#io12 – Day one: What’s new with Google services

28 Jun 2012

Image from Google Developers on Google+

Before day two brings us new tidings from California, here’s a quick sweep through the latest announcements brought to us from day one of Google I/O in San Francisco, from new apps and APIs to virtual 3D flights.

Chrome for Android comes out of beta

The Chrome team has announced that Chrome for Android is no longer in beta and the complete release is now available to download on Google Play for devices running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or later (if you are lucky enough to have taken a bite out of Jelly Bean already).

There have been some stability and performance fixes since the last beta release, as well as some minor adjustments to the interface – something that will be more apparent to tablet users.

New YouTube app for Ice Cream Sandwich

A new YouTube app started rolling out today and features include a guide on the left-hand side of your screen that gives you quick access to your channels, and a feed constantly updating with new videos.

The new app also lets you preload and temporarily cache videos from your subscribed channels and Watch Later queue when your phone is charging and has access to a Wi-Fi connection. Though you still can’t watch videos offline, this will mean a lot less time waiting for videos to buffer while you’re out and about.

If you’re at home and decide to view videos on a connected TV or other device, you can now use your phone to continue searching for more videos, comment, or subscribe to channels.

The app is currently for Android 4.0 (or higher) only, but these features are expected to be made available on older versions in the coming months.

Google Play gets more content

Users will now be able to buy movies, TV shows and magazines on Google Play from today – on top of the apps, movie rentals, music and books already available – turning Google Play into a full-service online media store to rival Apple’s iTunes. New media partners for all this added content include Hearst, Condé Nast, Meredith, Disney, ABC, NBC Universal, Sony Pictures and Paramount.


Google Maps goes offline

Offline access to Google Maps for Android is here with the latest version of the app. Once you download it, simply select and save up to six regions from more than 150 countries that you can access offline. Your GPS will still work on the offline maps, so you can navigate your way around a strange place with or without a connection.

Google Maps for Android has also released a smoother and faster Compass Mode for Street View, giving you a 360-degree panoramic view of outdoor or interior locations through Business Photos. This feature will be available on Android 3.0 or higher, plus you’ll need a gyroscope sensor and version 1.8.1 of Street View.

Google Drive opens up

Version 2 of the Google Drive SDK will allow developers to integrate the cloud storage facility into mobile apps, whether for Android or iOS.

The expanded API opens up the standard Drive functions to developers, be it download, upload or edit, plus methods for listing, searching, converting, copying, managing revisions and sharing files.

Full mobile support will benefit users, who will be able to store, create and open their Drive files anywhere, while developers have the chance to access a larger user base.

New Drive apps will also be made available for editing photos or creating code in the cloud.

Google Drive

Hangouts, Talk and Messenger to become one

Google’s various real-time messaging applications are set to converge and become a single messenger for one-to-one-chats and group video. Though this hasn’t officially launched at Google I/O, Google product manager Nikhyl Singhal said the company is working on it.

The team is also working on making Hangouts features available across multiple devices, which could mean mobile social live streaming through Hangouts on Air.

Google Earth takes flight

With the help of some advanced image processing and 45-degree aerial imagery, the latest version Google Earth for Android now lets users take a virtual flight over 3D cities.

Every building, terrain and surrounding landscape of select metropolitan areas has been rendered in the 3D experience.

Initially, you can take flight over a choice of 14 cities, only one of which (Rome) lies outside the US. New 3D imagery is due to be released in the coming months, with Google aiming to have covered areas with a combined population of 300m by year end.

The service will also be made available on iOS soon.


More, more, more

On top of all that, we’ve also seen Chrome introduce automatic updates, as well as hundreds of bug fixes in the latest release.

More remote control has been added to the Google Play store, where users can now remotely uninstall as well as install apps. The uninstall button will also show available updates, where applicable, so you can opt for the latest version while you’re at it.

European data centres were added to Google App Engine and Geopoint support to its search APIs, meaning developers can store latitude and longitude and incorporate this into search results for location-aware queries.

Public transit directions and a transit layer have been made available in the Google Maps API, as well as some nifty new data visualisation features.

And finally, Google Art Project, Symphonical, Panoramion and more have all integrated their own Google+ Hangouts.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.