The news is finally in. All the rumors about Google’s “Breakfast with Sundar Pichai” event of the past few days have revealed themselves to be true. Everything we thought we knew before is in fact correct. We have seen the results of Mountain View’s handiwork, and they are a sight to behold.
In plain terms, we got some cool announcements out of today’s press conference (it wasn’t actually a breakfast). Android fans have a lot to be excited about. Some cool stuff is coming their way in the coming days, weeks, and even minutes (if you’re a Nexus owner).
Google is continuing to improve its product line and Android experience, bit by bit, with the stuff they’ve announced today. Here’s everything they talked about.
The New Nexus 7, Chromecast and Play Games for Android
The New Nexus 7
Google’s announced the new Nexus 7 as was expected. The new Nexus has a “true 1080p display” of 323 pixels per square inch, compared to 216 ppi in the previous Nexus. Google claims this is the highest-resolution 7 -inch tablet in the world today.
The New Nexus 7 is about 2 mm thinner and 50 grams lighter, which makes it even more comfortable to handle. As for the sound, it includes dual stereo speakers. From July 30, you’ll be able to find it at retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, RadioShack and Walmart.
Nexus 7 in Brief:
- Improved 1920×1080 display, 323 ppi resolution
- Unlocked, includes LTE access for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon
- Dual stereo speakers
- Features Android 4.3
- Thinner and lighter hardware
- First device with 1080p streaming from Netflix
- Available July 20 for $230, $270, and $350 for the 16, 32, and 32 GB with LTE model
This can easily be billed as the biggest announcement from the Google event. Chromecast – a 2 inch dongle that allows users to stream videos from a phone, tablet or laptop to their TV. I think it’s safe to say Google is about to kill Google TV and Chromecast takes the front seat in their Google’s Living Room strategy.
The device is priced at $35 and comes with three free months of Netflix subscription. It connects to the TV over HDMI and is powered by USB. Users can stream media content from their Android or iOS devices, using the YouTube app.
Chromecast basically turns the phone into a remote, allowing users to queue up and play videos, control the volume, or even turn on the TV. Google plans to release a Chromecast API which will allow developers to build other integrations. We are hoping to see some clever uses of this service in coming days.
Chromecast in Brief:
- Two-inch HDMI dongle that can connect to any TV
- Streams video and other content from any other Chrome-powered device (uses a browser extension on PC)
- Comes with a free three-month Netflix trial
- Available now for $35
Jelly Bean III (Android 4.3)
Android Jelly Bean 3 doesn’t bring many new features. It offers restricted profiles, allowing you to restrict app content at the user level for better parental controls. The update includes Bluetooth Smart, aka Bluetooth Low Energy, which enables devices to communicate with reduced power consumption.
Another notable feature was the addition of OpenGL ES 3.0 support, an enhancement to Android’s graphics rendering capabilities that Google calls “a big deal for game developers.”
Android 4.3 Update In Brief:
- Improved graphics performance to make Android feel faster
- Multithreading across multiple CPU cores for rendering in multithreaded processing
- Renders Shapes and text “at higher quality in a more efficient manner.”
- OpenGL ES 3.0 support for textures and gradients
- Bluetooth Smart support (reduces power consumption)
- App restrictions based on the user profile
- Control over notifications from “notification listener” apps
- Video encryption within hardware for DRM
- Full list of technical changes and improvements
- Available today for Nexus 4, 7, 10, and the Galaxy Nexus
Google Play Games
Google introduced Android’s Google Play Games, similar to Apple’s Game Center. It displays your games and your friends on a single screen and lets you see highlights from both categories.
You can see your Game achievements, social and public leaderboards, and the most recently played games from your friends. The Games app builds on the Play Games API that the company introduced back at I/O in May. It’ll be available on the Play store from today.
- Textbooks can be rented or purchased from the Play Store and accessed through iOS and the internet, available at up to 80 percent
- Google Play Games puts all your friends and their game scores in one app
Thoughts and Discussion
Today was a good conference. Google gave us some great news and some decent news. There’s plenty to be excited about in terms of products and software coming down the pipe.
The most disappointing part of the whole thing was Android 4.3. It makes incremental improvements in all the right places, but… Jelly Bean again? Really? How long do we have to wait for Key Lime Pie?
We’re most excited about something that got lost in the shuffle with most of the coverage for this event-notification listener apps. If we’re reading the change log correctly, other apps can now read and interact with notifications.
This is awesome. It opens the door for all kinds of cool things like custom notification layouts and third-party display apps. Imagine being able to download notification drawers from the Play Store. At the very least it means we can clear other notifications with Tasker.
The new Nexus 7 looks excellent as well. With an improved screen, faster internals, and the latest and greatest Android OS, it looks to keep Google in the smaller tablet race. Take that, iPad Mini.
We liked the announcement of Chromecast as well. $35 is seriously cheap for a media-streaming dongle. It’s far more affordable than Google TV or the ill-faited Nexus Q.
If everything goes the way Google wants it to, Chromecast could be the company’s ticket into the living room. Streaming content from our existing Chrome devices sounds simple enough.
Google’s plan would have failed if it’s browser were not available on so many devices. Chrome is a universal constant, a gold standard you can use everywhere. With Chromecast, you can stream content from almost any device to your television. Sounds good to us.
What do you all think about the announcement? Really, we’re excited about this and want to talk about it with someone. Tell us what you think in the comments.