Search engine giant is on full throttle, and this year’s keynote was pretty intriguing worth keeping an eye on. I got a firm grasp on what it will be like in upcoming months from Google, and now we have a clear idea that developers have the tools necessary to bring their software long for the ride, no matter where they develop or who they develop for.
Google dropped a ton of knowledge on us today. Let’s take a quick look at the major takeaways from this event together.
Android Developer M Preview
The major highlight of conference is clearly Android M. Google’s focus on polish and control here means we’ve going to see better battery life for all devices, but especially tablets with the new deep sleep function. We’re going to see native fingerprint support, better app-to-app linking, and a new Chrome service that will replace the generic WebView for a lot of users. The M Developer Preview is already available to install on your Nexus 5, Nexus 6, and Nexus 9 if you’re into trying out half-finished products, but Google promises this preview will see several significant updates before the official launch just in case your home button stops working.
Google Wallet, the mobile payment system that allowed a handful of Android phones to use tap-to-pay in a couple of locations if you had that one bank has grown up into Android Pay. Unlike its predecessor, which took quite a while to become a semi-viable product for most folks, Android Pay is coming out of the box with bank partnerships and a focus on letting the user choose how they want to make everything work. It’s a framework that wants to be friendly with everyone, and with any luck that means people will actually use it.
App permissions in Android M
While Android M already has a space high atop our list, the new App Permission system deserves its own honorable mention. Google has flipped the script on permissions, and moved to a system where the user will be able to approve or deny permissions when the app needs them instead of asking permission at install. This new system includes a toggle panel for all of the apps that are requesting specific kinds of permissions, so users will be able to grant and deny access to specific parts of their hardware and personal information as they see fit. It’s a huge win for users, especially if it’s implemented as well as Google seems to have done here.
Nvidia Shield Android TV
Google only briefly glossed over the existence of the NVIDIA Shield Android TV on stage today, but there’s a few extra details worth mentioning. For starters, this device is actually available for purchase starting today, and as you’ll see in our review it is by far the best Android TV experience out there today. Even if you’re not sure Android TV is for you just yet, it’s worth taking a closer look at.
We saw a fantastic focus on kids today, on several fronts. We know Google’s efforts in the education space have helped Chromebooks become incredibly popular in the classroom, but today we learned about Google Expeditions and the new Family Star system in the Play Store. Google Expeditions will soon be a classroom initiative involving Google Cardboard, and it will allow kids to go on virtual field trips with the teacher guiding the lesson with a tablet running special classroom software. Google’s Family Star system places a friendly icon in Play Store results to let you know the developer is following the new guidelines to ensure the app and its contents — including the ads and links away from the app — are kid-friendly.
All new Play Store tools for Developers
Google took some time to announce a couple of tools to help developers get noticed and make money. Developers will have a/b testing tools for trying out different descriptions, better advertising controls, and a new tools for getting the word out about their apps. It’s an impressive focus on what makes Android so great, which is the notion that anyone can be a developer and be successful.
Google Cardboard and Jump Cameras
Google’s next big thing in the world of Cardboard isn’t more sensors or a more expensive casing, its better support for all devices across Android and iOS. Google Carboard wants to get their next million users and keep them happy, and this seems like the best way to go. There was also an impressive focus on capturing experiences that look good in VR, and a platform called Jump to help make it happen. All you need is a dozen or so GoPros and a big ring to perfectly fit them all in, and you’ll be able to put the world around you into virtual reality.
Google is all about telling people that anyone can be a developer, and that the Play Store is the friendliest publishing platform for budding developers, but there’s a few steps in the middle there that you have to do on your own, or at least there was. Google has published an Android Nanodegree on Udacity, and made it so anyone interested in learning how to develop for Android can take this course and complete it in their own time. Google estimates it’ll take most folks 6-9 months to complete the nanodegree, assuming you spend 10-15 hours every week on the assignments. When you consider Udacity’s pricing for the program is only $200/month, you’re getting a crash course in Android development from Google pretty cheap.
Does anyone actually know what the Internet of Things is or does, outside of expensive lightbulbs and garage door openers that are only marginally easier to use than what we’ve had for 15 years already? If you answered no, that’s probably because these technologies do a terrible job explaining why you need to have them in your home and how they work without being more complicated than your current solution. Google thinks the answer to this problem is a unifying operating system, which is currently being called Project Brillo. Think of it like a mini version of Android that helps all of the Internet of Things gadgets talk to one another, in an interface that is super simple.
Google Now on Tap
Google Now is going to get a lot smarter in Android M, through an additional set of features called now on Tap. Where Google Now looks at your entire digital footprint and uses that to apply some digital smarts to your world, Now on Tap gets more granular and focuses on delivering contextual information inside of the app you are currently in. It can search for showtimes for a movie your friend just emailed you about, give you pictures of food you see on a menu that doesn’t visualize well, and a ton more. If you’re a fan of Google Now, this is a huge step forward.