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Google conference: 8 key announcements

google conference

Google decided to focus again on developers at its annual event I/O after last few years’ attention on launches. Google I/O 2013 offers a host of goodies to the developer community. However, the search giant did announce few new features and upgrades to its existing services. Here is a look at eight key announcements made at Google this year.

Google Hangouts replaces GTalk app

Google Hangouts, a popular feature of its Google+ social network, has received its own app that will replace the GTalk app on mobile devices. This app will not only support instant messaging but also photos and emoji icons in chat. You will be able to make video calls with up to 10 people with the new app, whether they are on desktops or iOS and Android devices.

Google said it will be rolled out gradually and will not support invisible status in chat. Only Android devices running on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and above will be compatible with the new app.

Google Play Music All Access

The internet search titan announced the launch of its music streaming service, named Google Play Music All Access. A rival of Pandora and Spotify, this new service offers unlimited songs for a monthly fee of $9.99.

Subscribers of Google Play Music All Access can customize song selection from 22 genres, stream playlists, or opt for a radio-like stream.

Nexus comes to Samsung Galaxy S4

Google announced that it will release a Samsung Galaxy S4 running on stock Android. This means that all the software added by the South Korean phone maker, such as support for multiple apps on one screen, eye tracking-based scrolling, AirView etc will be missing from the upcoming device.

The internet search giant has not announced any modifications to the hardware of Galaxy S4. However, it has only confirmed a 16GB variant that will run on AT&T and T-Mobile networks in the USA.

Google Maps revamped

The popular mapping service Google Maps received a major update at Google I/O 2013. The company will now tap into its data base of search, Maps, Google+ and Gmail to highlight the areas you visit the most, like restaurants, office and home. It will, more importantly, give recommendations about places you may like to visit, based on your preferences as well as those of people who share your taste.

Google Maps have also become more intuitive, giving you more data than asked for, including routes and nearby places that may interest you. Satellite imagery product Google Earth is now integrated into Maps, eliminating the need to download the application. Google also claims that Local Search on Maps has become easier for advertisers as well as consumers.

Google Now updated, coming to browsers

Google Now, the company’s digital assistant for mobile devices, will soon come to desktops as a Chrome extension. The app will allow you to ask a question directly to the browser instead of typing it; it will also speak out the reply.

After the update, Google Now will support 23 cards (bits of information that you require). One of the new features of Google Now suite is Reminders, which allows you to set a reminder not just in respect to time or person, but also place. So, if you want to be reminded to pick up a certain magazine when you are in the market, it will let you know when you get there.

Google Play Games

Google Play Games was among the new services to be launched on the first day of the conference. The company claims “services help you make your games more social, with achievements, leaderboards, and multiplayer, as well as more powerful, storing game saves and settings in the cloud.” Google’s new gaming service will be accessible from Android, iOS and any other connected device.

Google+ update

Social networking platform Google+ received as many as 41 new features in the latest update, which was unveiled at I/0 2013. In a bid to take on its fierce rival Facebook, Google has redesigned the interface of its social website completely, now giving it a customizable column-based look and support for hashtags, a popular feature on Twitter.

Google+ will now act as a free photo storage platform (up to 15GB) as well, allowing users to store high resolution photos in the cloud, a feature not supported by Facebook and Instagram. The company says its computers will recognize the best photos featuring family members or close friends of a person who uploads a bunch of pictures to Google+.

Android activations

The company has announced that approximately 900 million devices running on Android have been activated since 2010. A year ago, this figure stood at 400 million. Android powers a host of smart-devices, such as phones, tablets, watches, TVs, gaming consoles etc.