Google IO came and went bringing some interesting improvements to its big products including Android, Home and Photos. I take a looks at what we see being delivered this coming year from Google.
As expected Google announced Android O and highlighted some of its main features that will come in the new update. The focus was on 2 specific aspects; Fluid experiences and Vitals.
– Picture in Picture: This increases the multi-tasking ability of Android. It will enable users to minimise an app and keep it visible whilst using a different app. The example shown at IO was a youtube video playing in a minimised window floating above the Google Keep app. The video continued to play whilst the user is able to take notes in the Google Keep app.
– Notification Dots: A feature which has been a seen on iPhones for a while now looks to come to Android O., Notification dots appear on the corner of app icons if there are notifications associated with it. They can now be dealt with in one of two ways; either through the traditional notification drop down, or via a long press on the app icon to reveal a pop up widget enabling the user to respond/take action directly from the notification dot.
– Autofil: Google has now made it easier to set up a new phone with Autofil. Autofil give the user the ability to select related usernames for their installed apps at the start of a phone setup. This is done via connecting to the chrome history users build up linked to their gmail accounts. Once again this feature enhances convenience for the user.
– Smart Text Selection: This is a enhancement of the standard text selection, along with the usual copy, cut paste options, Google will now give relevant option to the selected text; i.e if a phone number is selected then an option to call via the phone app will appear, another example would be if an address is selected the option to get directions via maps will appear.
Vitals’ aim is improve on the a phones “vitals” in relation to battery life, security, startup and stability over its life.
To extend battery life, android will now apply “wise limits” to background usage by applications, to reduce the drain on battery when it’s not required. In effect it’s an evolution of Dose that was incorporated in the previous update. Security will be enhanced with Google Play Protect. This feature has been present for a long while but in Android O it is becoming more visible giving the user insight into when app scans have taken place and it highlights any malicious apps. Google also indicated that a lot of changes to the core build of android has changed that it is now able to boot up twice as fast and also reduce the lag and slow down over the life of the device. As yet no tests can prove this but it’s another feature driving towards efficiency and stability.
One of the biggest announcements of IO was that Google assistant will be making its way to iPhone. Siri will now have stern competition to be the assistant of choice to the Apple user market. At least for the beginning Siri will have an advantage of being compatible with apps made by Apple, but it’s clear this barrier will come down at some point. At that point Google assistant will have the power of the knowledge graph and continuous learning to make Siri really become useless to iPhone. Furthermore this feeds Google with even more data that it wasn’t able to access initially.
As expected the assistant has developed further with more responses wider scope in knowledge and improved integration. One development that will be integrated with Google Assistant in the near future is Google Lens. Google’s move to enable assistant to deduce what being seen by the camera. An example would be if pointed at a flower, Google lens will be able to tell you information about that flower and even give links to purchase bouquets. Google lens also incorporates google maps and ratings, e.g if lens is pointed to a shop, it will come up with details of the shop such as opening times and even its ratings on the web.
Google Lens will take the assistant to another level and really put it head and shoulder above rival assistants.
The fight for household dominance continues and Google didn’t want to miss out. The popular announcement of Google home last year, received upgrades this year. Previously announced, Home can now recognise up to 6 different voices and their specific profiles to return relevant information. Home now also has a wide array of partners it can communicate with to carry out a multitude of functions, including Google’s very own Nest products. The major upgrade revealed at IO is Google Home’s ability to display information on screens in the house whether it be phones, tablets or TVs. Home now analyses what’s being asked and sends responses to devices it thinks will be useful and convenient; i.e directions will be sent to a phone or playing a tv show to a TV. The connection with TV’s will be enabled via Chromecast dongles or Android-ready devices. Home will also have the ability to display information on tv whilst user continues to watch what’s on.
This improved functionality adds to a vast array of features already present in Google Home to keep on the toes of Amazon’s Echo.
The biggest cheer of the keynote was the announcement that Kotlin will now become an officially supported language for Android apps. Kotlin will be included out of the box with no further additional installs in Android Studio 3.0. Kotlin has become a developer favourite since it was created and released by JetBrains last year. Popularity was down to the fact it ran on Java Virtual Machine and can be used in tandem with Java in app creation. This move shows how important the developer community is to Google and further encourages them to jump on board and create more apps in the ever growing Android world.
Photos received a few new features to improve sharing and editing. “Suggested Sharing” is down to the machine learning of the photos apps to recommend sharing certain photos with specific people present within them. The app recognises faces in the picture and groups them together to make it easier for the individual to just pass on the photos with that person. Another sharing feature is “Shared Libraries”, this gives the user the opportunity to have a library with a certain person that you share all your photos with, to continually receive and see new photos taken with your device. This saves the time required to go and select all the photos and share them each time as the shared library automatically updates with the new pictures and videos.
Looking at editing, there’s always obstructions when taking photos such as fences, plants etc. Now with the Photos app, you have to ability to remove these obstructions, to leave you with a clear and desired picture you wanted to capture. It’s not quite Photoshop but it’s a very simple editing addition to an ever growing set of tools within Google Photos.
The app will now also collate photos from a particular event and suggest making an album, this photo album will cost $9.99 and will initially be only available in America.
This year’s conference really focused on efficiency, improvement and stability of Android, Home and Photos. Google continues to step up and meet the bars set by competitors and in some cases surpass them. It’s also clear they know the importance of developer involvement and the weekend was very much focused towards them. Overall IO 2017 felt more like an evolution in products rather than a revolution and with the state Google are in I think that’s all good.
Tech Off Melon!