Every year, Google announces a slew of developer goodies at its annual Google I/O conference. Expectations were high this year as there were talks of Android M, the next version of Android, a variety of software improvements, updates to Android Wear, announcements around Google's VR efforts among others. And Google did not disappoint. Here is a look at some of the top announcements from Day 1 of Google I/O 2015.
Android M was arguably the most anticipated announcement at Google I/O. While Android Lollipop, (codenamed as Android L) was all about Google's new Material design, this year Android M was about improving the smartphone user experience and baking in some more features.
- App permissions
With Android M, Google promises more granular control on app permissions, doing away with the permissions pop up when installing an app. Users will now be prompted to allow an app the permission to use a certain feature (say location) when it actually needs to use it.
- Chrome custom tabs
Today when we click on a link within an app, it opens in a bare bones version of a browser within the app. Android M will integrate an in-app Chrome experience such that apps open links on Chrome within the app. Furthermore, Android M will also offer stronger app linking enabling one app to be opened from another by clicking on a link to that app. For instance, clicking on a link to tweet from a news app will open that link directly within the Twitter app.
- Fingerprint authentication
Android M will feature the API for native support for fingerprint sensors allowing manufacturers to better integrate fingerprint authentication. For the developer, this means the ability to integrate fingerprint authentication within an app. For now, Google is also integrating fingerprint authentication to unlock the phone, for Android Pay and Play Store purchases.
Among other key Android M announcements was Doze mode, which puts the android smartphone into deeper sleep mode, when it is unused for long hours, resulting in improved standby battery life. Google also announced the support for USB Type-C with Android M.
Google Now On Tap
Google went all contextual with its Google Now feature which promises to now have better natural language processing capabilities. It will now understand the context of the user's interactions with the Android smartphone. For instance, if the user gets an email about a movie ticket, accessing Google Now will offer a range of information, with links to apps such as YouTube for trailers, IMDb for details on the movie or an app which offers reviews and ratings for the movie.
At the keynote, the company also demonstrated a feature where while listening to music by Skrillex, activating Google Now and asking "What's his real name?" resulted in Google Now coming back with the artist's real name, without having to specifically say Skrillex in the question.
Google's recent announcement of Android Pay got a boost with the company talking about partnering with smartphone manufacturers and telcos to offer the service pre-installed on new devices. In U.S, the company has already partnered with T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T. Android Pay will enable users to purchase apps by authenticating the purchase with fingerprints or buy physical goods by tapping on an NFC sensor.
Support for offline Maps and Chrome for emerging markets
Google announced Offline Maps which will allow smartphone users in regions with limited to no connectivity, to access Google Maps in offline mode. The company says users will be able to even access turn-by-turn navigation and reviews for places in offline mode. This will be done by syncing up all this data just before the user goes into an area with limited or no connectivity. With Chrome, users will be able to download and save pages for offline reading.
Google announced Android Studio 1.3 Preview which supports code editing and debugging for C/C++ code. The company also announced Polymer 1.0 a toolkit that will enable developers to bring app-like experience to browsers on both desktop and mobile with a library of menus, maps, toolbars etc.
Google also introduced the Cloud Test Lab that will allow developers to upload and test an app for top 20 android devices. It will also provide developers access to crash logs and screenshots so that they can iron out issues before taking the app live.
To make Android development more accessible for developers, the company also announced Android Nanodegree, a $200 six to nine month program that will provide developers the skills for developing Android apps.
Other key announcements included:
Updates for Android Wear - an always on feature that keeps the screen on low power black & white mode, navigation with Google maps available at a glance when on the move, among others.
Google Cardboard - compatibility with iOS through a new SDK, Expeditions, a virtual reality education tool for students to take a VR field trip while teachers control the experience on a tablet device.
Internet of Things - Project Brillo, an Android based IoT operating system that uses its own language, Weave to interface with smart devices in the house.