Though Google I/O 2013 will be remembered for its lack of new hardware announcements, the annual conference did feature a number of interesting feature enhancements to search and Google+, a new music service, a huge upgrade to Google Maps and new gaming functionality for Android. A number of third-party vendors were also on hand to show off their latest wares, which included a pair of intriguing heads-up displays.
These are the 10 most interesting stories to come out of Google I/O 2013.
Pure-Android Galaxy S4 Coming
Samsung's Galaxy S series is one of the most popular smartphone lineups on the market today. That may be why Google bets some users and developers will want Samsung's latest Galaxy S device with a stock Android operating system, instead of Samsung's customized Touchwiz UI. The Galaxy S4 with pure Android will go sale on June 26 for $649 for use on T-Mobile and AT&T's LTE networks and pack 16GB of internal storage and an unlocked boot loader for easy flashing and ROM installation. One other selling point: The Galaxy S4 with pure Android will likely receive updates to new Android builds faster than its Samsung-controlled counterpart.
Google Play Music All Access Streaming Service
Google Play Music is a fine place to shop for tunes, but the big G has bigger plans for its music market. Starting today, all tracks in the Play music store can be streamed for $9.99 a month. Whatever you're listening to can be made into its own radio station and you can view the list of upcoming tracks and remove them from the queue. Those are DJ privileges you can't make with Spotify or Pandora. Plus, if you sign up before July the Google Play Music All Access costs just $7.99.
New Google Plus Features
Google rolled out a whopping 41 improvements to its social network that collectively change the service across the board, from the way you read your friends' updates to how you create photo albums. There's a new three-column stream that lets you view more updates from your Circles at one time, a new hash tag suggestion tool that recommends tags to make your content easier to find and a new algorithm that can pull out the best pictures in a batch upload to make a great-looking album.
Improved Google Maps for Mobile
Google Maps for your smartphone and tablet not only just got sharper thanks to improved 3D cityscapes, but also added the wisdom of restaurant review service Zagat. Like special deals in Foursquare, "Google Offers" now appear when you open a business page in Google Maps. In its demo, Google tapped on a San Francisco Starbucks to reveal a half-off deal for coffee. The company says it's partnered with many businesses for more Offers, and that more are sure to come.
Personalized Google Maps Results
How do you make Google Maps on your desktop or PC more personal? Design it to remember businesses you visit most often, offer suggestions based on previous searches and build access to your social networks into the map interface. If you really want to check out a business before you venture out, you can use the 3D Photo Sphere Tool to take a 360-degree tour of the venue's interior, essentially a user-submitted Google Street View for the insides of restaurants, coffee shops, bars and other nearby destinations.
New Gaming Functions
Thanks to a new set of APIs, gaming on Android devices is going to get a real kick in the butt. Soon game designers will be able to allow players to save their game play via the cloud. That means you can finish up a challenging Temple Run level on a smartphone and start the next level on an Android tablet. The OS now also supports leaderboards for stats on other players, and multi-player mode, where you can add Google Plus friends for a shared matchup.
Conversational Search Comes to the Desktop
Android users have been able to search by voice for a while now, but soon PC and Mac users will be able to ask Google questions like "Who is the prime minister of Japan?" directly from their Chrome browsers. In addition, the new conversational search will feature contextual answers so if you ask it "Where is San Jose?" your nextquestioncan be "How do I get there from here?" and the software will know that you are referring to San Jose because you asked about it before. Google Now will feature a number of additional cards, including a reminder service.
Wearable Computer Uses Head Movements for Navigation
Google Glass wasn't the only wearable computer appearing at Google I/O this year. Epson and APX labs showed off a modified version of the Epson Movario BT-100 running an app that lets you navigate through YouTube just by tilting your head. While wearing the prototype, we were able to browse through a video wall, launch clips and pause, forward or rewind them just by tilting our head ever-so-slightly.
Recon Jet Headset Set to Challenge Google Glass
Recon has long been known for its line of computer-enabled sports goggles. The upcoming Recon Jet takes the company to a whole new level because it runs the latest version of Android, allowing users to potentially use any app they want. A durable design and user-replaceable battery make this a serious Google Glass competitor, at least for active users.
Street View Goes Off-Road with Camera Backpack
Ever wonder how Google's Street View team gets all those pictures of faraway places? At Google I/O we had a chance to try on the Street View Trekker, a backpack with 15 cameras that Googlers use to capture images of places no car can go, such as the Grand Canyon or narrow side streets in Venice.