Google I/O 2012: The Play's the thing

Posted by Rhuaridh Marr
June 27, 2012 4:51 PM |

Google Play, the app, games, music and movie store formerly known as Android Market, is getting a major content injection. Google proudly announced today that it is home to over 600,000 apps and games, with 1.5 billion installs per month and 20 billion total installs since its creation 4 years ago. (By comparison, Apple touts 30 billion total installs and 650,000 apps.) Google Play is currently available in 190 countries, with 132 of those having access to paid content. And that paid content will today see a significant boost.

Already home to the world's largest eBook collection, thousands of movies and millions of songs, Google is now following iTunes' lead and adding TV shows and episodes to the Play store. Available now, content from Disney, ABC, NBC Universal, Sony Pictures and Paramount television productions can be purchased in individual episodes or entire seasons. Also included is the new permanent purchase option. Previously, Movies could only be rented, not bought, but now users can buy their own copies to keep and re-watch to their heart's content. Likewise, television series can be both bought and rented. Offline storage for content is also now included, removing the need for streaming.

Magazines are also making their debut. Content from Hearst, Condi Nast and others will enable users to enjoy Esquire, Vanity Fair, Wired and many more publications on their Android devices, and on the web. Browsing magazines is intuitive, with interactive content, clickable headlines and a thumbnail interface at the bottom for skipping between pages and articles, as well as a constant contents page available for viewing. Within an article, users can switch to a full text mode for easy reading, or navigate the different texts and linked content of an article within the page.

New Play widgets are included in the update, with widgets now able to recommend apps, games, movies, TV shows and magazines based on prior searches and currently installed content. A new "What's this song?" widget removes the need for Shazam, identifying any currently playing music -- whether heard through the microphone or playing in-app on the device -- and directs to the Play store for purchase.

Smart-app updates are also rolling out across the market. Previously, when an app needed updating, a user would be forced to re-download the entire app. Smart updates will now only require the updated portions of the app to require downloading. Google estimates that the average update download will now be around 1/3 the size of a normal update, placing less of a strain on those users who are watching their bandwidth -- but only on devices running Gingerbread and above. App encryption is also now included for all purchased content. A device-specific key is encrypted into the app before it is sent to the device, and after it is installed.

The new content is available on the Play store now, and the updated features will be rolled out to users on Gingerbread devices and higher -- including the newly announced Jelly Bean update.

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