Google I/O 2014 Keynote Highlights: Wear, Cars, and ‘L’

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Android NewsGoogle kicked off its own developer conference Wednesday, titled Google I/O, with a keynote address. Much like Apple's recent keynotes, the presenting was distributed among several people, all discussing different announcements for the Android operating system and where it's headed (aside from smartphones and tablets).

First off there's a new version of Android, so far without a dessert-y name, so it was referred to as "Android L." One of the new features of this version is a feature called "personal unlock," a rather clever way for the device to determine if it is in a trusted environment and if so, dispense with the lockscreen.

Along with the new version of OS, there's a new design aesthetic for Android, called Material Design. It's a significant change to the look and feel of the OS, and will extend beyond Android devices to Chrome and web services too, so hopefully you like what you see.

We also saw the debut of Android for Work. This is an enterprise move that includes native editing of Microsoft Office documents, and technology that splits work data and personal data apart but allows them to exist on a single device. There is also a new pricing plan for Google Drive for Work, which is now US $10 per user per month for unlimited storage.

Google also showed off where they think Android is headed, which is a bunch of places that aren't phones or tablets. There was a bit of time spent on Android Wear, the new extension of Android meant for watches. You can interact with your watch by talking to it, Dick Tracy style, or you can touch the screen and swipe for different types of information. Models with extra monitors built in can track activity or heart rate as well.

Next up was Android Auto, which allows for interaction between a phone and a car, such as reading text messages aloud, playing music, or even searching for open businesses nearby and navigating there. Much like CarPlay, the brains of the operation are the phone, not the car, so if you upgrade your handset more often than your auto, this is good news.

We also saw Google's latest attempt to take over your largest screen with Android TV, which looks to be extending functionality of Android devices to the television. Right now this is just software, some television and set-top box makers have signed on with promises of releasing hardware next year. This is a different approach than the Chromecast, also getting a software update which will enable mirroring an Android screen to the television via the Chromecast dongle, and a new feature where you can customize the images on the screen saver. Removed from the Chromecast will be the requirement for the source device to be on the same wifi network as the dongle.

Also announced was Google Fit, the new platform to allow for health monitoring and data tracking within apps. This seemed more like a way for a variety of apps to all collect data the same way, not like the Apple approach of a single app where all that data lives.

At the end of the keynote, an announcement was made that all attendees would get a just-announced square LG or Samsung smart watch, and a Motorola watch (that has a round face) when they become available later this summer.

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I like seeing other people's approaches to things. It was interesting to see how the keynote went, and while there were similarities to what I saw Apple do earlier this month, two things stood out to me: First, the phone was not the focus of the Android event, they had all this other stuff to discuss like cars and TVs and health.

Second, everyone was wearing a giant slab on their wrist. Once I saw the "smart watches" I couldn't un-see them, so it was all I could stare at. This really makes me hope Apple has a different solution when its Wrist Thing What Hooks Up To My Phone comes out.

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Wasn’t someone from Google just ridiculing Apple for bringing things from Android to iOS 8? And now, we see Google imitating everything else Apple is doing… pot, meet kettle?


Sorry, but “personal unlock” seems like a huge security risk.

If a watch can unlock your phone, what happens when a thief steals your phone AND watch? Or someone steals your phone from YOUR home, car or work place? They’ll have complete access to the device and can just reset stuff before they leave.

This is simply Google saying… “Look, we know it’s a pain to unlock your devices, unfortunately our hardware partners have yet to come up with anything that’s as easy to use as Touch ID.”

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