Google previewed what next year’s devices are going to bring at its annual developer get-together, Google I/O. Though the company’s plate is full of projects like Chrome and the Chrome operating system, the keynote announcements concentrated on its most visible ecosystem — Android.
Google Photos — Available now on Android, iOS and the web, Google Photos offers unlimited free storage for photos up to 16MP and videos up to 1080p. (Free storage for photos and videos. Do you hear that Apple?) It automagically sorts and groups photos and videos and suggests things like timelines to arrange vacation photos. Google is emphasizing that the data is kept private, but also says sharing is easy, even to friends and family that aren’t on social networks.
Android M — It’s not a new version of the operating system, but its a developer preview. While it’s not ready for primetime, it is a glimpse into what to look for in Android Mars Bar, Marzipan, Milkshake or whatever Mountain View winds up naming the next iteration of the mobile OS. Apps now have granular controls over permissions, rather than being an all-or-nothing proposition. Links can be opened in Chrome. Google On Tap will prepare contextual information culled from your communications.
Brillo and Weave — Google’s getting into the “internet of things”, or at least the internet of household things, with Brillo (built into the “lower levels of Android”) and Weave, which allows devices to talk to each other. All of this connectivity to is create a smart home where your lights, appliances and locks can all talk to each other, like the castle in Beauty and the Beast, only with the addition of an Android smartphone.
Android Pay — Ditching Google Wallet, Android Pay is your new NFC overlord (if you’re of that persuasion). But this isn’t just a simple rebranding — Google bought SoftCard, the mobile carriers’ attempt at a cellphone-based payment scheme (renamed from Isis, which proved to be a problematic appellation). Android Pay is rumored to work with Android M’s fingerprint API and, in a one-up to Apple, SoftCard also is supposedly far along on a loyalty program. (Apple is rumored to introduce its own Apple Pay loyalty program in a few weeks.)
Virtual Reality — Tech companies seem to continue to want to make VR a thing — probably because they’re staffed by 20-somethings who don’t remember the letdown from the first time around — and Google rolled out new versions of Project Cardboard (the cardboard housing that turns smartphones into VR goggles; not kidding) for larger phablet-sized Android phones, as well as iPhones. It also partnered with GoPro to introduce the Jump, a circular 16-camera device to capture images for use in VR devices. (GoPro introduced a six-camera “sphere” the other day.) The images are stitched together for use by Google’s assembler, which according to the company requires “thousands” of computers.
If anything, Google has to be commended for bringing iOS to its party when it can (Google Photos, Project Cardboard). However, there’s something to be said about the revenues iDevices bring to the company’s table. Speaking of Apple, users will be able to see what they’re planning with the curtain on their developer conference going up on June 8.