Biggest announcements at Google I/O 2014

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Rivalling Apple’s WWDC 14 conference only a few weeks before, Google have made some big announcements of their own. Here is a round up of new developments in the world of Google and Android. Android L

The successor to Android Kitkat was unveiled at the keynote, codenamed ‘Android L’, which is expected to release in the fall. Users will now be able to get interactive notifications on their lock screen, which they can quickly dismiss or engage with with a quick tap. Also if you are wearing an Android smartwatch that’s been paired with your phone, or you are in your car with Android Auto equipped, you will not need to enter a passcode on your phone. If your phone is then taken a distance away from your watch or car, it will auto lock it self.

Material Design

A new design language has been unveiled called ‘Material Design’. It highlights the use of minimalism, negative space and generally  a ‘flatter’ look than the current Android design paradigm. Although this might be seen as jumping on to the ‘iOS 7′ design bandwagon, Material Design has its own personality. It champions bold colours, intricate animations, live drop shadows and an updated look to its system font ‘Roboto’. Hopefully with this new design guideline in place, developers can all create a more unified look across all apps. Google are in the process of updating their flagships apps with this new design principle. iOS Apps are  known for their polished and beautiful design aesthetic, but maybe now Google will be competing for this recognition with ‘Material Design’.

Android Wear

The premise of Android Wear is about getting ‘glanceable’ information – having notifications presented as a series of cards which you can swipe through, up and down. Users will no longer have to pull out their phones to check for notifications, it will be all on their smartwatch whether it’s messages from friends, calendar notifications or weather updates. Currently there are two smartwatches available which run Android Wear. The LG G and the Samsung Gear Live. Another interesting feature of Android Wear is Voice commands. You can ask a question to your smartwatch such as, ‘How do I get to the Post Office’ or ‘Will it rain this weekend’. You can also quickly respond to emails and messages with voice command as well.   Android Auto Android are bringing a major competitor to Apple’s CarPlay. Android Auto lets you use your phone to cast itself on to your cars display screen with an interface android users are familiar with. It encourages the use of voice commands for navigation, sending messages and playing music. The best aspect is having Google Maps integrated with your car’s infotainment system, which is usually much better than a car’s native satnav.

Android TV

Google TV is now being reincarnated as ‘Android TV’. Android TV is a software that can run on a TV or a third party box set. Features include voice input for searching, using virtual app controllers on a phone or tablet and a selection of Android TV apps. Also the search tool is intelligent enough to understand a search query such as ‘Oscar nominated films of 2012′ or any other query where you have limited information of the film you are looking for. Android powered TVs and set top boxes are expected to release in 2015.

Project Volta

This is Google’s effort to fix the common problem of battery life on Android phones, and it will be a component of Android L. Users will be able to see what which apps and processes have been draining battery life. There will also be a a ‘Battery Saver’ mode which users can activate which can potentially give a user a phone 90 minutes of extra battery life.

Summary

We’re pleased to see that Android are now encouraging developers to coalesce the design aesthetic of all Android apps – something Apple have been doing already for years. With a more unified look, the Android app space should now feel less fragmented and improve the visual quality of newer apps being submitted by developers.

Wearable technology is going to be the next big thing this year, and Android already have a head start ahead of Apple. It will be interesting to see how well the technology is adopted amongst users and whether there is much demand for it or whether users are satisfied enough with carrying just a smartphone with them.

It seems Google are now moving into Apple’s territory of being ‘design centric’, while Apple are moving into Android’s territory of providing the best Cloud Services. As these two technology giants encroach on each other’s USP, it will be interesting to see how it affects consumer loyalty for both companies.