It started out ominously, with a Rube Goldberg-style countdown clock.
And...uh...a catapult, I suppose.
OK, so it was a marathon. Google announced a bunch of stuff today, but it was a true developers conference. Lots of nerdy, wonky stuff in here. We tried to highlight the biggest bits. Let's get to it:
- This is interesting! Google just announced a smartphone system to get phones into underserved populations. It will cost less than $100 and will be available in India this fall. Android comes standard.
- Android One creates hardware models that other manufacturers can use to build their phones. The idea is to build solid Android devices at realistic costs for the developing world. Individual manufacturers will also be able to build their own apps on the standard Android device.
New operating system: Android L
- As Apple popularizes "flat design," Google goes the other way: "material design," with drop shadows and other depth effects.
- Rich animated touch feedback. You get a ripple effect and some other small animations that make the experience feel a bit more fluid. It's not a huge change, but Google was really pushing it as a breakthrough.
- Big emphasis on notifications: We've been saying it for months — the lock screen is the new homescreen. Many of us waste minutes a day fiddling with the pin unlock; now Google has a personal unlocking function to determine if it's in a trusted user's hand by detecting your Android smartwatch. That's pretty handy, but only if you HAVE a smartwatch.
- Google touted performance: Improved graphics, enhanced battery life — you can extend your battery life by 90 minutes — and there's a new battery saver mode.
Now, it's time for wearables. Android smartwatches!
- Google shows off the LG G Watch, which has an always-on display.
- According to Google, people check their Android phones an average of 125 times every day. With this in mind, the whole point of the smartwatch is to get what you care about on the watch screen while cutting down on the number of times you have to check your phone. Trade obsessively checking your phone for obsessively checking your wrist. Progress! Innovation!
- Just in case you don't want to be bothered every nine seconds, you can set the watch to 'do not disturb' with one touch.
- Google Maps will have turn-by-turn directions. Which is actually pretty great. Maybe the one true convenient use for a smartwatch.
- Voice actions will now be available for more and more apps, which could be nice, though I can't imagine myself wanting to talk to my hand on a busy street corner.
- You can order a pizza in under 20 seconds...because if humanity needs anything, it's quicker access to pizza.
...same with sushi...
- You can also use voice dial integration with the driving service Lyft to immediately call a car. Look for Google to integrate even more developer partners and companies into this type of service. (Uber, for example, is already integrated into the Google Maps app.)
Google also introduced the Samsung Gear Live smartwatch, available in the Google Play store by the end of the day.
And then there's Android Auto...BEEP BEEP!
- You can plug in, put your phone down, and use the car controls to control your phone. You can bring your Google ecosystem with you into any car. Since the software is on your phone and not in your actual vehicle it won't go obsolete as quickly.
- The Maps integration is super handy...and voice-enabled, which makes sense.
- Auto will push text notifications to you via voice — it'll be available to other messaging services too. Get ready to be compelled to respond to Facebook messages, Kiks, WhatsApps, tweets, and Gchats in your vehicle. No place is safe!
- Android auto experience will be available later this year.
And we got an early look at Android TV:
This is what the "Home" interface looks like — lots of content recommendation widgets, access to your apps, and games.
- Google is really pushing its Android TV voice search — which works pretty well on stage — to find out some info about Breaking Bad cast members, but if past experience is any guide (cough, Xbox One, cough), it'd probably just be easier to use a remote.
- It looks a lot like Amazon's Fire TV, which also runs on Google's Android software. Android TV's user interface looks a lot like most streaming TV set top boxes, so users shouldn't be too confused.
- Android TV can also double as a streamer for the Cast feature so users can search for things on mobile or in Chrome, then beam it up to the TV.
- You can control it with your smartwatch, which, in all honesty, sounds like a user experience nightmare.
- And, this is big: The entire 2015 HD and 4K smart TV lines from Sony, TP vision, Sharp, and Philips will run on Android TV. It will come out in the fall.
Now, you're probably asking...but what about last year's ChromeCast? Well...
And before we go: Charts without numbers! A tech keynote classic!
Moving on, we have Android Integration with Chromebooks:
- Chromebooks are making a real play at the laptop market so moves here are pretty important. Google vanity stat: Ten of the top ten highest-rated laptops on Amazon are Chromebooks.
- That's why Google is integrating the mobile OS with Chromebook's OS. Similar to the stuff we've seen from Apple integrating iOS.
- Google is also isolating personal and corporate data with secure separation, so you don't need to carry around two separate phones.
...And there's more! That's right! Google Drive News!
- Google Drive has 190m MAUs, up 85% in the last year.
- Google Slides is coming to Android, and Drive will be more collaborative.
- While Microsoft boasts roughly one billion office users, Google touted some solid enterprise stats: 67 of the top 100 startups opted for Google Drive, as well as 58% of Fortune 500 companies and 72 of the top 100 universities.
THE MARATHON CONTINUES... LOOK ALIVE!
Lastly, Google announced its Fit platform!
- This I/O we got a new Android operating system, Android TV, a car integration system in Android Auto, some major plays at making smartwatches "a thing" (unlikely because they look kinda ugly), and major integrations between desktop operating systems and mobile operating systems. Much like Apple's WWDC conference, it's a good example of the major tech companies drilling down and keeping you happy inside their ecosystem. Stay in the family and you will be rewarded.
Charlie Warzel is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Warzel reports on and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.
Contact Charlie Warzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.