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Google I/O 2013: Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition, Hangouts, New Maps, Play Music All Access, and More

The Google I/O 2013 keynote debuted yesterday, the series of discussions debuting with a keynote that stretched on more than 3 hours and which, surprisingly, didn’t bring the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update. Basically, the biggest Google I/O launches were the following: new Google Maps, Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition running stock Android, a music streaming service, and the new Google Hangouts platform.

To be honest, we had a bigger expectations which included a new Android version, maybe Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, or even Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie, plus a new Nexus 7 tablet and a new Nexus smartphone  or at least the Motorola X Phone. But let’s give Google I/O the glass half-full approach and have a look at the freshly launched products. Google unveiled a new Maps version for browser, but also a new one for iOS and Android.

With the new Google Maps the Mountain View-based giant aimed to provide a more personal mapping experience, with a rating system for hotels, restaurants, stores, and other places. Google also announced the Experience feature for tablets, which provides information about the indoor environments and stores, restaurants, and hotels, allowing the user to find out more about both their location and their interiors.

The Google Maps web version will soon receive more realistic images, and the map is uniformly integrating Street View and Google Earth. When you will look at a landmark you will quick have access to your Google Plus friend’s reviews about it, and Street View now will allow you to see pictures from inside the buildings. How did Google manage to do this? Well, they gathered all the pictures received from the Photo Sphere users which contributed to the mapping of important locations both from inside and outside.

In terms of chatting services, it seems that Babel, Google’s communication platform that was supposed to integrated Google Plus Messaging, Hangouts and Gmail chat, is actually an upgrade for the current Hangouts. The new Google Hangouts has received a fresh application for mobile devices and it is now integrated in Android, Chrome, Gmail, and iOS. The interface of the new Hangouts includes notifications, emoji, and photo galleries that can be shared with your chat friends.

You will find the contacts list on the right side of your smartphone or tablet and you will also be able to start group video chats. The text sections in the Google Hangouts chat have watermarks that indicate who is talking to whom and who is currently typing. The new Google Hangouts is already available, and the application can be downloaded for both Android and iOS. You will also receive a “Try it now” notification when you will check Gmail for web.

The rumors about Google’s gaming service were confirmed at Google I/O 2013, yesterday’s launch focusing on the features designed for developers. Google is now offering real time multiplayer, leaderboards, game progression cloud saving and achievements. The best thing about this launch is that all three aspects (achievement, cloud saves, leader boards) are cross platform, thus you can use Google Play Games Services between Android and iOS and between Android and web. You can log in to your account using Google Plus and you will get access to the new gaming service for the games that already received the update (World of Goo and Osmos HD are two of them).

The search engine giant also introduced its own music streaming service at Google I/o 2013, called Google Play Music All Access. The product is based on songs recommendations and it is a rival for the popular Spotify. Google Play Music All Access allows the user to create some sort of radio station while you listen to a song and it comes with a nice way of eliminating the playlist songs you don’t like.

There’s also an option called Listen Now, which focuses on new songs and Google suggested content. All Access is not free, as you will will have to pay a monthly subscription of $9.99. The US-base d users will receive a 30 day trial.

Google I/O also brought us a Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition a variant that is running stock Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. The Galaxy S4 Google Edition comes with an unlocked bootloader, has support for LTE networks, and, so far, we know that it will be a 16 GB version compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile. The smartphone has a price of $649 and it ships through Google Play as of June 26th.

One last mention about the unified payment service that was integrated in Chrome. You will no longer have to write all the fill-in information for a payment, as with a few simple clicks you will be able to pay with your credit card/Paypal/or any other payment method you chose. A new video format was introduced, VP9, which will be adopted by YouTube and which consumes less bandwidth.

The conclusion? Google I/O 2013 was a bit of a disappointment when it came to the Nexus and Android launches, but it brought some major innovations for the Android services and apps. How was this year’s Google I/O? The comments section below is all yours.