The big Google I/O 2012 overview
Google's yearly developer conference, Google I/O, is much more than just programming tips and API talk. It's also the grand unveiling of a lot of new Google products and services. We liveblogged the keynotes from day one and day two, where a lot of big announcements were made. In fact, the day one keynote lasted more than two hours.
Didn't have time to follow all the big annoucements as they happened for the last two days? Here's a quick summary of the key points of interest. You'll find a lot of detailed coverage at PCWorld and Macworld.
Nexus 7 tablet
- Google expands its Nexus program from phones to tablets with the Nexus 7, built in partnership with Asus.
- It has a 7-inch IPS display at 1280 x 800 resolution, a quad-core Tegra 3, and either 8GB or 16GB of storage.
- It weight 340 grams (0.74 pounds)
- Google promises more than nine hours of battery life when playing HD video.
- The tablet runs Android 4.1, and will be available to the public in July.
- The price is a very affordable at $199 for the 8GB version, or $249 for the 16GB model.
Google Play store
- The Play store is adding magazines, including lots of popular titles like Esquire, Men's Health, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair, and more. Prices start at $1, but ramp up to around $5 or so per issue. Subscriptions are available, too.
- Movies can now be purchased, not just rented, and watched as many times as you like.
- Developers can push out "smart updates" to their apps. Instead of downloading the entire app again just to get the updated version, you'll only download the parts that have changed.
- Google is finally launching Google+ apps for tablets. The Android version is available now, with the iPad version coming soon.
- Events have been added. The friends you invite get a special invitation, and the events are integrated into Google Calendar to mark dates and times.
- Event goers can enter Party Mode to shoot pictures and videos, which are then instantly shared with the rest of the Event group.
- The Nexus Q is a bit of a departure for Google. It's a strange-looking orb that plugs into your HDTV and home theater system. You control it with your Android phone or tablet, queueing up music or video.
- It doesn't appear to support a lot of third-party streaming services, like Netflix or Hulu Plus. Rather, it's tied to the content on your Android phone or tablet and Google's own content services, streaming from the Web.
- The starting price is $299, which makes it dramatically more expensive and seemingly less flexible than devices like the Roku line and Apple TV.
Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
- The next version of Android, code-named Jelly Bean, is an incremental improvement over Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0)—hence the version number 4.1.
- It will be released to the general public as an over-the-air update for Galaxy Nexus owners in July. The exact update schedule for individual phone models will depend on the model and your carrier.
- Interface performance is a major focus. The CPU will speed up when you touch the screen, triple buffering the video smoothes out changes in frame rates, and the graphics pipeline has been optimized to improve smoothness and responsiveness.
- Google Now is a major new feature of the OS, a personal assistant that presents "cards" to you based on your location, schedule, traffic, and past searches.
- The home screen should be easier to customize, with icons and widgets smartly resizing and moving to make way for other items.
- Offline voice input: words are added as you speak, even with no Internet connection. This is rolling out for U.S. English first, with other languages following later.
- The keyboard now tries to predict your next word and displays a list of possibilities in a row just above the keyboard. Many third-party keyboards have had this for some time; now it's integrated into the stock Android keyboard.
- Notifications are improved. Instead of simple passive alerts, notifications are now active. Swipe down with two fingers on a notification to see more information, call back missed calls, "like" Facebook posts, and more.
- Voice search is vastly improved, with more direct answers and a much more natural-sounding human voice.
- Android Beam is improved. Users can now share photos and videos by tapping NFC-equipped phones, or pair NFC-equipped Bluetooth devices with a tap.
- The Camera app now has a "swipe to review photos" feature that works much like iOS and Windows Phone 7 do. Just swipe from the live camera view to see the last picture, and keep swiping to see previous pictures.
- The beta for Chrome on Android devices is over, and you can now download the browser from the Google Play store.
- Chrome is now available on iOS for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.
- Chrome now syncs tabs, browser history, back-button log, logins, and more across desktop and mobile devices.
Google Drive and Docs
- Google Drive apps are now available on iOS and Chrome OS
- New search features: Google is using OCR and image recognition to enable search for text and even some objects in images and scanned documents.
- Google Docs syncs live, in real-time, across mobile clients and browsers.
- Offline mode is now enabled for document editing. Documents are saved to a local cache and re-synched when you go back online. The feature is coming soon for spreadsheets and presentations as well.
- New Google Drive SDK: developers can use Drive within their apps.
- New Chromebooks, released a few weeks ago, are much faster.
- Chromebooks will soon be available in 100 Best Buy stores across the U.S., and other retailers globally.