Well, another Google I/O Keynote is in the books, and just like years past, Google announced a lot of cool stuff. Here are some of the biggest things announced today.
Android P Enters Beta
Android P has been available as a developer edition for a little while now, but Google used I/O to roll out the Beta version. This brings several improvements over the developer build, mostly in that it can be installed as an OTA onto a compatible phone and that it will receive updates in the same way.
Speaking of compatible phones, for the first time ever, Google has made the P beta available to a variety of phones outside the Pixel line. It’s currently available for these phones:
- Google Pixel/XL
- Google Pixel 2/XL
- OnePlus 6
- Essential PH-1
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S
- Sony Xperia XZ2
- Nokia 7 Plus
- Oppo R15 Pro
- Vivo X21/UD
You can head to the Android Beta site to install it on your handset now. And here’s a quick look at some of the coolest stuff you’ll find in the P beta.
Adaptive Battery Can Give You More Battery Life
Google has done a lot over the last few versions of Android to improve battery life, with Oreo making the biggest leap of all. Now, with Android P, it’s implementing a feature called Adaptive Battery that should take things a step further.
In a nutshell, Adaptive Battery will monitor the apps you use–and subsequently, the ones you don’t—and then limit battery use for apps that you don’t access that often. During the I/O keynote, Android VP Dave Burke said they’ve seen a 30 percent reduction in battery-draining wakelocks while testing Adaptive Battery. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a winner to me.
App Actions and Slices Predict What You’ll Do Next
People are creatures of habit, and Google knows it. That’s why it created App Actions, a feature in Android P that uses machine learning to “predict” what you’re going to do next.
It places these predicted actions (read: app suggestions) front and center where you can easily access them. It also uses certain actions to guess what you want to do next. For example, connecting your headphones might result in a suggestion to play the last thing you were listening to.
Similarly, Slices pulls out specific snippets of apps to offer quick, built-in access to the important bits as you need them. It’s not entirely clear how this is going to work, but it sounds cool.
Gesture Controls Begin to Take Center Stage
Apple killing the home button and relying exclusively on gestures for the iPhone X has been a bit of a game changer for the mobile scene in general, and Google is following suit in Android. Gestures haven’t completely taken over the navigation bar here—in fact, they’re optional in the Android P beta—with the home button still front-and-center. The back button is still available when an app is in the foreground, too.
These gestures primarily take the place of the recents button, quick recall action for running apps, and opening the app drawer. Still, even after just a few minutes they feel very natural and intuitive.
…And There’s More
There are a lot more new features in Android P, and we’ll be taking a much closer look at those in the coming days.
Google Assistant Features
It’s no secret that the Assistant is Google’s future, so it’s not surprising that the company announced some amazing new features for its digital assistant at I/O.
Duplex Can Perform Some Actions on Your Behalf
Of all the demos during this year’s I/O keynote, Duplex was by far the most mind blowing. With Duplex, your Google Assistant will be able to do things like make phone calls and set up appointments for you—it interacts like a real person on the phone when making these calls. The entire demo was something that has to be seen to be believed.
There’s no indication of when Duplex will be available, but this is some seriously futuristic stuff that we can definitely get excited about.
Continued Conversation Lets You Keep Talking Without Saying “Hey Google” Each Time
If you currently use Google Assistant, you know how annoying it is to have to say “Hey Google” before every single command. With Continued Conversation—which will launch “in the coming weeks”—you’ll be able to naturally speak to Assistant, and it will keep listening for a brief amount of time after the first command to make sure you don’t have more to say.
It will also be able to detect when you’re talking to it versus talking to someone else. Machine learning is the real deal, y’all.
New Assistant Voices Offer Some Variety
If you’re not into your Assistant’s default voice, you’ll soon have the choice of six new voices—and one from R&B singer John Legend. It’ll be a while before you’ll get to hear Mr. Legend every time you speak to Assistant, but hey—he’s coming.
Custom Orders Makes Shopping Easier
Soon, you’ll be able to tell your Assistant to “order the normal from Starbucks” and it will do it. Google has been working with Starbucks (and others!) to set this up—you tell the Assistant what you want, and it does the rest for you. Very cool.
Gmail Smart Compose Is Like Smart Replies, but for New Messages
If you hate typing out emails as much as…basically everyone I know, then you’re going to love this feature. Using the same technology behind Smart Replies, Gmail will soon be able to contextually figure out what you’re talking about and trying to say, then suggest full sentences for you.
Eventually, we’re hoping Gmail will just be able to think and respond for us.
Google News Gets a Revamp
We’ve been hearing rumors that Google may revamps its News app, and today it announced just that.
The new Google News app appears to be replacing Google Play Newsstand, as it is bringing most of the app’s features into the News app. It’s using machine learning and AI to specifically curate the news that matters to you, and will have the ability to combine everything you care about it one place, regardless of the new source. The updates News app will available for Android, iOS, and on the web starting today.
Google Photos Gets Smarter (and More Futuristic) Editing
Google Photos is already a beast on its own, but it’s about to get smarter. It will be able to do things like pull documents from images (and straighten them if needed!), colorize old black and white photos, or even edit colors to make subjects pop out of regular photos. It’s going to be brilliant.
Google Lens Gets Some Cool Enhancements
Google Lens was one of the coolest announcements from last year’s I/O conference, and this year it’s getting a lot of cool enhancements.
Once these new features roll out, Lens will have realtime OCR (optical character recognition) for immediate translations. That will be a game-changer for international travel! You’ll also be able to copy/paste text directly from Lens.
It will also be able to help you pick clothes and home decor by offering matching and complimentary accessories to go along with whatever you’re pointing the camera at. Need new shoes? Show Lens your outfit. How about a new lamp? Just point and shoot the couch. BAM—suggestions aplenty.
Google Maps Adds AR for Walking Navigation
If you walk and use Google Maps, then you know how good walking navigation already is. But! You also know how irritating it can be while getting started—which way do you go? You start walking, only to realize you’re going the wrong way. So you turn around.
With the new walking navigation in Maps, however, that is a thing of the past, because it now uses the camera to give you AR directions. How awesome is that? Very. That’s how awesome.
This is far from everything Google announced at I/O today—just some of our favorites. You know, the things we think we’ll all be talking about for weeks and months to come.
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