The sixth annual Google I/O conference began today, which is traditionally their biggest announcement platform for upcoming products and features. While rumors of tablets, phones, and a new Android never materialized, the items that were discussed today will have a sizable impact on the tablet and mobile industry. Here are a few selected items from day one:
Google Play Game Services
Google seems to be trying to incentivize Google+ membership as heavily as they can, and today they announced another feature for adopters. Google Play Game services will allow users access to leaderboards and achievements through Google+, but the real draw is Cloud Save State—you can save your game progress online, and pick up where you left off on any of your other devices like a phone or Chrome-enabled computer. No more lost games when you step off the bus.
Play Music All Access
Taking aim at Spotify, Google has transformed their Play Music service with a premium subscription feature: All Access. With this service, you can not only stream a huge library of content, but you can also take any song and build a radio station around it like you would in Pandora. You can also take a peek at the Google-generated playlist, and discard or re-order songs on a whim. Pricing is set at $9.99 a month, but early adopters (before June 30) will be able to enjoy a 30-day free trial and a reduced rate of $7.99 a month.
Improved Developer Interface
It may not be the most attention-grabbing news item, but it's by far the most important—Google is taking their new position at the top of the mobile OS market seriously and adding Android Studio, a a new developer interface that will allow developers to account for a huge range of devices in the Android diaspora, solving some of the "fragmentation" issues bemoaned by many.
New Compression Standards
Tired of burning through your bandwidth limit on a mobile data plan? Google is now offering replacement compression standards for images and video—WebP and VP9 respectively. It appears as if the quality of the images and video are acceptably intact, but the size of each file is reduced by up to half. This will help you not only access pictures and video faster over your network, but also use less data. the next update of Chrome will have a setting to convert your web files before downloading them.
In an attempt to corral its many messaging systems, GMail, Google+, and Android users will be able to now use the Hangouts app to converse and share media with their friends in real-time. While it does not have support for SMS or MMS, it will bring the magic of a Google+ hangout to users who do not opt into the social media service.
Goodbye Locked Bootloader
Google may not have announced any new devices, but they did show a rather interesting piece of hardware. Starting on June 26, a Samsung Galaxy S4 with an unlocked bootloader and stock Android 4.2 Jelly Bean will be available on the Play Store for $649. It has LTE support, but it will only work on AT&T and T-Mobile networks, and it will receive OTA updates as if it was a Nexus device.