Getting into gaming gives Google an opportunity to participate in one of the most popular activities on mobile devices.
Google says the leaderboards will also be available through a browser on regular computers. Apple's Game Center works on Mac computers, too.
MAPS, SEARCH AND CHAT:
Google introduced new features for its mapping apps on Android devices and iPhones. When you search for restaurants in a city or neighborhood, you'll get the names of the restaurants along with their ratings at the bottom of the screen. You can swipe through the results horizontally. The mapping app will also include Google Offers — deals akin to those from Groupon Inc. and LivingSocial.
Google is making images from its Google Earth service available on the Web browser. Before, you had to install separate software to use Google Earth. One feature demonstrated Wednesday is the ability to see a view of earth from space and rotate it around.
Google Maps on the Web also has a new look, taking up the entire screen. Names of destinations that used to be on the left of the map are being embedded on the map itself.
For mobile devices, Google is optimizing its mapping app for tablet computers such as the iPad. That will allow the app to take advantage of the larger screen. It's expected this summer.
Google will integrate what it knows about users with its search function, so it can reply to questions like "What's my gate number?" or "my restaurant reservation." Google already makes this available through its Google Now service on Android devices, iPhones and iPads. Now, it's available to anyone using its Chrome browser on traditional computers.
Meanwhile, Google is streamlining its communications tools, offering a new app to combine its chat and Hangout services. It keeps a record of past conversations, though there's a way to turn that off. It will be available for Android and Apple devices, as well as regular Web browsers on computers. The new application is called Hangouts.
A variant of Samsung Electronics Co.'s Galaxy S4 phone will run a pure version of Android. That's the version that Google makes and distributes, not the one modified by Samsung to include a host of features that have been dismissed as confusing gimmicks in reviews by The Associated Press and others.
The new phone will be unlocked, meaning it will work with any carrier, including those abroad. But it also means the price won't be subsidized by the carrier. Google will sell it for $649 starting June 26, rather than the usual $200 or so with a two-year contract. Google says that the new phone will be able to get Android updates as they come. U.S. carriers sometimes block those updates from getting to locked phones.
Google unveiled a number of tools that software developers could incorporate into their apps.
One will allow apps to track what users are doing, such as walking. It may appear creepy to users, but Android executive Hugo Barra says the tools will allow developers to create "a whole new category of awesome apps."
Another tool will help software developers make sure their apps work well on different screen sizes. That's important because some people use phones and others use mid-size or larger tablets. Developers will want to make sure their apps are pleasant across the board.
Other tools promise to help developers get more users and make more money through their apps, such as by better understanding how effective their ads are in getting people to download their apps.
Some of the new tools will help Android users directly. With new technology for syncing notifications on different devices, a notification you dismiss on a phone won't reappear when you check your tablet. Google also says its Google Play store will make recommendations for apps, books, movies and music based on the device you are using. After all, what works well on a tablet might not on a phone.