Google I/O 2016: Android N, Android Wear 2.0, Daydream VT platform, fresh stats & more!

Google IO 2016 keynote image 001

The Google I/O 2016 keynote wrapped up so we compiled interesting tidbits that we think iDownloadBlog readers might be curious to learn about, because it pays off to keep tabs on what competition is doing.

In addition to a pair of new iPhone apps, Google Assistant and Google Home, the search firm updated its developers at I/O 2016 on the latest on Android N, which launches this summer. It also announced Android Wear 2.0, talked about a virtual reality platform, dubbed Daydream, and more.

Android N

Google rewrote and redesigned “some fundamental aspects” of how Android works, focusing on three key themes for Android N: performance, productivity and security. Apps will install faster and take up less storage than before. As for the productivity improvements in Android N, they’re including Multi-Window support and Direct Reply.

Android N multi-window mode
Multi-Window mode in Android N.

With Multi-Window support, more than one app can be displayed at a time in side-by-side multitasking mode or one-above-the-other in split-screen mode. On TV devices, apps can use Picture-in-Picture mode to continue video playback while users are interacting with another app.

Notifications in Android N support the Direct Reply feature so that users can quickly respond to text messages or update task lists directly within the notification interface (yes, we’ve had that since iOS 8). Android N should also bring a lot smoother gaming and faster graphics-intensive apps with Vulkan, Google’s version of iOS’s Metal hardware-accelerated graphics framework.

Nexus devices image 001
Android N Developer Preview is available on a range of devices.

Android N will be required for Daydream, Google’s brand new reference platform for virtual reality applications, smartphones and controller hardware. By the way, Android N won’t be the actual name of the shipping software—Google is accepting submissions for what to call the system until June 8, 2016 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time.

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On a related note, a new feature, called Android Instant Apps, will let Android devices stream apps and games from the Play Store, meaning you’ll be able to use apps without actually installing them. Android Instant Apps are coming to Android Jelly Bean 4.2 and newer devices later this year.

Android Wear 2.0

The next major version of Google’s Android-based platform for smartwatches launched as a developer beta today. Celebrating its second anniversary, the new Android Wear 2.0 brings standalone apps into full view, allowing smartwatches with an embedded cellular data to have direct network access to the cloud, without needing a paired smartphone.

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Moreover, Android Wear 2.0 enhances the experience with features like a tiny keyboard that you can swipe to choose letters, customizable watch faces, integration with Google’s Fit platform for fitness apps, Google Assistant-powered smart reply suggestions, a full screen handwriting recognition mode and more.

Android Wear 2.0 teaser 001

And akin to complications on the Apple Watch, watch faces on Android Wear 2.0 can now display any piece of information from any other app with no additional work required on a developer’s part.

Android Wear 2.0 slide

Android Wear 2.0 will release for public consumption this fall.

Daydream

Daydream is a brand new virtual-reality platform from Google and one of the surprise highlights of the conference. Promising a high-quality virtual reality experience, Daydream will be coming to compatible  Android phones this fall via the free Android N software update.

Google daydream slide 001

On Android N, Daydream provides a low-latency experience and includes a user interface for notifications when using a viewer. For those wondering, motion-to-photon latency on Nexus 6P running Developer Preview 3 is lower than 20 milliseconds.

Android phones will need to have certain screens and special sensors if they’re to e Daydream certification. Google says that Daydream-ready phones from the likes of HTC, ZTE, Huawei, Asus, Xiaomi, Alcatel, LG and Samsung are coming this fall.

Google Daydream controller reference design

But, Google took Daydream a step further with the introduction of a reference design for VR headsets and controllers for third-party vendors. A Daydream-compatible controller will work in VR-optimized apps and games and include a built-in trackpad and an orientation sensor for accurate motion control.

Take that, Cardboard!

Latest Google stats

Like Apple, Google tends to kick off major keynotes with a state-of-the-Union segment that basically provides updates on its many initiatives. The search company has its tentacles everywhere these days so we were expecting way more numbers than executives delivered on stage.

Here’s what’s happening with Google’s platforms:

  • 600 models of Android-driven smartphones were introduced in 2015
  • Chrome has one billion monthly active users on mobile
  • Google saw 65 billion app installs on Google Play in 2015
  • 25 million Chromecast dongles sold to this date
  • Google Photos has 200 million monthly active users
  • There are 50 million apps for Cardboard available

Oh, and Android Pay is now available in UK and coming soon to Singapore and Australia.

Google Play 65B installs
Google I/O keynote took place Gat the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California.

Firebase is expanding

To make it easier to write cross-platform apps that work together and provide consistent, unified user interfaces, Google announced an expansion of its Firebase solution which is now becoming a unified app platform for Android, iOS and mobile web development.

Android TV and Google Cast

A quick recap of Android TV and Google Cast news:

  • Google Cast, which is built into all Android TV devices, is coming to a lineup of TVs from Magnavox, Philips, Polaroid, Toshiba, Westinghouse and more
  • Sony and Sharp are adding to their Android TV product lines with Sony’s 2016 BRAVIA and Sharp’s Net Player
  • New devices are also on the way with RCA’s first Android TV and Xiaomi’s sleek 4K set-top box
  • In Europe, Android TV will be available from Beko, Grundig and Vestel starting in June
  • New features available in Android N will let Android TV users play video while browsing other content in Picture-in-Picture mode, record live TV and enjoy crisper 4K UHD video with support for High Dynamic Range

Saying 👋 to Allo and Duo: new apps for smart messaging and video calling

Whether it’s welcoming a new baby, celebrating the winning shot in overtime, or discovering the best taco stand ever—we all want to share these moments with friends and family the instant they happen. Most of the time, this means picking up our phones and sending a message or starting a call. Today we’re sharing a preview of two new apps that take a fresh look at how people connect.

Allo, a smart messaging app
Allo is a smart messaging app that makes your conversations easier and more expressive. It’s based on your phone number, so you can get in touch with anyone in your phonebook. And with deeply integrated machine learning, Allo has smart features to keep your conversations flowing and help you get things done.

Emojis, stickers, Ink, and our Whisper Shout feature in Allo

Allo has Smart Reply built in (similar to Inbox), so you can respond to messages without typing a single word. Smart Reply learns over time and will show suggestions that are in your style. For example, it will learn whether you’re more of a “haha” vs. “lol” kind of person. The more you use Allo the more “you” the suggestions will become. Smart Reply also works with photos, providing intelligent suggestions related to the content of the photo. If your friend sends you a photo of tacos, for example, you may see Smart Reply suggestions like “yummy” or “I love tacos.”

Smart Reply suggestions in Allo

Allo also features the Google assistant, bringing the richness of Google directly into your chats—helping you find information, get things done, and have fun. You can chat one-on-one with the assistant, or call on Google in a group chat with friends. Either way, you no longer have to jump between apps to do things like book a dinner reservation with friends, get up-to-date sports scores, settle a bet, or play a game. The assistant in Allo lets you bring things like Search, Maps, YouTube and Translate to all your conversations, so that you and your friends can use Google together.

The Google assistant in Allo understands your world, so you can ask for things like your agenda for the day, details of your flight and hotel, or photos from your last trip. And since it understands natural language patterns, you can just chat like yourself and it’ll understand what you’re saying. For example, “Is my flight delayed?” will return information about your flight status.

Google assistant in Allo

Privacy and security are important in messaging, so following in the footsteps of Chrome, we created Incognito mode in Allo. Chats in Incognito mode will have end-to-end encryption and discreet notifications, and we’ll continue to add new features to this mode.

Duo, a video calling app for everyone
Duo is a simple, fast one-to-one video calling app for everyone—whether you’re on Android or iOS, a fast or slow connection, in New York or New Delhi. Like Allo, Duo is based on your phone number, allowing you to reach anyone in your phonebook. And its simple interface fades away when you’re in a call, so it’s just the two of you.
Video call in Duo

One of our favorite features of Duo is Knock Knock, which shows you a live video preview of the caller before you pick up. Knock Knock invites you into the moment, making calls feel spontaneous and fun. Once you answer, Duo seamlessly transitions you right into the call.

Duo calls are in crisp HD video (up to 720p) and audio. We’ve optimized Duo to work well even on spotty networks, so if bandwidth is limited it gracefully adjusts quality so you’re still able to connect. We also seamlessly transition calls between cellular and Wi-Fi, so you don’t need to worry about what network you’re on. Finally, we built Duo with privacy and security in mind and all calls on Duo are end-to-end encrypted.


Both Allo and Duo will be available this summer on Android and iOS. We can’t wait for you to try them.

Google launched the ultimate keyboard for iOS!


While there are a number of other third-party keyboards available for iOS devices, you might not have been expecting Google to be the next company to deliver a GIF-capable one for your device. You’d have been wrong, however.

Launched today, Gboard for iPhone aims to bring together anything you might want without having to navigate away from whichever app you’re typing in. So that could be a GIF, emoji support or the ability to search things like nearby stores and restaurants, news, weather forecasts and everything else you can search via Google. So, everything then.

As well as putting a world of information, stupid pictures and emojis at your fingertips, the keyboard also supports the Swype-like ‘Glide’ typing found on other alternatives.

And yes, like most of Google’s apps, it is free to use.

The one potential downside is that it appears to only be available to users in the US for now.

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For the first time in history: The new face of the 20$ bill will be a Woman!

  
A woman’s face is finally going to grace the front of our paper currency and it’s going to be abolitionist icon Harriet Tubman, who is best known for her work with the Underground Railroad that helped former slaves escape captivity. Politico reports that Tubman’s face will replace Andrew Jackson’s on the $20 bill, while Alexander Hamilton will keep his place on the $10 bill.

U.S. treasury secretary Jack Lew last year said that he planned to replace Hamilton’s face with a woman’s on the $10 bill, although that decision generated a backlash from many people who said that we should keep our first-ever treasury secretary on the front of our currency. Former U.S. president Andrew Jackson, meanwhile, doesn’t have nearly as much of a cult following and is thus a prime target to be replaced by Harriet Tubman.

Politico’s sources say that while Hamilton will remain the face of the $10 bill, “leaders of the movement to give women the right to vote on the back of the bill.” Additionally, it seems “there will also be changes to the $5 bill to depict civil rights era leaders,” although Abraham Lincoln will remain on the front of the bill.

Of course, it also helps that Hamilton now has a smash-hit broadway musical named after him as well, so even hipsters who know nothing about history can be happy that his face is staying on the $10 bill. And Tubman is the perfect choice as the first American woman to go on the $20 bill, as she’s an icon who worked tirelessly to both end slavery and promote women’s suffrage.

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