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Google announced a whole lot of new features across all its products and services at its Google IO conference. While most of the announcements were meant for developers, these changes will most be felt by consumers in the coming months. While there was no new version of Android like many expected, Google+ and Maps got major refreshes.
NextBigWhat brings you a round up of all the important announcements from the keynote.
While there was no new version of Android, Google announced a few things with regards to Android.
Numbers: Google announced that there has been over 900 million Android devices activated till now and that there has been over 48 billion app installs from Google Play, with 2.5 billion installs in just the the last month alone. The Apple App Store just hit the 50 billion download mark. More here.
Google Play Services: Google announced various new features to Google Play Services for developers including the Google Maps API version 2. The will come with three new APIs. The first, Fused Location Provider will use all the sensors on a device to find location with a new low-power location mode that uses less than one percent of battery per hour. The second is geo-fencing, that lets developers define virtual boundaries and the third is activity recognition that helps track activities and uses the accelerometer to determine when a user is walking, driving, biking, etc.
If one uses Google+ to sign in on websites, they will be notified if a respective apps is available, so users don’t have to go searching for it and can install it directly on their devices.
There were also various improvements to Google Cloud Messaging announced including supporting persistent connections from servers, upstream messaging, and the ability to sync notifications across devices. More here.
Google Play Games Services: Various APIs were introduced for this new service from Google. The first API is Cloud Save, which allows one to save player progression and game state. There is also achievements and leaderboards, which integrate with G+ circles. The next API allows for a comprehensive multi-player service for matching and playing, and one can invite friends from G+ circles. A game can have up to 4 simultaneous friends or auto-matched players in a game session together with support for additional players coming soon. This will be coming to all devices 2.2 and up but unfortunately the demo failed at the keynote. More here.
Android Studio: Google also unveiled a new developer environment for Android called Android Studio, which will replace Eclipse. This tool is based on the community edition of IntelliJ, and will have new features like live code updates – as one edits parts of the app, live rendering of the app is done in real time. Developers can also see how the app will look on different screen sizes live.
There are also various improvements to the Google Play developer console including allowing developers to get professional translations directly in the developer console, Referral Tracking – which lets developers sort out which ads are the most effective and shows developers where installs come from, a new tab to show developers where app revenue comes from, with filters for countries and Beta Testing and Staged Rollouts. More here.
Google Play Improvements: Google announced that the Play Store on Android devices which recently got a brand new look will start serving up more recommendations based on +1 by friends and previous downloads. There will also be top charts for apps designed for tablets. The Play Store on the web will also see a completely new look soon.
Google Play Music All Access: Google finally revealed their Spotify competitor and streaming music service. The service will initially be available only in the US and offer recommendations based on what you are listening to, and can also convert that into a radio station and look at the playlist, re-order it and delete tracks. The service will cost $9.99 a month and will hit other countries with Google Music soon after. India still does not have access to Google Music. The Android app also got a completely new design. More here.
Hardware: Google did not unveil a new Nexus device but did announce that a Samsung Galaxy S4, running stock Android would be available on the Google Play Store in the US on June 26th for $650. This device will get the latest Android updates along with Nexus devices. More here.
Google said that while it had 450 million monthly active users for Chrome in the middle of 2012, it has now added over 300 million new users in the last year and has over 750 million active monthly users now. Highlighting Google’s efforts to improve overall download speeds through several technologies, Google demonstrated how it was possible to create powerful web-based experiences that work across platforms and devices using Chrome. More here.
Google Play for Education
Taking a jab at Apple, Google announced Google Play for Education which is basically an app store for teachers which sorts content by grade level and subject matter. This would requires all students to have a Google Account, and teachers can pick an app and it instantly installs on all the students’ tablets. Books and YouTube educational videos can also be sent to tablets in the same way. More here.
Google is still betting big on Google+ in spite of recent reports suggesting that it is a ghost town and brought 41 new features to the social networking sites including a complete redesign to the site. The feed of the website is now multi-column and there is a whole new layout for Hangouts and major enhancements for Photos on Google+. More here.
Photos: Google is calling their data centres as your darkroom, and Google+ now does various stuff to uploaded photos like choosing your best pictures and also enhancing them. There are also 5 auto Awesome tools like an effect which combines multiple pictures and creates an animated image. These are very much like the functions that are built into most higher-end point and shoot cams and smartphones, but automatically applied by Google at the server level. More here.
The Google+ update is rolling out to users now.
Hangouts will now be the new communications hub for Google, unifying the video chat service, Messenger, and Google Talk. It will be accessible via Android and iOS apps as well as within Gmail, Google Talk and Chrome. The service will be platform agnostic and syncs messages, no matter what device you’re using. It will indicate when your friends have read your messages. The hub features support for photos and group chats and if you read a message on one device it will silence notifications on your other devices. More here.
Google introduced various features to its key product search which included bringing conversational search like that found on Google Now to desktops on Chrome. It uses hot wording and one need not even touch a computer but just say “OK Google” to initiate a search. There are also various new cards for Google Now on Android and iOS like reminders, Public Transit and Music and TV shows. More here.
In what was probably the biggest redesign of the day, Google Maps is getting a completely new look both on the web and on the mobile apps for Android & iOS. At present one has to sign up for a preview of the new maps and Google will send out invites. The maps have been rebuilt from the ground up. If you are logged in you will see places that you visit frequently highlighted. The maps now fill more of the screen, including space on the top and sides. If you search for something they will be labeled on the map and cards with relevant information appear on the map.
Google Earth has also been incorporated in the online version of Google Maps. The maps also now give real time clouds. Photo spheres uploaded by users can also be seen on the new map so one gets a 360 degree view of the location. More here.