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Google kicked off its annual I/O developer conference last week with some big announcements across many of their services and offerings, including Android and Google+. Gold Group breaks down a few of the biggest news items from this year’s I/O conference so far:

Android M

The world took its first at Android M, the next iteration of its popular Android operating system. Google says the 6th version of Android will improve the user experience and focus on “substance over flash”.

Some of that substance will come from the introduction of Android Pay, streamlined fingerprint reader support, and expanded Google Now services across the OS. Google has also taken measures to improve battery life and reduce charging times for devices running the new software.

All in all, Google’s latest Android offering aims to bring a lot of behind-the-scenes updates to improve the overall user experience and performance of its mobile platform. Android M may not be one of the more exciting Android updates to date, the focus on usability is greatly welcomed!

Android Pay

Taking some cues from Apple Pay and officially replacing Google Wallet, Android Pay brings the world another step closer towards abandoning printed currency altogether. The new smart-phone service allows consumers to instantly pay for goods in-store as well as in mobile apps.

Similar to Apple Pay, Android Pay uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology and fingerprint scanners to allow users to make secure purchases. Expect most major banks and credit cards to sign on!

Android Wear Updates

Not wanting to be left in the dust by the launch of the Apple Watch, Google announced some updates to its own smart watch OS, Android Wear. With over 4,000 apps already developed, Google showcased more powerful apps including Uber, Foursquare, and Citymapper. The new update will allow users to take actions such as calling for an Uber driver simply by saying “Ok Google, call me a car.” The future is here!

Even with these great updates, Google will have a lot of work cut out for them to catch up with the popularity of the Apple Watch. Its latest Android Wear updates seemed too minor to really match the power of Apple’s marketing hype for the new wearable.

Google Photos

Having been rumored for a while, Google finally broke its photo sharing service away from the flailing Google+ social network after realizing that some users were turned off by the Google+ platform push and reluctant to host photos directly on a social network. The new Google Photos platform is already available on iOS, Android, and the Web.

The biggest benefit of the photo-management app comes in the form of free unlimited photo and video storage. Resolution may be limited to 16 megapixels for photos and 1080p for videos, however this should still satisfy most smartphone users simply looking to backup and manage their images in the cloud, freeing up space on their devices. Paid storage options are also available for those in need of higher resolution photo storing. The new user-friendly interface and organizational features are also a huge upgrade, which puts Google back in competition with other major photo hosting services like Yahoo’s Flickr.

Having already spent some time using the new app over the weekend, Google Photos might be the most exciting and useful update announced at this year’s conference. The interface is clean and easy to use and the app features an option to remove photos stored physically on your device once they have been safely backed up to the cloud; great for shutter bugs looking to free up some space on their phones.

Download Google Photos: Apple App Store; Google Play

More on Google I/O

Of course Google had many more announcements at this years I/O conference including updates for its GMail companion Inbox and Project Fi. For more information visit the official Google Event page or blog.

 


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