What Happened at Google I/O 2015?

Category: Software

Google I/O, the company’s annual software developers’ conference, is a geekfest that delves deeply into the search giant’s forthcoming products and explores some far-out tech that Google is betting will come to fruition. Here are the most interesting things that came out of this year’s I/O, held May 28-29 in San Francisco...

Would You Like Dessert?

Google has named each major version of its Android operating system after some sort of sweet treat, and in alphabetical order. The last few Android monikers have been Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, KitKat, and Lollipop.

The next version of Google’s mobile operating system, code-named Android M (will be it Moon Pie, Marzipan, or Milk Shake?), will be released this Fall. Quite a few important changes are being made.

One of the biggest updates is in the area of app permissions. Users will get a dashboard through which they can better control what every app can and cannot do. For example, permission to read one’s contacts can be granted while denying permission to read or send messages. Permission to perform an action can be granted on an ongoing basis or the app can bug the user for permission each time it wants to perform the action.

Google I/O 2015

This is a very welcome change, because currently users must rubber-stamp ALL permissions requested by an app, or refuse to allow the app to be installed. There are legions of shady apps that request permissions they don't really need, and using them can have serious privacy or security implications. Users will gain the option to allow (for example) a flashlight app permission to use the camera flash, but nothing else. The downside is that you may block a permission that an app legitimately needs.

A new feature called “Chrome custom tabs” will allow Android apps to use Chrome browser features such as auto-fill, password save, and more. Apps will be integrated directly into Chrome tabs, rather than requiring users to switch between browser and app. Also, apps will be able to link to each other, saving the user some clicks by eliminating the “Open with…?” dialogue box.

All Your Wallets Are Belong To Us

Look out, Apple… Android Pay will replace Google Wallet for online and contactless point-of-sale payments. One click within an app makes a payment via your default credit card, or you can just wave your phone at a POS terminal to pay. Your credit card numbers are never transmitted; a unique transaction authorization code is generated with every purchase. Fingerprint biometric security is being added to Android M for enhanced security. Over 700,000 retailers are partnering with Android Pay, along with AT&T, Verizon, and T-mobile.

Google Wallet is not going away entirely. It will be adapted for peer-to-peer money exchange, as Square Cash and Paypal allow you to send money to a friend or family member. But for commerce, it will be Android Pay all the way.

A new feature called “Doze” conserves battery power. Through motion sensors, Doze can detect when a phone has sat idle for an extended period of time, and put the device into “deep sleep” power conservation mode. Alarms and high-priority message alerts will still sound off.

Google Now On Tap is coming to Android M, but not in the initial release (and it won't serve up frosty brews, either). The Google Now personal assistant will always be just a long tap on the Home button away, and it will be “contextually aware.” That means if you get an email asking if you want to go to a specific movie, one tap will pull up info about the movie and where it’s showing near you. While a song is playing, Google Now On Tap can tell you the band, the lead singer’s name, display lyrics, and show the “Buy it now” button.

Google Photos is available on desktops as well as mobile devices. The new photo service, carved out of Google+, provides unlimited free storage space for all of your photos and video. Automatically upload files from all of your devices to one place in the cloud, then let Google Photos index and organize them for you. It includes face recognition technology, so all photos in which a certain someone appears can be grouped together.

Looking Into the Future

On the home front, Google announced a new operating system designed specifically for the Internet of Things. Developed by engineers from home-automation startup Nest, which Google acquired, the new OS is named “Brillo.” Don’t let the name rub you the wrong way; Brillo will allow all the devices in your personal network of things to talk to each other. When you unlock your front door, the lock will tell the lights you’re home and they should come on (at least in the foyer). The same simple action could also activate the air conditioner, pour you a beer, turn on the music, and so on. Shutting off the alarm clock could start the coffee brewing. You get the idea.

And if you thought Google Cardboard was a joke, laugh no more. The Viewmaster-like origami contraption that turns a smartphone into a virtual reality experience, got bigger to accommodate bigger phones, and more polished.

On the far-out front, Google’s Advanced Technologies And Projects (ATAP) group showed of two complementary technologies that are a year or so away from reality. Project Soli is a thumbnail-sized radar device that can sense tiny movements of fingers, even through other materials, and interpret them as digital commands such as scrolling, selecting, or twiddling a knob. Project Jacquard weaves electrically conductive threads into yarn, enabling fabrics that act as touchpads. The stuff can accurately capture taps, swipes, and two-finger gestures like pinches. Google is partnering with Levi-Strauss to make Jacquard clothing; just be careful where you pinch or scratch.

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Most recent comments on "What Happened at Google I/O 2015?"

Posted by:

Mac 'n' Cheese
04 Jun 2015

I'll pinch and scratch wherever I please -- or need to -- thank you. Google and Levi be damned.


Posted by:

04 Jun 2015

It never ceases to amaze me that people are extremely agitated over Government's poking around into every aspect of our lives, but think that Google's stuff is greater than canned beer. Doesn't anyone realize the control that we might be relinquishing to this search engine company for the privilege of using their "convenience" features? For this old antique, I'll continue to pay my own bills and keep track of what's going on in my own life, thank you.

Posted by:

Jack Wittig
04 Jun 2015

Look like Google is copying Apple. Don't count out Apple Pay
It's in maher use now in USA.works the same as Apple!

Posted by:

diane mavroudis
04 Jun 2015

Hi Bob,
Would like your input on fingerprinting and the inpact on computers,or routers.

Posted by:

04 Jun 2015

I had to sign up for Google Wallet to get Google Fiber so I imagine Wallet will be around for some time to come. When I get done paying my $300 installation charge I will need to change my Charge card number.

Posted by:

Kaye Lewis
01 Jul 2015

Google are going too far. Full Stop!!

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