The bulk of the opening keynote of Google’s I/O conference is now over, and they’ve left us quite a bit to talk about. The search engine giant has announced several bids to increase their already impressive reach with the new Nexus Q streaming media device, as well as the Nexus 7 tablet, and all on top of a swanky new version of Android. It’s a good day to be a droid.
Nexus Q “Social Streaming Media Player”
The Nexus Q, Google’s shot at the Apple TV, is a small sphere-like streaming device that aims to help the TV and sound system you already have make use of any Android devices you also might already have in your home (so long as they’re running 2.3 or higher). The Nexus Q has 16GB flash memory, 1GB of RAM, and connects with your TV via HDMI, and also has an optical audio port and an Ethernet jack. The orb also comes with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC support, runs Android 4.0 and even has its own built-in 25-watt amp to power any speakers it’s attached to. The point of all this, of course, is to allow users to “push” video content to your TV and speakers from any compatible Android device.
There are, of course, a few downsides, or at least mitigating factors. Unlike competitors like Roku and Apple TV, the Nexus Q only supports a handful of Google-owned services like Google Play Music, Google Play Movies and TV and YouTube. Google’s been quick to emphasize that the Nexus Q is intended to be “hackable” so you might be able to find 3rd party hacks to make up for the compatibility it lacks, but that’s bound to take some effort. The sleek little sucker isn’t exactly cheap either. You’ll have to part with $300 if you want one of these, and $400 if you’re interested in getting the set of speakers that are specially designed for it. It looks like Google really, really wants you to fall in love with its Google Play store, but at a price this high, that might be a little hard.
The Nexus 7 Tablet
Let’s just jump into the specs, shall we?
- Built by ASUS
- 7-inch, IPS display
- runs Android 4.1 Jellybean
- 1280 x 800 display
- quadcore tegra 3 processor
- 12-core GPU
- front-facing camera
- Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC
- 9-hours of video play from battery, 300 hours on standby
- 340 grams (about .75 pounds)
- 8GB model for $199, 16GB for $249
- For a limited time, it comes with Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and a $25 credit for Google Play
You can order now and they ship mid-July. Overall thoughts: It seems like a super-charged Kindle Fire that runs actual Android. Definitely seems like super capable for a low-end tablet.
Android 4.1 Jellybean
- Android 4.1 features something called “Butter” which ups the framerate to 60fps to make everything feel “buttery smooth.”
- Voice typing is now available offline, no data connection required.
- The keyboard now features predictive functionality that will not only try to finish your words for you, but aim to guess at what word you might want to say next. Only English is on the table right now, but 18 more are coming down the pipe.
- The built-in camera app gets an interfacelift. You can now pinch to immediately review all the photos you’ve just taken, and swipe any you don’t want off the screen.
- A bunch of new notification functionality. A wealth of apps are getting notification functionality that allows users to interact with notifications and not have to open the actual apps. For example, users can now call people back from a button inside the “missed call notification,” email meeting attendees from the calender notification about said meeting, and more.
- Mobile search will now return a result which is basically a white card containing data from the Knowledge Graph. If you don’t like that, you can just swipe the result card to the side, and it’ll show the normal search results.
- Google Now, a feature which takes a look at your search history, calender, and other personal data and automatically provides you with information you might be interested in. For example, Google Now can figure out what your favorite sports team is from your searches, and will automatically give you information about scores, upcoming games, etc. In conjunction with maps, Google Now can help you do things like figure out when a bus or a train is arriving, figure out how long it’ll take you to walk somewhere and more. Could be promising if it works as well as they make it look.
- Google Play is picking up movies and TV, partnered with ABC, NBC, Paramount, Disney and Sony. It’s getting magazines too.
4.1 Jellybean will be coming as an OTA update in mid-July. The developer preview SDK is available now.