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

 

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.

Name your Android web screenshot 001

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.

5.18_Android_A01_Cupcake_A01

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.

What to expect from Apple’s Event this Wednesday?

Apple executives will take the stage in San Francisco on Wednesday for a special media briefing, during which we expect them to announce next-generation iPhones, a refreshed Apple TV, and provide updates on iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan. Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know.

iPhone 6s and 6s Plus

Wednesday’s event is likely to bring the debut of the”iPhone 6s” and “6s Plus”, mid-cycle updates to make what is now Apple’s flagship product faster and more useful.

The primary upgrades will come internally, with a new “A9” processor and an increase in base RAM from 1 gigabyte to 2 gigabytes on tap. Capacity is unlikely to change, however, starting at 16 gigabytes and topping out at 128 gigabytes.

The camera systems are also likely to get a makeover, bumping the shooters to 12 megapixels around back and 5 megapixels up front. That larger rear component might add a new white subpixel — helping with low-light performance — while some rumors have suggested that the selfie cam could gain its own flash and the ability to capture slow-motion video at 60 frames per second.

Speaking of new features, many believe that Force Touch will make the leap from the Apple Watch to the iPhone 6s-series. There’s no word on how it will be used, but Apple would almost certainly take advantage of the added “depth” to clean up some user interface cruft.
iOS9Externally, the new handsets may be marginally thicker than the current versions, but consumers shouldn’t notice the difference. One change they will notice is a new rose gold color option to match the Apple Watch, though it’s unknown if rose gold will replace or augment the current champagne gold hue.

Given previous product timelines, it’s likely that the new iPhone 6s series will find its way into the hands of consumers for a Friday, Sept. 18 launch date.

Apple TV 4

Apple TV’s existing gaming capabilities are limited to AirPlay streams of iOS games.

The first Apple TV hardware change in more than 3 years is reportedly centered around improving the puck’s gaming credentials, a bid to bring iOS’s casual gaming dominance to the living room. To that end, the upgraded set-top box is thought to pack an all-new remote control with a built-in microphone and touchpad, alongside possible support for third-party, Xbox-like gamepads.

An App Store would accompany revised internals, bumping the built-in processor at or near the iPad Air 2’s A8X with internal storage that would likely eclipse the current model’s 8 gigabytes of space. Support for 4K video output might also appear, though rumors surrounding that feature have been sparse.

Everything We Know About Apple's iPhone Unveiling This WeekIn terms of media content, Apple is unlikely to showcase its long-rumored web television service on Wednesday as numerous reports have painted talks with networks and content owners as ongoing and somewhat contentious. The company may introduce a revamped content discovery interface, however — one based on Siri which allows users to search for titles across every service available on the Apple TV.

The hardware upgrades are thought to have driven a cost increase, bumping the price of an Apple TV from its current $69 to as high as $149.

iOS 9 & OS X 10.11 El Capitan

Apple’s next-generation mobile and desktop operating systems were announced at WWDC this summer, and the company is likely to announce details of final availability on Wednesday. Both will be free upgrades for existing users.

iOS 9 is a major update, bringing proper multitasking to the iPad alongside transit directions in Apple Maps and an all-new, Flipboard-style News app. Other headline features include expanded search functions and new Siri commands that complement more proactive notifications and suggestions.

Efficiency improvements will bring better battery life to iOS devices, and smaller, scheduled upgrades will make it easier for users to keep their devices up to date.

OS X El Capitan is somewhat more restrained, focusing on refinements to OS X’s user experience and improving performance across Apple’s range of desktop and notebook computers. Front and center is a change from Helvetica to Apple’s in-house San Francisco typeface for the user interface, while several built-in apps have been upgraded.

Spotlight has an expansive new list of data resources, for instance, and Safari adds pinned sites for the first time. Mail gains a new two-up fullscreen view, while new window management features will allow users to easily snap apps to different portions of the display.

Given Apple’s past launch strategies, it’s likely that iOS 9 will launch to the public on Wednesday, Sept. 16. The debut of El Capitan is less clear — in recent years, Apple has launched OS X upgrades in October.

iPad Pro

Industry insiders are split as to whether or not Apple will unveil the so-called “iPad Pro” at this week’s event. Apple traditionally holds an iPad-centric event in October, which would seem a more likely venue for the new jumbo tablet.

If Apple does show off its new device on Wednesday, it is likely to sport a Retina display that extends over 12 inches on the diagonal alongside additional speakers, all in a chassis more svelte than the current iPad Air 2. A pressure-sensitive stylus would allow for more precise input for professional users.

Others

It’s not clear what Apple will do with the iPhone 5c, but the debut of a so-called “iPhone 6c” at Wednesday’s event seems unlikely. Very few details of the device have leaked in the run-up to the briefing, and some Apple watchers have gone as far as to note that evidence of such a device has disappeared from the supply chain.

The story is much the same with an “iPad Air 3,” though that device will almost certainly see an update later this year.

The “iPad mini 4” could bow on Wednesday, but it might also be held until the later iPad event and announced alongside the iPad Air 3 and iPad Pro. When it does see the light of day, the new mini is rumored to be essentially a shrunken version of the Air 2.

How to Watch

Apple will stream the event live to iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, and second- and third-gen Apple TV units on Wednesday starting at 10 a.m. Pacific (8:00 PM Beirut Time). For the first time in years, Windows users will be able to join in, provided they are running Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.

Of course, we’ll be covering the Event on Wednesday, so keep an eye on ElieChahine.com!

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Samsung Gear S2 Smartwatch Goes Official With Rotating Bezel!

Galaxy Gear S2

After teasing it a couple of weeks ago, Samsung finally spilled the beans on the hotly anticipated Gear S2 smartwatch. The high-end Tizen OS wearable device with rotating bezel and IP68 rating will be on display during IFA in Berlin in two different variants – Gear S2 and Gear S2 classic.
Galaxy Gear S2

The sportier Samsung Gear S2 will be available with dark gray case with black silicon band, or silver case with white silicon band. The classic model on the other hand, will feature a black case and matching leather band.

Specs-wise, Samsung Gear S2 features 1GHz dual-core CPU, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of internal memory. The display of the smartwatch is a 1.2” fully circular Super AMOLED unit with a resolution of 360 x 360 pixels and 302ppi.

Connectivity options for the smartwatch include Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, and NFC. A variant with 3G network connectivity and e-SIM will also be available.

Physical measures of Samsung Gear S2 are 42.3 × 49.8 × 11.4mm, while its weight tips the scale at 47 grams. The classic model is a tad more elegant with measures of 39.9 × 43.6 × 11.4mm and a weight of 42 grams. A 250mAh battery will power both devices – it is rated to last for 2-3 days of regular usage.

The 3G variant of the smartwatch will pack a larger 300mAh battery, which will last for two days of regular use. The measures of this particular variant are 44.0 x 51.8 x 13.4mm, while its weight comes in at 51 grams.

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Apple Watch: 18h Battery life, Siri Integration and priced from $349 to over $10,000!

Also on April 10, you’ll be able to try on and learn more about Apple Watch at Apple Retail Stores.

We’ve been waiting for months to hear how long the Apple Watch’s battery will last, and luckily the Cupertino-based company has appeased us during its “Spring Forward” media event on Monday. Apple says the Apple Watch will have an 18-hour battery life, or what Apple calls “all day battery life”.

Charging Apple Watch is a snap. Simply attach the magnetic charger to the back of the watch.

“During a typical day you can expect 18 hours. This works for most people I think,” Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, told attendees at the event.

The Apple Watch collection features stainless steel cases in two beautiful finishes — traditional and space black.

The magnetic charger will click to the back of the Watch to charge at the end of the day, Cook told attendees.

Apple Watch has all-day battery life across a range of activities.

We’ve always known that Apple Watch will have Siri integration, but some new developments were revealed at Today’s Apple Watch event. While on stage, Kevin Lynch demonstrated Hey Siri functionality, which allows you to invoke Siri by simply raising your wrist and using only your voice. 

See who’s calling without having to reach for your phone.

As you’re likely aware of, the iPhone features Hey Siri functionality as well, but on the iPhone, you must have you device plugged in to do so. Having Hey Siri available on your wrist makes it much easier to interact with Siri hands-free, and will usher in a a much more convenient way of communicating with the Siri voice assistant software.

Raise your wrist and say “Hey Siri” to do all kinds of things with Apple Watch.

Hey Siri on the iPhone is a big battery drainer, because it means that the device is actively listening for the “Hey Siri” command. On the Apple Watch, the device won’t listen unless you raise your wrist. This means that there will be a lot less battery drain while using Hey Siri on the Apple Watch.

The SPG app on Apple Watch lets you check into your hotel and unlock your room.

Apple has announced the Apple Watch Edition will be available in select retail stores, priced from $10,000.

Pre-orders begin April 10.

Digital Touch lets you send a sketch, a tap, or even your heartbeat to other people wearing Apple Watch.

Note:

ios 8 -2

On stage at Apple’s media event on Monday, Tim Cook announced that iOS 8.2 will launch to the public today. The software update, which has been in beta for several weeks now, will bring about the Apple Watch companion app that will allow your iPhone to talk to the upcoming wearable.

We saw a preview of the app back in January, when it was unearthed from a developer beta. It will allow users to customize a wide range of things on their Apple Watch including the Clock app with personalized monograms and alerts for notifications, people in your Contacts list, and more.

Additionally, the Companion app will offer up details on the device itself. Users will be able to view the storage capacity of their Apple Watch, the number of songs, photos and apps onboard, and other info like serial number and connection status. We’ll let you know as soon as iOS 8.2 hits today.

Apple unveils new Ultra-thin MacBook with Retina display, new Trackpad and Colors!

Introducing the new MacBook.

Apple’s “Spring Forward” event is underway at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Performing Arts and CEO Tim Cook said that Apple has challenged itself to “reinvent the notebook” before he took the wraps off a brand new MacBook model which weighs just two pounds and is available in silver, space gray and “a stunning gold.”

MacBook isn’t just a new notebook. It’s the future of the notebook.

Featuring a twelve-inch screen with a Retina pixel resolution of 2304-by-1440 pixels, the display produces clearer images and consumes up to thirty percent less energy. The trackpad, now called, Force Touch trackpad, ditches away the mechanical design in favor of four sensors and Haptic Engine from the Apple Watch.

The new MacBook is 24% thinner than the 11-inch MacBook Air.

The trackpad has adjustable click feel and, more importantly, it can distinguish between a force click and a tap or standard click. They’ve developed new gestures that take advantage of force-clicking in OS X, enabling a range of pressures that the sensors can sense.

There's an LED under every key, so the entire keyboard has a uniform glow.

For instance, when watching a video, the deeper you press the faster the video plays.

What’s inside the notebook is the latest Unibody architecture and, most importantly, a 67 percent smaller logic board one third the size of the previous logic board, thanks to its fanless design.

Yes, no fans on the new MacBook, meaning it operates silently.

MacBook has a new, pressure-sensitive Force Touch trackpad.

It’s powered by Intel’s new 14-nanometer Intel Core M chip clocked at 1.3 GHz, but you can configure it with a faster chip in mind. Apple has created the notebook’s battery in sheets so it can occupy more space, allowing for a 35 more capacity in energy use, good enough for a 24-hour performance on this notebook.

“It’s the world’s most energy efficient notebook,” Apple said.

MacBook gets all-day battery life.

Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, took the stage to talk more about the notebook, which “looks absolutely gorgeous from every angle”.

Weighing just two pounds, it’s the “thinnest notebook we’ve ever made.”

At its thickest point it’s just 13.1mm thin versus 18.3mm for the 11-inch MacBook Air, a 24 percent thinner appearance.

“That is a huge difference,” said Schiller.

USB-C gives you five ports in one.

As rumored before, the machine has a new USB Type-C connector that’s fully reversible and now replaces MagSafe, Thunderbolt and USB.

Incorporating a new Butterfly keyboard technology, the keyboard on the new MacBook is four times more stable than the standard mechanism, even if you strike the keys on their side.

Each key now has its own LED backlighting allowing for a more precise illumination. Connectivity wise, the new MacBook has 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

The most advanced Mac notebook ever starts at $1299.

The computer is shipping on April 10 priced at $1,299 for the baseline model, with a $1,599 model available with twice the storage and faster internals.

The new MacBook will be shipping April 10.

By the way, Mac growth has been outpacing the rest of the industry for ten years straight.

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