TIME Google

The 4 Biggest Things Google Announced Today

Android lovers, this is your Christmas

At its annual I/O developers conference Thursday, talk unsurprisingly centered on the company’s Android mobile operating system.

While the company didn’t have any super-surprising reveals, Google’s product roadmap indicates that Android is only going to become more versatile as it enters sectors such as commerce and the smart home. Google is also become more skilled at tying together its disparate services into a single, pleasing user experience, as evinced by the expanded focus on Google Now.

Here’s a quick roundup of the four biggest new announcements Google made Thursday:

Google Now gets even smarter

Google’s sophisticated digital assistant Google Now already offers up curated news, trip reminders, suggested travel routes and other info to make daily life easier. Now the company is expanding its functionality across multiple apps with Now on Tap. When using apps such as music players and email clients, users can simply press the home button or ask Google a question verbally to get context-sensitive answers based on what’s on screen (if your significant other texts you to ask you to pick up laundry, for example, Now on Tap will suggest adding a reminder to your calendar). The new features could give Now a leg up against Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana.

Android Pay looks a whole lot like Apple Pay

After years of tepid response to Google Wallet, the company is taking another shot at mobile payments with Android Pay. The new platform, available later this year in the U.S., will let users load their credit card information onto their phones and then use their phones to pay at physical retailers. The functionality is very similar to Apple Pay, which quickly managed to make a bigger splash than Google Wallet ever did. Android Pay will be available at 700,000 retail stores, including Whole Foods, Macy’s and Walgreens.

A new photo app with unlimited storage

Photo storage and organization was one of the best features of Google+. Now Google is bringing that strength to all its users with a new standalone app, Google Photos. Users of the app, available on Android, iOS and the web, will have unlimited photo and video storage. The revamped service also boasts some impressive search features. Users can search by location, objects in the photo (boats, for instance) or even by face. The updated apps rolled out on Thursday.

A new OS for the Internet of Things

Given that Google shelled out billions for smart thermostat company Nest, it’s no surprise that the company is making a power play to control the living room. The company announced Project Brillo, an Android-powered operating system for connected devices, as well as Weave, a common language to let connected Brillo devices communicate. Brillo will support both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, giving developers multiple ways to let users connect.

TIME real estate

You Can Buy Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch

Neverland Ranch
NBC NewsWire—NBC NewsWire via Getty Images Neverland Ranch

But all the giraffes are gone

The world-famous former home of pop star Michael Jackson is now on the market.

Neverland Ranch, now known more mundanely as Sycamore Valley Ranch, is up for sale for a cool $100 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Jackson bought the 2,700-acre estate in Los Olivos, Calif. for $19.5 million in 1987 and lived there until the mid-2000s, when financial troubles forced him to leave the location.

Unfortunately, the amusement park rides and zoo animals that made Neverland Ranch famous are now gone, though there is still at least one llama on the premises for some reason. The train station and railroad tracks that Jackson built are also still on the property.

Don’t expect this to become the next Graceland, though. The person selling the ranch is specifically looking for a buyer who doesn’t plan to turn the place into a museum for the singer.

“We’re not going to giving tours,” realtor Suzanne Perkins told the Journal.

TIME Google

Google’s Best App Just Got Better

Sundar Pichai, senior vice-president of Products for Google Inc., speaks during the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 28, 2014. Google Inc. executives are taking the stage this week to talk about a plethora of new technologies, including automobiles, home automation, digital TV, Web-connected devices and a new version of Android. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Sundar Pichai
David Paul Morris—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP Sundar Pichai, senior vice-president of Products for Google Inc., speaks during the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 28, 2014.

Google Now is expanding its context-sensitive suggestions across multiple apps

Google is looking to expand the functionality of its sophisticated digital assistant Google Now.

A new functionality called Now on Tap, announced Thursday at Google’s annual I/O developers conference, will bring Now’s context-sensitive information and suggestions to many of the apps users commonly open on their Android devices.

Google showed off the versatility of Now on Tap in a series of demos. While listening to Skrillex in a music player, a Googler asked, “OK Google, what’s his real name?” and Now on Tap was able to use the context of the open app to immediately recognize that the user was referring to Skrillex and serve the correct answer (Sonny John Moore). In another example, when a person received a series of text messages suggesting dinner at a nearby restaurant and a request to pick up drying cleaning, Now on Tap was able to scan the contents of the messages to pull up info about the restaurant and offer to set a reminder about a dry cleaning. In a third example, as a user was reading an email that mentioned the movie Tomorrowland, they were able to bring up an info card with the movie’s trailers, review scores and cast list immediately available by simply pressing the phone’s home button.

Google Now has quickly become a large focus of the search giant, as it leverages many of the company’s strengths (trawling the web for facts and providing accurate navigation info, for instance) to create a streamlined user experience. Apple is rumored to be working on a similar service, code-named Proactive.

TIME Google

Google’s Secret to Doubling Your Phone’s Battery Life

An attendee takes a photograph prior to the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 28, 2014. Google Inc. executives are taking the stage this week to talk about a plethora of new technologies, including automobiles, home automation, digital TV, Web-connected devices and a new version of Android. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
David Paul Morris—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP An attendee takes a photograph prior to the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 28, 2014.

New version of Android shuts down processes in certain apps to stem battery drain

Google is aiming to give your phones and tablets a little more juice to make it through the day without dying.

At its annual I/O developers conference Thursday, the company announced a new power-conservation feature in its upcoming mobile operating system Android M. Called “Doze,” the new feature uses motion sensors to detect when a device hasn’t been moved for an extended period. Android will then automatically shut down processes for certain power-hogging apps, which should significantly extend the device’s battery life.

When testing the feature, Google said a Nexus 9 tablet running Doze on Android M had a battery life twice as long as the same device using the older Android L operating system.

The new feature won’t turn your phone into a total paperweight. Users will still be alerted to alarms and high-priority messages even when the phone or tablet is dozing.

TIME Media

HBO’s New Streaming Service Is Coming to Android

San Francisco Premiere Of HBO's "Game Of Thrones" Season 5 - Red Carpet
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau attends the premiere of HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Season 5 at San Francisco Opera House on March 23, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

Standalone streaming service will be available in Google Play store

HBO’s standalone streaming service is coming to Google devices.

The search giant announced at its annual I/O developers conference Thursday that HBO Now will soon be available for Android devices in the Google Play store.

HBO Now was originally announced as a timed exclusive for Apple TV and iOS. But it was always a given that the service would eventually expand to other devices. Now users of Android phones, tablets and set-top boxes will be able to stream shows like Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley at the same time as they are broadcast on television without the need for a cable subscription. The service costs $14.99 per month.

In other streaming news, Google revealed that its Chromecast device has sold 17 million units so far. Users have pressed the cast button to stream content onto various screens more than 1.5 billion times.

TIME Apple

Everything We Know About Apple’s New iPhone Software

Get ready for split-screen views, transit routes and lowkey shade delivered via iMessage

The next version of Apple’s mobile operating system is almost here.

The company is expected to unveil iOS 9 at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June. A new iOS update isn’t quite a big deal as a new iPhone, but the announcements can often be substantial–iOS 7 brought us a completely revamped mobile interface, while iOS 8 featured a health activity tracker and improved predictive keyboard.

Here’s what’s rumored to be in the works for Apple’s iOS 9:

A New Font

Apple is reportedly planning to dump the Helvetica font it’s been using since iOS 8 in favor of a San Francisco font that’s currently in use on the Apple Watch. The font was chosen for Apple Watch specifically because it’s readable on small screens.

A “Home” app for connected devices

In iOS 8 Apple added HomeKit, a framework that helps users control connected devices in their home. Now the company is working on a user-friendly app called “Home” that will let users more easily control disparate devices from a single interface. Among the features rumored to be part of the Home app are virtual rooms that let users easily detect which parts of their house have which connected devices. However, 9to5Mac warns that the featureset so far is fairly limited so the app may not be ready for a public debut in June.

Improved Apple Maps

Apple is finally planning to add subway and bus routes to its Maps app, a feature that’s been available in Google Maps for years. The initial rollout may be limited to just a handful of cities globally, including New York and San Francisco. The company is also using Roomba-sized robots to develop indoor maps of buildings and landmarks, though that feature won’t necessarily be ready for iOS 9.

Dual-app viewing for iPad

Apple wants to give iPads the ability to run two apps side-by-side. The split-screen functionality is already available in tablets by Samsung and Microsoft, so it would be a welcome addition to Apple’s device. The new mode could allow users to resize an app to take up one-third, one-half or two-thirds of the screen.

The iPhone 4S may still be supported

The iPhone 4S is close to four years old, which is an eternity in the world of mobile tech. However, Apple is expected to continue supporting the still-popular device with iOS 9. In fact, according to 9to5Mac, Apple is changing its software development process to ensure that iOS 9 runs better on old iPhones and iPads than iOS 8 did.

Contact-specific read receipts

Passive-aggressive texters, rejoice! Apple is apparently tweaking iMessage to let you choose which of your contacts you share read receipts with. Drake is probably really excited.

A Google Now Competitor

Apple may be planning to expand its digital assistant capabilities beyond Siri with a new personalized interface code-named Proactive. The menu, which would likely be located left of the main home screen, would integrate information from a user’s calendar, Passbook and other apps to provide daily itineraries. Proactive could remind you to call your mother each week for instance, or automatically pull up directions to your office each morning. The similarity is similar to Google Now, which is available for Android phones.

TIME Retail

Target CEO Would ‘Love’ to Have Apple Pay

Christmas Shopping Season is Underway
Scott Olson—Getty Images A clerk rings up sales for a customer at a Target store November 30, 2004 in Chicago, Illinois.

But first, retailer must finish transition to more secure credit card system

Apple Pay may soon be coming to a Target store near you.

Target CEO Brian Cornell told Recode that he’s been in discussions with Apple chief Tim Cook about adding the digital payment system at the physical retailer (Target already supports Apple Pay for online purchases).

However, before that happens, Target plans to outfit its stores with systems capable of reading chip and PIN cards. Chip and PIN is a technology common in Europe that stores credit cards’ data in an embedded computer chip rather than on a magnetic stripe, an innovation that helps boost security. Retailers that don’t have chip and PIN terminals available will become liable for credit card fraud that occurs at their stores later this year, so it’s no wonder Target’s head is making that upgrade a top priority.

Getting Target on board will be another big win for Apple Pay, which has been steadily recruiting new retailers since launching in October. Best Buy began supporting Apple Pay in its iOS app in April and pledged to support the payment system in its physical stores later this year.

TIME Smartphones

This Phone Has a New Trick You Wouldn’t Expect

Typing will never be the same

Lenovo has unveiled a new smartphone that doubles as a laser projector.

The Smart Cast features a built-in projector that can cast images large enough to turn a wall into a movie screen. The device also recognizes hand gestures, so users can cast a keyboard on a flat table and type away.

In a video demo, Lenovo showed off the Smart Cast being used to play music on virtual piano keys displayed on a tabletop and to slice through the mobile game Fruit Ninja on a wall.

No word yet on a price or release date for the device, which is just a concept product for now. While other smartphones have sported built-in projectors before, the Smart Cast uses a different projection technology, Engadget reports.

TIME Autos

Everything You Need to Know About Android Auto

Android Auto
Raymond Boyd/Getty Images 2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T at the 107th Annual Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois on FEBRUARY 13, 2015.

Reviewers say it trounces old-school in-car navigation systems

Google’s operating system for cars has finally arrived. Android Auto, which lets drivers control popular smartphone apps through their car’s dashboard interface, is now available in the 2015 Hyundai Sonata and will be rolled out to additional vehicles in the future.

Here are the key insights from reviewers at The Verge and the Wall Street Journal who have taken Android Auto for a test drive.

Android Auto truly replaces your phone

While driving, Google wants you to put your phone away completely and rely on Android Auto to make phone calls, get directions, queue up music and even send texts. Drivers are locked out of their smartphones while the device is connected to Android Auto. Apps like Maps are as fully-featured through the car as they are on a smartphone (though you can’t look up walking or transit directions).

You’ll be doing a lot of talking

In order to increase driver safety, Android Auto encourages people to use voice commands instead of having drivers type information. You can simply speak to ask Android Auto for directions or to place a call. The app itself is pretty talky as well. For instance, it will read aloud text messages you receive and also read back texts that you dictate before you send them off to friends.

Music is at your fingertips

Listening to music is one of the most common activities in the car, and it’s a key part of Anroid Auto. Currently compatible services include Google Play Music, Spotify and iHeartRadio (Pandora isn’t currently supported). Users can use voice search to find songs or artists, though reviewers said the feature worked much better with Google Play Music than with third-party apps. There’s also a quirk that limits how far drivers can scroll through a playlist in order to prevent long periods of distraction from the road, so it would be hard to comb through a whole music library using the app.

Your car is now your personal assistant

In addition to expected features like navigation and music playback, Android Auto makes use of Google’s digital assistant Google Now to offer context-sensitive suggestions for getting through your day. The app may present navigation directions to your office when you get in the car in the morning, for example, or present the route home when you boot up the car in the evening.

Overall, reviewers tended to agree that Android Auto is a big step up from the clunky navigation systems that have become standard in many new cars. With Apple’s CarPlay also planned to roll out to more vehicles soon, expect the smartphone to soon become a standard tool for in-car navigation and communication.

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