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Future Tech: 

The 5 biggest reveals at Google I/O

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Android developers were summoned to San Francisco last week for Google I/O 2015, where all the latest software tweaks were on display as well as a sneak peek at Google’s future plans. There was plenty to see at the annual developer-focussed conference, which lifted the lid on Android’s new operating software and pointed towards next steps for its wearable tech and Internet of Things ambitions.

All of that is packed into its three-hour Keynote event, readily available to watch on YouTube. Of course, you might definitely have better things to be getting on with, so we’ve wrapped up a few of the highlights in a list for your easy-reading pleasure.

The 5 biggest reveals at Google I/O

1. Android M

The biggest news from I/O 2015 all concerns Android M, the latest version of its ever-evolving mobile operating system. Whether its Android M&Ms, Android Malteasers or Android Marzipan on our next device is still anybody’s guess, but what’s now less of a mystery are the features – although in truth its more a streamlining than it is a reinvention.

The new(ish)-look Android M will include further integration of Chrome and Google Now, making it easier to switch tabs and find information related to what’s on-screen – whether you’re in-app, mail or your web browser. With ‘Now on Tap‘, for instance, you’ll be able to hold down the home button at any time to bring up suggestions from Google Now – so if you’re texting a friend about seeing a movie, you’re just a tap away from reading a synopsis, watching a trailer and finding out showtimes.

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Another exciting feature is Doze, which promises to help extend your battery-life by putting your phone to sleep while inactive. While in Doze mode, you’ll still be able to set alarms and respond to high-priority messages, but your phone will preserve battery by dropping your apps into the background.

Finally, Android M will reinvent its app permissions, so instead of asking you to agree to an intimidating list of permissions each time you go to install an app, now the app will prompt you when it’s about to access something new and scary – like your location or your microphone, for instance. In theory, this should give more transparency about which data you’re giving away and when, although it’s also moving the point of exit to when you’ve already got the app installed.

2. Google Photos

It’s hard to believe that this didn’t already exist, but, at last, Google has a proper photos app and it looks like a keeper. The new service promises unlimited storage for all of your photos and videos – albeit in a compressed form – with smart sorting and search functions so you can browse through them or hunt down what you’re looking for. The app is able to automatically tag your snaps by location or even person – so if you’re looking for a photo of your brother, for instance, just type in his name and scroll through until you find it. Perhaps that doesn’t sound all that useful if you use your Android camera sparingly, but if you’re somebody with thousands of photos it’s going to be a real time saver.

3. Project Brillo

From smart photos to your smart home, Project Brillo is Google’s attempt at organizing the Internet of Things. Chances are your home isn’t even particularly smart yet, but major tech companies are busy putting the infrastructure in place so that they’re well positioned when that time comes. Project Brillo, then, is more or less an Android operating system for your home, which will work alongside Weave to allow your smart gadgets to communicate with eachother. We’ve been here before (remember Android@Home from 2011?), but with many more internet-ready fridges, kettles, washing machines and toasters on the market than there were four years ago, the revamped system may now stand a fighting chance.

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4. Google Cardboard for iOS

Oculus Rift doesn’t look like being released in time for summer, but why wait to try out virtual reality when you can make your own VR headset out of cardboard. No Android phone to use with it? No excuses, as the latest version is not only bigger – to fit the larger iPhone 6 and 6 plus – but launches alongside an iOS app that’s available now on iTunes. If you’re new to VR and Google Cardboard, here are some apps to be getting on with.

5. Android Pay

Finally, Google revealed more details about its replacement for Google Wallet, which is imaginatively named Android Pay – we wonder where they got that idea from. Still, the new service looks like a vast improvement on Wallet, allowing for in-app payments as well as an NFC function so smartphone and smartwatch owners can tap and pay. Google said that around 700,000 stores will accept Android Pay transactions, available on smartphones running KitKat or higher.

All photos via Google.

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