Google I/O Roundup

Important mobile information from Google’s I/O conference in San Francisco.

google-ioGoogle’s major event of each year is a platform for the company to provide insight on what it has been working on, ideas, new products and visions for the future.

We can’t cover everything of course and there are a huge amount of announcements that are not directly related to the mobile industry. As such we will be updating this post mostly with information relevant to the mobile & connected markets and products Clove will be selling (or would like to if they don’t become available to us!).

New Android Wear smartwatches are available to order now

Updates on the Moto 360 and LG G Watch were expected but what we received was much, much better. Whilst major updates on the Moto 360 are currently still pending, we now have a confirmed price of £159 for the LG G Watch in the UK and an unexpected announcement from Samsung (who else) of a new Gear Live watch priced at £169.

Moving away from their Tizen gamble with the Gear 2/Neo/Fit range, the Live will be running Android Wear and is currently available for order on Google Play – we are currently investigating if stock will be available to Clove. Both the G Watch and Gear Live will be shipping from July 7th.

Android Wear goes much further than current smartwatches

lg-g-watch-white-close-upFrom Google’s announcement of the new platform earlier in the year, we knew Android Wear was going to try and change the perception of wearables. The market in its current state is clearly fragmented with a range of products including fitness trackers, notification watches and other subsidiary devices all running on a variety of proprietary platforms.

Android Wear, as an extension of the main Android OS, looks to provide an open and accessible platform for developers to work on. Wear can then be used to build any number of products that either fit into the existing wearable subcategories, add to them, or possibly combine them.

In terms of smartwatches, current criticisms are levelled at them being little more than secondary screens for notifications such as SMS, email and at the most advanced – call handling. Whilst this simple slave feature will remain the bread and butter of Wear devices, the interface will be designed on the Google Now notification system which has been massively developed on over the last few years.

The main difference is that Google Now is an active system rather than a passive one. Rather than just displaying data your phone has already received, Google Now can provide intelligent notifications about upcoming events. It can search for you by itself based on your usage & location, or at your implicit request, to display up to date relevant information far beyond simple one-to-one messages.

The familiarity of the Android framework should also make for a number of high quality apps and extensions.

Android L - all about looks?

The new dessert central name for codename L has yet to be announced, although a massive drop of visuals for the new Android revision has now been laid out. Google have chosen to focus on the design and UI this time around, with not a huge amount of information on new features.

Google have a new design initiative known as Material Design which will encompass their entire product range from Android phones through to Chrome, Gmail and other major apps and services. On the surface this includes unifying typefaces, iconography languages and style rules for Google products. The focus is clearly on simplicity, usability and familiarity across the Google range.

For Android L’s surface it means updating to a minimalist style for soft buttons, a switch from square to round icons and a tweaking to Roboto for consistent display across a huge range of displays now that the Android brand is to be synonymous with the user-device interaction with everything Google from watches to televisions.

It’s not all shapes and colours though, notifications have a big place in L too. A new update somewhat combines the lock screen and notification panes with a stack of cards reminiscent of Google Now (yet another cross-product integration). Google are also employing a ‘drop-down’ for instant notifications such as calls or messages which Google  refer to as ‘heads-up’.

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There’s a new multitasking capability as well which is designed to put your apps and web content on an equal footing. When you select the multitasking option, your most recent apps and Chrome windows will all be available in a carousel. Also when it comes to using Search, relevant results might funnel you directly into an app. For instance searching for a route somewhere could launch Uber, should you set up your personalisation that way. Search results will also mimic the new Material Design ethos of web results.

Security & battery life are two big bugbears for the modern mobile user. For the 1st issue, Google introduced Device Manager last year for better remote tracking of handsets. This has been improved on with a kill-switch for remotely locking down handsets even after they have been factory restored. Effectively the same as iOS7′s new security provisions, Google hope this should cut thefts significantly. ‘Project Volta’ has been introduced into Android L too, aiming to reduce overall battery consumption by optimising performance in a similar way to 3rd party introductions such as Sony’s STAMINA.

Lastly, Android L is confirmed to be running on the new Android Runtime introduced in KitKat which allows for better resource management and installation of the OS on devices with lower working memory specifications.

So at this point most of what has been announced is somewhat superficial, however pretty it all is. Google have promised there will be over 5,000 new APIs for developers to utilise when the code goes live later in the year, so there should be a host of features that have yet to be talked about. It looks like we’ll have to wait a little longer for the more meaty updates, including the name.

Developers or tech savvy users can get their hands on the preview code for Android L now, compatible with select devices, by clicking on the image below. Please note that manually compiling and installing the preview firmware on your personal device will almost certainly void your manufacturer’s warranty. Proceed with caution.

Android L Developer Preview | developer.android.com

Android One – a reference for high quality, low cost smartphones

Android One is not a phone. It is rather a set of hardware references aimed at emerging and established manufacturers. The idea is to use a list of Google approved components to be able to develop high quality phones that will be Google Play certified, able to receive updates through the foreseeable future (by using Google approved hardware) and aimed at emerging markets.

The initiative is due to begin in India later this year. Whilst we don’t expect to see any Android One initiative phones outside of emerging markets, if some do travel to Europe we’ll be sure to try and get a hands on.

Android Auto for your car

This will grab some headlines but isn’t what it may first seem. Rather than a variation of Google’s OS specifically for vehicles, Android Auto runs on an Android L phone when plugged into a compatible car. The phone displays an A, naturally, and then cannot be used as normal until unplugged. You then have a subset of Android applications and screens mirrored onto the car’s display. For now this includes GPS/Maps/navigation, music & media player, phone and car status, along with an overview splash page.

Essentially Android Auto is ‘casting’ from the phone to the vehicle display. Casting seems key to Google’s newer strategies with Chromecast & Android TV both keen to work in asimilar way from a central Android device hub.

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You will also have the option of installing Android Auto compatible apps onto your phone. These can then be accessed through the Android Auto interface from your car’s screen when the phone is plugged in. Initial support is from the likes of Spotify, Songza, Pandora, Pocket Casts and the MLB’s At Bat, with a new SDK available for those looking to create their own.

Details on compatible cars and manufacturer partnerships are to be provided at a later date, although Google have primarily mentioned Dodge, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Audi and Bentley. They have also stated that the first cars will be available before the year is out.

Android TV is here as Google try to get in the living room again

google_io-android-tvGoogle definitely seem keen on making Android their core brand name now. They are taking the focus away from the individual mobile device (phone or tablet) and trying to turn it into a platform that can create a web portal on any device.

Last time Google played the television game we got Google TV, using either a secondary cable box or integrated TV as an intermediary to overlay content on top of your cable or OTA television broadcast. Google TV worked and delivered on a number of advertised features, however consumer adoption was slow, American cable companies were hesitant to partner up and reviews were mediocre especially where the price was concerned.

Google like to experiment though and the foundations have been made for Android TV. Whilst partly a rebranding exercise, there will also be a whole host of new features including full integration for Search and pulling up rental & purchase results from the Play Store & partners such as Netflix. Compatibility for control across Android Wear devices and streaming from smartphones is also included. The Google Games network can also be accessed as well.

Time will only tell if Android TV adoption rates fare better than Google TV; perhaps its inclusion in more and more new Smart TVs will help this.

The best of the rest

First up is Google Fit (note the lack of Android branding on this one), a centralised platform for collating data from a number of fitness products. The SDK will be available to developers and expect support from the likes of Nike, Adidas, Withings, RunKeeper, and Basis.

An update to Drive is coming that will let you edit Microsoft Office files natively.

And finally, select Android apps will become available on Chrome soon. Apps such as Evernote and Vine will take the lead, with the Chromebook/PC screen displaying a bordered phone screen or having the Android app stretched out to tablet mode. This looks like baby steps towards a more unified Android & Chrome, alongside the multitasking already announced for Android L. Eventually, Chrome on a non-mobile device should begin to display notifications from paired mobile handsets.

Thoughts?

So what do you think? Are any of the big announcements already making you check your bank accounts & wallets? Do some of the ideas for the rest of the year give you thoughts about what tech you might be investing in? Perhaps some of Google’s ideas seem a little half baked to you.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, along with anything else you saw mentioned at I/O you think we should have covered

32GB SIM Free Nexus 5 just £280

Save £59 on the Google Play RRP.

Update 04/06: 32GB MODEL NOW SOLD OUT. 16GB MODEL NOW CHEAPER AT £290 INC VAT.

A GREAT alternative to consider would be the LG G3. Find out more information here.

It boasts tNexus 5he most pure Google Android experience; the Google Nexus 5 is currently one of Google’s most sought after Nexus devices.

Available in a 16 or 32GB memory option, the Nexus 5 has been available in both black  and white colour options for a number of months.

Selling for £339 including VAT on the UK Google Play Store, the 32GB version of the Nexus 5 in Black can now be purchased for just £280 from Clove for a limited time.

This special offer is available on a shipment that will be arriving next week and will be valid on whilst stock lasts.

Save yourself £59 and pick up a Nexus 5 today here.

Open Automotive Alliance (OAA)

Google Android coming to vehicles soon!

Open_Automoative_AllianceGoogle have launched the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) in partnership with Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai and Nvidia to bring Android to vehicles of the future.

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ASUS Transformer Pad TF701 Review

Your laptop alternative

ASUS Transformer Pad TF701

ASUS as a general rule are in my opinion a little underrated for the products that they make.

Those who are into their technology will know what things they make well, but in the smartphone/tablet arena the vast majority would likely be a little wary as they are not such a known brand, despite having some fairly popular products on the market over the last few years, most notable the Google Nexus 7 series.

The ASUS Transformer Pad is the latest in the line of the Transformer series, which has generally only been available through selected suppliers and is not something you would see on the high street very easily.

The Transformer series works on the basis of an Android powered tablet with a detachable keyboard, to turn it into a laptop-esque device.

Tablet adoption is growing at a phenomenal rate and I can see why, but for me personally, having owned a Nexus 7 for 18 months or so now, I rarely use it like I should.

I see a couple of reasons for this:

  • It’s not that much bigger than my phone screen
  • I can’t always comfortably do what I want on it

ASUS Transformer Pad TF701

Therefore I end up generally opting for a rather bulky Windows laptop as this gives me a larger screen and a productive keyboard which I can use whilst on the sofa.

Like most people I imagine when relaxing in the evenings and weekends is when you are most likely to reach for a tablet or indeed desire to own one (I know there are other times too). Whilst a tablet is good when browsing, when I need to type out an email, holding a tablet and using the on screen keyboard for me is a bit of a pain and I much prefer a physical keyboard for speed and comfort.

Fed up of using the larger laptop, I desired something that is an always-on device, which was more polite to use and easier to handle, so I started looking at the options. I could have gone for a tablet and a separate keyboard, but then you have to prop the tablet up on a stand or the keyboard is a really expensive accessory. I decided to go for the Transformer Pad as it offered the best of both worlds, as it was an all in one package and I could chop and change as I like just by clipping and unclipping the keyboard.

Unlike other reviews, this is a personal purchase so I am likely to be a little more biased, although I will try to remain fair throughout.

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ASUS Transformer Pad TF701T now available

ASUS improve their transformer range.

The ASUS Transformer range has not been to everyone’s taste, but as the world becomes more mobile, the new Transformer Pad looks to be a very enticing option with a high spec Android tablet coupled with a removable keyboard dock.

With a 10.1” touchscreen display with a 2560 x 1600 resolution, 1.9GHz quad-core processor, 32GB memory, microSD memory card slot, USB 3 port, HDMI out and a battery life of up to 17 hours when paired with the dock this has a lot to offer.

Running Android 4.2, ASUS have tweaked the setup a little to enhance your experience.

Check out the following promo video which shows it off a bit more.

If you think this is the device for you, then you can order the TF701T now from Clove by clicking HERE.

Android 4.4 Quick Start Guide

Android 4.4 KitKat / Nexus 5 Quick Start Guide / User Manual

Below you can find the digital version of the Android 4.4 KitKat quick start guide.  At 53 pages it is quite comprehensive and more of a user guide to Android 4.4.

Whilst not specifically created for the Google Nexus 5, at the time of launch the Nexus 5 is the only device running stock Android 4.4 KitKat so it can be seen as a user manual or guidebook for the Nexus 5 to some extent.

Hopefully this document will answer any of the outstanding questions that you have about the device. However if there is anything you want to know that isn’t covered, or if you have any questions prior to purchasing, please feel free to ask in the comments or to contact our sales team.

March of the Droids hit Bournemouth in May 2014 #MotD2014

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March of the Droids, for anyone who has not heard of this, is an informal gathering of anyone who has an interest in Android.

It is an annual event that each year visits a different part of the UK in an effort to make it accessible for all.

Welcoming anyone, the event is designed to be a bit of fun and a great opportunity to talk Android and technology with others that are interested.

The event usually consists of demos, giveaways and more.

The organisers have confirmed that the 2014 March of the Droids will be taking place in Bournemouth, the home town of Clove Technology.

The date of the event is the 10th May 2014, with a start time of 12pm. 

It is being held at the Live Centre, 715 Wimborne Road, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH9 2AU.

Tickets are just £12.50, a fraction of the cost of other events and all proceeds are designed to cover the cost of the event, there are no ‘profits’ made here.

Purchase your ticket at www.marchofthedroids.co.uk or follow the event and attendees on Google+: http://plus.google.com/u/0/117302776812400153217/posts

LG G Pad hands on

Earlier this week, we posted here how we were now taking orders for the new G Pad 8.3 from LG.

Just a couple of days on and we have a sample of the G Pad that we can show off to you.

In the following video we give you a very quick hands on with the device, giving an overview of the key design and features.

You can find out more about the G Pad here or do check back within the next few days for further videos on tablet, that we will be posting.

Is there a need for an Android music player?

I posted an article a few weeks back asking whether a secondary music device was needed as well as your smartphone?

Has the lack of internal storage on your smartphone led to you pondering whether or not you need an MP3 player?

Yes you may have the ability to expand your memory with a micro SD card but so many of us are opting to listen to music through our favourite streaming apps. When you download music onto your device through Spotify you will not be given the option to download straight on to your SD card leaving you with just the one alternative – your internal storage.

If your device is not blessed with a large internal storage then you are highly likely to struggle once you’ve installed all of your favourite apps.

Of course we can just stream music straight from our apps without the need to worry about our internal storage, but what if there’s no internet connection where you are and you want to listen to your music? you’ll be kicking yourself thinking ‘if only I downloaded that album onto my phone’  you’d then be able to listen to your music in ‘offline’ mode – problem solved.

Many of us may still use an iPod as well as our smartphone but have you ever thought of using an Android based MP3 player that you can load certain apps on? this would be the perfect solution for those that own smartphones with limited storage as you can keep all of your music apps together with your offline music library.

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An Android based MP3 I hear you say? I wasn’t aware that one existed, I remember when Samsung released the Galaxy Player 50 a couple of years back, it was powered by Android (2.3) and featured a 5-inch display with 8GB of internal storage with the option of a micro SD card slot (32GB) however, it never really rose to prominence, perhaps it was the wrong time for Samsung to release an ‘MP3’ player at the time with Apple’s iPod dominating the market.

If you’re a music fanatic and do not have a top end smartphone with masses of internal storage then I would strongly recommend looking at alternatives like the one I just mentioned. Android based MP3 players will allow you to store apps with some even allowing you to stream through a Wi-Fi connection. You’ll also have the option of an offline library ensuring that you can listen to your favourite albums anywhere at any time.

Do you use an iPod/MP3 player as well as your smartphone or do you just opt to use your smartphone for sheer convenience? we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

Android 4.4 will be known as KitKat

No Key Lime Pie, but a KitKat and a glimpse of the Nexus 5

Android KitKat

In a move that has surprised nearly everybody, Google has announced that Android 4.4 will be known as ‘KitKat’.

Prior to yesterday’s announcement, it had been widely believed that the next iteration of the Android OS would be known as ‘Key Lime Pie’, but Google has now teamed up with Nestle to name the update after one of its ‘favourite chocolate treats’.

Seeing the Android man made up of five KitKat fingers makes a nice change. The Android website gives a run-through of previous versions and Nestle has also put up a nice page to celebrate the news.

The new KitKat page design is a parody of an Android device announcement and many have been quick to describe the included video, which describes KitKat 4.4 as ‘confectionary perfectionary’, as a jibe at the style of Apple.

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