No matter what path your fascination with Google products goes down, you were able to find something to like out of the first day of Google I/O 2016. We saw many recaps of features that were announced, confirmations of things that were rumored, and a few out-of-left-field product announcements that caught us off guard.
Whether you're interested in Google as a whole, Android, apps, services or just how it all works together, we have you covered here with a full recap of the first day of Google I/O 2016. Read on.
What initially felt like a new version of Google Now turned out to be a pretty darn huge announcement. Google Assistant is a new platform that Google's going to use in so many products going forward for all sorts of contextual search, deep analysis of your information and tailoring Google's app experiences to your every need. We're absolutely just hitting the tip of the iceberg with what we know of Google Assistant right now.
New messaging and video calling
There were some small rumblings that Google was ready to launch a brand new messaging app, and here it is. Allo is being billed as a great person-to-person and group messaging app, with all of the features you expect in a competitor like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, but then there's this extra wrinkle: Google Assistant is baked right into the experience. Whether you're talking to the Google Assistant directly or getting it involved in an ongoing conversation, Allo will bring you tons of extra information that will save you time and hassle involved with switching apps to do some tasks.
Going a step further, Google is trying to make the experience of mobile video calling actually fun again with Duo. It's a companion app to Allo that leverages some awesome new technology to handle person-to-person video chats in an instant with better reliability and quality. Anyone who has done video calls on mobile knows that there's a lot of room for improvement, and Duo aims to fill the void.
- Google announces Allo, a new smart messaging app that learns over time
- Duo aims to make video calls magical again
- You can now pre-register for Google's new Alto + Duo messaging apps
A last-minute rumor about platform-level virtual reality support had us somewhat ready for this, but we didn't know it'd be quite this big. Google announced that Android N will use the new "Daydream" standard, which will build in tons of new features that make VR a first-class experience on phones running the software — that means a built-in VR interface for navigation, VR versions of Google apps and lots of heavy lifting in terms of managing latency and performance for a great VR experience across devices.
But even further, Google is providing manufacturers with open source reference platforms for a new level of VR headset and one-handed motion controller. With these reference designs, manufacturers will be able to build their own headsets and controllers — much like the Google Cardboard platform — that work with Android phones and offer a great experience. We don't have a ton of details, but this looks to be a nice step up from Cardboard and a solid rival to the experience on offer from the Gear VR.
- Daydream is a new virtual reality initiative for all Android N phones
- 50 million Google Cardboard apps have been downloaded
Google's competitor to the Amazon Echo is here, and it has very lofty goals. Google Home, at its most basic level, is a small speaker that's designed to sit out in the open at home and be interacted with regularly. It's a Wi-Fi speaker with an array of microphones and lights that can take all sorts of queries that you'd normally ask your phone or tablet — asking Google for certain things, asking about upcoming appointments, booking reservations, etc.
That all sounds like a solid competitor to the Amazon Echo, but there's so much potential Google Home that could push it beyond what Amazon currently offers. Google Home aims to be a hub for controlling all aspects of your connected home — managing music to several speakers around the home, sending content from devices up to TVs, controlling lights and thermostats, managing information for a whole family and soooo much more. We don't quite know the details of how Google Home is supposed to manage so many devices, but Google has high expectations for itself on this one.
- Google Home is a new smart speaker to connect and automate your smart home
- 25 million Chromecasts have already been sold
- Google I/O, where everything is connected or abandoned
While many of us thought that Android Wear was withering on the vine, Google came out with a pretty large update for the platform. The latest update, which is in developers' hands today and will be out to retail devices in the fall, brings a big change in visual styling but also a couple of new ways to input text on watches.
Visually, you get a new Material Design-inspired notification layout that goes away from the original "cards" metaphor, along with changes to the app launcher. Watch faces can now have additional "complications" that add information to any watch face from third-party apps that you choose, which will have huge possibilities once developers get it in their hands. For text input, there's new handwriting input and gesture typing on a full keyboard.
- Hands-on with Android Wear 2.0: New design, watch face complications and handwriting input
- Android Wear 2.0 is the biggest update to the platform since launch
Android Auto didn't get time in the main I/O keynote, but there was a handful of solid announcements that bring features people have been waiting for. Perhaps the biggest new feature is that you'll be able to run the Android Auto interface natively on a phone or tablet, meaning that those who are unable to get a first- or third-party head unit with the software can run Android Auto on just an Android device mounted in the car.
Beyond that, Google let us know that Android Auto will soon incorporate the great crowd-sourced traffic information from Waze, and there are new partnerships in place to have deeply integrated Android Auto experiences in new cars.
- Android Auto eventually will get Waze, work on your phone, and be built in to cars
- Qualcomm is working with Google to help power the future of Android Auto
Chrome OS wasn't on the main stage today, but it was on everyone's mind as Google published a new session for May 19 that will finally unveil Google Play Store and Android apps that run on Chrome OS. The additional wrinkle here is the possibilities enabled by the Android Instant Apps initiative, which lets Google load and run specific parts of Android apps on devices without downloading and installing the whole app first. Things are about to get really fun in the Chrome OS space once this is all in motion.
- Android apps and Google Play are coming to Chrome OS
Android on phones and tablets
Google I/O is coming a couple months after Google already unveiled — and even updated — the Android N Developer Preview, so most of the keynote and sessions are about recapping what we already know and talking about how it all works together. But there were a few unknown features that were announced. First, there's Android Instant Apps, which is a new feature that will enable Google to offer up small bits of apps without downloading the whole app from Google Play first. Then we saw how Android N will handle system updates in the future, which hopefully will lead to quicker and less painful update processes for everyone involved.
Google also chose to use I/O as a launch point for the first "beta" release of the Android N preview, which means we're looking at a far more stable build that's just about finalized in terms of APIs for developers to write apps against. It also means that features are nearly set, so we're looking at a pretty finalized system right now. There will be lots of fine tuning in the months ahead before the full launch, but the heavy lifting is done.
Oh hey, and Google hasn't decided what Android N will stand for ... and wants your input on the matter.
- Android Instant Apps will let you run apps without installing them first
- The first beta-quality Android N release is now available
- Google wants your help in choosing the Android N nickname
- Android N will support quick and seamless system updates
- Every official Android N screenshot at Google I/O has a clock at 7:00 ...
This is a developer's conference after all, and Google hasn't forgotten that — there were plenty of announcements and new products specifically for the crowd who are making apps and devices that work with Android. There's a new version of Android Studio with neat features (particularly in layout design), a fresh take on the suite of analytics tools Google offers called Firebase, and a new Play Console app that can give app developers the numbers they need on the go.
The real things that developers get out of this show come from the sessions after the keynote, but it's always great to see Google spend time on the big stage showing the individual developers that they are important to the Android ecosystem.
- Android Studio 2.2 brings load of new features, including a fresh layout designer
- Revamped Firebase will offer better tools for deploying apps and making money in the Play Store
- New Play Console app gives developers instant access to the data the need
- 65 billion apps have already been downloaded from Google Play
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