Mark your calendars for the next big Google get-togher. Google I/O, the company’s annual developers conference is set to run May 7 through May 9.
Google teased the upcoming conference in a tweet from its I/O account back in January, with the puzzle almost immediately cracked by intrepid coders. Google CEO Sundar Pichai later confirmed the May 7 kickoff for the conference, which will again take place at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, Calif. It’ll be the fourth consecutive year Google has held its developers conference at that venue.
I/O is where Google reveals changes to its software and services, occasionally tipping its hand about devices that are in the works. Now that we're less than a month away from the annual conference, it's time to take a closer look at what could be on the agenda for I/O.
Even though Google has already released its Android Q beta, and you can get it on your Pixel phone if you're daring, I/O is where the company typically goes into more detail on the best new features. So expect a full discussion of Android Q during the kickoff keynote for I/O.
Thanks to the current beta, we already know some of the features Google has planned for its next Android update. Current Android Q highlights include sharing shortcuts that developers can build into their apps, under-the-hood changes to Wi-Fi to improve connectivity and call screening. Android Q introduces a pair of photographic improvements that save greyscale images in RAW format and new depth information aimed at helping camera apps produce better effects and more effectively process images.
Earlier builds of Android Q showed the OS could be gaining a system-wide Dark Theme for easy-on-the-eyes viewing and battery saving. That same leak also hinted at a Samsung DeX-like Desktop Mode for connecting your phone to a computer screen and mouse and revamped app permissions settings for improved security from rogue apps. Still, we’re not convinced we’ve seen everything yet.
One thing we probably won’t learn about Android Q at I/O 2019 is its proper name. Google always announces its Android versions with a code letter before swapping it for a dessert item of the same starting letter sometime closer to its release in later summer. Since guessing Q-themed dessert items is proving to hard for us (Android Queen of Puddings?), it would be nice if Google decided to change things up and give us a clue about theofficial name at I/O this year. But we’re not counting on it.
The Pixel 3a?
Normally, Google I/O isn't a place for hardware announcements — this is a developers conference, after all, so most of the focus is on the tools app makers and others will use down the road. But Google is reportedly working on lower cost versions of its Pixel 3 phones. And the Google Store is now suggesting a product release on May 7, which just happens to be the day of the Google I/O opening keynote.
The Pixel 3a and 3a XL — those are reportedly the names of the new phones — seem like odd fits for a developer conference. But Google could use their launch to talk up opportunities to bring Android to wider audiences.
While we're on the subject of hardware, Google was quite clear in 2018 that it had no plans for a Made by Google smartwatch “this year.” But we're four months deep into a new year, and that means we could be close to seeing a Pixel Watch that runs on the Wear OS software Google provides to companies like Motorola, Sony and LG to use in their smart wrist-worn timepieces.
Code watchers this week uncovered public Android development activity by some Google employees surrounding two new devices believed to be in-house watches, codenamed “salmon” and “medeka.” Mix that with the news this month that Google bought $40 million worth of smartwatch technology and researchers from Fossil, and it seems like the rumored Pixel watch is closer than ever.
Again, maybe Google I/O isn't the time or place for this kind of announcement, especially if Google spends any time on new Pixel phones. Still, we could hear about Wear OS features that could find their way into Google-built hardware later in the year.
More Google Assistant
Look no further than this month’s CES in Las Vegas to see how highly Google values its voice-powered assistant, introducing a number of new Google Assistant features for both smartphones and smart speakers. Expect Google I/O to showcase even more Assistant powers and how developers can integrate them into their products.
There’s also Duplex, the Google Assistant feature shown off last year’s edition of I/O that makes phone calls on your behalf. Google is in the process of rolling out Duplex in some markets, so we’d expect a progress report on that and maybe a demo of other ways Google is putting machine learning to work in this area.
At future Google I/Os, your Android and Chrome OS news might all be replaced with just updates on Fuchsia, the multi-device operating system that Google has been building from scratch for at least the last couple of years. And even though those who have tinkered around with its test version know that Fuchsia isn’t near ready to power our phones or computers yet, rumors are that Fucsia’s further along than we think. Some kind of glitzy, on-stage semi-unveiling of the software at I/O ‘19 isn’t the furthest thing from our expectations — or at least our hopes.
With Google I/O 2019 only weeks away, we’ll keep you posted with further updates about Google’s possible plans for the event.