This year's Google I/O Conference showcased an enthusiastic love affair between Android and its fans. Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Google Apps, told conference attendees that Android phones and tablets are everywhere. Android now has 1 billion users who check their phones 100 billion times a day, take 93 million selfies and walk 1.5 trillion steps.
Essentially, "everything Android" was the real theme of this conference. One session after another highlighted new products, from economy smartphones to fitness wearables to the updated entertainment world of Android TV and Chromecast -- basically, a consumer's paradise. Rumors also floated about a new, less-expensive version of Google Glass, in addition to network-connected thermostats and smoke detectors from the labs of Google Nest.
Now that the dust has settled from Google I/O, here's a look at the most compelling announcements from the conference, along with some thoughts on what they mean for developers, business owners and consumers.
Android Wear: Emerging as Leading OS for Wearables
Gartner research director Brian Blau says some of the biggest Google I/O news surrounded wearable devices such as smartwatches. They come in multiple colors, styles and features, with the LG and Samsung Android Wear watches available now and the Moto 360 from Motorola anticipated by summer's end.
Here, application developers face a challenge, Blau says. "The smaller form factor is certainly more convenient and accessible, but it makes apps look dumb and less functional. App developers will need to carefully balance when to use a smartphone and when to use a wearable device," which he sees consumers treating as an accessory.
That said, if Google can attract enough developers, and if they in turn create demand for the devices, Blau says Android Wear will be one of the leading operating systems for wearables.
Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Jeffrey S. Hammond has been testing the Samsung Gear Live since Google I/O. "I have to confess, I'm taking my phone out of my pocket a lot less. Scanning emails, messages, and even replying to texts and emails via voice is pretty slick," he says. Overall, Hammond adds, the platform works really well, but "I'd love to see a bit more battery life."
That may soon change. Android engineer Dave Burke told consumers that Google's latest Android OS upgrade will extend battery life on phones and tablets by 90 minutes while adding some 3-D graphics capabilities. Meanwhile, new security features will include personal unlocking via owner touch through familiar Bluetooth signal recognition and various other clues. These features aren't available on wearables yet, but they'll be added in the future.
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