Google I/O 2015 is just getting started and Google kicked off the conference with an announcement about its highly anticipated Android M. As expected, Google has added new app permissions controls for Android so users have more control over what data they share with developers. The biggest change here is that Android apps will ask for permissions whenever you use specific features within the app instead of before you install the app.
Google also took the wraps off Android Pay for the first time, which is Google’s attempt to breathe new life into its old Google Wallet mobile payments platform. Google says Android Pay will work at over 700,000 stores that accept contactless payments in the United States. Like with Google Wallet and Apple Pay, Android Pay will be based on NFC technology, which has become the standard tech for mobile payments.
Another important new feature is native support for fingerprint scanners, which will go hand-in-hand with Android Pay to help users securely authorize payments with their phones. Although many Android OEMs have released phones with fingerprint sensors before, this is the first time it will become a part of the Android platform itself.
Google is also going to address users’ battery power concerns with a new feature called Doze that will turn off all your device’s background activity when it detects it’s not being used. Google says this feature doubles the standby time on Android devices.
Like Apple, Google is also embracing USB Type-C ports for its devices that offer faster charging and that can be used for multiple functions. Google has already started using USB Type-C ports on its Chromebook laptops and Apple unveiled its first USB Type-C-equipped laptop earlier this year with its new 2015 MacBook.
Android M will be available as a developer preview today and Google’s goal is to have the final version released in the third quarter this year.
Google isn’t just putting its software on phones anymore. The company on Thursday unveiled a new platform called Project Brillo that will be its operating system for the so-called “Internet of things,” which is an industry buzzword for having several different household devices that are connected to the Internet and can communicate with one another.
“We hope we can connect devices in a seamless and intuitive way to make them work better for users,” Google Android boss Sundar Pichai said of Project Brillo’s mission.
It’s that time of year, folks. Google I/O is upon us and the search giant, per usual, has a number of big announcements on hand. Just a few moments ago, Google announced a new payment platform dubbed Android Pay that will be coming to Android M.
As one would expect, Android Pay will seemingly operate much like Apple Pay, with fingerprint authentication as well if desired. As for how it works, it’s rather simple. Simply unlock any NFC enabled Android device and hold it in front of a NFC terminal. Notably, your actual credit card number will not be shared with any store.
Notably, Android Pay will reportedly work with devices running KitKat as well.
In keeping with Google’s bread and butter, Android Pay is slated to be an open platform, which is to say that users will be able to add and activate their credit card into Android Pay either via Google’s built-in method or via each individual bank’s own application.
What’s more, Android Pay will also allow app developers to integrate such payment functionality into their own apps. For instance, apps like Lyft will now include an Android Pay payment option that will save users from having to tediously enter in their credit card information.
Google has already added support for GPS, Wi-Fi, wrist gestures to Android Wear, the company revealed, but also support for other interesting features such as always-on apps, screen lock and a new launcher. Android Wear devices will even be able to recognize emojis, the company revealed.
Android Wear will offer users an always on screen to show the time – unlike Apple’s Watch which doesn’t have such a feature – and will feature always on apps that’ll let users enjoy various interesting new features. The company said it currently has more than 4,000 apps built specifically for Apple Wear watches, with some apps ready to bring even more features to its smartwatch platform, including Uber, Foursquare and CityMapper.
However, Google did not announce any new Android Wear device during the event, but hinted that more devices are launching later this year. “Ultimately, Android Wear is about choice,” Google said, insisting on the wide variety of Android Wear models already available to buyers. “By the end of the year, there will be many more Android Wear watches.”
Now on Tap
Google a few moments ago introduced that amazing new changes are coming to Google Now with a new software feature Google is calling ‘Now on Tap’. Now on Tap brings Google Now functionality to the next level by leveraging context awareness to bring you even more information super quickly.
Meet Google Photos, a brand new home for all your digital memories
The new photos application isn’t necessarily a surprise, considering that a recent leak from Android Police offered a sneak preview to Google’s new photo management solution.
Just as Google explained on stage, the new app photos app will be smart enough to organize your photos automatically and privately, to give you easier control on photo collections and albums. The Photos app also backs up automatically all your pictures, from a variety of devices, making them all available in a single place.
The app uses machine learning to automatically organize photos by people, things and places, which should definitely come in handy when looking for specific memories. Interestingly, the app is able to recognize the same person regardless of age, which is definitely a handy feature.
Obviously, users will be able to organize photos in their own albums and collections if they so desire.
At the same time, the Photos app also lets you easily share with friends and family (via Twitter) and save photos.
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Google Maps OFFLINE Mode is coming with Turn by Turn Navigation:
Google Maps for Android has had some sort of offline support for years now, but it’s definitely not good enough for most use cases, in the current iteration at least. At its I/O conference Google has announced that it’s working on bringing better offline support to Maps sometime before the end of this year.
So in the future you’ll be able to start navigating to places while offline. Currently navigation works offline, but you need to be online when you start it. Additionally, Google Maps will allow offline searches for places and points of interest (with autocomplete no less), something which you can’t do right now.
Reviews and important info such as opening hours show up too. You will still need to initially save the desired maps to your phone, of course. Turn-by-turn voice directions will be available offline too.
Unfortunately the short presentation about this topic was very light on details, so we don’t yet know how much space the saved offline maps will occupy on your device. That may be an issue, as you’d imagine. It’s also unclear whether these new features will become available globally from the get-go, or if we’ll see a more limited rollout first.
New Google Cardboard viewer supports devices up to 6″, iPhones too
Google Cardboard was introduced at last year’s I/O, this year it’s getting a refresh though not as big as you might have hoped. Still, the viewer was redesigned and it now supports devices with up to 6″ screens.
They are also easier to assemble, taking just three steps instead of twelve.
Part of that is that the magnet button was replaced by a cardboard one. I’m not 100% sure how it works, but Google promises it will work with more devices than the magnet button did.
On the software front, the Unity SDK used with Cardboard now supports iOS so iPhones can join in too.
Google is trying to push its VR viewer as an educational too, offering packs of viewers, phones and a tablet to schools. The tablet lets the teacher control the presentation, while kids experience Expeditions – crafted VR experiences with educational value.
By the way, Cardboard has been doing well for itself – it boasts 1 million users that have access to 500 apps.
Watch Google I/O Keynote Replay: