GoogleIO2014: Google Fit to rival Apple’s HealtKit

Google unveiled a fitness tracking platform “Google Fit” on Wednesday to help users of its Android mobile software collate and keep track of health and fitness data on smartwatches and other mobile devices.

Fit functions similarly to recently introduced services from Apple and Samsung. The tracking and analysis of health information is expected to be a big driver for smartwatches and other sensor-laden devices this year.

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GoogleIO2014: Android takes centrestage

Google wants to be everywhere: In your home, your car and even on your wrist.

That vision became increasingly clear at the search giant’s annual conference for software developers Wednesday. The company unveiled plans to expand Android, its mobile operating system, for new categories like wearable computers and automobiles.

The announcements came on the heels of the company’s recent acquisition of Nest Labs, the thermostat maker, for $3.2 billion, which gave Google a speedy entry into internet-connected home appliances.

Google said the latest version of Android for smartphones and tablets, called Android L, would include a new design. Similar to Apple and Microsoft, Google adopted a “flat” design with more vibrant colors and added effects like shadows and animations. For example, when a user taps the screen, a small water ripple appears on the tapped area.

READ ALSO: Google announces Android One to revolutionize low-end smartphones

Android L also includes new features, like smarter authentication and anti-theft software. If a user is wearing a smartwatch paired with the device, he can unlock the phone without entering a passcode; when the watch is removed, the phone will require a passcode again. Google also said Android L, which will be available in the fall, would include a so-called “kill switch” for rendering a device unusable if it were stolen.

Google’s annual software developers’ conference, called Google I/O, has become an important venue for the company to woo app makers to build software for its Android software system, which powers more than 1 billion devices worldwide.

READ ALSO: Next Android version to have better performance, revamped UI

Rallying the troops of app developers is increasingly vital for Google as competition heats up with rivals like Apple and Samsung Electronics, who are also eager to make a shift into the next generation of computing.

Apple recently announced plans to expand its mobile software system, iOS, for home appliances, health-monitoring devices and cars. Samsung, the No. 1 cellphone maker, has released several smartwatches over the past year, and it recently held an event that focused on health-monitoring technology.

Google also shared its ambition to push Android deeper into areas beyond mobile devices, revealing details on Android Wear, a special version of Android tailored for wearable computers like smartwatches, which it introduced earlier this year.

Google said Android Wear was customized to show immediately useful information, like message notifications, the status of a package shipment, or the traffic status for a commute. The smartwatch system is controlled by speaking or by swiping the touch screen.

When a user is traveling, the watch system will continue to bring up relevant contextual information based on his location, like the local bus schedule or the weather, according to David Singleton, an engineering director at Google.

Google said two smartwatches including Android Wear — Samsung’s Gear Live and LG’s G watch — would be available in its online retail store, Play, on Wednesday.

Google announced a version of Android customized for cars, called Android Auto. Google said it streamlined the design of the system to keep people’s eyes off the screen and more on the road. It emphasizes access to maps, phone contacts and playlists, allowing users to easily access those features with the tap of a button or voice control. The car system will pair with a user’s smartphone.

For television, Google announced Android TV. Users can speak voice commands into a smartwatch to search for programs to view and Google will find the programs if they are available for purchase in its online Play store.

Searching “Breaking Bad,” for example, will bring up the show and information like its actors and the movies or shows they starred in. Users can also stream music and games from their tablets and smartphones to Android TV. Google said it had partnered with Sony, Sharp and Asus, and expected products including Android TV to arrive in fall.

Television has been a tough market for Google. Android TV is its fourth attempt to push Android into television, after several approaches failed. One of its earlier attempts included Google TV, which came with a clunky remote and many limitations on what people could watch.

Google has found some success with Chromecast, a stick that plugs into TVs and allows users to stream content from their smartphones or computers to the television. Released last year, Chromecast has been a top seller on Amazon. Google on Wednesday said it had improved Chromecast, allowing any phone to connect to the device without having to be on the same Wi-Fi network.

Google also said it worked hard to improve battery life for Android devices, with a tool called Project Volta. Its presentation of the feature was interrupted by a protester, who stood in front of the stage holding a T-shirt that read, “Develop a conscience.” The protester claimed she was being evicted by a property owner who was a Google employee, before being escorted out by security guards.

GoogleIO2014: Android Auto-powered cars coming in 2014, Google says

Google said on Wednesday the first cars running Android Auto will hit showrooms later this year, after the internet search giant signed on 40 auto-industry partners for its car-software development alliance.

Executives demonstrated to developers on Wednesday how Android Auto acts like an extension of its popular mobile phone software and will be completely voice-enabled, allowing drivers to navigate maps and send messages while behind the wheel.

GoogleIO2014: Next Android version to have better performance, revamped UI

Google has given a preview of Android L release, the next version of Android. The next build of Android brings 5,000 APIs for developers and allows them to make use of all new features that the platform brings starting today.

With Android L, Google has focussed on both design and performance.

On the performance side, Android will now support 64-bit processors and will now have better runtime, graphics and battery life.

Google has replaced Dalvik runtime of previous versions with ART (Android RunTime) on Android L release. ART was only optional in Kitkat, but has become mandatory with the new version. According to Google, ART shows a huge performance boost over Dalvik; therefore, all apps should run much faster on Android L version than earlier OS. It has been designed to support AOT (Ahead-of-Time), JIT (Just-In-Time) and interpreted compilers.

As ART is compatible with 64-bit processor, Android L release will offer increased memory space, cross-platform support and newer instruction sets. Additionally, it requires no modifications to Java.

Google will debut a new Android extension pack with this update, which includes features like geometry and computer shaders with Android L release, tessellation and ASTC texture compression. These will allow designers to create richer graphics for the platform.

Android L also comes with a new battery-saver mode, Google announced at its I/O 2014 conference. In order to ensure longer battery life on Android, Google has tried to optimize every subsystem in the software as part of Project Volta. This will help Android phones and tablets to run 90 minutes more by switching off services that are not crucial.

On the design side, the next version of Android will see a number of changes, revamping the user interface to a large extent, much like how Apple did with iOS 7 last year.

Matias Duarte, vice-president of design at Google, introduced a new design language called Material Design. This language emphasizes on a flatter UI look, rounder elements, softer edges and shadows. Transition effects in various apps will be smoother in the Android L version.

Material Design will give new animation capabilities, 3D views with real-time shadows etc to app interface designers. Nested scrolling, a new feature, will allow designers to ensure that certain parts of the UI can be scrolled differently.

Notifications have also been revamped with Android L, showing Google Now-like cards on the screen. Users can also access all notifications right from the lock screen as well.

Enhanced Notifications, another new feature, enables users to control notifications on the lock screen and also prioritize them when using the smartphone.

Google also said that it will ensure better security on Android platform, allowing users to remotely reset their devices in case they are stolen.

In line with rumours, Google announced that Android will dive into the enterprise sector with the next release. Focussing on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) culture in companies, the internet search titan said that it will release new APIs that will enable users to manage their personal and official data on the same device without any hassle. Android L’s key security features are based on Samsung’ Knox, which is now part of Google’s operating system.

Google has, however, not yet revealed what the name of next Android update will be or when it will be released. Android versions are named after desserts, and several students from India have appealed to Android chief Sundar Pichai to name the next iteration as ‘Ladoo’ or ‘Lassi’.

At the last two I/O conferences, Google had unveiled hardware products, namely Nexus 7 tablets and Google Glass, but there was no device this year.

6 ways Google will be part of your life in 2015

5 ways Google will be part of your life in 2015

1. Google, already the go-to search engine and the maker of world’s most popular mobile software, may become a bigger part of your life by next year. The company detailed five projects at I/O 2014 conference, that indicate its desire to move beyond your phone and PC’s screen and enter your household with more touchpoints. Here are five ways you could be using Google and Android more 2015 onwards.

2. Android Wear

Google can be on your wrist with Android Wear smartwatches as early as today if you happen to order one online in the US. You may soon find yourself talking to your wrist to answer your queries, find stuff on the internet and look for directions. Just say what you want it to do or what you need to know and it will do the same.

3. Android TV

Google wants to be part of your living room and Android TV is the route it is taking. You can get Android TV on your television screen via set-top boxes, smartTVs and even video game consoles. It will use Google Now extensively to track your content consumption and give recommendations based on that. Android TV apps will be announced later this year, Google said, while TVs with Android integration will be in the market in 2015.
 
4. Android Auto
 
Not only will Google be part of your home, it will be around even when you are in your car. You can pair your car and smartphone using Android Auto, the company’s “contextually aware” in-car solution that provides you with maps and turn-by-turn navigation. You can control the music using the car’s dash, while calls and SMSs can be received to or sent via voice commands. You will be able to drive an Android Auto-equipped car as early as 2014-end. No names yet, though.
 
5. Google Fit
 
Google’s health-focussed service — Fit — may become a regular feature of your life by next year, especially if you are too conscious of fitness. This platform will help you get the complete picture on your health and fitness by compiling the data across various apps. Google Fit will also give better recommendations based on the data and fitness levels.
 
6. Android one
 
Android One

It’s likely that you have a smartphone, but the billions who don’t right now will soon find that a smartphone is well within their reach even at shoestring budgets. Android One will help budget phone manufacturers create a reference framework to develop smartphones without spending extra time or money. The software will be stock Android and Google will roll out the updates, but manufacturers will be allowed to add extra apps to set themselves apart.

Google I/O 2014

Google will soon touch your life in more ways than just smartphones and search. At its annual developer conference I/O 2014, the internet giant detailed Android Wear, Android TV and Android Auto, settings its sights on getting Android to power smartwatches, televisions and cars, besides a big healthcare push. It also shared the new features of Android’s next version and introduced Android One, a platform that will make building ultra low-cost smartphones easier.