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.

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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.

HTC 10 unveiled: 5.2-inch QHD display, 12 UltraPixel camera with laser autofocus

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On its website today, HTC unveiled the HTC 10. This is the phone HTC hopes will take on Samsung’s Galaxy S7, LG’s G5, and Apple’s iPhone 7.

HTC’s latest attempt to save its smartphone business is a flagship with the tagline “Power of 10” which, apparently, symbolizes “greatness and independence but also that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In other words, the company claims — just as every other smartphone manufacturer tries to — that the latest flagship offers more than just a new metal design, better camera, and improved performance.

And yet, those are indeed the highlights that HTC insists will save it.

htc_10_design

HTC’s press release, leaked to us ahead of the official announcement, uses nonsense marketing-speak like “inspired by light and sculpted to perfection” when describing the new design. But in short, you can expect a full glass front that merges with the metal body.

The company also notes that the HTC 10 was subjected to over 168 hours of extreme temperature tests, ranging from -20°C (-4°F) to 60°C (140°F), plus over 10,000 drop, bend, scratch, and corrosion tests. Is this finally a phone that absolutely doesn’t need a case? Probably not, but one can sure dream.

htc_10_camera

Next up, the camera features “the world’s first optically stabilized, larger aperture f/1.8 lenses” on both the front and rear cameras, larger sensors, 12 million UltraPixels (1.55um per pixel), laser autofocus on the back, plus a wide-angle lens and screen flash on the front. The HTC 10’s camera is also designed to launch “in as little as 0.6 seconds.” RAW format support is also a go.

HTC also claims that the 10 features “the world’s first stereo 24-bit Hi-Res audio recording, capturing 256 times more detail than standard recordings, across twice the frequency range.” The phone includes a headphone amp that delivers “two times the power of a conventional headphone amp,” the ability to upscale from 16-bit to 24-bit audio, and digital to analog conversion. You can even create your personal audio tuned to your individual hearing. The BoomSound Hi-Fi speakers feature a separated tweeter and woofer design, and a dedicated amplifier for each.

And finally, performance. HTC says the 10’s quad HD display is 30 percent more colorful and 50 percent more responsive to touch than its predecessor. The company says its fingerprint scanner unlocks in 0.2 seconds and is algorithmically designed to recognize you faster over time. It also claims that its battery can be charged to 50 percent in just 30 minutes.

htc_freestyle_layout

Last, but not least, HTC has created a new Freestyle Layout, which essentially means you don’t have to organize your apps in a grid anymore. You can place icons, stickers, and widgets anywhere you like, organize by layers and groups, link stickers to apps, or even get rid of icons altogether.

Here are the HTC 10’s specs:

  • Display: 5.2-inch, Quad HD (2560 x 1440 pixels), super LCD 5
  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
  • Platform: Android 6.0 with HTC Sense
  • Memory: 4GB RAM, 32GB/64GB storage expandable up to 2TB via microSD
  • Rear Camera: 12MP (HTC UltraPixel 2), laser autofocus, Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), f/1.8 aperture, Pro mode, Auto-HDR, Zoe Capture, hyperlapse, 12X Slow motion mode, 4K video recording with Hi-Res Audio
  • Front Camera: 5MP (1.34MICROm pixels), autofocus, Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), f/1.8 aperture with ultra wide-angle lens, Live Makeup, Auto-HDR
  • Sound: HTC BoomSound Hi-Fi Edition, Dolby Audio, Personal Audio Profile, Hi-Res Audio Certified, Hi-Res Audio Earphones, Three microphones with noise cancellation, Hi-Res Audio Stereo Recording
  • Connection: USB Type-C
  • SIM card: Nano SIM
  • Connectivity: NFC, BT 4.2, Wi-Fi@: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz)
  • Sensors: Fingerprint Sensor, Sensor Hub
  • Battery: 3000 mAh

The HTC 10 starts shipping this month in four colors: Carbon Grey, Glacier Silver, Topaz Gold, and Camellia Red.

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Did you know that there’s a “Yellow” Facebook App for iPhone?

yellow-facebook-512News about a yellow facebook application are spreading out over the Social Networks, with bunch of new features.

So here’s what’s all about:

Mark Zuckerberg showed off an internal Facebook-only version of its iPhone app during a live video this week, as part of the introduction of Facebook’s live-broadcasting feature.

As previously noticed by The Verge, the app includes several features that you can’t get on the normal iPhone app.

First, as he opens it, he mentions that this is the “yellow version of the Facebook app, which is our internal build.” You can see it briefly on the screen here:

yellow version facebook skitch

Later, as he demonstrates one way to start broadcasting live video, he says “you can tap on the composer at the top,” as he selects the “Whats on your mind?” button:

composer skitch

And that rolls out a new kind of menu with a list of content types you can post.

Facebook confirmed to The Verge that this interface has rolled out to some people already, although it’s not on my version of the Facebook app.

Within that list, there are buttons for posting Music, Slideshows, and GIFs, suggesting some pretty cool new features could be coming to the mobile app soon.

Rumors have swirled that Facebook’s been building a music service since at least last summer, and it’s supported posting GIFs since May 2015, but there hasn’t been any specific button for them. “Slideshow” would presumably let you post a bunch of related pictures in slideshow format, like another test noticed last summer, although it may also refer to the new type of Slideshow advertising format that Facebook introduced last year for emerging markets.

facebook new menu skitchScreenshot

Zuck cautioned that not all of the features in the video would show up in the live app, and Facebook tests different interfaces all the time. But it’s still a tantalizing glimpse of how Facebook works and some of the things it’s considering to increase user engagement.

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Apple unveils smaller iPad Pro, new Watch Bands, iOS 9.3 and TvOS updates arriving Today!

iPad Pro 9.7inch

At its press-only media event Monday morning, which is currently underway in Cupertino, California, Apple has formally announced a smaller iPad Pro alongside the iPhone SE, new Apple Watch bands and more. As previously suspected, the new device is a smaller 9.7-inch iPad Pro model that shares the same powerful internals with its bigger brother rather than it being a third-generation iPad Air.9.7-inch iPad Pro

These include Apple’s most advanced A9X processor, a 2,048-by-1,536 pixel resolution screen with pixel support for the Apple Pencil, the Smart Connector that allows accessories to attach magnetically and provides power and data, and other perks—and it weighs less than a pound, which is the same wight as the iPad Air 2.

True Tone Display

The screen of the new iPad Pro, compared to that on the iPad Air 2, has the lowest reflectivity of any tablet, 25 percent greater color saturation, deeper blacks, higher refresh rates and more.
More important than that, the screen of the new iPad Pro has a brand new technology called True Tone Display which uses two four-channel ambient light sensors to measure the color temperature of ambient light and adjust the display to match the environment.

Like the bigger iPad Pro, the new 9.7-inch device has four speakers that deliver two times more powerful audio volume compared to the iPad Air 2.

There’s also a smaller Smart Keyboard that attaches to the new iPad Pro via the built-in Smart Connector and—as you heard already—it supports the Apple Pencil, Apple’s optional $99 stylus accessory with palm rejection, pressure, tilt, virtually no lag and other highly advanced features.

Cameras

Like with the new four-inch iPhone SE, Apple has basically brought the camera subsystem on the new iPad Pro on par with the iPhone 6s. Resolution of the front-facing FaceTime camera has been bumped to five megapixels and it now features True Tone Flash, a technology that flashes the display at three times the normal intensity to give your skin in low-light situations natural colors.

New iPad Pro camera

As for the rear iSight camera, the iPad Pro has the same twelve megapixel shooter with Focus Pixels, Live Photos support and other advanced technology as the latest-generation iPhone 6s. Oh, and it captures video in 4K.

New ipad pro pricing

Thus far, Apple has sold more than 200 million 9.7-inch iPads and said there are more than one million apps in the App Store designed specifically for iPads.

Availability

The new iPad Pro is available in Silver, Gold, Space Grey and—a first for the iPad—Rose Gold. The entry-level version with 32 gigabytes of storage is priced at $599, or a cool $200 less than the bigger 12.9-inch iPad Pro model.
The mid-range model with 128 gigabytes of storage is $749, like the entry-level 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

However, now there’s another model with a whopping 256 gigabytes of storage for $899. To better reflect the new models, the existing iPad mini and Air models have been discounted.

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Apple will start taking pre-orders for the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro this Thursday, March 24 ahead of its release the following Friday, March 31.

iOS 9.3 Night Shift mode teaser 001

Apple has just revealed at its ‘Let us loop you in’ media event when customers around the world will be able to download and install iOS 9.3. The third major update to iOS 9.0 since its September 2015 debut, iOS 9.3 will release later today, Apple has said.

The free software update for any iOS 9-compatible iPhone, iPod touch and iPad includes features like Night Shift Mode, which reduces blue light to avoid disrupting your sleep cycles, and the ability to pair multiple watches to a single iPhone.

In iOS 9.3, users can protect their notes with a passcode or Touch ID, enjoy an even more personalized News, take advantage of an enhanced Health app that integrates move, exercise and stand data, along with goals from Apple Watch apps, to mention just a few highlights.

CarPlay in iOS 9.3 includes Apple’s Nearby feature to help you find gas, parking, restaurants, coffee and other points of interest along with a much-enhanced Music app with your personalized New feed and a For You section with songs, artists, and albums handpicked by experts.

iOS 9.3 Classroom app teaser 001

It also provide support for the Wi-Fi Calling feature to Verizon customers, unbricks devices affected by the January 1, 1970 bug, lets you see data usage numbers for Wi-Fi Assist feature, allows  third-party iPad Pro accessories to update their firmwares through the Smart Connector and much more.

Last but not least, iOS 9.3 sports pretty big new features for the classroom such as managed Apple IDs, multi-user support on iPads and more.

Apple Watch Let Us Loop You In Event

Apple took the stage on Monday at the ‘Let us loop you in’ event to discuss some new Apple statistics and services, but it was soon followed by new information regarding the Apple Watch.

Along with a notable price drop, Apple Watch users are getting access to new Apple Watch bands with not only new materials, but even some new colors for existing wrist bands.

A new price point and new customization

Apple is officially dropping the retail price of the Apple Watch. Although there are no new models of the Apple Watch, the current models will now begin at $299 for the 38mm Apple Watch Sport rather than $349. The lower price point puts the Apple Watch Sport in reach of many new potential consumers.

The price drop may hint stalled sales, or the interest in ridding of current supplies to make room for developing a new generation in the future.

Apple also talked about some new wrist bands for the wearable device including:

  • An all-new woven nylon band, which has a durable four-layer construction
  • A new Space Black stainless steel Milanese Loop band to match the black stainless steel Apple Watch
  • New colors for the popular and affordable Sport band

Apple Watch woven nylon band

The new woven nylon band is made with a rigid material that is known for its durability in the workplace, and has a metal buckle with adjustment slots to change the tightness on your wrist. The band comes in various color options as well, giving users an array of customization options to choose from. Pictured is a variance of Aqua and Yellow, although a full list of colors has not yet been revealed.

The Black Stainless Steel Milanese Loop is finally giving those who want a darker Milanese Loop a product that they can buy and be proud to wear. Until today, users of the Apple Watch had nowhere to go for colored stainless steel bands except for third-party stores like Amazon.

The Sport band is getting an array of new colors. Although the material will stay the same, as will the price point, a Yellow band is among one of the numerous new colors to pick from. We’ll have more on the full list of colors shortly.

Apple’s Sport bands start at $49 and will begin delivering from online orders March 23rd

tv apple

Apple has said at today’s ‘Let us loop you in’ media event that the tvOS 9.2 software update for the fourth-generation Apple TV will launch for public consumption later today.

tvOS 9.2 is the most significant software update for Apple’s new set-top box since its release in October 2015, bringing many features missing from the original release to the table.

tvOS 9.2 enables such new features as support for wireless keyboards, dictation, Siri support for App Store searches, app folders on the Home screen, a revamped app switcher, Siri Remote improvements, support for Live Photos and iCloud Photo Library, as well as a bunch of refinements that improve the experience.

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