10 hours. 55 Minutes, that’s how long it took to arrive at San Francisco International Airport from London Heathrow. It was 4pm when we landed, and as much as I wanted to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city, I needed sleep more.
Arriving at the Moscone Centre at about 8.45 the next morning, it was clear that some people had been standing in line for a good few hours – it was packed. After picking up a pass, and trying to find the end of the queue for the keynote, we all started our ascent to the 3rd floor, eventually scurrying into the auditorium to take a seat, waiting for the fun to start.
Of course, if you have seen the coverage already, you will know that Vic Gundotra opened the proceedings, followed by Hugo Barra to give some impressive android stats, and more importantly, to introduce Android 4.1.
I as a little surprised that Jellybean wasn’t Android 5.0, but instead was 4.1, but when you look at the improvements, it makes sense – there isn’t anything earth shattering in the feature list, just things that make Android 4 even more awesome.
A few highlights from the announcements:
- Project Butter, a rewritten graphics system and a bunch of UI improvements to make Android faster and smoother, and now 60fps.
- The default camera app has a new carousel view, if you pinch the screen, and the ability to quickly review and delete photos you have just taken. No mention of adding custom ISO support though which I would have liked to see.
- Android Beam now supports sending photos and video via NFC, something I was disappointed about originally when I tried it on 4.0.
- Notifications got an update too, they look a lot slicker and include a new “expanded” view with more information and shortcuts to common tasks. It’s a nice update, and should make doing some tasks quicker.
- Voice Search has been improved, making it faster at searching and better at natural language detection. Google’s answer to Siri of course.
- Google Now, a personal assistant of sorts, that uses search history, calendar and location data to intelligently give information that you might need.
I must admit, after the Android 4.1 announcement I was expecting the tablet to be discussed, it had been rumoured days before, so I was curious to see if it were true.
Of course, the Nexus 7 was unveiled to much applause, it seems to be the inevitable now that OS companies have to create reference designs for OEM’s.
The specs are impressive, Quad Core Tegra 3, 12 core graphics chip, 1280×800 screen, WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC. But unfortunately there are only 2 options for storage, 8g or 16gb – with no SD Card slot. I have always struggled finding a use for a tablet in my life, I don’t read many books, I tend to watch movies at home on a 46″ screen, and I listen to music on my phone (Galaxy Nexus). As a developer I tend to use my time to create, rather than consume, which is why I carry around a laptop. Only time will tell if I find it useful, I will give it a go, I certainly wasn’t going to turn it down!
If you are in the market for one, it seems to be one of, if not the best out there for the price (around £200).
After the excitement about Android 4.1 and the Nexus 7 it was a surprise to see something completely out of the norm for Google.
The Nexus Q – if you still aren’t sure – is a streaming media device. You can connect it to your TV via the HDMI cable included, connect your home theatre system to it, and stream content you have purchased through Google Play. Of course, you can control the Q using an app on your Android device (in fact that’s the only way to control it), although Android 4.1+ only seem to be supported at the moment, hopefully that will change soon. It can also be used as a Sonos style device, if you have multiple Q’s in your house, you, or anyone else with the app installed, can play music and movies to any of them. This brings me to another nice feature, anyone that comes over with an Android device can install the app and use the content they purchased and stream it too the device too, which turns it into a social device where others can add, remove and re-order content in the queue.
Something to note is that it doesn’t do device streaming, it pulls the content from Google Play directly, which means that living in the UK, there is little content to purchase at the moment. Movie purchasing (not renting) and Music are not available outside the US, so I’m limited to playing the copy of Transformers 3 we received, and the couple of albums I managed to upload to Google Music, plus of course streaming YouTube videos (which my TV can do anyway).
I love the Q’s design, it’s sleek and unique, and I really want to use it, but at the moment, it lacks functionality. I would love to use it to stream Netflix content to my TV (replacing my Xbox for doing that) or allow me to stream video or photos that I have taken on my phone (replacing the clunky Panasonic UI that I currently use). It looks like it is easily hackble, but hopefully these things will be added over time without the need for rooting or custom ROMs.
There was nothing particularly earth shattering about the Google+ announcements, a better Android app was announced (and released) with a lighter colour scheme and better support for tablets – specifically the Nexus 7, an iPad app was also announced, which had a lot of people cheering.
A new feature called Google+ Events was also announced, something that we tried out during the first ever “Google+ Event” at the after party. Google+ Events goes one better than Facebook Events, which mearly deals with setting up an event, Google+ events not only helps you setup – and invite people, but it also allows you to easily upload, in real time, photos and videos while you are at the event, and gives you a nice place to see everything after it’s taken place.
I’m surprised that Facebook has never done anything like this, it seems like something that would have been born out of a hackathon. It was nice to see Google come out with it though.
During the Google+ announcements, there was probably one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. In a Taylor Swift moment, Vic Gundotra was interrupted by Sergey Brin, who had a “time sensitive thing” to share with us, what followed blew me away! No words that I have can describe it, so watch the video below:
And here is their entrance from where I was sitting, sorry for the shaky camera work!
Unfortunately we only really saw people use Google Glasses to take photos and video, we didn’t find out any more information about how they work, but they are the sort of thing that I would probably buy if they weren’t priced too high, there are times when carrying a camera around is a little bit inconvenient, and when I imagine what type of things can be captured with them, it almost made me want to throw down $1500 for the explorer edition – but then I realised there were two 0’s at the end, and not one.
You can see the full day one keynote below:
Miniclip 8 Ball Pool in Google+ Hangouts
The reason I was fortunate enough to go to Google I/O this year was because of a project that I have been involved with since the end of last year, which was to bring our biggest game at Miniclip to Google+ Games at first (launched in December 2011) and Google+ Hangouts, which was launched a couple of days before I/O started.
After the keynote, the sessions started, we were featured in the session titled: The Next Generation of Social is in a Hangout, you can see the demo of it below:
You can find out a more about it, and even play 8 Ball Pool in a hangout with friends by pointing your browser at: www.miniclip.com/games/page/en/hangouts/ and clicking on the giant “Hangout” button.
It was an honour to work on the project and have it shown at such a high profile event in front of over 6000 people!
I’d heard in previous years that attendees got free stuff, a phone, maybe a tablet, but I wasn’t expecting it to be everything. It was a shock to get the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 7 and the Nexus Q, my only concern was being stopped at customs with it all!
Gear Pickup – Where we picked up all the free stuff!
Speaks for itself…
I confess, when I heard there was an after party I was expecting everyone to be sitting in a room on their laptops tweeting and drinking beer. Thankfully, I was wrong. It wasn’t like that at all! We were treated to live performances by Train and Paul Oakenfold. To see everything that happened, you can see it at the first official Google+ event Google I/O After Hours with Train and Paul Oakenfold!
Google I/O After Party
Train performing live at the Google I/O After Party
Paul Oakenfold performing live at the Google I/O After Party
At the end of the day, once everything had calmed down, all I could think about was what an amazingly spectacular the whole thing was. I have been to a few tech conferences, but none of them were like this, the atmosphere, the planning, and the content were all perfect. A guy I overheard summed it up – if a little over the top – when he said that Microsoft, Apple and even Google would have a hard time beating the Keynote.