If you thought the good stuff was all at I/O, you’d be wrong.
Two major Android updates have landed today, along with two others that went a bit under the radar. The first, a big update for Chrome, adds some really nice functionality. We’ll get full screen mode, as well as some smaller tweaks that really enhance the overall experience. For tablet users, the history function is really special.
From the Chrome Release Blog:
The Chrome team is excited to announce the promotion of Chrome 27 to the Stable channel. Chrome for Android 27.0.1453.90 contains a number of improvments including:
- Fullscreen on phones – Scroll down the page and the toolbar will disappear.
- Simpler searching – Searching from the omnibox will keep your search query visible in the omnibox, making it easier to edit, and show more on your search result page.
- Client-side certificate support – You can now access sites that require you to use a certificate and Chrome will allow you to select an installed certificate
- Tab history on tablets – Long press the browser back button to view your tab history
- And a ton of stability and performance fixes
Google Earth also got an update to version 7.1.1, and adds some really cool functionality we saw at I/O. In the recent Google Maps update, Street View for the browser was updated. The update gave us a new fly-in animation, which is the same type of thing we see in the new Google Earth for Android update. While the Maps app hasn’t yet been updated, this all seems to be a precursor for that. Additionally, we get some very Map-like features, such as directions and transit info. From the Google Play Store:
New in 7.1.1
- Google Maps Street View: With Street View, you can explore the world at street level.
- Improved directions/search: Updated directions let you can visualize transit, walk, bike and drive directions in 3D while update search result list will let you browse search results quickly.
- Improved interface: Easily browse and enable different layers through use of new left hand panel
Google Play Music, which was already amazing, also received an update. The update is not as major as the All Access update, but delivers another layer of utility. All very small tweaks that add to the rich experience we have already come to enjoy, it also proves that Google is very serious about All Access. If you liked Play Music (especially All Access) before, you’re going to really enjoy the tweaks this update has for you. The changelog notes the following:
- Brand new user interface for phone, tablet, and TV
- Support for All Access subscription service in the US
- Key All Access features: Explore section to discover new music, Radio with unlimited skips, Add albums to My Library, Share and subscribe to playlists
- New Listen Now page that makes it easy to find something to play
- Swipe to remove from playlist or queue
- Swipe to switch songs on the now playing screen or now playing bar
- Go to album or artist from any song
Finally, we have Drive for Android. Of all the updates today, this was the most poignant. An updated UI brings a fresh look, and one that ties into other Google Android services. Aside from the fresh coat of paint, the new grid view cements the cohesive look. Accessing the grid view makes Drive look like the Play Store, with your folders up top as small icons, and files below as larger ones. Another exceedingly cool function is the ability to get a quick view of files or folders. So often we forget just where something is, or what that file really contains. This all serves to make life easier, faster, and simpler.
If that wasn’t enough, you can also download files locally, and scanned documents will be scanned for content to aid in searches. It’s a whole lot of awesome, packed into one slim app. Impressive isn’t the word. From the Play Store “What’s New” tab:
- New grid view makes it easier to find your files
- New quick preview lets you view photos and other files from within the app
- Scan documents, receipts and letters for safe keeping in Drive; then search by contents once uploaded
- Download a copy of files to your local device (Honeycomb+)
- Spreadsheet editor now supports changing fonts, colors and cell alignment
- View properties of files from within the editors
- Bug fixes and visual improvements
I found that in all three app updates (not Chrome), Google has implemented a left-hand side menu. Three little bars, in the top left, all hiding a slide-out menu. It’s a nice feature, and allows us to focus on the necessary stuff. The Android team clearly understands that screen real estate is at a premium, and bottom bars are fussy.
It may seem as though the slide-out menu on the left will compete with the drop-down menu we’re used to, but it doesn’t. They are meant to achieve different things altogether. The slide-out menu is more about discovery, while the drop-down menu is about actions. For instance, the slide-out menu in Earth is for layers, while the drop-down menu is for actions like finding your location, or changing settings. In Drive, the left menu is for accessing folders or offline docs, the other is for adding a new document or refining search. Left side ‘find’, right side ‘do’. Pretty simple, yeah?
Play Music and Drive also share a new look, which ties them into the Play Store update from a few weeks ago. If the new look is any indication of HOLO, count me in. They’re beautiful, easy to use, and seem snappier.
Android is a mature system. As we’ve said time and again, shared functionality is the new path forward. Drive looks absolutely gorgeous, and gives users some major enhancements they’ve been requesting. Play Music continues to wow us, and Earth is priming itself for a Maps bear-hug. We’re excited for what’s next, which is what Google always delivers on.