Google held its annual I/O Conference today in San Francisco. The company made a number of major announcements related to its services, products, and Android. Here’s an overview of the latest news from Mountain View.
Google started the day with some positive news for Android. The free and open mobile OS has been activated on 900 million devices to date, and Android users have installed more than 48 billion apps. In comparison, Apple has sold over 500 million iOS devices (iPhones, iPads, and iPods touch), and has just hit 50 billion app downloads.
Google Play Games Services
The recently rumored service is now available in select games. Developers can tie into a universal backend that allows players to sync saved games, chat and challenge friends, and participate in leaderboards and rankings. Users will access the service via their Google+ login and can track their game data on the Web and across multiple Android devices. Unlike Apple’s Game Center, Google Play Games Services is a backend feature for developers only; there is currently no standalone app for end users to access. User experiences with the service will depend on how game developers implement the various features it provides.
Google Cloud Messaging
Although introduced last year, Google’s push notification service received a major update today in the form of syncing capabilities. Users with multiple devices will now receive push notifications on all of them. Other improvements to the service include integration with the Chrome browser and Chrome OS, improved connection reliability for instant updates, and new upstream messaging so that apps can respond to notifications.
Maps and Location APIs
Not content to let Apple slowly improve its Maps app, Google today announced several significant improvements to its own Maps service via new APIs: ‘Fused Location Provider’ will give apps more accurate location information while reducing power draw, ‘Geofencing’ provides developers with up to 100 location-based triggers to use with in-app events, and ‘Activity Recognition’ uses a device’s accelerometer to let apps know when a user is walking, driving, or riding a bike.
Google All Access Music Service
As expected, Google unveiled a paid subscription music streaming service. Named “All Access,” the service provides unlimited streaming to Google’s Play Music catalogue for $9.99 per month. Google touted the personalization aspect of the service, and demonstrated how it can provide custom recommendations based upon listening and purchase history. A free 30-day trial is available, and users who sign up before June 30 can get the service at a discounted rate of $7.99 per month.
Google Play for Education
Google has decided to follow Apple’s lead in courting students and educators. The company announced a new curated portal for apps and books that focuses on the education market. Items are grouped by subject, age, and type to make finding appropriate materials easy. The company reported that a pilot program with six New Jersey schools is already underway and that broader registration will begin with the back-to-school season this fall.
A multitude of other updates were announced, including layout changes to Google+, new Google Checkout integration options, a redesigned interface for the Google Play store on tablets, new Google Now features, and more. Those interested in seeing all that Google I/O 2013 has to offer can view live and recorded events at the conference’s website.