Google intros new Android gaming and streaming music services, will offer Nexus-style Galaxy S4
During its Google I/O developer's conference, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) announced a new Android gaming service and a new, subscription-based music streaming service. The company also announced a range of new APIs and services for its Android developers.
The goal, the company said, is to increase the number of Android users across the world; the company said it has already recorded 900 million Android device activations in 2013, up from 400 million last year.
In other Android metrics, Google said it has so far recorded a total of 48 billion Android app downloads through Google Play. The company also said it has paid out more to Android developers this year than all of last year. Finally, the company said Android app revenues are two and a half times more this year than what they were a year ago, although Google didn't provide specific numbers.
Google's gaming service
Perhaps the most notable announcement from Google is the company's new Google Play Game Services launch, which is the Android equivalent to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Game Center for iOS. Google's new Game Services offering allows developers to store players' game progress in the cloud, thus allowing game players to continue a game at the same place on a difference device. The offering also supports cross-device achievements and leaderboards, as well as multiplayer games via Google+ accounts.
Importantly, Google said it would launch Google Play Game Services on Android, iOS and the Web--that Google is taking the service onto Apple's iOS platform represents another stab by Google into Apple's iOS ecosystem. Google's Maps for iOS is already one of the platform's leading mapping services, representing a knock against Apple's own Maps product.
Google's streaming music service
Separately, Google also announced its new Google Play Music All Access streaming music service, which builds on the music storage service Google launched two years ago and the digital music storefront it launched shortly after that. Google's Chris Yerga explained that Google's new streaming music service takes a "uniquely Google approach" to music listening and discovery, offering personalized recommendations, featured content and music tailored to users' music collections and previous listening behavior.
The service allows users to listen to specific songs and albums and to create radio stations based on any song or artist. "This is radio without rules," Yerga boasted. The offering could cut into similar services like Spotify, Pandora and other digital music providers.
Google Play Music All Access is launching now with a 30-day free trial for users in the United States. After that free trial period, the service will cost $9.99 per month (though users who sign up for the service this month will pay $7.99 per month). Google said the streaming music offering will launch in "additional countries soon," though it did not provide details.
Google's Galaxy S4
Interestingly, Google also said it will sell a version of Samsung's new Galaxy S4 that does not feature any of Samsung's Android software additions. Instead Google's version of the Galaxy S4 will run the stock version of Google's Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. "It's Google's take on Android, and it feels awesome on the Galaxy S4," said Google's Hugo Barra.
Barra said the Google S4 will sell through Google Play as an unlocked device for AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile US' (NYSE:TMUS) networks. The device will sport 16 GB of memory, will be bootloader unlocked and will get Android system updates "promptly."
Barra said the gadget will go on sale June 26 for $649 (a price that did not elicit any applause from the Google I/O audience).
Other developer announcements
In other Android developer announcements, Google said it is launching three new APIs for location:
1. Fused location provider, which Google said will allow apps to acquire location data faster and with less battery power.
2. Geofencing, which Google said will allow developers to create up to 100 set geographic locations. Geofencing creates location boxes that can, for example, alert users when they are nearing their home or their workplace.
3. Activity recognition, which Google explained will allow Android applications to track when users are cycling, walking or driving. "We think there is going to be a whole new category of awesome apps that take advantage of this opportunity," said Barra.
Separately, Google also said it expanded the functions of its Google Cloud Messaging service for Android developers, which the company first introduced last year. The Google Cloud Messaging service, which currently supports 200,000 messages per second, now supports persistent connections, upstream messaging (to send data from an app to a developer's server) and synchronization across devices.
Google also introduced a range of new application creation and management tools. First, the company unveiled its new Android Studio app development program, which is based on the Intellij product from JetBrains. Google said the new Studio product will help developers speed up the development of Android applications.
Finally, Google's Elle Powers announced new additions to the Google Play Developer Console, which Google introduced last year. The Google Play Developer Console now offers new features including an app translation service, which Google said, for example, can translate an app into Russian so Android developers can easily target new markets. The Console also now supports ad referral tracking, thus allowing developers to better understand how their mobile app advertising efforts are performing. It also allows Android developers to launch and track alpha and beta application tests.
- see this Google live stream
Special Report: Google I/O 2013: Complete coverage
Report: Google launching subscription-based streaming music service
Rumor Mill: Google building mobile music service to challenge Spotify
Google Music update brings downloads, YouTube sharing
Google Music storefront goes live on Android Market
Google expands Music Beta to Apple's iOS via HTML5 web app
NPD: Half of smartphone owners use their device for music listening
Report: Apple's iRadio stalled by label royalty demands