Google I/O week is a time in which we’re always promised a bunch of news from everyone’s favourite Mountain View-based company. While some rumoured announcements, especially in regards to hardware, failed to show, the week was still filled with a whole host of interesting Android news. Let’s jump in and take a look!
BBM Coming to Android and iOS this Summer
BlackBerry announced this week that their iconic messaging service and spiritual predecessor to services like iMessage, Kik and other platforms, will be released as an Android and iOS app in summer.
BBM will run on iOS 6+ and Android 4.0+, and naturally integrate with native BlackBerry user’s messaging apps.
Initially, the service will feature more basic messaging features of the product, but will be expanded with additional features such as voice and screen sharing in the future.
Android 4.3, White Nexus 4 MIA
One anticipated announcement that didn’t show up at Google’s I/O keynote was Android 4.3, an update expected to include some optimisations such as Bluetooth Low Energy support and OpenGL enhancements.
Android 4.3 didn’t show up at Google I/O (nor was it silently announced afterwards), although it has been spotted in some of Google’s own search results for Android.com.
Now, new reports have tagged Android 4.3 and the release of a white model of LG’s Nexus 4 with a release date of June 10th. June 10th is also the date of Apple’s opening keynote at WWDC, where a new version of rival iOS is expected to be unveiled.
900M Android Activations, 48Bn App Installs
Google’s newly installed head of Android and Chrome, Sundar Pichai, announced on stage at Google I/O that the company had hit a milestone of 900 million Android device activations to date.
Google also announced that over 48 billion apps have been installed on Android devices so far. However, in a show of competitive spirit, Apple also announced they’d crossed the 50 billion threshold the same day.
New Google Play Developer Tools and Services
Of course, Google I/O is ultimately a developer event so the opening keynote was filled with a bunch of major announcements for Android developers.
To kick things off, the company announced Google Play Game services, a set of tools, APIs and services for powering games on Android, with cross-platform compatibility with iOS and the web. I took a look at this announcement in depth in a recent article.
Google also announced Android Studio, its new development environment for the OS. New additions include refined layout tools for devices and realtime updates in the integrated simulator, as well as better tracking of advertising metrics. Android Studio is available as an early access preview now!
Other API announcements included new Google Maps and Location services with advantages in lower power consumption for location detection and geofencing. Google+ single sign-on has also been extended to advertise a website’s Android app and encourage a user to download it when they use the service.
Finally, Google will also be redesigning the web-side of Google Play to better reflect recent changes to the Android app, in addition to the introduction of tablet-specific listings — which you can read more details about in Rita’s article — finally catching up to one of the basic launch features of the iPad App Store.
Subscription-Based Google Play Music All Access
Google also used I/O to unveil its new subscription-based music service, Google Play All Access, to compete with the likes of Spotify.
Samsung Galaxy S4 With Stock Android
In one of the more surprising moves of Google I/O, a new piece of hardware that isn’t a new model of Nexus 7 or any other rumoured device was announced. Rather, it’s a Samsung Galaxy S4 running stock Android and completely unlocked, with a promise for timely software updates.
Google will be selling the device as with its previous Nexus devices on Google Play on June 26th for $649. Due to minimal amounts of marketing likely ready to be put into this phone, it’s unlikely this model of S4 will see the same popularity as the main one, but it’s an exciting step forward into a future utopia of powerful, sound devices without ugly skinning and manufacturer bloatware.