Sometimes you still need navigation and destination info when you're offline. Google is delivering just that with offline Maps. Even when you're not connected (or in airplane mode), the app will still provide information on places in your searches. This means that you can browse hours, reviews and other important details for places like museums and restaurants. What's more, voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation is included as well for maps that you've saved for offline use. Unfortunately, there's no word on when the new tools will arrive other than a vague "later this year."

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Google today launched a standalone, unlimited photo and video service called Google Photos. Google Photos is a free -- and, again, unlimited -- storage, sharing and editing service, and it should be available today on Android, iOS and the web. Google Photos supports 16MP images and 1080p HD videos; it automatically backs up all of your content; and it offers editing and sharing tools. We're not just talking about sharing to Google+ here: Send your images to a range of hubs, including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and WhatsApp. Director of Google Photos Anil Sabharwal announced the service today at Google I/O and he offers more details on the Google blog: "With this launch we've made a lot of progress towards eliminating many of the frustrations involved in storing, editing and sharing your memories."

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Google's trying to make Now even more subservient to your needs with its next version for Android M called Now on Tap. The new digital assistant listens in on your activities and gives you supplemental info like store hours or movie reviews right inside an app or web page. For instance, if a friend texts you with a dinner invite at a new restaurant, you can ask Now on Tap for reviews, hours and other info mid-conversation. It'll also create reminders on the fly about previous email or text discussions and incorporate detailed Knowledge Graph information.

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Google wants to be everywhere in your home, not just hiding inside your thermostats and smoke alarms. That's why, as rumored, it's just announced Project Brillo, a super-slim operating system that's designed specifically for devices collectively known as the Internet of Things. If you're feeling a sense of deja vu, don't -- the company has already dipped a toe or two into this market before, with 2011's quietly abandoned Android@Home project. As expected, Project Brillo is based on Android, but pared down enough to operate on a wide variety of day-to-day (and traditionally dumb) objects -- doorbells, baby cameras, ovens and so on that speak to each other via Bluetooth and WiFi.

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At its I/O conference, Google's just revealed that it will standardize fingerprint ID security across Android M devices, so that manufacturers like Samsung don't need to build their own. That means developers will be able to use an open system that lets you unlock your device, buy with Google Pay, pay at Google's Play store and perform other common functions with your digits. The system will also be bundled in its API to help developers integrate it into third-party apps. In other words, it'll work much like Apple's fingerprint system already does.

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Google SVP Sundar Pichai may have tipped the company's hand on mobile payments back in Barcelona, but he offered little detail on how the system would work. At I/O 2015, though, the folks in Mountain View served up a wealth of details on the matter, including the announcement that Android Pay would be part of the Android M release. Just like Apple Pay, transactions are sorted via NFC and your actual card number isn't shared with merchants. Instead, it'll use "a virtual account number" to handle payments. When it arrives, the system will be employed by over 700,000 retailers (sounds familiar) like Macy's, Whole Foods, Walgreen's and many more. It'll also be used for in-app purchases, so if you're ordering food from Chipotle or paying for an Uber ride, you'll be able to use Android Pay there as well. And yes, web sellers can leverage the system, too.

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Google Inbox

You no longer have to cajole your friends into giving you an invite to Google's smarter, task-oriented Inbox app. As of today, it's available to everyone with a standard Gmail account -- you just have to grab the Android or iOS app, and you're off to the races. There are a few new features coming along for the ride, too. Inbox now bundles all your trip-related email in one place, and will both show your Google Keep reminders and suggest adding them if someone sends you a to-do list. You also get options to take back outgoing emails, add custom signatures and open reservations directly in apps like Eat24 or HotelTonight. Workers who need Google Apps support won't get to use the normal Inbox app just yet, but Google is opening the early adopter program to anyone who wants to get in.

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Like clockwork, Google lifted the veil on Android M at its I/O developer conference today, an event that's traditionally served as the company's launchpad for its mobile OS updates. No, we don't yet know what the "M" stands for (we'd love to see Android Marzipan), but, as usual, that's not stopping Google from divulging details. After the bold redesign that was Android Lollipop, M is more focused on refining the entire Android experience. "For [Android] M, we've gone back to the basics," said Google SVP Sundar Pichai. "We've really focused on polish and quality; we've literally solved thousands of bugs." While there's still no firm release date for Android M, developers can give it a spin today with a special preview release for the Nexus 5, 6, 9 and Player set-top box.

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That Apple-exclusive streaming window is ending -- Google exec Sundar Pichai just announced that HBO Now is coming to Android too. Whether you use Android, iOS or a web browser, Google Cast support is coming too -- for the 17 million or so Chromecasts out there -- although there weren't exact details on when. HBO says it's coming "this summer," and Pichai mentioned it will be in time for the upcoming True Detective season, which premieres June 21st. There weren't any details on how, but it sounds like Google Play will offer subscriptions in the same way Apple (and Cablevision) have so far. Finally, whether you have cable or are a cord-cutter, HBO confirmed that HBO Now and HBO Go are both coming to Android TV soon. HBO VP Bernadette Aulestia says, "We have seen through social media that there is great demand for the service among Android and Chromecast users and we're excited to deliver HBO Now to them," so it looks like someone has been reading your posts.

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The stage is set, the Moscone Center is tricked out with leopard print Androids, and Google I/O is just about to start. You know the drill here: The first order of business is an hours-long keynote address that'll show us exactly what Google's been working on behind closed doors these past few months and what we can expect to play with in the future. Android M? More insight into Android Pay? VR announcements? It seems like this year's show is really going to have it all. We've got a little more time before the keynote kicks off, so hang tight, thumb through our I/O preview for as a quick refresher, and stay tuned for more shortly.

May 28, 2015 12:30:00 PM EDT

Don't miss out on all the latest news and updates from Google I/O 2015. Follow along at our events page.

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