Google's I/O 2015 happened last night - here's the best stuff

Google's I/O 2015 Keynote wrapped up last night. Here are the highlights of the event!

Android M


Every year, Google announces a developer preview for their newest version of the Android operating system. No exception this year with Android M. We'll have to see what dessert-inspired name they come up with this time.

The largest change is the vastly improved apps permissions system. Previously, an app required you to give it all the permissions it wanted, or none at all - thereby not installing the app. Android permissions will work a lot more like they do in iOS - you can choose to deny permissions when you install it, then allow them when needed. For example, an app can ask to use the camera only when it's taking a photo. The permission can then be revoked later on. This goes a long way to help the privacy concerns related to apps requesting a bunch of permissions with no explanation (see: Facebook Messenger scare early this year).

The next big change is full fingerprint support. iOS already does this with it's later smartphones, and now Android M is the first version of Android to do the same. Instead of tapping in a password or PIN, you can use your fingerprint for logging in to apps or processing payments with Android Pay.

Google is making another attempt at breaking into the mobile payments market with an overhaul to Android Pay. The latest changes make it easier to pay using NFC or inside apps that support Android Pay. For apps that support it, you can pay with your fingerprint. We aren't entirely sure how Android Pay with interact with Google Wallet, if at all.

Text selection sees a huge improvement. Text selection is arguably one of the most frustrating actions on a smartphone - the newest update lets you highlight a word at a time, then pull backwards to de-select letter by letter. A floating toolbar will appear that lets you cut, copy and paste text as well.

Google Now on Tap


Yesterday Google announced Now on Tap. The company already excels at voice commands and search, and now you can bring up a contextual Google Now card in any app you're using. Google demoed Now on Tap with an email asking to see Tomorrowland. A card showed up with a movie trailer, a link to IMDb and meta-data. We'll have to wait and see if Apple allows this in iOS.

Google Photos is freed from Google+


Despite having pretty stellar photo features in Google+, not many people picked up on it due to it being tied to Google+. Google promises to fix this by dropping Photos from Google+ and turning it into it's own product called Google Photos. All the awesome photo editing features from Google+ Photos have migrated as well.

YouTube and Google Maps work offline

While YouTube already offered music video downloads with YouTube Music Key, you can now do the same on regular ol' YouTube. Download a video for 48 hours of offline playback, no subscription required.

Google Maps also worked offline, though not very well - you could download a map to look at, and that's it. Starting today, you can download all the map data for an area, allowing searches, directions, turn-by-turn navigation and data such as opening hours and reviews to be displayed without any internet connection. This is likely a response to Nokia's Here Maps overtaking Google Maps as everyone's favorite maps app recently.

Brillo is Android for the Internet of Things


Google purchased Nest last year - the creator of the best smart thermostat. Everyone was waiting for Google to jump into the smart home sector, and now they've delivered. Brillo OS is a dumbed down version of Android that will be powering future smart devices, using a new a new API framework called WEAVE, meant to standardize the communication between devices. A mobile app of the same name is used to control Brillo and a developer preview is planned for the third quarter of 2015.

Google Cardboard


Google updated their Google Cardboard virtual reality initiative this year. Cardboard received a hardware update in the form of a sturdier design using thicker cardboard, velcro strips and a neat cardboard button for play / pause. It also supports phones up to 6 inches in size using much bigger and higher quality lenses. The most exciting update to Cardboard, however, is an updated software development kit and support for iOS with an iPhone app, available here.

Last but not least…


We were expecting a 2.0 hardware update for Chromecast. Instead, all existing Chromecasts will be able to queue videos (similar to a playlist), autoplay videos or use your smartphone or tablet as a second screen for the TV.

You can watch the entire Google I/O 2015 Keynote here:

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