New smartphones, a new operating system, and a new foray into gaming will likely be the focus at Google’s I/O developer conference, a three-day event for app developers and hardware makers that starts Tuesday.
Attendees, along with tech fans at home watching the livestream, will be closely following the conference’s keynote presentation, when Google CEO Sundar Pichai and top executives announce new software updates and products. Google hasn’t said what it will unveil, but that hasn’t stopped the rumors.
Here’s a roundup of what to expect from this year’s Google I/O.
It’s probably the worst-kept secret heading into Google I/O. The buzz is that the company will introduce Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL smartphones, featuring designs that are similar to the Pixel 3, and Pixel 3 XL released last year. That includes big screens and a notch at the top of the devices that houses the front-facing camera and earpiece. Unlike their predecessors though, which cost around $800 each, the Pixel 3a lineup will be more budget-friendly.
Typically Google executives spend a big chunk of their Google I/O keynote talking about a new version of the Android operating system. This year, the update will be called Android Q.
The company actually released an Android Q beta version to testers and developers in March. And, according to leaks, the operating system will come with a slightly refreshed design that will make using it easier. The Android Q reportedly will also have improved shortcuts to better send content to contacts across different apps. The Q also may offer a dark mode, which makes apps darker to reduce eye strain, along with improved privacy features to limit how much data apps can collect about you.
The All-Important Smart Home
Google has been pushing heavily into the smart home in recent years, and the trend will likely continue this year.
During I/O, Google is expected to discuss improvements to Assistant, the virtual personal assistant it bundles in smart home devices. We don’t know much about any those improvements, but Google’s is in a fierce battle with rival Amazon Alexa.
On the hardware side, Google may announce a new smart home device called the Google Nest Hub Max that comes with a 10-inch screen. The device will also likely come with Assistant built-in so you can use it to do things like turn off lights in the home and adjust the temperature on your smart thermostat. It will also be a direct competitor to Amazon’s Echo Show, which comes with similar functionality and has a 10.1-inch screen. Amazon’s device costs $230. We don’t know yet how much Google might charge for its alternative.
Foldable Phone Chatter
Last year, Google said that it’s working on Android improvements that would allow the software to work better on foldable phones. And there’s a good chance that feature will come up at Google I/O.
Samsung was expected to be the first smartphone maker to release a foldable phone this year, but it was forced to delay its premiere last month after early reviewers had problems with its screen. The company is expected to release the device later this month.
But it won’t be alone. Chinese smartphone maker Huawei is also working on a foldable phone, and most industry watchers believe other companies will follow.
Get on With Gaming
At the Game Developers Conference in March, Google unveiled a new cloud-based video gaming service called Stadia. Developers will be able to sell their games to customers through the service. Players who access those games will be able to stream them on their computers without needing a video game console. Google has shared few details about Stadia, but it will likely reveal more at I/O.