News of the new Nexus 7 leaked early, so the highlight of today’s breakfast with Sundar Pichai was a product that truly surprised us: Chromecast, a tiny, $35 dongle that streams audio and video to your TV from phones, tablets and laptops. But that wasn’t all: the new Nexus 7 emerged as expected, with a slimmer form factor and significantly improved screen. So did Android 4.3, an incremental update to Jelly Bean that improves graphics performance and communication between devices. We learned that more than 50 billion apps have now been downloaded from Google Play — 2 billion of them since Google I/O in May — and that more than 1 million apps are now available in the store. If you missed our liveblog of the day’s events, all the news is below.
Google’s first announcement Wednesday was the slim new Nexus 7, which Google bills as the world’s highest-resolution 7-inch tablet. The new Nexus has a “true 1080p display” of 323 pixels per square inch, up from 216 ppi in the original. At 2 mm thinner and 50 grams lighter, the tablet promises to feel better in the hand than last year’s model. It should sound better, too: the new Nexus includes dual stereo speakers. And it ships with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean.
The new Nexus 7 is Google’s first unlocked LTE tablet, and it’s compatible with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon’s networks. It costs $229 for the 16 GB model, $269 for the 32 GB model, and $349 for the 32 GB model with LTE. Beginning July 30, you’ll be able to find it at retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, RadioShack and Walmart.
You can find our hands-on with the latest from the Nexus series here.
The biggest news from today’s event was Chromecast, a 2-inch dongle that allows users to stream videos from a phone, tablet or laptop to their TV. So much for the ill-fated Nexus Q, and maybe even Google TV: the Chromecast appears to be the future of Google’s living-room strategy. The device, which sells for $35 and comes with three free months of Netflix, connects over HDMI and is powered by USB. You can stream from Android devices and from iOS, through the YouTube app.
Chromecast doesn’t directly mirror to devices, as with Apple’s AirPlay. Instead, it turns the phone into a remote, allowing users to queue up and play videos, control volume, or even turn on the TV. A Chromecast API will allow developers to build other integrations.
Chromecast is available now on Google Play and ships within a couple of days. Check out our hands-on here.
The long-awaited 4.3 update to Android arrived today, but doesn’t include many new features. The latest version of Jelly Bean does offer restricted profiles, allowing you to restrict app content at the user level to prevent younger members of your family from seeing inappropriate content. The update also includes Bluetooth Smart, aka Bluetooth Low Energy, which enables devices to communicate with reduced power consumption; and OpenGL ES 3.0 support, an enhancement to Android’s graphics rendering capabilities that Google calls “a big deal for game developers.”
Android 4.3 is coming to the Nexus 4, Nexus 10, first-generation Nexus 7, and the Galaxy Nexus today. The HTC One and Galaxy S4 Google Editions are getting it “very soon” as well, Google said.
Google Play Games app
Google introduced Android’s answer to Apple’s Game Center — an app called Google Play Games. It displays your games and your friends on a single screen and lets you see highlights from both categories. Tap through to see your achievements in the games you’re playing, social and public leaderboards, and the most recently played games from your friends. The Games app builds on the Play Games API and services that the company introduced back at I/O in May. It’s available today.