Google I/O, Google’s annual developer conference, is set to begin this week, with an opening session on Wednesday, May 11th, at 1 p.m. ET. Although the conference is aimed at helping developers get the most out of Google’s tools and platforms, the keynote is relevant to a much broader audience, as it includes hardware and software announcements for goods coming out in the next year.
Several hardware announcements could be made during the presentation this year. There are continuous rumors concerning Google’s first wearable, the Pixel Watch, as well as a mid-range version of the Pixel 6 smartphones from last year. It’s also feasible that a new pair of genuine wireless earphones will be revealed. Perhaps even a few surprises.
Google‘s core operating systems, such as Android 13, the next major version due later this year, are likely to be the focus of any software announcements. Other platforms, such as Wear OS or Android TV, could get new features announced by Google’s presenters. Google’s ever-expanding suite of services (think Google Maps or office products like Google Docs) will almost certainly be improved.
Here’s a complete list of what we’re expecting:
GOOGLE MIGHT FINALLY ANNOUNCE ITS PIXEL WATCH
Google producing its own smartwatch has been rumored for a long time, but 2022 could be the year it finally happens. The Pixel Watch name has been revealed thanks to speculative leaks, design leaks, and a US Patent and Trademark Office petition. Most notably, a purported prototype of the smartwatch was discovered abandoned in a restaurant, prompting a torrent of photographs to be posted online.
With all of the leaks, we’re getting a pretty good picture of what the Pixel Watch will look like. The key question now is whether Google’s massive investments (including billions on Fitbit) will result in something that can truly challenge Apple’s dominance.
A NEW MIDRANGE PIXEL 6A
Google has released a cheaper version of its flagship Pixel smartphones every three years for the previous three years. It’s the Pixel 6’s turn this year, but reports say the Pixel 6A will be different from past A-series phones.
While phones like the Pixel 4A and 5A combined identical camera functionality with less powerful processors, rumors suggest the Pixel 6A may go the other way. According to a tip from 9to5Google last year, the new phone could have the same Tensor processor as the Pixel 6, but a 12-megapixel main camera sensor instead of the 50-megapixel sensor on the Pixel 6.
A Google I/O announcement would be a little sooner than the August debuts that we’ve seen in the past for Google’s midrange phones. However, the date of a recent FCC filing suggests that its launch could be imminent.
MAYBE SOME PRO WIRELESS EARBUDS
This rumor is less clear, but a recent leak from Jon Prosser said that Google is planning to produce the Pixel Buds Pro, a new set of truly wireless earbuds. Although nothing is known about their prospective capabilities and specifications, the word “Pro” in a pair of earphones’ names usually indicates that they offer active noise-cancellation, which would be a first for a pair of Google true wireless earbuds.
The Pixel Buds A-Series, which were originally announced as a cheaper equivalent to the second-generation Pixel Buds, is now Google’s sole truly wireless earbuds. However, Google is only offering the cheaper Pixel Buds now that the Pixel Buds have been discontinued.
A HOST OF DETAILS ABOUT ANDROID 13
On the software front, there’s Android 13, Google’s next major mobile operating system. It’s technically been published in beta, giving us little views of Google’s plans for the upgrade, but we won’t get a clear picture of Google’s overarching vision for Android 13 until Google I/O.
So far, it appears that Android 13 will carry on most of the work that Google began with Android 12. Last year’s customizable themes (branded Material You) are likely to extend to cover more UI elements in the operating system, and Google is continuing to limit what features Android apps have access to by default. Any major new projects will very certainly be announced during Google’s keynote.
AND MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, SOME FOLDABLE NEWS
Android 13 isn’t the only major change coming to Google’s mobile operating system this year. Android 12L, a new version of the operating system designed for tablets and foldable devices, is also available. We know it’ll be released this year and will be available on Samsung, Lenovo, and Microsoft devices. I/O might be a wonderful time for Google to provide more specific information.
Google has long been reported to be working on one or two foldable gadgets of its own, in addition to software. There were reports that they will be released last year, but given the lack of recent leaks, it doesn’t appear that an announcement is forthcoming. Despite the fact that Samsung is currently on its third generation of foldable phones, they are still fairly niche items outside of China.
SIGNS OF A NEW NEST HUB?
Given that Google’s latest Nest Hub smart display was released barely a year ago, it seems premature to expect a follow-up. However, according to a March rumor from 9to5Google, we may see one with a detachable screen that can be used as a tablet this year. The form factor appears to be ideal for a smart home controller, which would also explain Google’s newfound interest in tablets.
However, with a rumored launch date of “2022,” there’s no guarantee Google will be ready to show off the new device this week, assuming it even exists.
PLUS UPDATES FOR ITS OTHER PLATFORMS
Android isn’t the only operating system that Google controls. It also has Wear OS, which will almost probably get some stage time if Google announces its Pixel Watch this week. Even if it doesn’t, the announcement comes a year after Google indicated that its platform would be merged with Samsung’s Tizen. (The resulting software was later used on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4.) And it appears that Google will have more to say about how development is progressing.
There’s also the Android TV and Google TV software, both of which are aimed towards televisions. And we know they’ll be releasing some new features this year because one of their product managers announced so in January. Support for home fitness activities, as well as other smart home controls and video conferencing services, appears to be something the company is interested in.
EXPECT A PLETHORA OF GOOGLE SOFTWARE AND SERVICE UPDATES
Aside from hardware and platform announcements, a Google I/O presentation would be incomplete without the company introducing upgrades to a few of its myriad apps and services. Last year, for example, Google Photos received a locked folder feature, changes to Google Maps’ augmented reality view, and a new “smart canvas” program for its office productivity software that aims to connect its many services.
Given the vastness of Google’s software products, it’s tough to forecast which ones will garner the most attention on a stage this year. However, I believe Google Workspace will be extensively featured. Google Docs already has some sleek new capabilities thanks to “Smart canvas,” and I assume this is just the beginning of Google’s ambitions to improve its office software for remote working.
WITH SOME SURPRISES THROWN IN FOR GOOD MEASURE
Aside from the usual product announcements, Google always has a few surprises in store for Google I/O. It introduced Project Starline last year, which is essentially a video chat booth that gives the idea that you’re sitting right opposite someone who could be hundreds of miles away. It’s not a genuine product yet, and it might not be until 2024 at the earliest, like other AR/VR concepts we’ve heard about (like the Project Iris augmented reality headset). However, Google is known for showcasing early research and development initiatives, and this year is no exception.