Lots of perfectly sensible improvements from Google for Android. But no strategic steps at all. Interesting.— Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) May 28, 2015
Yesterday, Google took to the stage at Moscone West in San Francisco to talk all things Android. I had written up my expectations beforehand, and I basically saw what I wanted bar any real hardware surprises.
Android M was announced and will feature new App Permissions that operate more like they do on iOS, as well as deeper app links, support for fingerprint authentication, and better power management. One of my favorite, albeit minor, features announced, and one that I sincerely hope Apple has noted, is Developer Pages in Google Play where devs can promote all of their apps.
Then there’s the not-so-small issue of security, which Apple went to great lengths to perfect. Android Pay uses tokenization to create virtual representations of your real card numbers, just like Apple Pay. The big difference between the two services is that Apple uses a Secure Element, a physical chip inside your phone, to store your encrypted financial data. Android Pay, like Google Wallet before it, uses Host Card Emulation, storing your encrypted data in the cloud.
this might be off-putting to some and also means you'll need an internet connection to use Android Pay.
It's fascinating to watch Google describe Android Pay as if we live in a universe where Apple Pay doesn't exist.— Anil Dash (@anildash) May 28, 2015
'Now on Tap' was, for me, the most interesting addition to Android. The in-app contextual awareness and quick access to actions and answers is really useful. It'll be a power user feature, but Google is way ahead of the competition with its Now digital assistant.
As Bryan Collom writes in his I/O news roundup:
Google Now is becoming less of an app, and more of a core experience in Android. This is huge for Google Now. The ability for our phones to be contextually aware of what we want and need to do is the future. It’s about time for Google Now, because it truly is one of the killer features of Android.
Android Wear didn't get much in the way of an update bar a new "Always On" low-power mode and some emoji drawing capabilities. Oh, and new wrist-flicking gestures that no one will ever, ever use (remember Smart Scroll?).
Brillo & Weave looked interesting for the future of the 'Internet of Things'. We'll have to wait and see what adoption is like and how it runs in reality.
Photos looks exceptional value with unlimited storage for photos up to 16MP and videos up to 1080p available for free! The app is a little like iOS Photos and Dropbox's Carousel, but it has way more search smarts including some borderline creepy facial and object recognition capabilities. Available on Android, iOS and web, Google Photos wants to be your all-in-one backup, storage and viewing solution for your photos and videos.
There was also a neat Google Cardboard and GoPro tie-up, Inbox was made available to everyone, Maps gained better offline support, and there were updates on Polymer and all sorts of other developer tools.
It was all good stuff, but there was nothing groundbreaking. Benedict Evans summed it up well on Twitter, atop this post.
On the whole, Google I/O was a little lackluster. No doubt they made some great improvements to their platforms and spoke about some interesting projects and moonshots, but it was iterative rather than revolutionary on all fronts.