Google I/O 2016, the developer’s annual conference to showcase its latest and greatest technological leaps, has just wrapped up in California and left us wanting more. This year’s event was jam-packed with announcements, including updates on Android N, Google VR, Google Home and Google Assistant, as well as brand new messaging apps Allo and Duo to sink our teeth into. We’ve rounded up the biggest Google I/O 2016 announcements right here at Tesco Mobile, so you don’t miss a thing!
Taking on Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Window’s Cortana, Google is expanding its existing virtual assistant, Google Now, to bring us the appropriately-named “Google Assistant”. The aim is to go one step further than the search-based platform to create a conversational assistant that learns the more you ask it. Engaging in a two-way dialogue with Google Assistant, it’s smart enough to know the context of your queries and return relevant results, such as “where is the nearest cinema?” and “I’d like to take the kids”. Google Assistant can even purchase tickets for you on your behalf, which could give it the edge on competitors.
The technological giant also announced a new home assistant, aptly-named “Google Home”, which is a small, vase-shaped device with microphones that integrate into a range of services. You can place it anywhere in your home and it will answer questions, as well as perform commands at your request. Google Home works with Chromecast devices to play media, like music and movies, and with Nest devices to control things like room temperature and lighting.
Google is branching into the world of instant messaging with Allo, a mobile-only app powered by machine learning, which wants to make your conversations smarter. It goes beyond traditional messaging by incorporating Google’s smart search into it, which will eventually provide you with automated text responses based on the context of your discussion. Allo also has all the great features you’d expect on a messaging app, like emojis and stickers, as well as the ability to draw on photographs before you send them and change the font size of your messaging, depending on whether you want to shout or whisper.
Duo is Google’s answer to Apple’s FaceTime and Skype, enabling you to video-call your friends and family. When you open the app, you’ll find a preview of yourself, which will be presented to the person you’re calling before they answer. Once again, Google Duo is mobile-only and tied to your phone number, which means it loses some points compared to FaceTime. However, Duo is proactive and monitors your network quality, effortlessly switching between 3G/4G and WiFi when required.
Google unveiled more of the Android N, which included Vulkan API that lets game developers control the phone’s GPU to improve 3D graphics. Android RunTime has been enhanced with a new JIT compiler, meaning apps will install 75 per cent faster than ever before, reducing the amount of storage space needed. The new flagship device also includes file-based encryption and improved updates that will download automatically to your phone. More features include the ability to return to an app you were just using by double-tapping the ‘recent’ button, as well as the ability to change notification settings by long-tapping the notification itself. As highlighted in our Mobile News last week, Android wants you to name the new device by submitting your naming suggestions online.
Android Wear 2.0
Google has revamped Android Wear for the first time since its release in 2014, presenting Android Wear 2.0 at Google I/O 2016. You can now make data from any Watch Face app appear on the smartwatch, similar to the Apple Watch, as well as utilise improvements to the Messaging and Fitness apps. Google has incorporated automatic detection for activity to better track your movement and you can now share your fitness data across different apps with the Google Fitness API. Android Wear 2.0 will also use Smart Reply, a clever new keyboard fuelled by Google’s Machine Learning, as well as including better handwriting recognition on the watch face.
Android Instant Apps
This shook things up a bit – Google introduced Android Instant Apps, which allows you to use apps without downloading them. In an attempt to further improve mobile browsing experience, Google’s new concept loads only the parts of the apps you need without having to fully install them. This could signal the end of downloading apps only to use them once and forget about them.
Also covered in last week’s Mobile News, Google announced a brand new VR headset entitled Google Daydream. Like its predecessor Google Cardboard, the basis of Daydream has been designed by Google, but it will be up to developers to create new apps and games to fully realise its potential. Google is seeking to appeal to a high-end market with an immersive, top-quality virtual reality experience for Android smartphones.
Keep your eyes peeled for Google’s new releases this year and be sure to check back at Tesco Mobile for all the latest updates!