Google’s Breakfast with Sundar Pichai special summer event has come and gone but not without leaving some presents under the tree. Some of them were expected, like Android OS 4.3 and the new revamped Nexus 7, and other has been a surprise, like the streaming TV dongle Chromecast. After a Google I/O more focused on developers than ever before, end-users have finally had their event as it was supposed to be: with new devices, Android OS update and great little surprises. Let’s take a tour through Google’s new stuff.
It was an open secret. After dozens of leaks and speculations Google finally unveiled the new version of Android OS, without WOW-ing the audience. In fact, users weren’t expecting a revolution but an evolution: even the number and the name (still Jelly Bean, Android 4.3) indicated that this version wasn’t going to turn things upside down but introduce just some enhancements. Actually, that seems to be a wise decision: it becomes more and more difficult to innovate on an interface that’s meeting high standards of intuitiveness and usability, after more than six years of constant redesign. Google is now focused on enhancing performance, smoothness, battery life and compatibility since that’s the keystone of an excellent user experience. This is what Android 4.3 has to offer.
Google’s working to fix one of the main flaws in mobile devices: battery life. Battery manufacturers are constantly improving the technology to offer longer battery life in thinner models. However, mobile OS developers have to do their part too. Android 4.3 is definitely doing it: Google promised users will notice a great enhancement in battery life after installing the latest OS update. Reportedly, the system is now managing processes more efficiently from code, which main outcome is an extended battery life.
On the hardware side, Android 4.3 supports Open GL ES 3.0 which makes the most of the latest GPU built in high-end devices and provides developers with tools to implement richer and more complex graphics. Although this is probably the most important enhancement on this regard, Android 4.3 features Bluetooth Low Energy, a new standard on this technology focused on battery-saving. Finally, now the system can make use of WiFi even when it’s disabled for those apps (basically geo-location) that require it to work properly. The camera app hits its 3rd version with a revamped interface and enhanced performance thanks to a better integration with GPU for high-quality photos.
The other great novelty is an enhanced version of multi-user profile management, especially on tablets, since they are the most shareable Android devices at home. By now, the access to different profiles is locked by a pattern/passwords. This is a good solution for sharing a single device without incurring into non-desirable situations such as children buying apps from Google Play with daddy’s profile.
New Nexus 7
Due to the leaks, it wasn’t at surprise at all, but still good news, isn’t it?. The Nexus 7-2 is now official and it can be stated that it’s a decent heir of the low-cost tablet that shook up the market a year ago. Thus, the new Nexus 7 is thinner and lighter tablet, including now a rear 5mpx camera and a 1.2mpx front facing camera, 2GB RAM, Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro 1.5GHz CPU, Adreno 320, 400MHz GPU, 1920×1200 HD Display (323 ppi), 3950mAh battery, NFC and dual-band WiFi. It comes in two flavors: 16GB ($229) and 32GB ($269) internal storage and probably a 4G/LTE (reportedly at $349, no details revealed though). The release date is July 30, only USA so far.
A powerful device at low cost that clearly overtakes its predecessor which was already an excellent tablet. The new Nexus 7 will be the first device running 4.3 on stock.
Finally, the icing on the cake. The device that no one expected and now is on everyone’s tongue. Chromecast is a TV Dongle, an HDMI stick that brings internet video to our living room. How does it work? Well, users just need to connect the device to the HDMI port of their TV. Chromecast comes with WiFi support and it’s fully integrated with a Chrome extension for “sending” content from PC/Laptop and mobile devices to the dongle. Actually, this is probably the most interesting part: users can send any content from compatible mobile apps (Youtube, Netflix and Google Play so far) to Chromecast and watch it on their TV.
We can expect though more compatible apps coming soon since Google has launched also Google Cast which is a SDK for allowing developers to add Chromecast support to their apps. Is this small and cheap stick ($35) aimed to change the way we watch TV?