If you use Google’s services such as search, Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Chrome, Google Plus and others, be prepared for the changes headed your way. Last week, Google hosted its annual I/O developer conference where it announced updates to many of its services, adding features to improve your experience.
Google Maps will be changing to bring you more personalized information. When you click on a location, a card will appear with relevant information about that spot. You’ll be able to see ratings and reviews for businesses, as well as how to get there by car or public transportation. Log into Google Maps with your Google account and connect to your Google Plus friends to see their recommendations.
Google Maps will also be able to alert you to traffic incidents along your planned route and reroute you to avoid congestion.
Google is also working to integrate Google Earth 3D view, Street View and photos into Google Maps so you’ll also be able to view these in Maps without the need for switching apps or downloading additional software. Check out this interactive preview of Google Maps and request an invitation to access the new Google Maps.
This video will give you a preview of what Google Maps will have to offer soon:
Over the summer, Google will be updating its Maps app for Android and iOS to include these features and will launch a dedicated iPad app.
Google hasn’t ignored the foundation of its business — Google search is being updated with more sophisticated voice search capabilities. While you already can do voice searches on Google, soon you’ll be able to use conversational language to conduct your searches, similar to Siri. You’ll be able to ask questions such as, “What’s the weather in Honolulu today?” or “What’s the population of China?” and get your answers from Google.
Google has also improved its search to anticipate the next question people will ask and give you those results as well. You might be able to see how the population of a region has changed over time or see the population density of a region. That’s right, Google will give you the search results you’re looking for before you even ask for them. Prepare to be spoiled.
Google search is expanding the number of languages you can use for your searches, adding Polish, Turkish, and Traditional and Simplified Chinese.
You can find out more about the improved Google search features from the Google blog.
Google has brought more Siri-like capabilities to your phone with Google Now. Google Now is available on Android and on iPhone/iPad and iPod Touch when you update your Google iOS app. Google Now can remind you to stop by the grocery store, leave for the airport in time and read a new book when it’s released. You can set your reminders by time or place so you won’t have any more excuses for forgetting appointments or errands.
Check out this head-to-head comparison of Siri vs. Google Now from c|net:
Google Play Music All Access
Google is giving Spotify and Pandora some competition by launching All Access, a music streaming service available by subscription. All Access gives you the ability to stream millions of songs in Google’s music service over Wi-Fi or your cellular data service. All Access works with songs you’ve uploaded into your Google Music locker so you can play your saved music as well as music from their service.
With All Access, you can create your own radio stations and get recommendations from Google Music about what songs you might like. The service offers unlimited skips, in case you want to move ahead to the next song.
You can listen to Google Music All Access when you’re connected to the Internet on your computer and your Android device using the Google Play Music app. If you want to listen offline, you can purchase music through Google Play instantly to have the song or album added to your Google Music locker.
All Access is free for 30 days and then $9.99/month after that for unlimited listening. The monthly fee is reduced to $7.99/month if you sign up for the service before June 30. 2013. Check out Google Play Music All Access to sign up for your free 30 day trial.
Gmail will become easier to use after Google rolls out its changes to its email service. Google will be adding “quick action” buttons to Gmail that let you take actions such as responding to invitations and rating restaurants without having to open emails first. Developers will be able to add quick action buttons to their apps so expect to see more of these buttons with your email messages.
You’ll soon be able to use Gmail to send money via Google Wallet, even if the recipient doesn’t use Gmail. You can either send money to them directly through Google Wallet or by attaching the funds to an email, either from your desktop or from your mobile device.
Here’s a video showing how Gmail Send Money works:
If you haven’t been to Google Plus in the past week, well you’re in for a surprise. Google Plus has adopted the popular pin board format for posts, now called cards, to make your stream seem more clean and less cluttered with multiple columns.
You can revert to the single column look by clicking the More button on the top menu and choosing Stream Layout.
Google Plus is also adding hashtags automatically to make searching for posts easier and more accurate. You can even flip posts/cards over to get more information about a topic. Google Deals will also be added to Google Plus so you can discover deals and share them with your friends.
For an excellent and thorough explanation of the changes to Google Plus, check out Kim Castleberry’s article, 15 Things You Need To Know About The #NewGooglePlus.
Here’s a video showing Google Plus in action:
Google Plus Hangouts is transforming to become even more powerful. Google has launched a new Hangouts app for iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch and Android so you can hangout with your friends using group video chat more easily when you’re on the go. (Unless you have an unlimited data plan, make sure to connect to Wi-Fi before joining a Hangout.)
Hangouts is now more of a unified messaging service now, with the ability to use text and video chats from within the service.
You also will be able to save text and images from your Hangouts from mobile and desktop.
Here’s a video to learn about Hangouts and give you a smile for the day:
To see which of your friends are available for a Hangout, look for a green line under their profile picture in the right sidebar of Google Plus.
Bonus Tip: Next time you’re in a fun Google Hangout, type /ponies in the chat thread to see My Little Pony run across your screen. Type /ponystream for a herd of ponies cavorting on your screen. Note that they will only be visible on computers, those using Google Hangouts on a mobile app will wonder why everyone else in the Hangout is giggling. (Also check out /bikeshed and /shydino for more fun!)
Google wants to make your Google Plus photos automagically better. When you upload your photos to Google Plus and enable the feature, Google will automatically enhance your images to improve them. If you take a series of photos of a group of people, Google will combine them into one image of the best shots of each person.
Google has increased your storage space for photos. You can now store full resolution photos using to 15 GB of storage space, shared with your Gmail and Google Drive. You can share smaller images (2048 pixels) in unlimited storage space.
YouTube channels that have over 1000 subscribers and are in good standing will be eligible to live stream their videos from around the globe. Find out how to enable YouTube Live from the website.
Google announced Google Play Games Services which lets you save your game progress and high scores, similar to Game Center on iOS. You can see your achievements and compete on leader boards around the world and among your Google Plus friends.
Google is working on multi-player games for you to play using Chrome on your Android or iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch. No apps or downloads required and up to five players can play at once.
Here’s a Chrome game called Racer being played by five players at once:
Google Play for Education
Google is adding a section to Google Play so educators can more easily locate educational apps and services from developers. Google Play for Education will also help developers get attention for their educational apps.
If you’re one of the lucky few to get ahold of Google Glass, rejoice! Google announced that additional apps that can be used with Glass: CNN, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Evernote, and Elle. (My hunch: if you care enough about fashion to be reading Elle, then you probably aren’t an early adopter of Google Glass.)
The only constant in tech is change. The changes to Google services announced last week will probably have an impact on you unless you’re a rare person who doesn’t use any Google services. You may find that these changes make Google’s services even more useful for you. By learning about the changes to Google, you can figure out how use them best to fit your lifestyle.
What are your favorite changes announced by Google last week? Which ones will be the most useful to you? Are there any changes that you dislike? Let us know in the Comments section below!
*Google Glass dog image by Thomas Hawk