Google launches music streaming service, Galaxy S4 variant and new Hangouts messaging app

Google launches a new music streaming service, a Hangouts messaging app and overhauled Google Maps at its San Francisco conference

16 May 2013


Tech hipsters and IT geeks the world over have been salivating over the Google I/O developers conference in San Fran over the past few months and day one more than delivered on the hype.

Larry Page Google IO

Among the tech goodies delivered unto us by those shiny happy people at Mountain View were a music streaming subscription service, a pure Android version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and a new Hangouts messaging app. Oh, and it also found the time to rebuild its Maps service "from the ground up".

Play Music All Access - "Radio without rules"

We all love listening to music on our laptops and tablets. Google knows this - they're pretty clever folk at Mountain View - and has used its I/O conference to launch its own music subscription service, linked to Google Play.

Google describes its new Play Music All Access service as "radio without rules" and that's pretty much it. Users can build playlists and blend songs they've downloaded on Google Play with the millions available to stream in All Access, while an Explore feature recommends tunes it thinks you'll like.

With so many tracks on offer via your Android smartphone or tablet or web browser, you'll likely find your groove - whether you're into thrash metal, industrial techno or shamelessly cheesy pop.

"We set out to build a music service that didn't just give us access to great music but to help guide you to it," Google engineering director Chris Yerga said.

It'll go up against Spotify, Pandora and other similar streaming services - however, if you want to use it beyond the free trial period you'll have to stump up some dollar.

Pricing in the US will be 9.99 dollars per month, after an earlier introductory offer of 7.99 expires - but as Jessie J sang, it's not about the money, money, money. No, it's all about the tunes, tunes, tunes. The service will launch in other countries later.

Google announces pure Android Samsung Galaxy S4

When it came to the tech, tech, tech, Google also had soemthing to keep us keen - although the expected Nexus tablet failed to make an appearance.

It announced its own variant of the Samsung Galaxy S4 - a smartphone which has been racking up five-star reviews and Editors' Choice ratings all over the tech press (Stuff Magazine, CNET) since the original was unveiled at a surreally theatrical New York launch event.

The original S4 wowed with a screen that can be controlled via our eyes, a 13megapixel camera and speedy Snapdragon processor.

Although Google's new pure Android S4 handset will largely look the same it will offer a "skinless" Android 4.2 Jelly Bean Nexus experience.

Google Android Galaxy S4

This will appeal to those of us looking for a stripped-back approach, with the basic Android OS replacing Samsung's TouchWiz interface.

It will also be clever enough to update live with software updates, while its bootloader will come unlocked. It will be available in late June. We will wait with bated breath to see how the pure Android device stands up against the original.

More and more of us turning to Android

The new Android Galaxy comes at a time when we're going gaga for the operating system.

Google Android

Google cited figures showing 900 million activations of the OS - up from 400 million the same time a year earlier. Forget Zombie Nation, this is fast becoming Android Nation, or Android Globe.

Search the web with speech - "OK, Google"

Voice activation is a big deal in 2013. All the best phones feature it; we can search the web on our smart TVs using it. Now Google brings it to our web browser, well, to Chrome anyway.

Say "OK, Google", then tell your computer what you're looking for. It will search the web for info, book you a table at a restaurant or dig out photos of celebs when you're trying to find that all important hairstyle shot.

Think that's clever? Okay, it is. But it gets better. Google showed off how it can anticipate questions too, with an example of providing directions to a theme park from a restaurant it had booked earlier.

Hangouts gets its own messaging app

Another massive craze at the moment are messaging apps - figures last month showed that messages on apps such as Whatsapp had overtaken traditional SMS texts for the first time ever last year.

Now Google has joined the party, with a new multi-platform messaging app along the lines of Whatsapp and Skype.

Whether enjoying a video chat with friends or texting your mum, the Google Hangouts messaging app will have it covered between Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, as well as if you're chatting via your web browser at home.

Through the looking Glass - Google coy on revolutionary wearable tech

There had been much speculation that we'd be seeing and hearing more about Google Glass in San Francisco.

Glass is the tech giant's revolutionary internet-connected specs, which can take pictures, shoot video, search the web, give directions and hold video calls (among other things).

Glass was launched last year with an all-singing, all dancing performance showing Glass-wearing skydivers leaping from a plane.

Google Glass IO Booth

This year the Glass activity was a little more sedate. There were no details given about the launch, nor the number of Glass sets in production.

Instead, Google chief Larry Page chatted briefly about the project.

He said: "Glass is a new category, quite different than existing computing devices and so I think it's great that we've started on it and our main goal is to get happy users."

Google Maps - rebuilt from the ground up

Google also unveiled an overhaul of its Maps service which tailors the experience closer to us humble individual users.

How it works is basically by labelling things to match what we're interested in. So, if you're looking at a map of the same area as your pal, what you see could feature slightly different additional info.

When scouring Google Maps to find directions we'll also be notified of businesses in the local area which have offers and deals. It's thought this could open up Maps to more advertisers.

So, how is Google making Maps more personal to you? Here are a couple of ways.

If your friends on Google+ have given a restaurant or shop in the local area a good review, Google will highlight it on your map - giving you a virtual heads-up to good places to eat.

When you're planning a day out in somewhere like London, Google will highlight tourism sites similar to the one you initially searched for - great if you're planning to gorge yourself on arts, culture and history and need a helping hand.

So, there we have it - we expected much from Google's I/O and so far, the tech giant has certainly delivered. Details on Glass were scant, there was no Nexus, or Chromebooks, no new version of Andriod - but there was plenty to keep us ticking over.

What do you make of these innovations? Comment below...