Keynote season is upon us. After Facebook’s conference, it’s Google’s turn to showcase its latest and greatest. Google I/O 2019 comes in less than a month before Apple’s WWDC conference. Even though you might use an iPhone, you can really escape the wrath of Google services. Gmail, Google Maps, Google Home, Google Assistant are now omnipresent. And all these services saw new improvements in this keynote. Here are the Google I/O 2019 announcements that iPhone users should care about.
Google I/O 2019 Announcements For iPhone Users
1. Google Search Will Do A Lot More
— Google (@Google) May 7, 2019
As always, Google started by talking about Google Search. This Google I/O is all about privacy and improved user experience. So you’ll see a quick privacy shortcut in the profile icon.
Google is doubling down on its podcast efforts. Users will be able to search for podcasts directly in Google Search. And they can filter episodes and even save episodes to listen to later. Next up, Camera and AR integration. You’ll see a new panel when you search for something specific like the Great White Shark. You can tap on the AR button to see the life-sized model in your phone’s camera view.
2. One Tap Privacy Controls, Everywhere
The word privacy was dropped so many times in the keynote, you’d almost think you were watching Tim Cook on stage. Last week, Google announced a feature that would let you automatically delete data older than 3 months or 18 months. Or any time you want. This was for search, but a similar option for Location History is coming soon too.
And a running theme in this I/O has been a quick way to get to your privacy controls. So in apps like Search, Chrome or Maps, tapping the profile icon will instantly show a menu option that will take you to the app-specific privacy feature. This is a big change for Google. Usually, Google does everything it can to hide the privacy control features three layers deep in a settings menu you can’t figure out how to get to. Once this feature starts rolling out, it will come to iOS apps as well (because Google usually has feature parity between its Android and iOS apps).
3. On Device Machine Learning
Again, Google is taking a leaf straight out of Apple’s playbook. A couple of new Google Assistant and Android Q features will use on device machine learning instead of sending all your data to Google’s cloud service.
This means that some features of Google Assistant will even work offline. And they’ll work much faster now.
4. Duplex Meets the World Wide Web
Google unveiled a new AI feature last year called Duplex. It could make calls to restaurants and make reservations for you. Now, Duplex is taking over the web. The example that Google gave goes like this. You make a calendar appointment of your next trip. And then you can just as Google to book a hotel for you during that time. Because Google already has the information about the time, place and your personal information, it will pre-fill those details automatically. Google says that you have complete control over the auto-fill feature.
5. Next-Gen Google Assistant is Crazy Fast
Google is making some serious progress with on-device machine learning. They have managed to put 100 GB of analysis data in a 0.5 GB file stored on the device. This means that Google Assistant will be able to work crazy fast. Google thinks that will be able to control the device as fast as if you were tapping the screen.
In the demo that Google gave (the video above), a user just says “Ok Google” once and then Google Assistant is in conversation mode, in the background. You can just keep giving commands like Open Photos app, show me photos from the last vacation, tap on a photo, then say send it to Justin and it will open the Messages app with the photo attached. The feature is only coming to Pixel 4 later this year but we hope that it comes to more phones in the future. And that Apple learns something from Google beating them at their own game and implements something similar to make Siri much faster (which is sorely needed).
There’s also going to be a dedicated driving mode available for all Android devices later in the Fall.
6. Google Lens Learns More Tricks
Google Lens is becoming a bigger part of Google’s Camera app. And we hope the improvements come to the Google Lens app on the iPhone too. Now when you go to a restaurant, just point the camera on the menu and it will instantly highlight the most popular dishes to help you choose. It goes further. If you’re looking at a recipe in a magazine, pointing the camera to it will bring it to life.
7. AI That’s Inclusive
One of the biggest issues with AI is that it has the same biases as the people who develop it. So it’s easy for AI to have gender or color bias built-in. To its credit, Google is taking active steps to make sure that when Google’s AI is learning from photos, it doesn’t mark qualities as gender specific. For example, when Google AI sees a photo of a doctor, it marks it as “lab coat, male”. Now, Google will flag and remove the “make” marker.
The new Google Assistant is also going to feature new accessibility controls.
8. Big Banner Android Q Features Announced
While Android Q beta has been around for a while, Google finally revealed the big banner features at I/O.
- Dark Theme: Finally, a true black dark mode across the entire Android OS. It comes in Google’s apps like Calendar and Photos top. When you enable Battery Saver, Dark Theme turns on automatically. As it’s a true black theme, it will help save battery life on OLED screens.
- New Gestures: Android Q is starting to look a lot like the iPhone. Instead of the pill, it now as a small bar at the bottom. Similar to iPhone’s Home bar. And you swipe up to go to Home. Multitasking is swiping up and over a bit. Back gesture is a bit weird. You can swipe in either from the left or right edge of the screen.
- Security Updates: Google will now deliver security and privacy updates over the Play Store. Making sure more devices are updated more often.
- Improved Location Access: Just like iOS, Google will now give two options for app location access: When using the app and background location access.
- Live Caption: The years of YouTube auto-generated captions are coming in handy. After this accessibility option is enabled, you’ll be able to generate captions of any audio or video live on the Android phone.
- Parental Controls: Again, similar to iOS 12’s Screen Time and Restrictions feature, you’ll be able to control what apps your child has access to on their phones.
- Focus Mode: A specialized mode that will disable distracting apps for a given time, similar to Downtime feature in iOS 12.
- Smart Reply Everywhere: This is a genius feature that takes Gmail’s Smart Reply feature and adds it to the notification shade. Which means it’s available for every messaging app, at once.
9. Smart Devices are Now Under Nest Branding
— Made by Google (@madebygoogle) May 7, 2019
Google is rebranding its smart hub devices. The old smart hub is now called Nest Smart Hub and it’s discounted for $129. There’s a new, bigger Nest Smart Hub Max with a 10-inch screen and a camera. Google is taking a privacy-first approach here as well. There’s a switch that electronically disables the camera and mic. The Hub has stereo speakers and you can make calls using Google Duo to anyone on iPhone, Android, and PC using the Chrome browser.
The camera can serve as a home surveillance system and it works via the Nest app. The Smart Hub can be personalized based on people in your house. Once their face is scanned, Google will show their custom feed (calendar appointments, commute time, etc) on the screen. Interestingly, the face details are encrypted and stored locally on the device. A really cool feature is that you can just hold your hand up to the Hub’s screen to stop the music or video playback.
10. And Then There are the New Budget Pixel Phones
The leaks were all true. There are two new budget Pixel phones. Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL. They are similar to Pixel 3 but with a polycarbonate body, Snapdragon 670 processor, slightly lesser screens and a headphone jack. But they have the same camera as the Pixel 3. This means that while the phone will be much slower than Pixel 3, Pixel 3a is the first $400 phone to actually have a great camera. Something that’s even better than the $1000 iPhone XS.
Google Maps meets AR.
— Google Maps (@googlemaps) May 7, 2019
- You can now just say “Stop” to stop an alarm on any Google Home devices. The feature is going live today for English speaking territories.
- Pixel phones will now have AR mode in navigation by default. They’ll see directions in real time overlaid on the camera view.
Your Favorite I/O Features You Want to See in WWDC
Now that WWDC is three weeks away, what are some of the features from Google I/O or Android Q that you want to see in the next version of iOS?
For me, the on-device Google Assistant and the system-wide dark theme take the cake. Share your iOS 13 wishlist with us in the comments below.