Aimed towards developing countries, where over 5 billion users are yet to buy into the Android experience, Google has launched a low-cost smartphone. No doubt linked with its Project Loon and Titan Aerospace purchase, the sub-$100 smartphones will bring in a whole new selection of customers from the emerging market. Starting in India, with a $100, 4.5-inch handset being released by three manufacturers in the Autumn, Google is also apparently in talks with carriers to provide affordable telecom service packages to Android One customers.
New Version of Android: ‘L’
Although its full confectionary name is yet to be released (although most people are going with Lollipop), the 5.1 OS’s newest features have certainly been set free. A smoother transition between apps has been accentuated by features such as images now able to float above apps (for example, as you seamlessly move them between gallery and photo editor). The interface has been improved in terms of its rich touch feedback and new, flatter design. Rounder elements and softer edges, as well as the ability for developers to add depth and shadows, accentuating the new ‘floating feeling’ design.
Overall User Experience
The new interface aims to bring you a more authentic smartphone experience. Using a “material” style wrapper, Google wants to mimic your smart-phone use with real-life animations, for example producing ripples when you touch the dial keypad. Alongside these new effects comes some new capabilities to provide a simpler user experience. In certain secured situations (which are assessed by your location or a Bluetooth smartwatch), you will be able to open, read and dismiss messages from the lock screen, without typing in a code.
Chrome for Mobile
This new, easier, “material” design will also be applied to Chrome, as it begings to blur the boundaries between Chrome and Android. As well as in-app 3D tours being put on Google earth, the giants intend to bring Android app support to the Chrome OS, and although still in its early days, eventually hopes to build a unified, cross-platform framework between the two.
An umbrella name for an array of improvements that have been made in Android L, including better battery discharge information and tweaks to power saving. A ‘Battery Historian’ app allows users to clearly see where all their battery bar is going, a new Job Scheduler API manages the phone’s sleep time better, scheduling battery draining tasks at much more favourable times such as during night-time charging. Apparently extending battery by 90% (on a Nexus 5), the new battery saver mode will shut down unnecessary processes and background data, and slow the CPU and refresh rates.
Continuing its attempt to integrate everything and anything, Google released its software development kit (SDK) to display Android wearable functionalities. Users can swipe across Google Now cards and the paired smartphone’s supported apps on a touchscreen UI. The infamous ‘Ok, Google’ command will act as a prompt to your email, calendar and alarms, and you can use your wearable to control other devices (such as asking your phone to play music). Automatic reminders based on your calender entries and your fitness app etc can be sent from the apps on your phone to your wearable watch. A custom platform for smartwatches means that third-party developers will have all the tools they need to start making apps for new devices and examples displayed included Pinterest and Allthecooks. The watch sent reminders to the smartwatch when she passed something in the street she had pinned (like a cafe or a shop), whereas Allthecooks displayed entire recipes on a smartwatch once it was opened in the app, all synced up together.
Some of the Android wear products that Google debuted included the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live (both available in the Playstore today), as well as the MOTO360 (released later this summer).
Google Now (Android’s voice enabled butler)has been integrated into your car. You can now send messages, select music, make calls and more without a near-death experience. Similarly to its wearables, Google will open up its car software developer kit later this year, so anyone can add to the ecosystem. Back in January, Google announced its Open Auto Alliance, which now includes over 40 partners who will potentially be releasing cars with Google’s capabilities in the upcoming years.
Their second attempt at television, like Chrome, Google will be bringing its Android capabilities to your big screen. The home screen fits in with this years floating theme, hanging over whatever content is playing, and of course using voice-control navigation (or even your smartwatch!). All screens essentially now use identical software for app creating, too, creating one big Google based ecosystem. The Chromecast has also been updated, allowing friends to display their phone content on your TV screen, even when not connected to the wifi. And when you’re not watching anything, Chromecast will stream your phone photos onto your TV screen for a more “ambient experience” - scary more like!
Chromebook and Cloud
Your chromebook and Android devices can now totally sync together. If you put your phone near your Chromebook, the computer will sign you in and load your favourite apps (further adding to the unified framework). And as well as being able to run Android apps on your Chromebook, notifications like ‘low battery’ will also be streamed onto your computer once they are synced, totally coupling the two devices. They also improved programming capabilities and monitoring by providing developers with metrics, dashboards, alerts and tracing.
They’ve been talking about it for long enough, but finally its here. Google hopes to create a comprehensive selection of apps so health tracking can be personalised, by opening up its software development platform (once again) to developers, who can then take information from other fitness trackers, such as NikeFuel. Users can decide who and when to share their data with, and confirmed partners already include Nike, HTC, LG, Withings, Motorola and a few others.