A Review of Google I/O

July 14, 2014 Jonathan Yeap

The annual Google I/O conference took place on June 25-26 in San Francisco. The conference aimed to educate developers from around the world on what’s new with the wide variety of technologies that they support. A few Pivots from the Toronto, Boulder and San Francisco offices were lucky enough to be in attendance. With over 100 different one hour sessions available and only 10 slots to cover them all, every single person had a different and unique experience at the conference. I’ll share the highlights from my personal experience. I’ll cover the following topics: Android sessions, other interesting sessions, and freebies.


Having spent the past two years developing Android applications, I primarily chose sessions related to Android. However, I also attended a few other sessions not related to Android, which I enjoyed as well.


This was a two and a half hour summary on everything new across all of Google’s different technology initiatives. Highlights included:

  • Android 5.0 “L” – material design which is meant to mimic real world design
  • Mobile Chrome – upgrades to mobile web which includes the “L” design, multitasking changes and improved app indexing when searching
  • Android Wear – companion apps on smart watches
  • Android Auto – on board car display which uses some apps and data from an Android phone
  • Android TV – Google TV 3? 4?
  • Android Everywhere – improvements to the Chromebook, including the ability to run Android applications

My thoughts: Definitely skim through to the topics that are of interest as there is a little bit for everyone. It was a bit on the long side to watch the entire thing through.


What’s new in Android?

Two members of the Android UI Toolkit team and the Android System UI team discuss the key highlights of the “L release.”

  • Two new widgets: Recycler View and Card View which allow for a native horizontal list view and a Google Now Card-like view.
  • Battery life improvements through ‘Project Volta.’ There is a new “Battery Historian” developer tool and additional APIs to help achieve this.
  • The ART Android runtime replaces the older Dalvik runtime in the upcoming “L” preview. All previous versions of Android used the Dalvik runtime. This will mean that there will be a slight performance improvement moving forward with no additional work required from the developers.

My thoughts: This will be useful for Android developers to watch if they want to get a quick idea of what has changed. Ultimately, reading the online Android documentation will still be required.


Google Play services Rocks!

A very enthusiastic member of the Google Play team discusses new functionality and benefits of the latest v5.0 Google Play Services SDK.

  • Wear Data API
  • For retail apps, there are three key components to a smooth checkout experience: knowing the user’s identity (Google+), user’s address (???), and credit card (Google Instant Buy). The 5.0 update provides an additional api to remember a user’s address across various Google products.
  • Updates to the Instant Buy SDK, including OCR credit card number scanning and a new Fragment implementation.
  • Google Analytics is now integrated and can be directly accessed from the Google Play Developer console. Previously these were separate sites.

My thoughts: Reading the Google Play Services SDK change notes online may be more concise.


Android fireside chat

Ten Google employees from various Android teams participate in a one hour Q/A session with the audience.

  • The panel was not answering any questions on anything that was not announced yet.
  • The majority of the questions were regarding pain points and issues that various developers were having.

My thoughts: Was not particularly useful as many of the issues developers were facing could not be resolved from the answers provided.


Less code, more services, better Android apps

Two Google engineers unveil two Google offerings to replace the backend in any Android applications: Google Cloud Endpoints API and Google Cloud Save API. With a web console and an Android SDK, they claim “Zero backend programming.”

The design sprint: from Google Ventures to Google X

A few designers from both Google Ventures and Google X teams discuss an approach that they’ve used for over 100 Google initiatives to prototype and test any product in 5 days. They hypothesize that the common startup approach of quickly building an mvp product, releasing it, getting feedback and updating their product is wrong. Using a data driven approach in their initial 5 days sprint allows them to make a better first guess at what the original mvp should be.

My thoughts: An interesting video that could be applicable to everyone (Designers, Product Managers and Engineers).


Maps for good: Saving trees and saving lives with petapixel-scale computing

A member of the Google Earth Engine team discusses how they were able to work with various non-profit organizations to solve real world problems by leveraging this technology. One example was where they were able to detect illegal deforestation in the rainforests of South America and were able to assist the local police to stop this.

My thoughts: A very inspiring and interesting talk.



Samsung Gear Live and Moto 360 smart watches

My thoughts: Google is clearly making a big push into the wearable market by providing two watches to every developer who attended. The default functionality is very limited and only serves as a companion to your Android device. Having an additional device that needs to be recharged every day is not something that I am used to yet. It will be interesting to see what improvements are made and what kinds of applications, developers will be able to create.



My thoughts: Cardboard is a piece of Cardboard with two lenses; it folds into a contraption which can hold an Android phone. Once a specific Android application is loaded onto the device, it acts like an Oculus Rift competitor that only costs a fraction of the price ($2 in material + Android phone). I was skeptical about this freebie when it was announced at the keynote. However, after trying it out and showing it to other Pivots around the office, I was very impressed.



If you are interested, or if the above links are not working, the majority of the sessions at Google I/O were recorded and made available online on the Google Developer group YouTube channel. A link is available here: https://www.youtube.com/user/GoogleDevelopers/videos

About the Author


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