A Summary of Google’s 101 Announcements at I/O 2017

The most anticipated event of the year for Android developers and Google fans is officially over. During the I/O 2017, Google announced many new features and improvements that should make their projects even better. Emily Wood, Google’s Manager of Global Communication and Public Affairs, published a blog post with all 101 announcements that took place in Mountain View, CA.

Google Assistant is the key player

A quick look at the list shows that Google’s main topics were Assistant, virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, and AI. We learned that Google brought its voice-enabled digital companion to iOS. The huge news is that Assistant is available on over 100 million devices around the world. To make it even more popular, Google is also expanding the program to phones that use Brazilian Portuguese, French, German and Japanese as their main language. Finally, Transactions and payments will also make their way to Assistant-compatible devices.

Google Home will also receive major updates. The first improvement worth mentioning is free-calling (landlines and mobile) that will soon be available via Google Home in the USA and Canada. Google Home is expanding and will soon be available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan. Finally, Bluetooth support will be added to the device, so users can stream their favorite music through the speakers. There are a lot of personal assistants available on the market, but those features certainly make Google Home one of the most appealing now.

Google Assistant and Google Home were discussed many times and had 23 announcements in total. It’s understandable that Google plans to improve those products to find more customers and push the tech world towards artificial intelligence. They can do better, though. According to statistics. Android is an operating system for over 2 billion devices. Those numbers are ruthless and show that Assistant is available on 5 percent of devices with Google’s OS. Google needs to expand availability to announce full success — availability is the biggest problem, as only a few countries can use all features that Google has to offer.

Virtual reality and augmented reality with major updates

Virtual and augmented reality are something that Google works on intensively. To that effect, more Daydream-ready phones are coming soon. Daydream will be compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, for example. LG’s next flagships will also be compatible as well as Motorola and ASUS handsets. Google is also making Daydream phone-free: it will soon support standalone VR headsets that don’t require a phone or PC. An Educational Daydream Elements (VR) application is also available in the Play Store.

The aforementioned standalone VR headsets will include WorldSense, a new technology that precisely tracks the movement without extra sensors. Google talked a bit about their Tango project too:  starting this summer, ASUS will start selling the ZenFone AR. One of the most exciting announcements is a new version of Euphrates, the latest release of Daydream. It will allow users to capture what they’re seeing and cast a virtual world right onto the screen for others to see the VR experience, in a social environment. It will be publicly available later this year.

There are also some improvements for developers., like Instant Preview, that reflects the changes on a headset in just a few seconds.

Other things are also important

Google highlighted the importance of machine learning and cloud services throughout the event. Smart Reply to Gmail on Android and iOS is already using machine learning for seamless responses. To make it even more efficient, Google announced the second generation Clout TPUs, and they will use them in the Google Compute Engine. Another announcement is TensorFlow Research Cloud, that is available for free to top researchers. Finally, the Google for Jobs is also using the machine learning to find the best job candidates.

One of the key products of previous I/O events, Google Photos, has over 500 million monthly users, uploading 1.2 billion photos and videos to Google Photos servers. An important feature that will soon roll-out is an ability to recognize the people on the photos and suggest to share photos with them. It’s indeed an interesting feature that might become quite popular. Users will also have an option to share the libraries with their friends or families. For instance, a husband can share the photos of the kids with his wife. Users can select whether they want to share the full library or just certain photos. Finally, physical photo books from Google are now available for $9.99 and $19.99 for soft or hard cover respectively. Availability is limited to the U.S. for now.

Android with minor improvements

A few years ago, when Lollipop had its announcement, Android was the main part of the conference. This year was a bit different, as Android O will not bring a ton of new features. Android O is more an evolution than revolution. We still don’t know the name or an exact premiere date, but there is a public beta available for supported devices. All changes are detailed here. Graphics drivers should also be updated through Play Store.

Kotlin is an alternative to Java

Of course, there are some interesting aspects worth mentioning. From a developer’s point of view, the most exciting news was the debut of Kotlin as an officially-supported programming language. The JetBrains’ product is already available in the canary channel of Android Studio, which also hits the version 3.0 available as a preview.

As always, Google plans to tackle battery life and performance. We don’t know much about it, but some applications will double their performance, according to Google, in certain usecases as well as improved launch speeds. Background  service restrictions also aim to improve battery life. The other interesting announcements are Google Play Protect, updated Find My Device, and Picture in Picture that will be available in Android O.

Android Go rescuing low-end devices, Android Wear updates

Google announced the Android Go program which seeks to optimize the system to run on low-end devices. Apart from code optimizations, the specially crafted version of the Play Store will suggest lite applications that should run smoothly on devices with limited RAM, and various UI changes (such as a less-resource intensive recents menu) will enable faster operation.

Android Wear has also been discussed. It’s an operating system of almost 50 different watches. Android Wear has the new partners, including the likes of Emporio Armani, Movado or New Balance. Google decided to open-source some libraries for developers to make app development simpler.

There are some minor updates to Google Play as the Play Console or the subscriptions dashboard.

While Android is extremely popular, Google has decided to focus on other products. We hope that O will be the most optimized version of the system as unfortunately, we have to wait at least a few months to see the official builds on first devices.

The list of announcements is really long, as there was no shortage of conferences this year. You can watch all of them on YouTube, and a full list of the announcements is available here.

What do you thing about this year’s I/O? Was it exciting? What do you look forward to the most? Let us know in the comments!


Source: Google

Google Updates Complications API for Android Wear, Introduces Wear UI And Open-Sources Components

One of the announcements made at Google I/O is an updated Complications API. It will allow Android Wear developers to easily implement complications into watch faces.

We have discussed Android Wear 2.0 earlier this year. The system is a huge step forward in terms of usability. Google wants to give developers the tools to create the best Android Wear experience. To make it happen with relative ease, a new Wear UI library has been created.

Google has introduced four new tools for Android Wear developers. They are a part of Complications API introduced last year.

  • TextRenderer – Auto-sizes text to fit in bounds defined by watch face makers.
  • ComplicationDrawable – A full rendering solution for complications, that handles all the styling for you, and adjusts the layout to fit the space you specify
  • Easy watch face settings sample – Adoptable sample code that makes it easier to build complication settings with a rich and usable experience.
  • Complication test suite – A sample data provider to help check that your watch face can handle all the combinations of fields that can make up complication data.

Since the release of Android Wear 1.0, developers complained about its closed nature. Google decided to change that and open-source some components, and migrate some of the Android Wear UI components in the Android Support Library. Additionally, some Android Wear features will merge with Android under android.support.v4.widget. Finally, outdated user interface patterns will be deprecated. Google developers expect the migration process to continue during 2017. Wear developers will have time until mid-2018 to migrate to the new UI components.

These announced changes won’t impact Android Wear users directly, but they serve as a heads-up for developers to review their code and implement new changes. All new libraries should soon be available in the Android Support Library in Android Studio.


Source: Android Developer Blog

Huawei Watch 2 review

The Huawei Watch 2 is the successor to the popular and adored original Huawei Watch, and it’s a controversial one. Gone are the classy looks, replaced with a sporty body and packed with features.

Details

  • 1.2-inch 390×390 AMOLED display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor
  • 768MB RAM
  • 4GB storage
  • 420mAh battery
  • Sensors: Ambient light, accelerometer, gyro, heart rate, GPS, barometer, compass
  • 12.6mm thick
  • Price: $299.99

Hardware

Let’s address the elephant in the room. The first thing you’ll notice about the Huawei Watch 2 is its sporty appearance. Then it’ll hit you that the body is bigger and thicker than the original while the display is smaller. This has turned a lot of people off, and I’ll admit that I’m one of them. After owning an original Huawei Watch, I was hoping the Watch 2 would be a successor to the original, retaining the classy look while adding better hardware and features like NFC.

Yes, this isn’t a classy watch. Even the Classic version isn’t nearly as beautiful as the original. But don’t let this sour your opinion of the Watch 2, because if you look at it as a separate device, it’s actually pretty great.

The plastic body is durable and lightweight, weighing only 40g. This and the rubber strap makes it an extremely comfortable watch to wear. The polished ceramic ring surrounding the display is very scratch-resistant and looks really nice. The display itself is coated in Gorilla Glass, sadly forgoing its predecessor’s sapphire crystal.

On the side, you’ll find the familiar power button alongside a second function button which can be programmed to open any app you’d like. There’s no rotating crown, and while this is a shame, Huawei says it was not added so it wouldn’t be bumped during sport and activities. This is a fitness-oriented device, after all.

The display is smaller than its predecessor by a tenth of an inch, and it really does feel a lot smaller. Fortunately the pixel density is higher and the display is quite nice. It gets plenty bright in daylight and looks great in all conditions. It also features an ambient light sensor, which was a huge omission on the previous model. This comes without a flat tire thanks to the huge bezels.

Inside you’ll find much of the same hardware that powers other Android Wear watches. But while other watches omit a bunch of fitness sensors, the Huawei Watch 2 has a full assortment. You get a continuously reading heart rate sensor (it’s a big surprise how many modern smartwatches omit a heart rate sensor entirely), an accelerometer, a gyro, a barometer, a GPS, a compass, NFC, and capacitive sensor. All of the antennas are housed in the body.

There is also a speaker which can play alarms and music. It gets loud, and despite being more tinny than a garbage can, it actually sounds pretty decent.

The vibration on the previous watch was weak and I often couldn’t feel it. The Watch 2 vibration motor is strong but sharp and not too buzzy. It feels great.

Huawei Watch 2 review 2

The Huawei Watch 2′s bands are replaceable and feature the same quick change mechanism as the previous model. This mechanism makes band changes toolless and instant. Any 20mm band will work, so your previous bands won’t work if you’re upgrading from the original Huawei Watch.

Huawei Watch 2 review 5

The charger is a big talking point if you’ve ever owned the original Huawei Watch. It was pretty terrible, and getting the pins aligned often took a few careful snaps of the charger. I even had the watch buzz every couple of seconds all night long thanks to intermittent charger contact. Many of you know my pain. The new charger for the Huawei Watch 2 has side tabs that align it, meaning you can carelessly snap the charger on and get it right every single time. No more tears, only dreams now.

Software

The Huawei Watch 2 launches with Android Wear 2.0, which is a huge improvement over any other version of Android Wear. So much has been improved upon and even completely changed.

The notifications now act more like Android on a phone, where swiping in either direction will dismiss it and there is a clear all button at the bottom. Each notification can now have buttons, rather than a single button per screen like before. This means you can instantly delete emails, skip tracks on the music notification, and much more. This is such a big improvement over older versions. They’re also gray, so no more glaring white glow.

Google Assistant has been added, which means your watch can do much of what your phone can. This includes controlling your smart home, and if you’re connected to WiFi through your watch, this means you don’t need your phone on you around the house anymore.

Triggering Google Assistant requires holding the power button for a fraction of a second, while short-pressing it opens the app drawer. This is much easier to use than the previous three pages of apps, contacts, and voice prompts.

Google also added a software keyboard. Does that sound silly? Well, it actually works reasonably well!

Huawei Watch 2 review 3

Android Pay is included on Android Wear 2.0 watches with NFC, which the Huawei Watch 2 has. You can now tap a terminal to pay at certain stores and restaurants. You’ll have to set a pin or pattern to use this, but this only has to be inputted when you first put the watch on. You can open the app and tap the watch immediately without entering a pin if the watch is already unlocked.

The Play Store is now on the watch itself, so you can download apps without your phone. While this is only mildly useful for Android users, it finally brings apps to iPhone users with Android Wear watches. You will now be able to download apps and watch faces and keep them updated straight from the watch.

The overall feel of Android Wear 2.0 is so much more cohesive and user-friendly. The learning curve is still a bit high, but it will grow on you.

Battery life

The original Huawei Watch could squeeze out two days of battery life with WiFi, always-on display, and everything else on. The Huawei Watch 2 can too, but it depends on how it’s set up.

Due to the addition of GPS and other sensors, getting through two days can be tough. You’ll often see the low battery prompt by the end of the second work day. That being said, it still has plenty of battery life for a day even using workout features. Workout apps drain the battery pretty quickly.

Turn GPS off and two days of battery life is easy. You’ll be able to get through two full days and still have 20% left. This is with the watch constantly checking your heart rate. Turn off more features, get more battery life.

Huawei also includes a battery app with the Watch 2. Smart power savings turns off always-on display and other features to get you about 20% more battery life. Then there’s Watch Mode, which turns everything off but the watch face and pedometer. The screen stays off until you raise your arm and it will track your steps. No notifications, no apps, nothing. While this doesn’t sound so useful, it will last you a whopping 21 days!

Huawei Watch 29.5 / 10

Huawei Watch 2 review 6

In the end, comparing the Huawei Watch 2 to the original Huawei Watch isn’t quite fair. Despite sharing the same name, they’re very different devices. Even if you loved the original, you may not like the new one nearly as much. But that doesn’t distract from the fact that the Huawei Watch 2 is a solid, functional, and, frankly, nice smartwatch.

While I do wish that Huawei released a true successor to the first Huawei Watch with a slim, classy body and a large display, the Watch 2 is a good upgrade if you can get past the very different looks and the cheaper feel of plastics. It has almost everything you could ask for and does it all well.