Today was a huge day for Google as they held their big, annual Google I/O conference and went into many aspects of their business, services, and technology. We’ll touch on the highlights of the presentation here.
Google Play Games
If you’re familiar with Valve’s Steam gaming platform, Microsoft’s Xbox Live, EA’s Origin, Sony’s PSN, and Nintendo’s eShop/Virtual Console then you’ll have a feeling of the direction Google is taking Android gaming with Google Play Games. Vice President of Android product management Hugo Barra mentioned that APIs for Google Play Games will reach developers soon. Google Play Games’ proper public release wasn’t explored at the I/O conference, but it’s obvious it looks poised to go head to head with Apple’s GameCenter. Barra stated, “Building low-latency, real-time synchronous multiplayer games is pretty hard, so we want to help.”
Google Play Games will feature cloud saving which allows for players to pick up where they saved without having to be on the same device it was saved. There will also be achievements and leaderboards which are seen more in Xbox Live and Apple’s GameCenter. Not only that, but there will be multiplayer and matchmaking. The actual demo at I/O was supposed to show three people playing Riptide 2, but technical difficulties prevented everyone from seeing the service in action.
Google Play Games should go live later this year.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Unlocked Phone For The Masses
If you’re a fan of Android phones, you might be interested in the feature packed, unlocked Samsung Galaxy S4. This version comes with a “stock” version of the Android OS and will cost a pretty beefy $649. As it is unlocked, you’ll be able to use SIM cards from AT&T and T-Mobile. If you’re familiar with using the Nexus 4, you’re pretty much getting the same with the unlocked Samsung Galaxy S4. You won’t see TouchWiz and Samsung apps, but there is 16GB and the BootLoader. Google also said that there would be updates at the launch of the phone.
The phone is due out in June and you can snag it from the Play Store. If you’ve got the funds for it and you know what you’re doing when messing about with the guts of the smartphone, then pick it up.
No we’re not talking about a new service or something along those lines, just numbers. Google wanted to make sure that everyone at the Google I/O 2013 conference knew that Android has reached 900 million activations as of this year. This makes sense as Android has been rising in popularity steadily while iOS has been going down a bit and the number phone types that Android runs. Also mentioned was that Google Play managed 48 billion app installs and that last month saw 2.5 million downloads.
Google stated that their plan is to get a better foothold in countries and locations where Android is less than 10%. It’s a plan that Google could very well achieve.
Google Play Music: All Access
In April it was reported that Twitter would be exploring music streaming and actually started #Music. At the I/O 2013 conference Google revealed its own music service Google Play Music: All Access. In a vein similar to Spotify and Pandora, All Access will allow for users to subscribe at $9.99 a month to get all the streaming music they want. Unlike the current music streaming service for Google, All Access allows for users to make a cloud library to make playlists.
Google Play Music: All Access also suggests new music based on what the user listens to. All Access also generates music based around a track, luckily one can rearrange and remove tracks thanks to the cue.
Google Play Music: All Access is out today in the U.S although full services will be coming along at a later time. If users sign up between now and the end of June, they can snag the service for $7.99/month. There will also be a free 30 day trial in case you want to test drive it.
While Google Maps has been having trouble in Germany, the I/O keynote saw some great new features announced for one of the company’s most used services. The mobile app version of Google Maps will see the features in future updates for Android and iPhone devices. The main thing here is “Google Places” which will now allow for new places to be discovered. There will also be a version of Google Maps for tablets.
Via Place Recommendations, places that have been rated and recommended on Google+ by friends will be seen in that place’s info page. There will be editorial reviews of the place as well. Offers is another feature on the locations’ information cards which will display whatever exclusives that can be snagged via the app. Google said that it will have deals going with all kinds of national stores and restaurants.
Dynamic Rerouting goes hand-in-hand with Google Maps’ road accident reporting system and will allow for live rerouting to let users know they’re using the proper route to get around incidents. Sounds very useful for the dreaded 5 o’clock traffic where there is always an accident or something overturned and morning traffic. With Landmarks, Google Maps will keep track of locations that the user passes regularly and come up with landmarks in that area such as favorite places, restaurants, museums, etc. Maps will also show new, similar locations to landmarks. This isn’t exactly a feature as it is something that make the Google Maps user experience easier.
A new feature in Google Maps is Google Explore which will let users check locations based on a mood or activity. The interface resembles Google Now and could serve the same purpose of finding new places.
Some improvements to Google+ were mentioned as well as improvements to Hangouts app. The core version of Google+ apparently got 41 updates in hopes to make it competitive with Facebook. To sum them up, there will be a new user interface out today, photo editing, a content stream, and an Auto Awesome feature that will allow for you to create a new image out of existing ones. In addition to this, Google has updated the size of cloud storage from 5GB to 15GB.
Google Search will get a feature called Conversation Search which is similar to Apple’s Siri. All it does is allow users to talk to Google Search. This feature will be available on Chrome as well as smartphones. The Knowledge Graph in Google Search will be improved a bit allowing for related searches to the main search to be seen.
Oddly missing from I/O 2013 was the Google Glass which would’ve been the undisputed main event of the event and was widely expected to be on the list by several outlets.