Google I/O 2014 Keynote Highlights
The first day of Google I/O 2014 has come and gone, and just as we were expecting, Google used the opening keynote to shed some light on the future of Android, Chrome, Android Wear, Android Auto, Android TV, Google Cloud Platform, and Google Play. While the keynote was available for live stream viewing from the comfort of your own home, we’ve boiled down the nearly three hour keynote to its most important highlights for those who lack the time to watch the entire presentation.
Android Platform Momentum
Like I/O events of yore, yesterday’s keynote began by discussing the momentum seen in Android. As expected, Google’s mobile OS has seen drastic usage increases in one year’s time.
In terms of 30-day active users, Android went from 220 million in 2012 to 550 million last year. This figure is up to 1 billion users now. Users are also using their devices more, as there are 20 billion text messages sent every day, as well as 93 million “selfies.” In addition, users are checking their phones 100 billion times daily, with an average of 125 phone checks per person, per day.
In addition to smartphones, Android tablets are also on the rise. Android’s tablet share has gone from 39% in 2012 to 46% in 2013 and 62% now. This obviously doesn’t include forked Android platforms such as Kindle. Judging by YouTube usage, Android tablets saw 28% in 2013 and 42% now.
Despite the massive success Android has enjoyed to date, Google is looking to expand further. For the future, Google wants to focus on the “next five billion users,” namely by targeting emerging markets. Android One accomplishes this through a set of hardware reference platforms with a high emphasis on quality. Google will pre-qualify vendors and have turnkey solutions ready for OEMs to build devices easily, with minimal strife.
Software on Android One devices will be stock Android. OEMs and integrators may choose to add Google Play auto install apps, but these may be uninstalled by the user. There are already three main device OEMs on the bandwagon: Spice, Karbonn, and Micromax, with the last one aiming at a sub-$100 price point.
We’ve already talked at length about the new user-facing features in Android L, as well as some of the underlying changes that will improve the overall user experience. So if you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out our coverage of the new significant features in L, as well as our closer look at L’s new UI paradigm, Material Design. But for those looking for a short, ten-second summary, L’s greatest changes come in the form of Material Design UI, upgraded notifications, a new Recent Apps UI, Improved CPU and GPU performance, improved battery life, and better permissions handling.
Wearables are THE hot topic for 2014, and I/O went on to further demonstrate this. One of the main goals of Android Wear is to reduce the number of times you are forced to check your smartphone every day, which averages 125 checks per day across users. Wear will accomplish this by letting you stay engaged in your current activity and understanding the context of what you care about.
The Wear UI was demonstrated in great detail. Swiping up and down takes you through the stream of cards, all of which feature Material Design UI stylings, just like Android L. There is also full phone integration, where you can swipe to reject calls or swipe up to reply via a predefined SMS. There’s also a do not disturb mode, which can be activated with a single downward swipe, and heart rate monitor support on certain devices. And of course, Wear supports voice commands with new ones on the way such as “OK Google, call me a car” integration with Lyft.
It is estimated that a quarter of all automobile accidents are caused by mobile device usage. Android Auto hopes to change all this with a redesigned Android UI tailored specifically to the tasks that users are likely to do in the car. This includes bringing navigation, communication, and music front and center. Android Auto is also contextual and voice enabled, allowing you to use many of the same voice commands that you’re familiar with on your smartphone or tablet.
Android Auto offers a full suite of APIs for audio (e.g. music, streaming radio, podcasts, etc) and messaging (e.g. incoming messages, voice responses) apps. Android Auto has support from the Open Automotive Alliance, with over 40 partners and over 25 car manufacturers bringing Auto-enabled cars soon. The first cars with Android Auto will be arriving by the year’s end.
Next, we have Google’s latest efforts to conquer your living room. Android TV aims to continue where the Chromecast left off by making your next (or current) TV smarter. Android TV will provide contextual content information for actors and show information, all of which is interrelated. And thanks to the power of Google Voice Search and Knowledge Graph, you’re able to query Android TV for content such as the “Oscar-nominated movies for 2002,” or to find out “who played Katniss in the Hunger Games.” Also key to Android TV is a new leanback experience, with building blocks present for developers to customize, while keeping with the same overall UI paradigms.
In addition to content, Android TV is also about gaming. You’re able to game on Android TV with multiplayer support across platforms. In other words, you can play on Android TV while your friend plays on his Android tablet. And just like a Chromecast, you’re able to cast content directly to Android TV. Developers looking to get into Android TV should head over to Google’s site to sign up for the ADT1 dev kit.
Finally, since we “only” average 5 hours of television viewing per day, Google wanted to make better use of the TV for the remaining 19 hours. This is done thanks to the new Google Cast ambient experience backdrop. With this, you can customize the pictures that show up on your Chromecast with either your own personal photos from Google+ albums, places with geospatial images, or curated art from around the world with user-selectable topics. You’ll also be able to find out what exactly is playing on your Chromecast at any given time thanks to a new synchronized card with relevant information and actions. These additions will make their way out to consumer Chromecast devices some time later this summer.
Last but certainly not least for Google Cast and the Chromecast, users are now able to mirror their Android device screens directly to the Chromecast. This is done with low latency thanks to custom data compression.
Despite their inherent limitations, Chromebooks have seen great success–both in terms of sales and user satisfaction. This is largely due to the platform’s focus on speed, simplicity, and security. According to Amazon, all 10 of the highest rated laptops are Chromebooks. There has also been a 6x growth in educational adoption.
Coming soon, Chromebooks and Android smartphones are going to play a lot nicer together. For example, you’ll be able to connect them to see your Android notifications on your Chromebook, as well as unlock your Chromebook by simply approaching it with your Android device in hand. In addition, Android apps will be able to run natively on Chrome OS for an even more connected experience.
In order to save enterprise users from needing to carry around two phones, Android L allows you to more easily manage personal and corporate apps into a single phone. This is done through underlying data separation, which received contribution from Samsung Knox technology.
Next, we have Google Drive and its productivity suite, which is up to 190 million 30-day active users. Google has updated its office suite to natively handle Microsoft Office files (e.g. docx, xlsx, and pptx). This is done natively, without the need to first convert the file into Google Docs format.
Finally for enterprise, we have Google Cloud Platform. As always, Google Cloud Platform offers tools for compute, data storage, and analysis. The capabilities extend to features such as cloud tracing to tell you whether parts of your code takes too long.
The keynote then finished off by talking about Google Play, its developer tools, and Play Games. There are various tools available to developers such as Appurify, which enables devs to simulate mobile networks and their issues while developing apps. And despite being acquired by Google, Appurify will remain cross-platform going forward.
Play Games has now become the fastest growing mobile gaming network all time. There are 100 million new users in past 6 months, and the service is able to connect game a concentrated network of people via achievements, leaderboards, save games, multiplayer gaming, gifts, and so on. And as we covered earlier, Play Services 5 brings various new features to Play Games such as a new game profile with save game progress and screenshots, as well as new quests.
Finally, we have Google Fit. Fit aims to create a complete picture of a user’s fitness using a variety of sensors and data sources from various devices. This then interfaces with your smartphone and other devices via a single set of developer APIs. The end user is then able to give explicit permission about what data to send and with whom the data should be shared.
What was the most exciting part of the I/O 2014 keynote for you? What are you most looking forward to? Is Android Wear the future for you, or is Android L all that you can think about? With all of these fantastic announcements, it’s hard to choose a favorite. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!