’re missing is a dedicated Google Fit app to easily view all of that info in a single area.
Google pulled an interesting move at the end of the keynote by announcing that along with two smartwatches, they were giving all attendees Google Cardboard. When unraveled, it turned out that Google Cardboard is actually an incredible simple way of getting a makeshift VR headset by getting some lenses and sticking your phone inside Cardboard with the Cardboard app linked up. More of a fun joke than anything else, but it’s still very cool.
Android One is Google’s initiative to bring high-quality, low cost smartphones to developing markets. It’s a set of reference designs from Google that OEMs can then use to create good phones at low cost. The move is designed to add some quality control to the flood of junky Android smartphones in developing markets. A Micromax model was shown off with a 4.5-inch display and dual-SIM support that costs less than $100.
And that’s it. Our list of the biggest highlights of Google’s I/O 2014 keynote. Be sure to keep it locked on Android and Me for more Google I/O coverage. In the meantime, drop a comment down below letting us know what your favorite announcement of the keynote was!