Google's I/O 2014 developer's keynote is in the books, and while the search giant didn't have much to say about Google Glass, it proved to be an exciting event for consumers and developers alike. Android L is putting a fresh skin on Google's mobile OS, and Android is on its way to new destinations like your car, your TV and even your wrist via Android Wear. Speaking of the latter, we even got to see some new hardware debut with the announcement of Samsung's Gear Live smartwatch.
Google I/O 2014 gave us a lot of new tech to sift through, so here are our five biggest takeaways from the show.
A More Attractive, Powerful Android
Google started its I/O keynote with a big focus on aesthetics, touting the new Material Design interface that will adorn the upcoming Android L OS. Material Design gives apps a multi-dimensional look and feel, and allows for smoothly animated transitions when pressing an on-screen button or moving from one part of an app to another.
Android L is more than just a pretty face, though. The operating system boasts a heads-up notifications feature, so your incoming calls can pop up in a small actionable window, without disrupting whatever app or game you have open. Android L will support 64-bit computing, and Google claims that its new Android Extension Pack will allow you to enjoy PC-quality graphics on your mobile device.
You'll also be able to use your phone for longer durations, as Android L has a battery saver function that reduces your device's workload when it detects low battery levels.
Overall, its nice to see Google give Android a much-welcomed refresh, while also adding some practical performance features.
Android Wear is Ready for Your Wrist
After announcing Android Wear earlier this year, Google confirmed its commitment to wearable tech at I/O. Just about every presenter on stage rocked a Wear-powered device, and the Wear platform permeated through a variety of presentations, including its ability to work with your Android phone to authenticate lock screen logins.
We saw a new Android Wear watch with the Samsung Gear Live, which adds to a confirmed lineup that also includes the LG G Watch and Motorola Moto 360. Google isn't wasting any time getting the devices around your wrist, either. Both the Gear Live and G Watch are available for order today.
Android Wear seems to already have some solid software support, as apps like Allthecooks, Lyft and Eat24 will let you do things like find a recipe, call for a ride and order a pizza with a simple tap on your wrist. However, the Android Wear interface itself involves more swiping than we'd like, which means the voice recognition had better be spot-on.
The Car Tech Race Has Begun
Not content to let Apple have all of the car tech fun this fall, Google announced its Android Auto platform at I/O 2014. Like Apple's CarPlay does with iOS, Android Auto brings key Android features like Google Maps, Play Music and voice integration to a variety of vehicles that will start rolling out by the end of 2014.
This brings the Google-Apple rivalry to the roads, as those in the market for a high-tech automobile now have to consider handset compatibility on top of standard car features like handling and mileage.
Both smart car platforms will become available on vehicles from over 20 manufacturers, with Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz prepping CarPlay models and Dodge and Jeep working on Android Auto-ready cars. The two services have a good chunk of carmakers in common, including Honda, Mitsubishi and Subaru.
Despite the similarities between the two platforms, the wide range of Android-enabled devices could be what brings Android Auto to the finish line ahead of CarPlay. Apple's car platform requires an iPhone 5 or newer, while Android Auto should theoretically work with any handset running a compatible version of Google's mobile OS.
Google is Getting Serious About TV (Again)
After winning over entertainment junkies with last year's $35 Chromecast dongle, Google is out to invade even more living rooms with Android TV. Instead of being tied to a single piece of hardware, Android will deliver a big-screen version of Google's mobile OS via a variety of streaming boxes and Smart TVs.
Android TV stands out because of a powerful voice search function, which lets you search for your favorite shows and actors across a variety of Android apps. You can also search the web. (Take that, Amazon Fire TV.) The platform can be made compatible with a variety of peripherals and smartphones, and can instantly turn your TV into a gaming machine via Google Play games. If you never picked up a Chromecast, you can utilize all available Chromecast apps on any set-top box or Smart TV running Android TV.
If you are still using your trusty Chromecast, Google hasn't forgotten about you. The affordable streaming stick is getting some nice additions later this year, including a search function, ambient backdrops and the ability to stream media to a friend's TV without being in the same Wi-Fi network.
The bottom line? Google wants you to keep using its products for your TV needs, whether it be via Chromecast or any Android TV-compatible devices that hit the market.
Android is Everywhere
Platform ubiquity was a major theme of Apple's WWDC event earlier this month, and it looks like Google is following suit. Whether you're using Android Auto on the way to work, bringing Android Wear to the gym or relaxing with Android TV at home, Google seems set on making sure its software platform follows you throughout all of your daily activities by the end of this year. These new platforms, combined with an improved mobile phone experience via Android L, make the remainder of 2014 look like it will be a good one for Google fans.
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