Wednesday, June 29, 2022

What to expect from Google I/O 2022

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Google’s annual developer conference, Google I/O, is scheduled for this week and kicks off with an opening presentation on Wednesday. May 11, at 1:00 PM ET† While the conference itself is designed 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 to be released in the next 12 months.

This year we were able to see a number of hardware announcements during the keynote. Rumors abound about the search giant’s first wearable, the Pixel Watch, as well as a mid-range counterpart to last year’s Pixel 6 smartphones. A new pair of true wireless earbuds may also be announced. And maybe even some surprises.

Software announcements will likely focus on Google’s primary operating systems, such as Android 13, the next major version to be released later this year. Google’s presenters may also announce new features for other platforms such as Wear OS or Android TV. The company’s ever-expanding range of services (think Google Maps or workplace tools like Google Docs) will likely see some improvements as well.

Here’s a full rundown of what we expect:

A leaked Pixel Watch prototype between a 40mm Apple Watch (left) and a 46mm Samsung Galaxy Watch.
Photo: tagtech414 (reddit)

Google could finally announce its Pixel Watch

Rumors of Google making its own smartwatch have been around forever, but 2022 could finally be the year it actually happens. There are specification leaks, design leaks and a US Patent and Trademark Office filing revealing the Pixel Watch name. Most importantly, though, an apparent prototype of the smartwatch has been abandoned in a restaurant, sparking a flood of photos posted online.

Between all the leaks, we’re starting to get a pretty good idea of ​​what shape the Pixel Watch will take. The big question now is whether all of Google’s investment (including spending billions on Fitbit) can create something that could pose a real challenge to Apple’s dominance.

Unofficial renders of the expected design of the Pixel 6A.
Image: Steve Hemmerstoffer / 91Mobiles

A new mid-range Pixel 6A

For the past three years, Google has followed up each of its flagship Pixel smartphones with a more affordable version with reduced specs. This year it’s the turn of the Pixel 6, but rumors suggest the Pixel 6A might be a little different from 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 turn this approach around. A report of 9to5Google last year it suggested that the new phone could have the same Tensor processor as the Pixel 6, but a downgraded 12-megapixel main 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 the launch may be just around the corner.

Maybe some professional wireless earbuds

This rumor is less certain, but a recent leak from Jon Prosser suggested that Google is preparing to release a new set of true wireless earbuds, the 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 earbuds is usually used to show that they support active noise cancellation – which would be a first from a pair of Google. true wireless earbuds.

Google currently only sells one pair of true wireless earbuds, the Pixel Buds A-Series, which were originally announced as a more affordable counterpart to the second-generation Pixel Buds. But now that the Pixel Buds have been discontinued, Google only sells the affordable item in the lineup. Adding a Pro branded item would be a natural shift.

A mockup of the notification permission that Android 13 apps may need to ask for.
Image: Google

A lot 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 released in beta – giving a small glimpse of Google’s plans for the update – but it won’t be until I/O that we’ll get a full picture of Google’s overall vision for Android 13.

So far, it looks like Android 13 will continue much of the work Google started with Android 12. Last year’s customizable themes (branded as Material You) will likely expand to include more UI elements in the operating system, continuing to limit what aspects of the operating system Android apps can access by default. Any news about major new initiatives is likely to surface during Google’s keynote.

And maybe, just maybe, some collapsible news

Android 13 isn’t the only major update Google is bringing to its mobile operating system this year. There is also Android 12L, a new version of the operating system optimized for tablets and foldable devices. We know it will be released sometime this year and will ship on Samsung, Lenovo and Microsoft devices. I/O would be a good time for the search giant to provide more concrete details.

In addition to software, there have long been rumors that Google is working on one or two foldable devices of its own. At one point, there were rumors that it would launch last year, but given the lack of leaks lately, it doesn’t feel like an announcement is imminent. After all, foldable phones are still very niche products outside of China, despite Samsung now in its third generation of foldable devices.

Signs of a new Nest Hub?

Considering it’s only been a year since Google released its last Nest Hub smart display, it seems premature to expect a sequel. But a report from 9to5Google from March on claims we could see one with a detachable screen that could double as a tablet at some point this year. The form factor sounds like it would be ideal as a smart home controller and would also explain the renewed focus Google is paying to tablets.

But with a vaguely rumored “2022” launch date, there’s no guarantee Google will be ready to show off the new device this week, and that is if it even exists at all.

A rendering of what the Pixel Watch’s interface might look like.
Image: Evan Blass / 91Mobiles

Plus updates for its other platforms

Android isn’t the only operating system Google manages, of course. It also has Wear OS for smartwatches, which will almost certainly get some attention on stage when Google announces its Pixel Watch this week. Even if it doesn’t, the presentation comes a year after Google announced it would merge its platform with Samsung’s Tizen. (The resulting software subsequently appeared on the Galaxy Watch 4.) And it seems likely that Google will be able to add more about how development is progressing.

There’s also the Android TV and Google TV software, which are designed for — you guessed it — TVs. And we know they have some new features this year because one of the product managers mentioned that back in January. Support for home fitness workouts is apparently something the company is interested in, along with offering more smart home controls and video conferencing services.

Expect a plethora of Google software and service updates

Hardware and platform-specific announcements aside, a Google I/O keynote wouldn’t be complete without the search giant announcing updates to a handful of its numerous apps and services. For example, last year we saw a locked folder feature announced for Google Photos, updates to Google Maps’ augmented reality display, and a new “smart canvas” initiative for its office productivity software designed to make the different services more connected. .

Given the sheer breadth of Google’s software offerings, it’s hard to make specific predictions about which of them will get attention on stage this year. But I suspect Google Workspace takes pride of place. “Smart canvas” has already brought some slick new features to Google Docs, and I suspect this is just the beginning of Google’s plans to overhaul its office software for remote work.

With some surprises for the record

Aside from more typical product announcements, Google always has a few surprises in store for I/O. Last year it unveiled an experiment called Project Starline, which is basically a video chat booth designed to give the impression that you’re sitting right across from someone who might be hundreds of miles away. Along with other AR/VR projects we’ve heard about (like the Project Iris augmented reality headset), it’s not a real product yet and won’t be until 2024 at the earliest. But Google often wants to show off these kinds of early R&D projects, and this year will probably be no exception.

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