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Google I/O 2017: Android Go and other key highlights

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At its I/O 2017 developers’ conference held at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California, Google announced a bunch of new features and updates for its software and hardware products that’ll be coming to all users in the next few days. The company talked about enhanced functionalities coming to Google Assistant and Google Home, as well as updates to Google photos and YouTube. In addition, it detailed some important information about Android O and announced a new variant of the mobile OS -Android Go.

Here are the key higlights from Google’s I/O 2017 event

Google Home

The search giant detailed that Google Home can now let users schedule new calendar appointments and create reminders. The company added that it now has over 70 smart home partners supporting Google Assistant integration across Google Home and Android smartphones.

Users will soon be able to make hands-free calls using Google Home. For now, the feature is limited to US and Canada. Furthermore, users will be able to stream music from services like Spotify and Deezer directly to Google Home The device also gets Bluetooth support for easier music streaming. Google is also adding visual responses from the assistant to Chromecast-equipped TVs.

Google Assistant

Google Assistant now supports more direct actions on Android smartphones. The search giant also announced Google Lens, a service that lets users learn more about things around them by just pointing the smartphone camera at objects.

One of the biggest announcements at I/O 2017 was the arrival of Google Assistant on iPhones and iPads. The Assistant will be available on Apple devices running iOS 9.1 and later. The company added that the AI will also expand to Google Home users in other countries like Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan.

Google Photos

At I/O 2017 Google introduced three upcoming features of Google Photos. The service will come with a new feature called ‘Suggested Sharing’. With this, users will be able to share and receive photos easily within a few taps. “Using our machine learning technology, Google Photos will not only remind you to share—it will automatically select the right photos, and even suggest who you should send them to based on who was in the photos,” reads the company’s official blog post.

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Another feature that will be coming to Photos is ‘Shared Libraries’. It lets users automatically send and receive photos with another contact. Users can give them access to the whole library or to select images with certain people, or even images taken before/after a certain date.

The third feature is Photo Books. Google Photos will automatically select the best photos and let users put them in a Photo Book. Photo Books can be ordered in soft cover and hardcover at $9.99 and $19.99 respectively. The feature will initially be available only in the US.

Android Go

At I/O 2017, Google also launched a new variant of its Android mobile OS. Dubbed Android Go, the OS is meant for regions with slower internet connectivity speeds.

“Android Go is designed with features relevant for people who have limited data connectivity and speak multiple languages, and comes to life through three key areas: the Android OS, Google apps and the Google Play Store,” remarked Dave Burke, VP of engineering, Android.

The operating system is said to be designed for entry-level smartphones that include 512MB to 1GB of RAM. It also comes with a new version of Play Store with customized data saving apps.

The lightweight OS aims to save the internet data in handsets as it includes apps and features such as YouTube Go, automatic data-saver in Google Chrome and more. In the Android Go, users will be able to see how much prepaid data is left and can top-up from the same window. The first devices running Android Go will start shipping in 2018.

Android O

Android O and its features were also talked about by David Burke, VP of engineering, Android. The new OS version, which will be hitting smartphones later this year, will “bring more fluid experiences” alongside some improvements aimed at improving battery life and security.

Also demonstrated was the picture-in-picture mode, which lets users work simultaneously on different apps in the background. There’s also a ‘Smart Text Selection’ feature that lets users copy and paste addresses, email IDs and contact numbers more easily. “By using machine learning to recognize entities on the screen—like a complete address—you can easily select text you want with a double tap, and even bring up an app like Maps to help navigate you there,” said Burke in company blog post.

With Android O, Google is also making phones start up quicker and apps launch faster. The OS’ second public beta preview is now available for Nexus 5X, 6P and Player, as well as Pixel, Pixel XL and Pixel C devices.
Google Play Protect
Taking Android security a level up, Google introduced the ‘Google Play Protect’ service. “Play Protect is built into every device with Google Play, is always updating, and automatically takes action to keep your data and device safe, so you don’t have to lift a finger,” reads the associated blog post. The service recognizes and removes the apps that may be potentially harmful.

Find my Device feature will also be made available as a part of the Play Protect service. It ships out-of-the-box in every Android handset with Google Play Store pre-installed.

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