At their developer conference this morning, Google has shown off their vision of the future, for the next 12 months at least and it looks like Artificial Intelligence is again taking centre stage across all their products from Android to the web.


Android Q Beta 3

As part of the announcement, many of the features announced are going live in Beta 3 of Android Q which is available to Pixel phones from today.

Google will also be expanding the availability of the Android Q Beta with 21 devices such as the Nokia 8.1, Huawei Mate 20 Pro and LG G8, from 12 OEMs including LG, Sony, Asus, Nokia, Huawei and more able to access the Beta.

The Beta will be available for these devices via the Android Beta control panel soon.

Dark Theme

Google has been slowly bringing a Dark Mode to their Android Apps over the past 12 months, but with Android Q they’re bringing a device wide dark theme to Android.

Accessible from either a tile in your quick settings, or turned on automatically as part of battery saver mode. Dark Theme is intended to save battery life by utilising less pixels on the OLED display on your phone.

Focus Mode

Getting work done with your phone sitting there ready to distract you is a chore, but Google is introducing a new Focus Mode for Android which will allow you to get work done, distraction free.

Focus Mode essentially lets you add your most attention seeking apps like email, social networking apps, games and more to a list which will not be allowed to notify you for a period of time you specify.

You’ll be able to switch Focus Mode on (and presumably off) easily through a tile in your Quick Settings menu.

Focus Mode isn’t just coming to the latest version of Android though, with Google advising this feature will be heading to both Android P and Android Q later this year.

Parental Controls – Family Link goes native

Google is also bringing Parental Controls to Android natively, letting you access all the controls previously included in the Family Link app to the Privacy Settings in Android natively.

With Android Q you’ll be able to do all the usual tasks like approving apps and websites your child wants to access and viewing their data on how long they spend in apps, and setting usage times and more in Settings.

Google is introducing a new option for parents to give their kids a little extra time on their device if they need it. Called ‘Bonus Time’ parents can also set additional time on a per app basis rather than on the whole device.

Live Captions

Google is launching a new feature for videos which will let you add subtitles to videos from the web, video chats or even from your own camera roll – with processing done right on your device.

The service will work with no communications back to Google with an AI model weighing in at a miniscule 80MB, down from 2GB that was required initially.

The feature is aimed at people who are hearing impaired, but in practcality it’s an amazing new feature that will let you watch videos anywhere, including in public or in a meeting, without disturbing anyone.

The feature will be turned off by default, but once enabled in Accessibilty Settings in Android Q you can access the service across all your apps as part of the volume UI.

Smart Replies and Suggested Actions

For users of Google’s GMail or Inbox (RIP), Smart Replies are a great feature offering tailored suggestions to reply to text messages, emails and more. Google is expanding the availability of Smart Replies to all third party messaging apps.

Google is also introducing suggested actions with intelligent suggestions of what your next action will be. It’s based on contextual awareness, so if someone sends you an address, you can just tap to open that address in Maps.

Faster Updates

Google is also introducing a new update method with Android Q utilising the Play Store instead of the usual update method. This new way, called Project Mainline, will let Google update components of devices without waiting on the OEMs to update their devices individually.

Google is breaking the Android Framework into modules behind the scenes that let them target different aspects of your phone like the camera and supply critical updates as required.

Google has been very much in need of this sort of update solution, however whether it actually results in more secure devices is the big question.

Google Maps goes Incognito

Google added incognito mode to Chrome back in 2004, now, with a broader focus on privacy they’re introducing the same option to Google Maps.

When you turn on Incognito Mode in Maps all of your searches and trips you take or places you navigate to won’t be recorded or linked to your Google Account.

Unfortunately Google hasn’t announced a time-frame on when this feature will be announced, but it won’t be too long.

Smart Displays start dropping ‘Hey Google’

One of the worst things about Google Home products is the requirement to use the ‘Hey Google’ wake word to perform even the simplest of Google I/O

Today Google VP of AI, Scott Huffman has announced that you can now stop timers and alarms on Smart Displays just by saying ‘Stop’, no wake word required. The best news is that this feature will begin rolling out on Smart Displays from today!

Google Lens improvements

Google has also rolled out improvements to Google Lens, with new features including the abiiity to point Google Lens at the menu of a restaurant you’re at and lens will show you photos of popular menu items pulled from Google Maps.

Once the bill comes you can then point lens at it and it will help split the bill, and if you’re in the US calculate a tip.

Augmented Reality Search

Google is bringing Augmented Reality to search announcing they’ll soon begin showing 3D models which can then be placed in the real world around you.

While Google showed off examples that would appear to young and old including 3D model of a great white shark, or a pair of shoes you want to purchase, there’s broader applications. Google showed off the ability for people to search in depth anatomical models of the human body and interact with them using Augmented Reality on their devices.

When the feature will launch in Search hasn’t been announced, but it’s likely to be later in the year.

Stay Tuned

While the big news has been unpacked during the keynote at Google I/O there will also be a lot announced during the developer sessions throughout the conference. If you’re keen to see what Google has to offer these sessions are, for the most part, live-streamed on YouTube. You can check out all the sessions on the Google I/O website