If you missed big announcements from today’s Google I/O 2011 keynote, don’t sweat – here’s your recap of key takeaways. Google executives first touted 100 million Android activations so far and about 400,000 new devices being activated each day. Other mind-boggling stats include 200,000 free and paid applications on Android Market and 4.5 billion downloads since Android’s launch less than three years ago. That was just a warm-up for big announcements, though…
They proceeded by showing off some of the capabilities of the upcoming Honeycomb 3.1 update. Your highlights include APIs to access USB peripherals such as mice, keyboards, joysticks, gamepads (including PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 game controllers) and other accessories, new media features for VoIP, push-to-talk, videoconferencing and audio streaming and more. Enhancements for end-users include smoother UI animations, updated holographic interface, the new launcher, expandable Recent Apps list for better multitasking, resizable home screen widgets, WiFi connectivity even with the display turned off and a bunch of tweaks in standard Browser, Calendar, Contacts and Email apps, to name a few.
Honeycomb 3.1 will be rolling out to Xoom 3G devices over the next few weeks, Google said. The company also previewed Ice Cream Sandwich, the next Android release due by the fourth quarter. In addition to a new tasty logo, shown below, Ice Cream Sandwich will bring smartphones on par with Honeycomb 3.1 tablets in the features department, Google promised.
It’s also their first attempt at solving OS fragmentation issues by working with select carriers and handset vendors to ensure smooth firmware upgrades for customers. Specifically, Verizon, HTC, Samsung, Sprint, Sony Ericsson, LG, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Motorola and AT&T joined the initiative. Customers buying new devices from these partners are guaranteed to receive the latest Android platform upgrades for eighteen months after the device is first released, “as long as the hardware allows.” It’s a flexible definition, if you ask us. As always, the devil will be in details which were few and far between at the conference.
Google also flipped the switch on a long-rumored invite-only music locker that lets you store 20,000 songs for on-demand streaming to computers and Android devices. Google Music sports Instant Mixes, basically iTunes Genius-like mixes of songs that go great together. There’s also offline mode and automatic sending of changes made to playlists on an Android device to your computer via the cloud and vice versa. The company also unveiled Android Market movie rentals (starting at $1.99) available across Android devices and computers. Movies can be “pinned” for offline viewing and will initially work on the Xoom. Support for more devices, including Android 2.2 phones, is “coming soon”, Google promised.
Other tidbits include Android Open Accessory initiative to help develop accessories that work across all Android devices, Android@Home that allows Android apps to discover, connect and communicate with appliances and devices in your home and a preview of Project Tungsten, an Android device for the new Music service that provides greater control over music playback within the Android@Home network.