Google’s big I/O 2016 keynote is now behind us and it was easily one of the most action-packed Google events we’ve seen in a long, long time. Be sure to check out our earlier post to read about the 8 most important announcements from Google I/O 2016.
Google covered several different bases on Wednesday. We saw the future of search in Google Assistant, we saw what could be the first nail in Amazon Echo’s coffin when Google unveiled Home, we saw a big push into VR with Daydream, and plenty more. One of the biggest areas of interest was clearly Android N though, and Google showed off a host of new features during the event.
Some upcoming Android N features were more novel than others, and some were borrowed from other platforms — namely iOS. Of course, Google also revealed several great new features that are nowhere to be found on any iPhone or iPad, and we’ll cover the coolest ones right here.
Remember how excited Apple fans were when split-screen mode finally came to the iPad? And remember how annoyed they were when they found out it wasn’t available on the iPhone?
Smartphones have giant screens these days and there’s simply no reason to restrict multi-window view to tablets alone. Samsung has offered this feature on its Galaxy phones for years and users love it. Read a webpage in one window and take notes in another. Watch a YouTube video while you respond to emails. Chat with friends in WhatsApp without closing the Facebook app. In Android N, the world is your oyster.
Google flew past this at the very end of the keynote on Wednesday but it’s actually a huge deal. In fact, it’s probably the biggest advancement in mobile app distribution since Apple first launched the App Store back in 2008.
With Instant Apps, users can begin testing out an app from right within the Google Play store… without purchasing it or even downloading it.
Think about how awesome that is. Is that new Twitter app really any better than Falcon Pro 3? Is Google’s hot new Allo app really worth downloading? Is that Flappy Bird clone you just happened upon even more infuriating than the original? You’ll be able to answer all those questions and more in an instant without having to purchase or download anything.
Battery life continues to be the most frustrating thing about the iPhone. Apple’s phablet has decent enough battery life (though it still isn’t quite as impressive as rival phablets) but the 4.7-inch iPhone 6s sometimes can’t even make it through a workday.
Apple added a new Low Power Mode and some other power-saving functionality in iOS 9, but they’re nowhere near as impressive as Android N’s Doze and Svelte features.
Doze debuted in Android Marshmallow and it works very, very well. The feature puts devices in a dormant state when not in use, and it’ll see further optimizations in Android N thanks to “Doze on the Go.” Instead of requiring a phone to be motionless for Doze to work its magic, phones running Android N will see Doze benefits anytime the screen is off.
Then there’s Project Svelte, which prevents apps from waking up when network connection statuses change. It doesn’t sound all that exciting, but the result is far less draw on your device’s battery.
Background System Updates
This, Android fans, is a game-changer.
Smartphone updates are a huge pain because your phone is completely unusable while updates are being applied. That might be 5 minutes or it might be 15 minutes, but your communications are completely severed while updates are underway.
With Android N, updates will work like they do in Chrome OS. They’ll be downloaded in the background (over Wi-Fi only, don’t worry) and they’ll be applied instantly when the phone reboots because they’re installed as separate system images.
From Google’s documentation:
Android N also adds some important new features to help keep users safer and more secure. Inspired by how Chromebooks apply updates, we’re introducing seamless updates, so that new Android devices built on N can install system updates in the background. This means that the next time a user powers up their device, new devices can automatically and seamlessly switch into the new updated system image.
While iOS users continue to daydream about VR, Android device owners will enjoy a comprehensive VR experience courtesy of Daydream.
Daydream is Google’s attempt to take control of the VR experience, which is already seeing fragmentation in these early days. Google Daydream is a software platform and a hardware reference platform for both headsets and controllers, giving developers and vendors the tools they need to take full advantage of Android N’s virtual reality capabilities. Read more about it here.
And as a side note, that was cold, Google. Cold…
Want to read about all the other great stuff Google revealed on Wednesday? Here are the 8 most important announcements from Google I/O 2016.