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Google I/O Day 2 roundup: Android 15, Wear OS 5, and more

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Photo: Google

Day one of Google I/O 2024 saw major announcements revolving mainly around the Gemini artificial intelligence model. However, major OS announcements about Android 15 Beta 2 and wearOS were shifted to day 2 of the event.

Here’s what Google announced on the second day of the developer conference:

Android 15 Beta 2

Source: Google

A standout feature in this release is the debut of ‘Private Space,’ a secure enclave designed to protect sensitive apps from unauthorised access. Google describes this feature as a dedicated area where users can store apps under an additional layer of authentication, ensuring they remain inaccessible without proper authorisation. This includes a discreet section in the app drawer that requires secondary lock-screen authentication, distinct from the primary phone lock screen.

Furthermore, apps within Private Space operate within a separate profile, guaranteeing isolation from non-private apps and their associated data. Google emphasises that when users lock Private Space, the profile pauses, rendering the apps inactive and preventing notifications unless the second lock screen is navigated.

“When private space is locked by the user, the profile is paused, i.e. the apps are no longer active. The user can choose to use the device lock or a separate lock factor for private space,” explained Google.

Another noteworthy addition teased for Android 15 is the ‘Theft Detection Lock’ feature, scheduled for release later this year. This innovative security measure utilises accelerometers and Google AI to detect sudden motions indicative of theft attempts, triggering an automatic device lock to deter unauthorised access.

Building on the enhancements introduced in Android 12L, Android 15 introduces an always-on taskbar option, enhancing multitasking capabilities on tablets and foldable devices. This feature, previously limited to the home screen and recent apps, now offers persistent access to recent and favourite apps and the ability to save split-screen-view shortcuts.

Another important addition to Android 15 is the ‘predictive back’ feature by default, a feature that Android borrowed from iOS. This functionality provides users with a peek of the screen that will appear upon executing the back gesture, allowing the user to cancel the gesture if they so desire.

Furthermore, Google added support for up to 16 KB pages, improved photo selection, permission checks on content URLs, and new data type support for Health Connect.

Regarding availability, Android 15 Beta 2 extends beyond Google Pixel devices, with several manufacturers such as Xiaomi, Honor, OnePlus, Realme, iQOO, and Sharp, among others.


Wear OS 5: Better battery life?

Source: Google

Google also revealed the upcoming release of Wear OS 5. This new version, currently in developer preview, will improve battery performance and the overall user experience for Wear OS users.

A notable focus of Wear OS 5 is on optimising battery usage. Google has implemented software optimisations to improve battery life, particularly during workout tracking activities. The company claims that activities such as marathon running now consume 20% less power compared to the previous version, Wear OS 4.

Developers will also benefit from updated tools designed to create watch faces. Building upon the success of Watch Face formats introduced in Wear OS 4, Google is enhancing the face designer tool, which powers a significant portion of watch faces available on Google Play.

Furthermore, Google is encouraging developers to adopt the latest formats and design standards by imposing restrictions on data sources for complications built with AndroidX or the Wearable Support Library.

Additionally, the release includes Jetpack COmpose for Wear OS version 1.3, focusing on updates that facilitate app development across different form factors, including Wear OS devices. This version introduces features aimed at improving the layout of text and data on watch faces, empowering developers to create more engaging and user-friendly experiences.

Regarding developer support, Google is rolling out version 1.4 of the Jetpack Tiles Library, which is currently in the alpha stage. This update introduces preview support for Android Studio, assisting developers in building Wear OS Tiles—an essential component offering quick access to app functionalities and information through swipeable screens. The library enhancements also provide tools for better organising content on tiles and analysing usage patterns, contributing to the overall usability of Wear OS apps.


Android 14 for TV

Source: Google

With Android 14 for TV, Google aims to deliver a more responsive user experience, building on previous successes. It introduces new energy modes to give users more control over power consumption, even in standby mode.

This latest iteration of Android for TV offers various accessibility features, such as colour correction, text improvements, and enhanced navigation. These functionalities are conveniently adjustable via remote shortcuts, providing users with a more personalized experience.

Moreover, Android 14 for TV now enables picture-in-picture mode on devices that support it, facilitating multitasking for users. This addition enriches the overall user experience and introduces new avenues for app interaction and engagement.

Along with Android 14 for TV, Google introduced Compose for TV in its 1.0.0-beta01 version. This release brings dedicated components for TV apps, improved input support, ease of implementation, and broad form-factor support.


Android Auto update

Source: Google

At the event, Google revealed significant updates coming to Android for Cars, promising enhanced experience for drivers but also raising concerns. The upcoming features include new apps, screens, casting capabilities, and entertainment options.

One of the highlights is the introduction of new entertainment apps for select car models with Google built-in that support video playback. Among these apps are Max and Peacock, adding to the existing entertainment options available to drivers and passengers.

However, in a move that may raise eyebrows regarding safety concerns, Google announced the arrival of Angry Birds in cars with Google built-in. While this popular game adds to Android Auto’s gaming portfolio, it’s important to note that such entertainment features are only accessible when the vehicle is parked.

Android Automotive OS will also integrate Google Cast in an upcoming update, enabling users to stream content from their smartphones and tablets. This feature will debut on Rivian models and gradually extend to other models.

The tech giant also unveiled new developer tools aimed at simplifying the app creation process for Android Auto, along with a program designed to facilitate the conversion of mobile apps into car-compatible experiences.


Google opens up API access to Google Home

Source: Google

Google has transformed Google Home into a versatile platform for developers, making smart home development more accessible. The integration of Matter technology enables easier app creation for various experiences beyond smart home devices.

Developers now have access to Device and Structure APIs, allowing them to connect with millions of devices, Google’s hubs, and automation engines across Android and iOS platforms.

“The new Device and Structure APIs let you access over 600M devices with a single integration. Control and manage the devices already connected to Google Home, such as Matter light bulbs or the Nest Learning Thermostat, whether at home, or on the go,” explained Google.

The Automation API empowers developers to create advanced home automation triggered by device signals and Google’s intelligence. Google is also expanding hub capabilities to TVs, improving local control and responsiveness.

The company is collaborating with top brands for further innovation, as seen in ADT’s Trusted Neighbour and LG’s TV integration. Early access to Home API or Home runtime is available, with app launches scheduled for major app stores this fall.


New security features for Android 15

Source: Google

Android’s latest advancements in security include a suite of advanced theft protection features aimed at safeguarding devices and data in case of theft. Additionally, the focus has shifted towards bolstering protections against mobile financial fraud and scams.

“We are expanding Play Protect’s on-device AI capabilities with Google Play Protect live threat detection to improve fraud and abuse detection against apps that try to cloak their actions,” said Dave Kleidermacher, VP Engineering, Android Security and Privacy.

Live threat detection enhances fraud and abuse detection, particularly against apps attempting to conceal malicious activities. This feature utilises on-device AI capabilities to analyse behavioural signals related to sensitive permissions and app interactions, ensuring a proactive approach to identifying and mitigating potential threats.

Other notable features include the protection of one-time passwords from malware, expanded restricted settings to safeguard sensitive permissions, and the development of AI-powred scam call detection capabilities.

The company also introduced stringent controls for screen sharing to mitigate social engineering attacks. Features such as automatically hidden notifications and one-time passwords during screen sharing, safer logins to protect sensitive credentials, and selective content-sharing options have been added to Android 15.

Furthermore, Android 15 is implementing technologies such as Cellular Cipher Transparency and Identifier Disclosure Transparency to address misuse by individuals employing cell site simulators for surveillance. These tools will furnish users with crucial notifications and protections against potential risks.

Google is also reinforcing user privacy with upgraded policies regarding photo permissions. Starting this year, apps on Google Play must demonstrate a legitimate need for photo or video access. The photo picker feature is also being enhanced to offer better privacy controls and support for cloud storage services, ensuring users have greater control over their media permissions.

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Kumar Hemant

Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: kumarhemant@pm.me

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