Google’s yearly developers’ conference took place this past week, giving the company a chance to show off new software and developments for its Android operating system. The Internet giant surprised attendees when, unlike in years past, it did not use the conference to announce any new hardware or overhaul of the Android platform, but there were still plenty of new upgrades to be seen.
The suite of media services known as Play has received a few tweaks. A new game service will add leaderboards, real-time multiplayer, achievements, and cloud services to many games available through the Play Store, and will be integrated directly into any games developers wish to affix them to.
Google Play Music, a cloud service which allows users to upload up to 20,000 songs from their personal collections and stream them to their computers and smartphones for free has added a second way to stream. Now a new subscription option called All Access will add the option to stream any of the millions of songs in Google’s own catalog; for $9.99 a month, subscribers will receive recommendations from the company’s music crew and can create a radio station from any of their favorite songs or artist.
There were no entries into Google’s line of Nexus phones and tablets running the smooth, unencumbered stock version of Android, but a partnership with Samsung did turn up something similar; beginning on June 26th, a version of the Galaxy S 4 running stock Android Jelly Bean will be available through the Play Store. This handset will not have all of the features that come with Samsung’s TouchWiz skin, but for Android purists who want an off-contract device with a ton of power under the hood it will provide a compelling alternative to the Nexus 4.
Maps and Apps
Google Maps is getting an upgrade to tailor its experience to the individual user, denoting only the roads and landmarks necessary to get from where you are to where you are going, and allowing you to mark off your favorite places for future reference. Based on your usage, Maps will also be able to recommend new places you might enjoy.
Google+ has gotten a facelift to provide easier viewing of your friends’ activity through a multi-column layout. The Hangouts feature has been upgraded to bring video chatting to any device or platform and allow text-based messaging between users. New photo-editing software will automatically enhance the picture quality of uploaded photos, and highlight the best version of similar photos so sifting past blurry or poorly focused pictures will be even easier. The original versions of any photo can also be restored at any time.