Google is in fast pursuit of the “Android everywhere” mentality, which will aim to bake the most popular mobile operating system into gadgets that extend beyond smartphones and tablets. The blueprint for Android’s vision was outlined at Google’s annual I/O conference in 2014, and the options seemed limitless. We finally got an idea of what the search giant has to offer at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The familiar Android platform was still there, albeit on unfamiliar devices for cars and televisions. Smartphones, tablets and other Google trademarks had their time in the spotlight as well. So, let’s take a look at some of the tech that stole the spotlight at CES 2015.
“The right information for the road ahead”
It’s no secret that Google has been toying around with new ideas related to cars and Android integration. With a driverless car in the works, Android Auto for the common consumer was an inevitability. If you’re concerned about any possible distractions while driving down the road, you’re worries can be put to rest. In fact, Android Auto was actually designed to, ironically, minimize distractions. “Reports show that 25% of accidents in the U.S. are caused by people fumbling with gadgets behind the wheel,” said Patrick Brady, Director of Engineering for Android at Google I/O 2014. “There’s gotta be a better way.”
The “better way” to stay connected in the car resulted in an Android redesign bringing navigation, communication and music front & center. At CES 2015, we saw some of the innovative steps automakers are taking to bring a safe, yet immersive Android experience to your car. But before you rush out to buy a new vehicle, be sure to check out the Android Auto accessories from third-party vendors.
CES 2015 highlights:
Drive Agent Mirror: Robin Labs and Pioneer partnered up for an Android-powered rear-view mirror with a voice recognition system. Theoretically, the Drive Agent Mirror is considered less distracting than an in-dash system, because drivers regularly glance at the mirror anyway. Could it really be less distracting? Time will tell.
Parrot’s RNB6: Parrot’s head unit actually works for both Android Auto and CarPlay. The 7-inch HD fits into your dash, and brings everything from your phone to your car. Including the operating system, Parrot’s RNB6 will also pack internal storage and inputs for radio. Added features could lead to a lofty price tag, though.
Kenwood DDX9902S: Kenwood’s in-dash unit also supports Android and Apple platforms. In fact, the DDX9902S is comparable to Parrot’s RNB6 in many ways. You can expect a lot of the same audio sources and inputs. No release date has been set, but it’s likely to be available at some point in 2015.
“Wear what you want”
Is Google Glass dead before it truly began? That’s what folks are speculating, even in the early stages. It all started with Google shutting down its Glass Explorer program. Now, apparently, it’s back to the drawing board. But if Glass really is a thing of the past, can the Android Wear smartwatch serve as an adequate replacement?
Judging by the sheer number of new smartwatches at this year’s CES, the answer is yes. At this point, the field has grown significantly and has shown no signs of stopping. Most popular watches run the gamut in price from $199 and climb all the way up to $399. If the price doesn’t sway your position, the design most likely will. Some smartwatches have a bulky, unattractive design, and it continues to be one of the biggest gripes. At CES, we started to see a swing toward a more traditional wrist watch. And that might be enough to push the average person into making the purchase.
CES 2015 highlights
Hyundai Blue Link: Hyundai’s Blue Link app has been in the Google Play store for some time. Android Wear functionality, however, is brand new. With your smartwatch, you’ll be able to lock or unlock your door, start your car, honk the horn and flash the lights. Only if you have a Hyundai, of course.
BBM: The messenger service from Blackberry will soon joining the Android Wear ranks. You’ll be able to check messages, accept invites from contacts and respond to messages with canned responses. All of which can be done without digging out your phone.
GoldKey Secure Communicator: Security firm GoldKey displayed its first Android smartwatch, with a twist. It doesn’t require a phone. Instead, the watch supports SIM cards from many of the major carriers, so you can still browse the web, make calls and download apps.
“Entertainment tailored for you”
Android TV is another attempt to make up for a largely unsuccessful run by Google TV, discontinued in January 2015. Will the move to a bigger screen pay off this time around? We will have to wait and see. If it’s any consolation, reviewers seem to be much more confident in the versatile direction of Android TV than Google’s first foray into television.
You can expect a lot more from Android TV. Personalized content. Google Cast. Gaming. These extra features will make you quickly forget Google TV ever existed in the first place.
CES 2015 Highlights:
Razer Forge TV: The Forge TV from Razer was a big hit at CES. Not only will you have a wide array of Google Play games to choose from, but you will have PC streaming at your disposal, too. Obviously, Android TV can be used for entertainment purposes outside of gaming as well.
Sony Bravia TVs: Sony announced several Bravia TVs, all of which will run on Android. A trackpad will replace a traditional remote, and a microphone is included for voice search. They are set for release this spring.
Sharp UE30 and UH30 TVs: Sharp’s UE30 and UH30 TVs might be set for a later release than Sony’s Bravia line. Yet, given the preview at CES, they might be worth the wait. Both options range in size from 60 - 80 inches and place a heavy emphasis on picture quality.
What about phones and tablets? Oh, there were plenty of those, too. LG showed up with the curvy second iteration of the G Flex. Kodak’s IM5 and Asus Zenfone Zoom both pack a 13-megapixel camera for burgeoning photographers. And gamers can pick up the W3D from Snail, an Android smartphone with physical game controls. Tablets from heavy hitters like Samsung were hard to come by at CES. We did have the massive, 65-inch Fuhu Nabi Big Tab XL for living room entertainment. Polaroid also made an appearance with two tablets from their L series.
“You are using other connected devices: the television in your living room, you’re increasingly wearing things on your body, when you get into your car, you expect a connected experience,” Android chief Sundar Pichai said at Google I/O 2014. “We want to work to create a seamless experience across all these connected devices.”
Now that many of these devices have staked their claim, is it time to make Android ubiquitous?