Google I/O Wrap: Android M, Android Pay And More

Google kicked off its annual I/O conference on Thursday with a packed keynote speech that unveiled several new exciting services in addition to Android M. The search giant also focused on virtual reality technology, which is certainly a hot topic right now.

All about Android M at Google I/O

Josh Dzieza and Andi Robertson of The Verge put together an excellent and thorough list of what Google I/O showcased this year. As expected, much of the keynote speech focused on Android M, the next version of Google’s mobile operating system.

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For example, Google Now is becoming more intuitive and supposedly will better be able to anticipate a user’s needs no matter where they are. Google also added offline support for Google Maps and even Chrome. Of course this is limited, but it can come in handy when you’re in places with poor reception.

Also Google has made it easier to control permissions for apps so that you don’t have to give blanket access to virtually every part of your phone for various apps. Instead, the apps will ask on a task by task basis if they may access a part of your smartphone.

Chrome also will act more like an app, and the links between it and other apps will be much more seamless. This will be achieved through the addition of Chrome Custom Tabs, which supposedly make webpages load faster and speed up linking.

Google also unveiled Doze, which improves battery life by shutting down background features when they aren’t being used. Additionally, the search giant is now offering free unlimited storage for photos of up to 16 megapixels and video of up to 1080p quality. The new Photos app will also organize the photos in a timeline for easy access.

Android Pay will also be rolled out as part of Android M, and the service is basically a new and improved version of Google Wallet. It functions very similarly to Apple Pay and will be preinstalled on phones made by Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T.

Google focuses on virtual reality

On the product side of things, Google showed off a new version of Cardboard that’s compatible with the iPhone and is designed for smartphones that have displays of up to six inches in size. Along with the product, the search giant revealed Expeditions, an educational tool that offers virtual reality field trips guided by teachers.

Further, Google partnered with GoPro to create a round rig made up of 16 cameras. It’s called Jump, and the two companies will release details on the rig for those who want to build their own. The point of the rig is to shoot 3D video by linking together the views taken by the 16 cameras and putting them together into a 3D virtual reality video.

Other new products at Google I/O

The company also showed off the new operating system for its Android Wear smartwatch operating system. One of the new features is an easier way for users to call up Uber to catch a ride somewhere. The operating system also keeps the smartwatch always on, an interesting idea in light of how horrible battery life on smartwatches is right now.

Google also showed off some new smart home functions, like Weave, a system that connects smart devices like locks on doors, thermostats, light bulbs and more. Google hopes Weave will become the dominant platform for smart home management.