We round up the best things we learned at Google I/O 2014 including new Android L, Android Wear news, Google Fit, Android Auto, Chromebooks and more. Oh, and don't forget Android TV. (See also: Google I/O keynote as it happened.)
Although Google I/O is a developer conference, like other firms with similar events Google uses the I/O event as a platform to announced and launch new products. In this instance it made a play for world domination, outlining a future in which Android shall speak unto Chrome, with wearables, cars and TVs that all utilise the same apps and play the same games. It's worth pointing out that there wasn't much hard news at I/O. Most of what was outlined was a vision, aimed at inspiring developers. But the picture painted was either cool or frightening, depending on how you view Google. Also see: Android L offers remarkable battery life, but it's no faster than KitKat
Google was releasing new APIs and SDKs in order to encourage developers to make the apps that will encourage you to buy an Android TV, or put Android Auto in your car. As such it won't change your world right now... but if Google's vision comes to fruition, we will be living in an Android world.
The 5 most exciting announcements from Google I/O 2014
Most exciting announcements from Google I/O: Android L release
See what I mean about hard news? We *still* don't have a name for the new Android. But we know a lot more about it. Android L is the successor to Android Kit-Kat. We have it running on our Nexus 5 in the office, and it looks amazing. Google's has introduced a new aesthetic and style guide called 'Material Design'. This gives Android L a focus on object depth and animation. (It looks like Windows Phone 8 and iOS 8. Trust us, this is an upgrade.)
Android L also brings new features: improvements to notifications, a "personal unlock" feature lets you authenticate and unlock your Android phone or tablet simply by placing it near an Android smartwatch or other device.
As you would expect Google said that Android L also boosts the OS's graphical and battery performance, ditches the stodgy old Dalvik runtime powering Android for the new and improved ART (Android Run Time), and adds more than 5,000 new APIs for developers.
There's also Android for Work, which won't be part of all Android devices, but should make running Android offices a lot more feasible. There's security features, and native Microsoft Office integration for Google Drive in Android. Basically, you can open and edit Office docs on your Android.
Android L won't launch in consumer products for months. But we have the developer preview, and it really does look an amazing piece of work. Find out yourself: How to get Android L now: a beginner’s step-by-step guide.
Most exciting announcements from Google I/O: Android TV
This isn't a new platform; that's kind of the point,” said Google's Dave Burke, speaking to developers about Android TV. “We're simply giving TV the same level of attention as phones and tablets have traditionally enjoyed. We want you to leverage your existing skills and investment in Android and extend them to TV.”
Android TVh is simply a means of bringing to your TV set all of the apps and features of your Android smartphone or tablet. It will allow you to play Android games on your TV set, for instance.
Android TV replaces Google TV. Google launched Google TV to great fanfare in 2010. Google TV was focused on simply porting the best TV content on the web into your TV. It wasn't a success, in part because of the paucity of content. In the UK at least, there wasn't much of high quality to watch on your expensive Google TV device.
Android TVs will be like other smart TVs, but instead of relying on proprietary app stores from the likes of Samsung and Sony, you will be able to access Google Play apps and content.
Android TV requires just a directional D-pad as well as voice input, which could appear in a traditional remote, a virtual keypad on a smartphone or even a gamepad. Burke showed off the TV input framework, which allows Android TVs to handle both HDMI and streaming video.
Expect all Samsung TVs to be Android TVs as of next year. This is big, people. See also: Android TV release date & new features.
Most exciting announcements from Google I/O: Android Wear smartwatches
Google had already announced Android Wear. Android Wear is a version of the mobile OS specifically made for wearable devices like smartwatches. The main thing we got from I/O was details on what Android Wear smartphones are coming out this year. Some of them right now.
Google gave us a further insight into Android Wear, too. The first two Android Wear smartwatches will be the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live, both of which are now available to pre-order.Motorola's Android Wear smartwatch will be on sale 'this summer,' and there are bound to be more to come this year, as Google has made the SDK for the software available.
If you're a developer, then you can download the full SDK of Android Wear from Google. This means you can start tailoring existing app notifications for Android Wear and create your own custom apps to work with the wearables.
During the Google I/O keynote, Google demoed the Eat24 app for Android Wear, which lets users order their favourite pizza from their favourite takeout restaurant within 20 seconds, requiring just a couple of taps on the watch. And you can't tell me that is not exciting. See also: What is Google Android Wear? Release date, smartwatches & features.
Most exciting announcements from Google I/O: Android Auto
Following the announcement of its Open Automotive Alliance back in January, Google used its annual I/O conference to unveil plans for its next step in world dominance: Android Auto.
Like Apple’s CarPlay, Android Auto relies on you bringing your own smartphone (an Android handset, naturally) and the bigger screen built into the dashboard relays information such as maps and guidance, plus your music library and information from Google Now and other apps. As well as having much larger buttons for easy operation, Android Auto is also voice controlled.
That’s hardly a new development for car tech, but it means you’ll be able to keep your hands on the wheel while choosing a new album or track; enter a destination for the satnav, reply to text messages and emails (which can be read aloud as they arrive) or make a phone call to a contact in your address book. Basically all the stuff you would want to do while driving. See also: Google Android Auto - a new operating system for your car.
Most exciting announcements from Google I/O: Android apps for Chromebooks
Chromebooks will soon be able to receive notifications and run applications from Android smartphones and tablets.
Google is trying to bridge the gap Chromebook laptops and Android mobile devices, making app and data exchange seamless, said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps, during a keynote Wednesday at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco.
Users will be able to run Android applications such as Vine, Evernote and Flipboard on mobile devices or Chromebooks, Pichai said. In an on-stage demonstration, the applications were transferred from a smartphone to Chromebook.
Other demonstrations highlighted how the Chromebook was linked to Android smartphones. A Chromebook showed notifications about an incoming call and text message on a smartphone, and also showed an alert that the smartphone battery was low. This is similar to how smartwatches display notifications and music playlists from Android smartphones.