Google’s annual developer conference, Google I/O, is due to take place this week and will begin with a keynote presentation on Wednesday, May 11, 1 p.m. ET. Although the conference itself aims to help developers get the most out of Google’s tools and platforms, the keynote is relevant to a much wider audience, with hardware and software announcements for products scheduled for release within the next 12 months.
This year we could see a number of hardware announcements during the keynote. There are ongoing rumors about the search giant’s first wearable, the Pixel Watch, as well as a mid-range counterpart to last year’s Pixel 6 smartphones. It’s possible we could also see a new pair of true wireless earbuds announced. And maybe even a few surprises too.
The software announcements are expected to focus on major Google operating systems like Android 13, the next major release due out later this year. Google presenters might also announce new features for other platforms like Wear OS or Android TV. The company’s ever-growing range of services (think Google Maps or business tools like Google Docs) are also likely to receive enhancements.
Here is a complete overview of what we expect:
Google could finally announce its Pixel Watch
Rumors of Google making its own smartwatch have been around forever, but 2022 might finally be the year it actually happens. There have been spec leaks, design leaks, and a US Patent and Trademark Office filing revealing the Pixel Watch name. Most significant, however, is an apparent prototype of the smartwatch found abandoned in a restaurant, prompting a flood of photos online.
Between all the leaks, we’re starting to get a pretty good idea of what form the Pixel Watch will take. The big question now is whether all of Google’s investment (which includes billions spent on Fitbit) can create something that’s capable of presenting a real challenge to Apple’s dominance.
A new mid-range Pixel 6A
Over the past three years, Google has followed up each of its flagship Pixel smartphones with a more affordable version with lower specs. This year it’s the Pixel 6’s turn, but rumors suggest the Pixel 6A might look a little different to previous A-series handsets.
While phones like the Pixel 4A and 5A paired similar camera features to their flagship counterparts with less powerful processors, reports suggest the Pixel 6A could reverse that approach. A report of 9to5Google last year suggested that the new phone could feature the same Tensor processor as the Pixel 6, but a downgraded 12-megapixel primary camera sensor instead of the Pixel 6’s 50-megapixel sensor.
An announcement at Google I/O would come a little earlier than the August launches we’ve typically seen for Google’s mid-range phones. But the timing of a recent FCC filing suggests its launch could be imminent.
Maybe pro wireless headphones
This rumor is less certain, but a recent leak from Jon Prosser suggested that Google is gearing up to launch a new set of true wireless earbuds called Pixel Buds Pro. Not much is known about their potential features and specifications, but the use of the word “Pro” in the name of a set of headphones is usually used to show that they support active noise cancellation. – which would be a first for a pair of Google headphones. true wireless headphones.
Google currently only sells one pair of true wireless earbuds, the Pixel Buds A-Series, which were originally advertised as a more affordable counterpart to the second-generation Pixel Buds. But with the Pixel Buds now discontinued, Google is only selling the affordable entry to the line. Adding a Pro-branded input would be a natural change.
A host of details about Android 13
On the software side, there’s Android 13, the next major version of Google’s mobile operating system. It’s technically already out in beta – offering small glimpses of Google’s plans for the update – but it’s only in I/O that we’ll get a full idea of Google’s overall vision for Android 13.
So far, it looks like Android 13 is set to continue much of the work that Google started with Android 12. Last year’s customizable themes (branded as Material You) should expand to cover more UI elements in the operating system, and Google is continuing to restrict which aspects of the operating system Android apps have access to by default. Any news about major new initiatives will likely emerge during Google’s keynote.
And maybe, just maybe, foldable news
Android 13 isn’t the only major update Google has made to its mobile operating system this year. There’s also Android 12L, a new version of the operating system optimized for tablets and foldable devices. We know it’s due out sometime this year and will ship to devices from Samsung, Lenovo, and Microsoft. I/O would be a good time for the search giant to offer more concrete details.
In addition to software, Google has long been rumored to be working on one or two foldable devices. At one point there were rumors that these were going to launch last year, but given the lack of leaks recently, it doesn’t seem like an announcement is imminent. Foldable phones are, after all, still niche products outside of China, although Samsung is now into its third generation of foldable devices.
Signs of a new Nest Hub?
Given that it’s only been a year since Google released its last Nest Hub smart display, it seems premature to expect a follow-up. But a report of 9to5Google from March claims we could see one with a removable screen that could be used as a tablet at some point this year. The form factor seems to be ideal as a smart home controller and would also explain Google’s renewed focus on tablets.
But with a vague launch date of “2022”, there’s no guarantee Google will be ready to show off the new device this week, and that’s if it even exists in the first place.
Plus updates for its other platforms
Of course, Android isn’t the only operating system supported by Google. It also has Wear OS for smartwatches, which will almost certainly get some stage attention if Google does eventually announce its Pixel Watch this week. Even if it doesn’t, the presentation comes a year after Google announced it would be merging its platform with Samsung’s Tizen. (The resulting software later appeared on the Galaxy Watch 4.) And it seems likely that Google will have more to add on how development unfolds.
There’s also its Android TV and Google TV software, which are designed for — you guessed it — TVs. And we know they have new features coming this year because one of their product managers said so in January. The company is apparently interested in supporting home fitness workouts, while offering more smart home controls and video conferencing services.
Expect a plethora of Google software and service updates
Far from hardware and platform-specific announcements, a Google I/O keynote wouldn’t be complete without the search giant announcing updates for a handful of its many apps and services. . Last year, for example, we saw a locked folder feature announced for Google Photos, updates to the augmented reality view of Google Maps, and a new “smart canvas” initiative for its office productivity software designed to make its various services more interconnected.
Given Google’s vast array of software offerings, it’s hard to make any precise predictions about which of them will grab the spotlight on stage this year. But I guess Google Workspace is likely to feature prominently. “Smart canvas” has already spawned some nifty new features for Google Docs, and I suspect this is just the start of Google’s plans to overhaul its desktop software for remote work.
With a few surprises for good measure
Away from the more typical product announcements, Google always has a few I/O surprises up its sleeve. Last year, he revealed an experiment called Project Starline, actually a video chat booth designed to feel like you’re sitting right in front of someone who might be hundreds of miles away. Along with other AR/VR projects we’ve heard of (like the Project Iris augmented reality headset), it’s not a real product yet and might not be until 2024 at the earliest. But Google is often keen to show off these kinds of early R&D projects, and this year will likely be no exception.