We recently wrote on ITProPortal that we didn’t expect any huge announcements at Google I/O like last year. Whilst there wasn’t a skydive to introduce Google Glass or a new official Nexus device unveiled, Google announced some numbers which blew us away and unveiled some of the improvements to their ecosystem.

In 2012, Google announced 400 million Android activations. Fast forward one year and this number has more than doubled to 900 million activations. It’s pretty mind blowing to think that there are almost as many people with Android devices as there are people that live in the United States, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan combined. Almost one in six people on the planet therefore has an Android device. That’s a pretty big market opportunity if you happen to be a developer.

In other positive news, the revenue per user is now 2.5 times what it was a year ago, with Google having paid more money to developers so far this year than in the whole of last year. This is good news for game developers and teams building productivity tools that they hope to sell to consumers and businesses. It should also help to bring more ‘app firsts’ to Android from iOS if developers think they can get the user base and revenues.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention app installs. Apple just announced that they’ve had 50 billion app installs since launching the App Store in 2008 (a year after the iPhone came out.) Android, which launched in the same year has just passed 48 billion app installs. Not bad for a company that only had 100 million users two years ago.

The biggest news for us developers was the unveiling of Android Studio, the successor to their plugin for Eclipse. This includes a developer tool that is designed to test for layout issues across different screen sizes. After struggling with Eclipse’s quirks for so long, many developers jumped-ship to a third party platform,IntelliJ IDE. Google’s internal developers seem to have done the same and have created an impressive new IDE based on it. Following our initial testing of the platform, it’s a step in the right direction but feels quite slow and buggy. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this as the bugs get ironed out.

One of the common challenges that developers face is how to optimise an app for all of the different screen sizes, screen resolutions, processors and other hardware choices. There are literally thousands of different options and managing it all on Android is a huge challenge. Android Studio should help to overcome some of these problems.

Many of us use our phones for directions but there is nothing more depressing than getting half way to a location and seeing your phone run out of juice. We are therefore more than a little bit happy that Google’s introduced some sexy new location features. Location is one of the elements that make mobile apps so cool and powerful, but users often turn off their device’s GPS capabilities to try and get at least a full day’s use out of their battery.

First up is Fused Location Provider. We’ll admit that the name doesn’t sound too sexy but what it does is pretty astonishing. This API allows us to make apps that use less than one percent of battery per hour. We’ll be interested to see how this will impact Google Maps navigation on a phone once the API has been implemented. That should give a pretty good indication as to how much extra juice Fused Location will give mobile users. It should enable us to build some exciting apps for field workers who don’t have the luxury of constant power supply.

Next up is geofencing. Whilst this will be hugely popular with mobile marketing campaigns, we can see great uses for it in the enterprise space to help identify when employees get to certain locations and can be sent messages or have apps react in contextual ways to suit the location. It’s a service that’s been offered by third parties recently, but it’s nice to see a native offering from Google.

Finally for location, Google blew our minds with a new API that will be able to recognise the activity users are doing. Whilst the focus for these features will mainly be consumer apps that help improve users health, the ways in which we could enhance the enterprise space with this type of API is pretty exciting. It promises to be able to work out whether users are walking, riding a bike, driving a car or other types of activity – we’ll have to try it out to see if the accuracy is good enough.

All of this should work pretty well with the new and improved Google Maps due to land very shortly.

Aside from Hangouts, a new app that is designed to take on Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, SMS and all of the thousands of other messaging mobile platforms out there; Google also launched enhancements to their push notification platform. Google Cloud Messaging now allows messages back to the server, rather than just being pushed one-way to devices.

It’s a welcome feature though we suspect that for developers who have short development cycles and are writing cross-platform solutions, Urban Airship may remain attractive.

Plus size
Anyone who has logged into Google in the past year or two will have seen how eager the company is to get users to have a Google+ account. With the latest updates, when users use Google+ sign in, they can push apps to all of their devices with just one click where they’ll be logged in and ready to use. This means that if you use Google Chrome on any device, you’ll always have the same information or data. By using a range of web tools, Google showed off a racing game running over Google phones, tablets and the iPhone and iPad. From a collaboration point of view, this type of technology could be used to create some interesting tools.

For the rest of the information about Google I/O about it’s new music service, game service and more, we’d recommend checking out The Verge or ITProPortal.

Jonathan Fisher, Android Technical Team Lead with input from Daniel Box and Andy Barber

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