This week Google held its annual developers conference in California to display the future of Android, Google Lens, Photos and Assistant. The event showcased a few tidbits coming soon and surprised a few people with what was revealed.
This is just a run down of the main things the average consumer will benefit from and actually use.
I had already spoken about the Developer Preview 1 of P here but Google announced DP2 with some new features and the Beta program.
The biggest reveal of Android P was the new gesture UI change to the nav bar, it’s been a staple of Android for years and this is a major change,
The first thing you notice is the little pill icon at the bottom of the screen and you automatically think iPhone X but the gesture UI has been around since the forgotten WebOS and Blackberry 10. Not really a big deal really as I think gesture support is the future of mobile OS and it gives a natural control over things with swipes, you literary swipe up for app switcher and can glide to the right to move through them or swipe away unused apps.
Full list of gestures
- Tap: go to home screen
- Long press: launch Google Assistant
- Half swipe up: go to recent apps screen
- Full swipe up: go to app drawer
- Slide to right: scroll through recent apps
- Back button: go back (only appears inside apps)
Android’s built-in search is even better in P, instead of just pulling up icons of installed apps, it’ll be able to pull up things you can do inside of apps. So if you search for Lyft, you also get buttons to hail a ride to your home or office, making us even more lazy.
The app drawer will also use that ability to suggest things for you to do. So instead of just presenting the button for Deliveroo, it might also show you a prompt to reorder your last meal. I believe this is called Slices and devs can add loads of shortcuts to their apps to allow for faster access in search, it’s a great little feature and shows Google is still ahead in assisting users.
Google spoke of a new mental wellness push to force you to step back from your device starting with the new usage dashboard app that gives you a huge amount of information about your phone usage.
- How many minutes you’ve used your phone overall per day
- How many notifications you’ve received
- A pie chart of how long you’ve used each app on your phone that day
- How long per day you’ve used each app on your phone, broken down hour by hour
The next part is of the dashboard lets you set limits on your usage. You can set a number of minutes per day that you are allowed to use each app. When you get close to the end, a notification pops up warning you that you’re almost out of time. And when you’ve reached your self-imposed limit, the app is “paused.”
A paused app has a grayscale icon on your home screen and it won’t open in Android P. So when you tap it, a pop-up appears telling you that you’ve hit your limit, and the pop-up doesn’t have an option to “unpause.” To do that, you have to go through the work of heading back to the dashboard app.
The Google Assistant is getting Duplex which basically sounds like something from the year 2040, assistant can now call and make appointments for you and looked amazing but how well that’ll work in day-to-day life remains to be seen. This is truly now a real assistant for users and not just a reminder or question machine.
Some minor bits include a smaller new volume slider, more mark up options on screenshots, more rounded design and more options on controlling notifications.
Google already gave us the awesome lens feature last year and now it’s giving us a Live Lens feature built right into the camera app, it will allow for live lens searching of things seen in your camera.
This means you can see restaurant details and reviews in real-time while you hold it up to the front of the restaurant, it’ll work on almost everything in real-time and makes this my favourite new feature at Google I/O.
Google Lens can identify clothes, books, buildings, plants, animals and works of art. It’ll be able to pull shopping results for clothes it snaps, titles of books, more information about landmarks, and details about paintings. It can also tell you what species and classification is of animals or plants.
Also, Lens will soon be able to play a music video if you point your camera at a poster of a musician. It can display movie times when you’re outside of a theater. And through the new smart text selection feature, it can save the contact information from a business card, and add an event to your calendar from a card, flyer or poster.
It also works in Google Maps, which adds AR to Street View and help you navigate in real-time.
Google Photos app is one of the best ways to back up all of the images you take with your phone, Google also announced a few new improvements for the service.
The most exciting new feature for me is the ability to use artificial intelligence to automatically colorizes old black-and-white photos. I assume you’d take a picture of the old photo with your phone and then Google Photos will analyze it and produce a colorized file of it.
In addition, Google says it can use AI to help separate subjects in photos or recognize images of documents and automatically convert them to PDF files. Another new feature will automatically suggest exposure adjustments and improvements to your photos.
Google is adding mobile tickets for travel and entertainment events to Google Pay. The iPhone has offered the ability to store your mobile tickets — called “passes” in the Apple Wallet app for quick access since 2012. Google Pay already lets you do that with credit cards and loyalty cards, but now Android users will find digital boarding passes and scannable tickets inside the app as well instead of the old Google Now way. Google demoed the feature with Ticketmaster and you don’t even need to open the app to use the ticket thanks to geo location.
Google collaborated with Urban Airship “to create streamlined and engaging ticketing and boarding pass experiences.” A number of travel and entertainment brands which allows for real-time updates (like departure time changes), and personalized one-to-one messaging within the card and through lock screen notifications.”
Google pay also now allows for peer-to-peer payments on a number of devices and the ability to view all transactions. You can now pay someone through Android Messages, Google Pay app, iMessage, Chrome and email using your card linked to Google pay or receive money to the same card and even split bills.
Android P Beta Program is available now for the following devices
Google Pixel and Pixel 2, Essential Phone, Sony Xperia XZ2, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, Nokia 7 Plus, Vivo X21, Oppo R15 Pro and the OnePlus 6 once it’s released.
The rest of the features are coming soon over the next few weeks and months before a full public September release.
Personally, I think this is a fantastic update and probably the best since nougat and biggest change since Ice Cream Sandwich in UI design. It looks a lot cleaner and iPhone user-friendly which might bring some over to the Pixel, rumours of a dark mode incoming with the Pixel 3 will explain the use of whites in many menus.
I’m using the Beta on a Pixel 2 right now and it’s running quite smooth already and the gestures feel good and smooth but would suit a larger display like the 2 XL and feels quite different to the iPhone X version.
We’ll see if Google adds anything else over the coming months.
P.S Google fixed the beer emoji!!!