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Google’s annual developer conference, Google I/O, is nearly upon us. In a few days’ time, a keynote address headlined by CEO Sundar Pichai will kick off a week’s worth of festivities assuredly crammed with news, announcements, and updates across the company’s product lines. We’re expecting new smartphones, smart devices, features in Google Assistant, deep dives on the newest version of Android (Android Q), and perhaps the latest from Google parent company Alphabet’s leading subsidiaries, like self-driving car company Waymo.
VentureBeat will be in attendance, covering the show live from the South Bay. We’re no soothsayers, but given what’s been revealed so far, here’s what we’re expecting to see.
Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL
It’s been roughly half a year since Google launched the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, the latest in its long-running smartphone lineup, and word on the street is that the company is gearing up to release midrange models to complement them: the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL. The company confirmed as much in a recent earnings call, reiterated by a Google Store teaser image that reads “Something big is coming to the Pixel universe.”
Elsewhere, crafty leakers have managed to get their hands on spec sheets, pricing, and press renders of the Pixel 3a and 3a XL far ahead of their rumored launches. The new handsets will reportedly come in three colors — black, white, and purple — and feature the same category-leading 12.2-megapixel camera present in the Pixel 3 and 3 XL, with nifty tools like Night Sight and Motion Auto Focus in tow. Three years of security and software upgrades are a shoo-in, as are features like Screen Call, which begins transcribing incoming phone calls in real time before you even pick up.
As far as the internals are concerned, both phones are said to pack 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, fast-charging batteries, and rear fingerprint readers. They’ll reportedly cost less than $500 — specifically, $399 for the Pixel 3a and $479 for the Pixel 3a XL. And in addition to availability through mainstay Verizon, they might also come to T-Mobile, breaking the former’s longtime stateside Pixel carrier exclusivity.
Google Hub Max
A new smart display powered by Google Assistant could be imminent, if a premature reveal by the Google Store is any indication. In late March, Android Police spotted a listing for an as-yet-unannounced Nest Hub Max, a 10-inch smart display with a Nest Camera.
Assuming the listing’s copy was accurate, the Nest Hub Max’s camera will double as a motion alarm and facilitate calls via Google Duo, Google’s cross-platform video messaging service. (Notably, Google’s Home Hub doesn’t include a camera, a decision Google Home product management vice president Diya Jolly justified at the time by saying it made people more comfortable placing the device in “private spaces.”) Other highlights include stereo speakers and an HD screen of unknown resolution.
You can bet your bottom dollar that Android Q will make an appearance at Google I/O. The first beta of Google’s freshly minted Android release hit the Pixel, Pixel 2, and Pixel 3 in March through the Android Beta Program, and the second beta landed in early April. So far, they’ve introduced improved location privacy controls for apps, chat bubbles for conversations (courtesy of the new Bubbles API), pop-up settings menus, and more.
But there’s more on tap — Android Q will boast a revamped sharing menu, a native screen recorder, and perhaps a desktop mode that’s akin to Samsung’s DeX. It also has an improved Wi-Fi stack; enhancements for foldable devices, like the Galaxy Fold and Huawei’s upcoming Mate X; and granular storage controls in scoped storage, which enables users to deny apps access to photo, video, and audio collections.
Google typically times public beta releases around I/O, so we’re anticipating that a third Android Q beta will arrive sometime between Monday and Friday. A finalized release is slated for Q3, following a fourth, fifth, and sixth beta.
Google shocked the world with its convincingly human-sounding, AI-powered booking agent — Duplex — at Google I/O 2018 last May. In the intervening months, Duplex arrived on Pixel and select non-Pixel smartphones (like the Galaxy S10) via Google Assistant and expanded to 43 U.S. states, the holdouts being Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, and Texas.
Currently, Duplex can place reservations at restaurants on behalf of users — it’s as easy as saying “OK Google, book a table for four people at [restaurant name] tomorrow night,” after which Duplex will attempt to book a table within 15 minutes. However, Duplex can’t make salon appointments, one of the tasks Google promised last year that it would be capable of performing.
If you ask us, I/O seems like the perfect venue from which to roll Duplex out nationwide and introduce the haircut bookings feature.
Earlier this year, at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Google announced the launch of Stadia, a streaming service that beams video games console-free to smart TVs, phones, tablets, and PCs. A small army of datacenters will enable streams in up to 4K at 60 frames per second (with support for 8K and 120 frames per second on the way), and customers will have the option of purchasing a custom-designed Stadia controller with a capture button that shares in-game experiences directly to YouTube.
We know a fair bit more about Stadia, like that its multi-GPU hardware platform is about twice as powerful as Microsoft’s Xbox One X (measured in teraflops) and that Stadia will support cross-platform play and split-screen gaming on a single display. But beyond the upcoming Doom Eternal, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, and a handful of exclusives, the title lineup remains a mystery. So does the pricing structure and rollout window. We’re hoping to glean some of these details during sessions in I/O’s Gaming developer track, a new addition this year.
All this merely scratches the surface of what will likely be revealed next week. We’re expecting updates on other fronts, like Android Automotive, an operating system designed to run in cars rather than on in-car infotainment systems. Just this week, it gained support for third-party media, navigation, and communication apps, perhaps laying the groundwork for ecosystem-related announcements.
Chrome OS, Google’s open source Linux-based OS for lightweight desktops, laptops, and other form factors, probably won’t dominate the conversation at I/O, but it’ll pop up here and there in developer sessions about secure development on Linux for Chromebooks, progressive web apps, and Chrome OS app development.
Google’s attention on Wear OS, its wearables software platform, seems to steadily diminish with each passing quarter, but the company did recently roll out a tiles feature that makes apps easier to view and swipe. As for ARCore and Daydream, Google’s augmented reality and virtual reality initiatives, respectively, both are due for expanded hardware support. And on the in-home entertainment front, we’ll likely receive an update on the beleaguered Android TV, and possibly Chromecast.
So what else might make an appearance at I/O? Well, probably not Google Glass-toting Sergey Brin skydiving onto the roof of San Francisco’s Moscone Center, or a follow-up to the ill-fated Nexus Q, but there’s bound to be a surprise (or several) in store. Stay tuned to VentureBeat for a play-by-play rundown of events.
Here is a recap of what happened last year: Everything Google announced at I/O 2018.