What to expect from Google I / O 2022

This week, the annual Google developer conference, Google I / O, is scheduled to kick off with an opening presentation on Wednesday, May 11 at 1:00 p.m. EST. While the conference itself aims to help developers get the most out of Google’s tools and platforms, the keynote speech is relevant to a much wider audience, with hardware and software announcements for products to be released in the next 12 months.

This year we saw a lot of hardware announcements during the speech. There are rumors of the first searchable wearable device, the Pixel Watch, as well as the mid-range counterpart of last year’s Pixel 6 smartphones. It is possible that a new pair of true wireless earbuds has also been announced. Maybe even a few surprises.

The software announcements will likely focus on Google’s core operating systems such as Android 13, the next major release due later this year. Google presenters can also announce new features for other platforms such as Wear OS and Android TV. The company’s growing range of services (think Google Maps or workplace tools like Google Docs) are also likely to receive some improvements.

Here is a full rundown of what we expect:

A leaked Pixel Watch prototype between the 40mm Apple Watch (left) and the 46mm Samsung Galaxy Watch.
Photo: tagtech414 (Reddit)

Google may finally announce its Pixel Watch

Rumors that Google is making its own smartwatch have been around for ages, but 2022 could finally be the year when it actually happens. There were specification leaks, design leaks, and a filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office revealing the Pixel Watch name. Most important, however, is the apparent smartwatch prototype found abandoned in a restaurant, which has led to a flood of photos posted online.

In between all the leaks, we’re starting to get a pretty good idea of ​​what form the Pixel Watch will take. The big question now is whether all of Google’s investments (including spending billions on Fitbit) can create something that is capable of presenting a real challenge to Apple’s dominance.

Unofficial renders of the expected Pixel 6A design.
Photo: Steve Hemmerstoffer / 91 Cells

The new Pixel 6A midrange

For the past three years, Google has followed each of its flagship Pixel smartphones with a more affordable, down-spec version. This year it’s the Pixel 6’s turn, but rumors suggest the Pixel 6A may be slightly different from previous A-series phones.

While phones like the Pixel 4A and 5A combined similar camera features with their flagship counterparts with less powerful processors, reports suggest the Pixel 6A could reverse that approach. Report from 9do5Google Last year, he suggested that the new phone might feature the same Tensor processor as the Pixel 6, but a lowered 12-megapixel main camera sensor instead of the Pixel 6’s 50-megapixel sensor.

The announcement on Google I / O will come a little earlier than the August launches we usually saw for mid-range Google phones. But the timing of the recent FCC filing suggests its launch may be around the corner.

Maybe some professional wireless earbuds

This rumor is less certain, but … a recent leak from Jon Prosser suggested that Google is getting ready to release a new set of true wireless earbuds called Pixel Buds Pro. Little is known about their potential features and specifications, but the use of the word “Pro” in the name of a set of earbuds is usually used to show that they support active noise cancellation – which would be the first of a pair of Google true wireless earbuds.

Google currently only sells one pair of true wireless earbuds, the Pixel Buds A-Series, which were originally announced as the more affordable counterpart to the second-generation Pixel Buds. But with the Pixel Buds retirement, Google is only selling the inexpensive listing. Adding an entry under the Pro brand would be a natural change.

Mockup of notification permissions that Android 13 applications can request.
Image: Google

Lots of details on Android 13

The software side is Android 13, the next major release of Google’s mobile operating system. Technically, it’s already been released in beta – offering little glimpses of Google’s upgrade plans – but it’s only after I / O that we’ll get the full picture of Google’s overall vision for Android 13.

So far, it looks like Android 13 will continue much of the work that Google started with Android 12. Last year’s customizable themes (labeled Material You) are likely to expand to cover more UI elements in the operating system, and Google is still limiting what aspects of the operating system your Android applications have access to by default. Any news on major new initiatives is likely to come up during Google’s speech.

Or maybe, just maybe, some folded messages

Android 13 isn’t the only major update that Google will roll out to its mobile operating system this year. There’s also Android 12L, a new version of the operating system optimized for tablets and foldable devices. We know that it is scheduled to be released this year and will be available on Samsung, Lenovo and Microsoft devices. I / O is a good time for the search giant to come up with more specific details.

In addition to software, it has long been said that Google works on one or two foldable devices. At some point, there were rumors that they were due to come out last year, but given the lack of recent leaks, it doesn’t seem like the announcement is any imminent. Foldable phones are, after all, still very niche products outside of China, even though Samsung is now in the third generation of foldable devices.

Signs of the new Nest Hub?

Considering it has only been a year since Google released its last Nest Hub smart display, it seems premature to expect further action. But the report from 9do5Google from March we can see one with a detachable screen that can be used as a tablet at some point this year. The case sounds like it’s perfect as a smart home controller, and would also explain the new attention Google is giving to tablets.

But given the unclear 2022 release date, there is no guarantee that Google will be ready to unveil a new device this week, if it exists at all.

A render of what the Pixel Watch interface could look like.
Photo: Evan Blass / 91 Cells

Plus updates for other platforms

Of course, Android isn’t the only operating system that Google manages. It also has a Wear OS system for smartwatches, which is almost sure to get attention on the scene if Google announces its Pixel Watch this week. Even if it doesn’t, the showcase will come a year after Google announced it would be linking its platform with Samsung’s Tizen. (The software developed came out on Galaxy Watch 4.) And it seems likely that Google will have more to add on how the development is going.

There is also Android TV and Google TV software that are designed for – you guessed it – TVs. We know there will be new features this year as one of the product managers said so in January. Support for home fitness workouts is clearly something the company is interested in, along with offering smarter home control and videoconferencing services.

Expect a ton of updates to Google software and services

Away from the hardware and platform announcements, the Google I / O showcase wouldn’t be complete if the search giant were to announce updates to several of its numerous applications and services. For example, last year we announced the locked folder feature for Google Photos, Google Maps augmented reality view updates, and a new office software “smart canvas” initiative to increase the interconnection of various services.

Given the huge breadth of Google’s software offering, it’s hard to predict exactly which one will attract attention on the scene this year. But I suppose Google Workspace is likely to be going to stand out. Smart Canvas has already brought some slick new features to Google Docs, and I suspect this is just the beginning of Google’s plans to overhaul office software for remote work.

With a few surprises on top

In addition to the more typical product announcements, Google always has a few I / O surprises in store. Last year, an experiment called Project Starline was revealed, which is a video chat booth designed to create the impression that you are sitting right in front of someone who might be hundreds of miles away. Along with other AR / VR projects we’ve heard of (e.g. the Project Iris augmented reality goggles), this is not a real product yet and could be in 2024 at the earliest. But Google often wants to show off these kinds of early R&D projects, and this year is unlikely to be an exception.

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