Android users are about to get a whole lot more of the OS on multiple screens both big and small. Google’s developers conference was last week and the big focus was the Android platform, not only running on your phone, but on your wrist, on your TV, in your car, and even on your Chromebook.
This new version of Android is temporarily named “L” and showcases a new design language called Material Design. This new design transcends across phones, tablets, and even the chrome browser and looks to mimic the card style UI of Google Now. There are subtle shadows and non-intrusive animations, all present to give the user a tactile feel of actually moving something on screen.
Google showed off how Android will work on smartwatches in an impressive demo. The two watches in the spotlight, and which are now available for pre-order on the Google Play Store, are the Samsung Gear Live and more so the LG G Watch. Both watches are similar in specs with the Gear Live having a sharper screen, but losing to the LG G Watch in terms of battery life and size. The LG G Watch has an always on screen that lasts 36 hours thanks to a 400 mAh battery (the Gear Live has a 300 mAh battery.) While these two smartwatches are in the spotlight and will hit consumers first, the real prize in the Moto 360. This is one of the first smartwatches we’ve seen running Android Wear and the only one working with a circular face. While not available just yet, eager fans and developers can expect the get it around their wrists later this summer. The LG G Watch costs $229, with the Gear Live running buyers $199, and it’s expected that the Moto 360 will be a more top of the line watch with a top of the line price tag. Let’s hope for $279 at the most.
Apple unveiled Car Play recently at its own developers conference where they began their effort in moving there OS into vehicles. While impressive on some levels, Google seems to have the right idea and have what matters to drivers. Google Maps already makes it the worthwhile investment given that Apple maps is widely known as the capable but inferior service. There’s not much to Android Auto, which is a good thing given that it’s for in-car use. There’s maps, which is the big focus with the addition Google Play Music. The driver of all of this is search of course and all powered by the simple command of “Okay Google.” Android Auto has about the same amount of functionality as Android Wear in that it acts as a source to get the bare minimum done without using your phone, a useful tool indeed.
Android TV is another platform focused on at the conference. Google has tried to take over your living room on more than one occasion, branding their devices with Google (Google TV), Nexus (Nexus Q), Chrome (Chromecast), and now Android in there latest effort with Android TV. The Chromecast was extremely successful for Google, but that seems like phase one for the company in efforts of making your living room theirs. Set top boxes aren’t new and they aren’t perfect either, so there is room for improvement and Google seems to be doing that. The interface is simple, clean and has a lot to offer for those entwined into the Google ecosystem. You won’t find anything different with Android TV, but what is unique is that Google isn’t building it’s own hardware, it’s leaving that responsibility with OEMs. Razor was mentioned to be among the few actually building a box, with partners like Sony, Sharp, and TP Vision featuring the Android TV software in their entire 2015 line-up of HD and UHD TVs. There is also a focus on gaming with this new platform featuring a section dedicated to Play Games, leaderboards, and such. Google also displayed a multiplayer match of NBA JAM with one player on their tablet and the other using a gamepad connected with Android TV.
Google’s two big computing platforms are both Android and Chrome, so why not bring the two closer together. Chromebooks will soon have the ability to run Android apps. Phone apps like Vine were shown running on a Chromebook, and Flipboard was shown running in tablet mode. This surely is exciting, but most of these apps are optimized for touch, something not every chromebook has access to.
I/O 2014 was very software focus and showed the ever evolving platform that is Android. It’s also important to note that Google showed no new hardware of its own. Android Wear was shown on LG, Samsung, and Motorola’s (no longer owned by Google) hardware, Android Auto ran on the manufacturers hardware, and Android TV ran on a reference box. Hardware or not, Google definitely nailed it when it came to taking the Android OS to the next level.
Where are you excited to see Android? Which smartwatch will you be wearing? Let us know in the comments below.
Source: Google [YouTube]
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