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Google I/O 2021 recap: Android 12, Wear OS, Project Starline and all the big news

Here's all the biggest Google I/O announcements

Google IO 2021
(Image: © Google)

The Google I/O 2021 keynote delivered a ton of Google news, ranging from Android 12 and a completely new Wear OS to innovations in Google Maps, Google Photos, shopping and more. 

Google CEO Sundar Pinchai promised there would be "significant product updates and announcements" and Google lived up to the hype in some ways. However, those hoping for a Google Pixel 5a or Pixel Buds A appearance will be disappointed, as there was no new Google hardware launches during Google I/O, save for a few allusions to Pixel phone releases in the fall.

Here are the biggest Google I/O 2021 announcements, and check out the entire live blog below. 

Google I/O 2021 highlights

Android 12:
Google debuted a new Material You design for Android 12 that will debut later this year with the new Pixel phone, likely the Pixel 6. The interface is sleeker and also more customizable; for example, you can change the entire theme color based on the photo wallpaper you choose. 

Android 12 is also gettin a redesigned Quick Settings menu that will make it easier to access various options, and you'll be able summon Google Assistant with a long press of the home button. Android 12 is also getting a new privacy dashboard to give you more control of what apps can access what data. Other highlights include a built-in remote control for Google TV, an AirDrop-like feature for ChromeOS and Digital Car Key for using your phone as a key for vehicles. 

Learn more about Android 12 and all the new features. 

Wear OS: This is the biggest news of Google I/O. Google is completely revamped Wear OS, working with Samsung to merge the best bits of its own OS with Tizen. The goal is better performance, longer battery life and an overall improved user experience.

You'll get access to the Google Play store, Google Pay, Google Maps and an overall interface that's more intuitive and faster to use. Google is also bringing Fitbit integration to the platform for fitness tracking, and Fitbit itself will be making Wear OS watches.

Here's everything that's new with Wear OS.

Project Starline: Holy crap! Google may have invented the next Zoom. Project Starline takes communication to the next level by leveraging hi-resolution cameras and cutting edge compression techniques to capture 3D models of callers in real time. You'll feel like the person you're talking to is sitting right across from you.

Take your first look at Project Starline right now.

Google Photos: Cinematic Photos is coming to Google Photos, and it animates your still shots in a new way by filling in the gaps between the multiple pics you take. It's creepy and cool, but maybe more the former? Plus, Google will be analyzing your photos to offer Little Patterns, groups of photos around a theme or place or shapes to help you relive similar moments. 

These are just some of the biggest announcements at Google I/O 2021. See all the news below. 


If you want a run-down of what's expected at the keynote today, our Google I/O preview will take you through what's expected for Android 12, the Pixel 5a, the Pixel Buds A and the Pixel Watch.

google i/o

(Image credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

We're expecting the Google Pixel 5a to be one of the things Google announces today. And in our opinion, the success of the Pixel 5a will all come down to one thing: pricing. 

Pixel 5a

(Image credit: Steve Hemmerstoffer/Voice)

Android 12 is the only dead cert for Google to cover today at I/O. We've been trying out the various beta versions of Android 12, and have rounded up all the new features here.

Android 12 release date, beta and features

(Image credit: Photo Illustration by Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

We aren't expecting to hear much about the Google Pixel 6 at I/O. What we may hear about however is its new "Whitechapel" chipset, to prepare us (and more importantly app developers) for Google's new hardware design.

Google Pixel 6 Pro

(Image credit: Jon Prosser x Rendersbyian)

Google's already accidentally revealed the Pixel Buds A in a tweet, but today might be the official debut of these budget earbuds. Learn more about what we already know here.

Pixel Buds A accidental tweet

(Image credit: Gizmodo)

Today may see the reveal of Google's first smartwatch. This is what we've heard so far about the Pixel Watch.

Google Pixel Watch leak

(Image credit: @jon_prosser x @rendersbyian)

Google's Wear OS platform for smartwatches is getting some airtime today for its newest features. But while Google's software is rumored to be powering the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, Wear OS will need more than a new partner if it wants to be a serious competitor. 

James Tsai's concept design for the much rumored Pixel Watch

(Image credit: James Tsai)

Android 12 may be getting more substantial features, but its new look is quite a departure from the current version. Have a look here.

Android 12 widgets and icons

(Image credit: Jon Prosser/Front Page Tech)

We should expect some Google Assistant news at I/O today, both in terms of Android 12 and Google's smart home products. One of the big changes that's been rumored is new methods of activating the assistant without using the classic "OK Google" wake word.

Google Assistant

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The Google I/O keynote kicks off at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm BST, and you can watch right here or on YouTube

If you haven't checked it out yet, Jon Prosser of Front Page Tech has a video breaking down what he says is the first "official" look at Android 12. Check out all the new design and features, and we can compare everything against the real thing later today. 

Here's some good news. According to The Verge's Dieter Bohn, Google I/O 2021 will reportedly be live as opposed to a live stream of pre-recorded content. And should make for a more interesting presentation. 

See more

Wear OS should definitely take center stage at Google I/O 2021, as Google has published a teaser on Twitter saying that "It's almost time" to tune into the keynote with the image of a smart watch. That's a strong hint that smartwatch news is in the works.

We don't know if we'll see a Pixel Watch teased today, but it's already been leaked that the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 will be running Wear OS

See more

Google I/O 2021 is starting soon, and and it's free for anyone to virtually attend the keynote. Check out the official Google I/O schedule for the keynotes as well as breakout sessions. 

Google IO 2021

(Image credit: Google)

Google I/O is about to get underway. But first, a very creepy AI music experience! 

Google IO

(Image credit: Google)

Google I/O is live and the company's CEO Sundar Pichai is talking about how Google is providing high-quality info to help people around Covid and find accurate info around vaccines. 

Google IO 2021

(Image credit: Google)

Google is introducing two new features in Google Maps, including eco-friendly routes. This can reduce car emissions and fuel costs. There's also going to be Safer routing, which will use AI to help pick you the best route, such as having less sudden stops. 

Google is introducing a new feature called Smart Canvas for collaboration, which is designed to reinvent how we work. You can share a document that everyone can use to share their ideas. 

There's assisted writing capabilities built in, which includes language suggestions. In addition, Google Meet is going to get integrated to Google Docs this fall. There's also tools like voting tables people can uses. 

Google IO 2021 Smart Canvas

(Image credit: Google)

A new companion mode is coming to Google Meet. It gives everyone a remote tile, and it integrates tools like polls on the right hand side of the window.

Google Meet is also getting smarter with improved lighting and noise cancellation. You'll also be able to rearrange attendees' tiles on the fly while keeping your presentation up. Other features include live transcriptions and even translations. These upgrades are coming later this year. 

Google IO 2021

(Image credit: Google)

Now Google is talking about advancements in Google Search. Translation is first up. Usage is up four times with Google Assistant translation versus last year. Sundar says we are getting closer to a universal translator.

Image recognition is another big area of focus. Google Lens is being used over 3 billion times each month.

With voice recognition and text-to-speech, Google can live caption anything on your phone locally. WaveNet has allowed Google to deploy 51 voices in Google Assistant.