From two hours to under twelve minutes, we’ve distilled, titrated, evaporated and reconstituted Google’s annual launch event into something a little bit more palatable. There’s more on Google’s VR plans, more on Android’s latest iteration, and something to make your entire home voice-enabled. Maybe. Run through it all right above.
For all the latest news and updates from Google I/O 2016, follow along here.
Google surprised us all with an Android N developer preview two months before we landed at I/O, and updated it with new performance-enhancing features just a few weeks back. Now, as revealed during this morning’s I/O keynote, there’s a new update for you bold souls who crave bleeding edge software.
While Google refers to Preview 3 as an “incremental update” on its developer site, there’s still enough here to get excited about. Unlike the last two versions of the preview, Google says this third build is the first “beta-quality” candidate — in other words, you’ll run into fewer headaches if you try to use it as your daily driver on a Nexus 5X, 6P or other compatible devices. We haven’t played with the new N preview ourselves so we can’t confirm how much more stable it feels, but we’ll follow up with impressions as soon as we can.
Beyond that, this new update also brings with it a new software-updating scheme inspired by (surprisingly enough) Chromebooks. When an update is available, Android N can download the system image in the background and can automatically install it the next time you reboot your phone.
“There’s no ‘Android is upgrading’ [pop-up], no delays,” VP of Android Engineering Dave Burke told us. “It’s just a really nice, seamless way to do it.”
It’s a smart move; especially with respect to security updates like the ones Nexus devices get every month. When it comes to those more timely, crucial security patches, Android N lets you know the update will happen ahead of time and will then just install it upon reboot. Meanwhile, you’ll be alerted to “dessert” updates — the big ones with the delicious new names — in the new suggestions section in settings, where you can choose to install it now or apply it later.
If you’re interested in giving Preview 3 a shot on your phone, it’ll be available today.
For all the latest news and updates from Google I/0 2016 follow along here.
Google’s new VR platform, Daydream, wouldn’t be complete without a sleek input system for its headsets and mobile devices. That’s where this little white controller comes into play. At the I/O keynote this morning, Google VP of Virtual Reality Clay Bavor showed off the new controller, which includes two buttons and a smooth, clickable touchpad at the tip. It functions a lot like Nintendo’s Wii remote, using an orientation sensor that allows users to flick a magic wand, fling projectiles, flip flapjacks and perform other motion-enabled tasks in VR.
Google will launch the controller in the fall, alongside the first Daydream-ready headset. Daydream is a VR platform that includes hardware and software baked right into Android N.
You can do some pretty awesome things with the Daydream controller. #IO16https://t.co/GMKIrNbPYS
— Google (@google) May 18, 2016
For all the latest news and updates from Google I/O 2016, follow along here.
Google’s big I/O keynote kicks off at 1PM ET live from the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. We expect big news about Android N (including its actual, probably delicious, name), a look at the future of Chrome OS, fresh Android Wear information and even some news about Android VR. Follow along with our liveblog right here, and watch the keynote with us in the video below.
For all the latest news and updates from Google I/O 2016, follow along here.
It looks nearly certain that Google will launch an Android-powered VR headset that works without a phone or PC. Android Police spotted an “Android VR” placeholder in Google’s Play Developer Console, and Engadget co-founder Peter Rojas (now an entrepreneur at investment firm Betaworks) tweeted that “Android VR will be definitely be announced next week” (at Google I/O). Rojas added that the device will be a “standalone” headset that doesn’t require a phone, and will obviously be less powerful than the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift models that are tethered to a PC.
The rumors jibe with an earlier report that Google will release a standalone headset. The company may use motion-tracking cameras powered by Movidius, a company it worked with on the Project Tango smartphone. However, the Financial Times also reported that Google will launch a device that does require a smartphone, but supports multiple brands, unlike Samsung’s Gear VR. According to the WSJ, it may launch both types of models at its I/O conference.
Android VR will definitely be announced next week, and from what I’ve heard will be less powerful than the Vive or Rift.
— Peter Rojas (@peterrojas) May 11, 2016
Neither type of headset requires third-party apps, because the Android VR experience will supposedly be built right into Android. That would differ from Google’s Cardboard or the Gear VR, which requires Oculus software to run. The latter headset is the one most people think of for smartphone VR, as Samsung cannily jumped on the tech as a way to promote its high-end smartphones. Thanks to a giveaway promo with the S7 model and a cheap $100 price, over a million users now own one.
A lot of folks (including me) bought a Galaxy phone just to get the Gear VR, so if Google launches a wearable and ecosystem that supports more smartphones, Samsung and Oculus will lose their “monopoly.” It seems likely that Android VR will be baked into the upcoming Android N operating system, so it could take a while before you can buy these theoretical headsets. If accurate, however, the products will stoke a ton of interest for Google’s I/O conference, which Engadget will be covering extensively from May 18-20. (That’s next week!)
Source: Android Police, Peter Rojas (Twitter)
All of a sudden, it’s as if everyone is working on voice-controlled personal assistants, and reports suggest that Google’s version of something similar to Amazon’s Echo could land as soon as the Google I/O event next week — which would make sense. According to sources at Recode, it’s currently being developed under the codename, Chirp.
Interestingly, Nest (now a part of the same company) shied away from the idea of an Echo like device, citing privacy concerns about talking to Google, its search engine, algorithms and other internet magicks. Recode’s sources suggest voice search and intelligent responses from your Google devices will be the centerpiece of Google’s showcase, alongside virtual reality developments. Okay, Google. Show us what you’ve got.
Even though Google started the whole mobile payment thing years ago with Google Wallet, it never really took off with the masses. Google’s newly announced Android Pay, however, might. Instead of relying on you to load the app and unlock it with a PIN, Android Pay lets you simply tap your phone on an NFC terminal to approve the purchase. In addition, Google is also allowing Android Pay to be integrated in apps like Lyft, Grubhub and Wish, so users can easily use that to pay for things. I just used Android Pay here at Google I/O, and I can say this: If it’s as easy to use in real life, then I suspect mobile payments are about to be a lot more ubiquitous.
Google had set up a Coke vending machine in the press area at I/O for the Android Pay demo, along with a couple of Nexus devices that were already preloaded with the software. To buy a Coke, all I had to do was tap a Nexus 6 to the terminal, and I saw an American Express card along with a MyCoke Rewards loyalty card appear on the screen. This, a Google spokesperson tells me, is because the phone is smart enough to know that I’m using Android Pay at a Coke vending machine.
It showed me how many rewards points I had, and I could then choose to either pay with points or the card. I opted for the former, confirmed the purchase, selected my choice and out came a 20-ounce bottle of Coke Zero from the dispenser. The spokesperson tells me that the same thing could work if you’re shopping at Walgreens or any other merchant with a rewards program — the phone will recognize where you are and offer up the appropriate points info. Android Pay should be compatible with any phone with Android 4.4 or higher, though Android M will offer up fingerprint authentication as well.
#fivemin-widget-blogsmith-image-103931display:none; .cke_show_borders #fivemin-widget-blogsmith-image-103931, #postcontentcontainer #fivemin-widget-blogsmith-image-103931width:570px;display:block;
I also used a Nexus 5 with Android Pay to make an in-app purchase. Next to the Coke machine was a “store” of sorts with a variety of Android gift items like t-shirts and mini-collectibles. Using an app called Wish, I was able to select what I wanted — an Android toy in this case — and then selected the “Buy with Android Pay” button. I go through the usual cart check out process, and I was done — no need to enter my card information or anything. The same would go for other apps like Lyft, Uber, and GrubHub.
The whole process strikes me as practically identical to that to Apple Pay. Even the appearance of the credit card wallet on the Android Pay interface looks very similar. In fact, just like Apple Pay, the transactions are sorted through something called tokenization, where a virtual account number is created and shared with merchants to manage payments.
But what about Google Wallet? Well if you already have a Wallet account, you can choose to transfer over all of your Wallet-linked cards to be used in Android Pay. Wallet itself isn’t going away either — you can still use that for peer-to-peer payments.
As for which merchants will support Android Pay? Well, a lot — over 700,000 retailers will be on board, including Macy’s, Whole Foods and Walgreens. Basically, any place that offers Apple Pay, will also be Android Pay compatible. That means that pretty soon, almost anyone with a relatively modern smartphone will be able to pay for things with their phone. Now to see if that actually happens.
Don’t miss out on all the latest news and updates from Google I/O 2015. Follow along at ourevents page.
We’re coming down to the wire now: Google I/O 2015 is just a few days away, and we’ll be liveblogging and reporting from the ground as soon as the festivities begin. Don’t let its reputation as a developer bonanza fool you, though. There’s going to be no shortage of workshops and code review sessions, but I/O is also where Google takes time to update its vision of the future for the people who will ultimately help build it. Of course, it’s not all starry-eyed speeches and technical breakdowns — this is, after all, the sort of show that featured a live streaming Google Hangout with four dudes who jumped out of a zeppelin. We can’t account for whatever crazy, spectacular bits the folks in Mountain View might be working on, but we do have a taste of what to expect when the show starts in earnest this Thursday.
Android M cometh
Ah, yes, and the meat and potatoes of any Google I/O. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Google has moved to a mostly annual release schedule for big Android updates (something VP of Android Engineering Hiroshi Lockheimer brought up again in an interview with Fast Company), which means we’ll get our first concrete sense of what Android M is like on Thursday morning. So far, the (rumored) changelog looks pretty promising. A recent Buzzfeed report suggests you’ll be able to get more mileage out of your fingerprints, for one — better support for biometric security has apparently been baked right into the OS, allowing users to log into apps with just a touch. This heightened focus on security and authentication also bodes well for some Android Pay announcements, too. First announced at MWC 2015, Google’s Android Pay platform aims to make it easier for app creators and stores to charge you for their wares via your Android phone. Senior vice president Sundar Pichai was awfully light on Pay details in Spain (maybe it was the never-ending lure of jamón), but that shouldn’t be the case in San Francisco.
Throw in some enhanced privacy controls that’ll let users more easily define what apps get to access what information and you’ve got yourself pretty thoughtful update. Beyond that, Android Police claims Android M’s development has seen Google trying to improve RAM management and battery life so your phone runs smoother and lasts longer on a single charge. Lollipop’s Project Volta was a crucial step in this direction, but really, we’ll take all the performance improvements we can get.
Google stepped out of its comfort zone by releasing a developer preview for Lollipop (née Android L) last year, and we strongly suspect they’ll do the same this year too. It’s basically a given that we’d be able to install whatever preview we’re given on the Nexus 6, but rumors of two new Nexus phones launching in 2015 have us hoping for a glimpse of some new hardware. The most recent spate of rumors suggest that we’ll get a pocket-friendly Nexus 5 sequel from LG with a 5.2-inch screen and a Snapdragon 808 chipset – same as in the mostly great LG G4 – as well as a 5.7-inch powerhouse from Huawei. No, really. LG’s a logical choice considering its close working relationship with the folks in Mountain View and Huawei has upped its Android game dramatically with devices like the P8 and Huawei Watch, but these things will almost certainly get their limelight at a standalone launch event.
The war for your wrist
Honestly, we’re not expecting a ton of movement on the Wear front this week. After all, the platform just got a substantial upgrade a few weeks back, bringing WiFi support and some love-’em-or-hate-’em navigation gestures to your fancy wrist-computers. Wear’s functionality might not see much in the way of upgrades, but I/O would be a great place for Google to announce iOS compatibility for its fleet of Android Wear watches. The feature’s been inching from rumor territory toward reality for months now — it was apparently almost done back in April — and we’ll be crossing our fingers all through the keynote for it.
Prepare to have your “socks blown off”
Just about anything Google’s Advanced Technologies and Products division does makes headlines, and the outfit’s getting a primo slot on I/O day 2 to spill its secrets. Expect at least a brief update on Project Ara as the modular phone makers inch ever closer to a test launch in Puerto Rico; if we’re lucky, we might even get a firm date for when those Ara-friendly food trucks take to the streets. We might not see many (or any) new Android Wear watches at I/O, but the ATAP team promises to show off a few new wearables on Friday, and if the tongue-in-cheek panel description is anything to go off, at least one of them is meant to get strapped to your lower extremities. In an age where smartwatches dominate the wearable conversation, is it finally time for a smart ankle watch? Erm, we’ll see. Also on deck is a new immersive Spotlight Story directed by Justin Lin (of Fast and Furious fame), that’s slated to debut “in full 360 with 3D soundsphere”.
Speaking of 3D…
Cardboard and Beyond
Last year, the I/O swag bag came with a curious slab of cardboard that looked like it fell out of an IKEA box. That was Google Cardboard, an experiment in cheapo VR experiences that just might get fleshed out further this year. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that the company is actively working to turn Android into a virtual reality operating system of sorts, and the I/O stage would be a fine place to put some speculation to rest. Let’s put pricey consumer VR headsets like those from Oculus and HTC aside — what better way to initiate the masses into alternate realms than with some awfully inexpensive gear?
Thing is (as Gizmodo points out), Cardboard might not actually be made of cardboard anymore, and Google might push past the low-cost tidbits of virtual reality we’ve seen so far. Yeah, yeah, that’s nice and vague, there’s no denying Google’s dedicated to digging into alternate views to reality. Remember Project Tango, which put 3D-sensing cameras into tablets to give developers a taste of bringing software experiences into the world immediately around us? And its hefty investment in Magic Leap, a company that wants desperately to blur the line between the real world and ones powered by silicon? Regardless of what actually gets outed on-stage, expect this to be the year Google starts taking VR really seriously.
Connecting all the things
Google has a thing for not letting old, improperly executed ideas die. Google TV might have sunken into obscurity ages ago, but Android TV picked up where it left off… and is struggling to find its footing. The Nexus Player was left us wanting when we first played with it and few OEMs have thrown their support behind the platform as a whole despite the neat tricks it brings to the table. There’s no way Google won’t spend time digging into the future of Android TV on-stage, and it’s got at least one shiny, mostly new gadget to point to: NVIDIA’s Shield TV. The sleek set-top box was first outed at the 2015 Game Developers’ Conference, where it promised to blend Google’s search chops and broad app ecosystem with NVIDIA’s own graphics cards (for game streaming from your local Steam box) and cloud service (for game streaming from a server far, far away). Google’s got plenty of workshops slated for Cast-friendly apps, too, underscoring just how important devices like the Chromecast are to its plans in the living room. We wouldn’t hold our breath for new Chromecast hardware, but we’re more than happy to be proven wrong on that one.
Speaking of old ideas, reports of a service to succeed the ill-fated Android @Home project have been swirling like crazy. The Information reported last week that Google’s so-called “Brillo” software is meant to power seriously low-power devices (with as little as 32MB of RAM) and act as a sort of backbone for Internet of Things device makers to lean on. By providing the foundation for these early creators to build on, Google has a solid shot at creating a common platform with the potential to explode as homes and the things in them grow inexorably more connected. If we’re really lucky, Google will make it easy for companies to bake its first-rate voice input and search features into their wares too, though we’ll have to wait a few days before we find out.
Then there’s Android Auto. Google pushed the in-car experience way hard at last year’s I/O, and since then we’ve seen it pop up in after-market head units from Pioneer and straight into new rides like the 2015 Hyundai Sonata. To say Android Auto is still in its early days is putting it pretty mildly — it doesn’t yet have the finesse and app support to make a seamless, obvious choice for most drivers — but expect Google to shed some light on how it’s doing and where else it’s going.
…And everything else
Some really important bits — like the future of Chrome, Chrome OS and how they’ll intersect — will certainly get their time on-stage, but the scuttlebutt surrounding them in the days and leading up to the show is usually pretty hushed. Expect to see Google push its flat, friendly Material Design even harder, too, as it’s long been said the look would eventually permeate the rest of its web properties. Remember, this is all just a taste of what Google’s got in store for us all this week. For more (you know you want it), just park it right there and keep your eyes peeled for all our dispatches from San Francisco starting this Thursday.
Filed under: Mobile
The Information reports that Google is working on a new Android-based operating system to run specifically on the emerging class of low-power devices, aka the Internet of Things. This new OS, dubbed “Brillo”, is supposedly quite petite and may require as little as 32 or 64 megabytes of RAM to run. This marks a significant departure for Google considering its latest Android build demanded at least 512MB of RAM. However there’s a lot to be gained by being the OS that drives out smart bulbs, thermostats and locks. Not only does it free OEMs from having to design their own IoT communications schemes, it should also strongly position the Mountain View-based company as the invisible backbone of tomorrow’s smart home. If this rumor is indeed true, Google will likely announce it at next week’s I/O developers conference. Stay tuned.
Source: The Information
At the end of Google’s keynote yesterday, Sundar Pichai announced that all I/O attendees would receive either an LG or Samsung Android Wear device, along with Moto 360 when it becomes available later this summer. But he also offered up an unexpected gift… the slide read #cardboard (yes, with the hashtag) and Pichai held up a small brown square, barely large enough to accommodate a thin book for shipping purposes — but Google had something else in mind. Once assembled, #cardboard serves as a head-mounted 3D viewer, using your own smartphone and a pair of integrated lenses to create the effect.
Functionally, it’s virtually identical to the PhoneStation we saw earlier this month at Computex, but unlike that yet-unreleased device, Cardboard is available now for I/O attendees. The rest of us can pick up a similar version from San Francisco-based DODOcase, which is making the kit available for $20, or $25 with an optional NFC tag, plus 4 bucks for shipping. The set, which ships within 4-6 weeks, will net you pre-cut cardboard, lenses, a magnet, a rubber band and velcro, which you can assemble together in five minutes. Just add your smartphone.