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Google I/O 2022 preview: 5 biggest things to expect

google I/O
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

If you’re looking for a Google I/O 2022 preview, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve been keeping tabs on all the relevant news and rumors leading up to the annual developer conference taking place this week. 

The Google I/O keynote starts today (May 11), at 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT / 6 p.m. BST, and you can follow it all with us in our Google I/O 2022 live blog. You'll also find more streaming details in our guide on how to watch Google I/O live stream. Following along will give you the earliest look at Android 13, any new Google Assistant features, Wear OS updates and more.

There’s even a possibility Google will announce new hardware, namely the Google Pixel 6a and long-rumored Google Pixel Watch. Though Google I/O usually focuses on software (with last year’s standout announcement being Material You for the best Android phones) Google could shake things up. 

Here are the 5 biggest things to expect at Google I/O based on what we’ve heard so far — along with what we hope to see.

1. Android 13 features

To our surprise, Google released the first beta version of Android 13 last month. Android 13 Beta 1 offers an early impression of what the best phones from Google, Samsung and more will offer interface-wise this year into next. 

But most of the updates in the first beta version are rather minor and developer-focused, though a faster QR code scanner and the return of device controls to the lock screen are fun discoveries so far. 

At I/O this week, we expect to see more user-facing Android 13 features, like new media tools, permissions options and themed icons. And since the necessary audio codec is present in the Android 13, we could learn more about Bluetooth LE support, as well as some kind of spatial audio/virtual surround sound offering.

2. New Wear OS 3 features, and possibly a Pixel Watch

Like last year, we expect Google to dedicate some time to Wear OS 3 updates. As a reminder, Wear OS received a refresh promising to make the best smartwatches for Android even better with the help of Tizen and Fitbit features. Though there are a number of eligible Wear OS 3 smartwatches on the market, only the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is running the software as of now.

We think Google will provide an update on when those other third-party smartwatches can upgrade to Wear OS 3, while announcing new Wear OS features or third-party app support. 

There’s also a chance Google will announce or tease its first in-house smartwatch, believed to be called the Pixel Watch. An influx of Pixel Watch leaks, including someone finding an alleged prototype in the wild and published regulatory documents, suggest the wearable is nearing launch. It's unknown if the Pixel Watch would be available this summer or arrive later this year alongside the Google Pixel 7.

3. Google Pixel 6a

The Pixel Watch might not be the only hardware to make an I/O appearance. Multiple reports and sources have said Google will debut a follow-up to one of the best cheap phones any day now. Pitched as a scaled-back version of the Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro, the 6a should arrive costing less than $500.

There are a number of Pixel 6 features we hope will appear in the Pixel 6a, so we’re interested to see if the phone receiving FCC clearance means it’s ready for stores. Not only that, a new pair of Google Pixel Buds Pro could accompany the handset, creating a complete suite of Google hardware ahead of summer.

4. Updates to Google Assistant, Google Maps and more

It wouldn’t be an I/O keynote without announcements related to Google’s popular services. You should expect to see at least one new feature each for Google Assistant and Google Maps, though Google Calendar or Google Photos could receive upgrades, too.

As a reminder, at Google I/O 2021, we got eco-friendly routes for Maps, a new companion mode for Meet, smarter Google searches, the AI-powered cinematic mode for Photos and much more. Google is likely to dedicate some portion of the keynote to the algorithms and computing advancements making new service features possible, or simply better.

5. Chrome OS improvements

Finally, we believe we’ll see a handful of Chrome OS updates announced at this year’s I/O keynote. Chromebooks still make up some of the best laptops and best laptops for college students, so Google Workspace tools could get new options for users looking to be more productive on the go. At the very least, we should see some additional functionality in Android 13 that benefits the Chrome OS experience, making it easier to hand-off messages or continue searches between paired devices. 

A few bonus announcements could include an update to Project Starline and perhaps a glimpse at what Android 12L means for Google’s foldable phone plans. We haven’t heard much about Project Starline in the past year, and there’s little evidence of a Google Pixel Fold in the immediate future, but that doesn’t mean Google won’t let some compelling intel slip. 

Again, make sure you know how to watch Google I/O 2022 live stream and head over to our Google I/O 2022 live blog so you can follow along with all the announcements as they happen.

Kate Kozuch is an editor at Tom’s Guide covering smartwatches, TVs and everything smart-home related. Kate also appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account (opens in new tab), which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her on an exercise bike, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.