Google I/O is tomorrow. Oh, you forgot? Well, good fellow, you should probably call in sick tomorrow, because it’s going to be filled with awesomeness, once again. I know that as I/O approaches each year, many find themselves saying, “Oh, Google doesn’t have much on the horizon this year, so I/O might be a bore.” That, would be a terrible mindset almost any day when referring to Google, but that would be even terrible-er(?) this year. This may very well be one of the most jam-packed Google I/O events in years, if any of the reports, leaks, and whispers out of Google are any indicator.
I’m not typically into big, bold predictions, but there are some items in particular that I can’t wait (and hope) to see Google talk about. Let’s run through them in a quick preview to prepare for tomorrow!
Android M and Developer Preview
Like last year, we should see a developer preview of the newest version of Android, which Google has already told us will be Android M. They won’t tell us what “M” stands for, but I know that many of you have some good guesses. As for what will be new, well, that’s a good question. Google hasn’t hinted at much, but we should see things like better privacy controls when installing apps, new Smart Lock options or uses, potential battery and RAM improvements (there are two battery sessions and one on memory tooling), new developments in terms of gaming (multi-screen action?), more context aware opportunities, and more. We are also hearing rumors suggesting that Google may build in native fingerprint scanner support. I would imagine we’ll see fine-tuning of Material Design with Android, learn how Android M will improve the Android Auto experience, and maybe even some talk of another new approach to updates or at least how long devices will be supported. Further improvements to the backup and restore process would also be greatly appreciated, even over the massive improvements we saw in Lollipop.
If anything, we should see the preview go live this week, so that we can all take it for a spin on Nexus phones (and tablets?). Once that happens, you know we’ll be walking through all of the new goodies, just like we did last year.
The Google I/O schedule doesn’t talk much about Chromecast, but I would be shocked if we don’t see a new Chromecast 2 in the very near future. I/O would be the perfect time to announce one and show off a device that should have new flexibility and features. Rumors in and out of our inbox have suggested that a tweaked form factor will allow the new Chromecast to not only plug-in to TVs, but to speakers as well, so you can stream audio to just about any speaker you own (since not all are Cast-ready).
The new Chromecast will likely stay at the $35 price point of the original.
Back in February, media reports surfaced with word that Google would soon break down Google+ into three areas: Hangouts, Photos, and Stream. Hangouts has already mostly become its own messaging platform and the G+ stream is still the G+ stream, though there may be tweaks there as well to make that more obvious. As for Photos, we have yet to see it fully materialize as its own stand-alone app. That should change at Google I/O. Google should have its all new Google Photos app ready for prime time. Don’t be surprised if it shows up as a new app listing on Google Play this week. For the most part, it should be the same app you are already using alongside Google+, but Google may re-brand parts (Auto Awesome becomes Assistant) of it and give it a new polished look. The folks at Android Police have spent a ton of time with it in case you want to see how it looks.
Android Auto updates
Like wearables, cars are the next big frontier for tech companies. Since Google already dominates the smartphone landscape and was one of the first to smartwatches, they will now spend all sorts of time getting into your next car. We have seen Hyundai adopt Android Auto in their new line-up of cars, but you should expect plenty of new news surrounding the platform at I/O, this week. Google has at least two sessions dedicated to it, but I would imagine we’ll see some of the 3-hour keynote tomorrow morning spent on it as well, maybe in relation to the Android M preview.
Android Wear announcements (hardware and software?)
Google still seems heavily invested in wearables, but without any rumors of new hardware, I don’t know that we’ll such much other than a big focus on fitness and Google Fit (two sessions related to fitness). There may be an announcement surrounding the next version of Wear, but keep in mind, Google just started (slowly) pushing the recent WiFi-support update within the last week and it has yet to hit most watches. The sessions (four related to wearables) all seem targeted at getting developers to buy into fitness integration or using a wearable as a means of authentication.
Maybe we’ll finally get release news on Huawei’s watch? Maybe Google will give them to attendees, like they did last year with the 360? Please!
Voice controls of apps
Google is going to teach developers how to add voice controls to their apps at I/O. We know this because there is an entire session dedicated to it. What we don’t know is if this is an Android M feature or something that will work retroactively with other builds of Android. Either way, get ready for your voice to take over your phone.
App Permission controls
A report from earlier in the month talked about Google giving more control over the permissions that are provided to you during app installs. In basic terms, this could mean that you could hand-pick which permissions you give an app as you install it. Last year, Google gave us a simpler, cleaner overview of permissions, but this move would give you serious control over what your new apps can and can’t access. Tough to tell if that might break some apps, but leave it to Google to figure all of that out. Also, don’t be surprised if this is one of the major new features of Android M.
Google Home or Android@Home
Like all tech companies, Google is preparing to take over your home and the Internet of Things (IoT). According to a report earlier in the month, Google will (at least in our opinions) revive their Android@Home initiative by creating a new software that can run on low-powered, low-RAM devices that would make your home smarter. The hub of it all could be Google’s Nest, but the big deal here is their software (codenamed “Brillo”) being provided to smart home product makers to help create a standard for your home to all run as one. This is a big deal if you want your phone to be smarter in the future.
WTF is ATAP doing?
Google’s Advanced Technologies and Projects (ATAP) is going to introduce a wearable that will “literally” blow your socks off. I have no idea what they have in store, but it could be smart shoes or socks (if we are talking “literally”) or something else altogether. Whatever it is, it should be weird yet awesome, in a weird-awesome way.
VR, because why not?
Don’t be surprised if Google jumps on the Virtual Reality (VR) train. I’ll be sleeping as they talk about it, but others may get all sorts of giddy. Look, I get that companies are always trying to find the next big thing, I just don’t buy into it being VR. VR, to me, is like 3D TVs and Google Glass – it sounds and looks cool at first in demos, but probably won’t ever actually be that cool in reality.
Google always gives out free stuff at Google I/O to attendees. Last year it was a bunch of Android Wear devices. In years past, it has been Nexus phones or tablets, Chromebooks and boxes, and Chromecasts. What will it be this year? This is pure speculation, but I’m guessing the new Chromecast 2 will be gifted, along with an Android Wear watch of some sort (Watch Urbane or Huawei Watch). And if nothing else, maybe Google will hand out Nexus 6s and Project Fi invites to those interested.
Join us tomorrow at 9:30AM Pacific (12:30PM Eastern) for the live keynote! It’s going to be a long one, so bring water, snacks, and butt cushions.