Virtual reality, limitless photo storage, and a new version of Android — yes, the first day of Google’s annual I/O developers’ conference had all of that and more.
But if you didn’t get to tune in (or passed out during the more than two-hour long keynote presentation), we’ve got you covered. We watched the whole thing from start to finish live in San Francisco, and sorted out the six most important items from the show.
So let’s get to it.
One of the biggest announcements Google made during its keynote on Thursday was the unveiling of its new Photos app.
Peeled out of the Photos feature from Google+, Photos is similar to Apple’s iOS Photos app in that it allows you to sort through your pics based on when you took them, by simply pinching and zooming on your device’s screen.
But the biggest news is that Photos includes unlimited storage for all of your photos. On top of that, your images can be saved in sizes of up to 16 megapixels. That’s some serious storage.
The newest version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android M promises a variety of new features and improvements.
For instance, the OS now includes native fingerprint reader support, so more phones and apps will have access to the technology. You’ll soon be able to use your fingerprint to log into apps without needing a password, and even make mobile payments.
Android M will also improve your smartphone or tablet’s battery life, thanks to its new Doze feature. It works by using your device’s internal sensors to determine when you’re not using it, and cuts back on the amount of processing power it requires, thus reducing the battery it consumes while it’s sitting untouched on the table.
According to Google, your phone will last twice as long in standby mode, thanks to Doze.
Google Now on tap
Google Now is the tech giant’s alternative to Apple’s Siri voice assistant, and it’s getting a feature that almost borders on clairvoyance.
Called Now on Tap, your Android M-equipped device will read information in a particular app, and offer up relevant suggestions for things you might want to do with that info.
For instance, if you get a text message from a friend asking if you can pick up their laundry, Now on Tap will recognize the information and ask you if you want to set a reminder to get the clothes.
If you look up a movie, Now on Tap will automatically provide you with the movie’s review scores, and even ask if you want to watch a trailer. The best part? All of this happens from within the app you’re already using. Saved you a swipe!
Like Apple, Google is throwing its full weight behind mobile payments, with its new Android Pay service.
The software will allow developers to build purchase power directly into apps, so if you’re in the Target app, you can pay for your items right then and there.
Similarly, Android Pay will work with brick and mortar stores via your phone’s built-in near-field communication (NFC) chip. So you’ll be able to tap your phone at a store’s payment terminal, and you’re set.
Google Cardboard, the little box that can be folded into a rudimentary virtual reality headset for your smartphone, was a huge hit at Google I/O 2014.
So it’s only natural that the company would introduce a new Cardboard for 2015. The latest version supports smartphones with a screen size of up to 6 inches.
Google also announced its new Expeditions program, which will provide classrooms with Cardboard headsets and smartphones that let teachers take their students on virtual field trips around the world.
Brillo is Google’s new smart home operating system, built to work with low-power devices like smart door locks and light bulbs.
Developed in conjunction with Google’s new Weave device language, the two systems will let your smart home gadgets talk to each other. So when you unlock the smart lock on your front door, your smart light bulb will automatically recognize it and turn on.
Eventually, you’ll be able to give your smart home devices voice commands thanks to Google Voice. Yes, we’ve come quite a long way since the days of The Clapper.