What to expect from Google I/O 2021

Google I/O has been home to many of the company’s biggest announcements, including news about the Pixel 3A, the Nest Hub Max, and Google Duplex. Due to the pandemic, Google canceled the event in 2020, but now Google I/O is back — and this time, it’s free for everyone. While a trip to California to see everything in-person might be fun, getting to view it remotely online is the next best thing.

When is Google I/O 2021, and who can register?

Google I/O will be held from May 18 to 20 and is free for everyone who wants to attend. You can register now through the Google I/O website. Although it’s traditionally a developer conference, the event typically features big news that interests consumers, too.

So what can you expect? That question is a big one, and the answer is: A lot. It’s been two years since the last event, which (hopefully) means a lot for Google fans to get excited about.

How can you watch Google I/O Live?

Google will stream the entire keynote on YouTube. Just keep your eyes on the official Google YouTube channel to stay up to date with the conference and catch the major announcements live.

What will Google I/O 2021 look like?

This year’s Google I/O will be an entirely virtual conference. While the exact format of the event isn’t clear, Google has already announced a few big talking points.

The consumer and developer keynotes will focus on both company- and product-related news and can be watched and rewatched on demand. If you miss a keynote, don’t worry — you can catch it later. Technical sessions will focus on product announcements, as well as how users can adopt any new features. There is no set day for these; they’ll be spread throughout the entire I/O event.

There will also be workshops and Ask Me Anything sessions, all of which will be interactive. You must reserve a time slot to participate. The workshops will be led by a designated instructor, while the AMAs will offer chances to ask questions of experts on various Google products. If you’re interested in connecting with other attendees, Google will host Meetups, which Google describes as “casual, open, facilitated forums.” Again, you must be registered and make a reservation to attend these forums.

One major draw is the Interactive Sandbox, a part of I/O Adventure that allows developers to try Google’s latest products and features through a virtual hands-on experience. If you prefer a more solo experience, Codelabs and Learning Pathways are self-guided experiences that will help you adopt new Google technology.

Google just released the breakout session schedule to the public, and there are some interesting topics being discussed on May 19. At 11:45 a.m., the “What’s new in Google Assistant” session will tackle changes and updates coming to Google Assistant, and may even see a few new features being announced.

There are sessions all throughout the day, but another one of particular interest starts at 6:15 p.m. and is called “What’s new in smart home.” Again, it’s unlikely that new Nest devices will be announced, but this session might touch on new software capabilities and better connectivity between different brands.

Another session that is worth consideration is “Debugging the smart home,” at 2:30 a.m. It would be an early wakeup time, but discussing the bugs that crop up in an expansive smart home is always enlightening.

Finally, for Android fans (as many Google users are), the “What’s new in Android” session will be held from 4:30 p.m. t0 5 p.m.

What to expect from Google I/O 2021

There are few rumors about what Google I/O 2021 will hold, but there’s a lot of speculation.

Android 12

While we know for certain that Google won’t release the final version of Android 12 at I/O, there’s a good chance it will make an announcement regarding the latest OS. Android 12 is currently in developer preview right now, and the timing of I/O loosely aligns with when we’d expect to see the first beta release. If that happens, it would be our first look at some of the new features and polished interface elements in Android 12 — up to this point, the developer previews have been pretty rough.

You can expect to see the complete release of Android 12 in September, as is traditional for Google. It’ll likely come alongside a new Pixel phone (or phones).

Google Pixel Buds A

When any major conference approaches, the rumor mills begin churning. That absolutely holds true for Google I/O 2021, particularly with regard to a new version of the Google Pixel Buds. In a marketing email, Google showed off a pair of Pixel Buds in an olive color that isn’t currently available.

Google Pixel Buds A new olive

This sparked conversation and has led many people to believe that Google may have another pair of wireless earbuds in the lineup — possibly a lower-cost option to appeal to a different demographic than the current Pixel Buds. They’ve been referred to as the “Pixel Buds A,” leaning on Google’s use of the “A” suffix on its lower-end phones.

Google Pixel 5a

Google has a history of releasing a more budget-friendly version of its current flagship phone, including the Google Pixel 3a and the Pixel 4a. Right now, the Pixel 5 dominates Google’s lineup, but the stopgap Pixel 4a 5G is the latest lower-cost model.

Unfortunately for us, we’re likely going to have to keep waiting. Google waited to release the Pixel 4a and 4a 5G until later in the year last year — when Google I/O was canceled — and it’s poised to follow that new release schedule in 2021. After rumors swirled about an upcoming Pixel 5a being canceled outright, Google made an official statement that the Pixel 5a will be released “later this year.” That certainly doesn’t align with a Google I/O event that’s coming less than a month from now.

So, we’re going to get a Pixel 5a — it just won’t be happening at Google I/O 2021.

Google Pixel 6

The rumor mills spun up this last week about the possible launch of the Google Pixel 6, with speculation that the latest entry in Google’s flagship phone line would launch “sometime in the near future.” What better time than at Google I/O?

Granted, you should take this rumor with enough salt to worry your doctor, but there is a possibility — however slight — that Google will take advantage of its developer conference to announce the launch of a new Pixel phone. However, given the almost-zero chance of a Pixel 5a announcement at Google I/O, you probably shouldn’t get your hopes up for a Pixel 6 announcement either.

The best you can hope for is a tease — maybe a slight bit of information that hints at the phone’s existence before a full announcement later in the year.

Google App updates

App and software updates are the most likely announcements at Google I/O. Some announcements may include details on new privacy features (especially regarding Google-powered apps in the App Store and Apple’s new privacy regulations).

For example, there could be new updates coming to Google Translate, such as new language compatibility or real-time translation features. Updates to any of Google’s major apps, as well as Android Auto apps, are possible.

Google Assistant updates

Google Assistant may also see major updates at Google I/O. Users can expect news about the Assistant’s capabilities, as well as more information on voice recognition, device compatibility, and new ways to control your smart home.

google assistant mobile
Taylor Frint/Digital Trends

One potential announcement is the availability of Google Assistant in more countries across the globe. The smart assistant can already perform quite a few tasks, but Google has not yet wrested the lead from Amazon.

New Google Assistant and Nest hardware

Google is slow to release hardware updates for its smart devices — the Nest Mini took years to see an update of any kind. While it isn’t likely that a new smart device will be announced so soon following the launch of the Nest Audio, there is always a chance we may see something to diversify the lineup. With the Google Home Max no longer part of the lineup, you never know what the company may announce.

This is pure speculation, but there is a gap in the market that Google could be filled by a Nest Subwoofer. The Amazon Echo Sub meets that demand on the Alexa side of the aisle, but Google doesn’t have a comparable device. If the company wants to focus on audio fidelity, that’s one way to improve.

New Chromecast

Chromecast 3rd-gen installation
Google

Earlier this year, an Federal Communicatiosn Commission filing hinted at a new wireless streaming device from Google. While no official word has been given, this might hint at the launch of a new Chromecast — one that can handle Stadia streaming, maybe?

While the ready availability of Chromecast makes it a popular choice for people who want to add smart elements to their TV, there is always room for improvement. New features like the ability to support captive portals or just better support for Android gaming would be perfect for a new model.

News about Whitechapel?

There is no official confirmation on this one, but rumors say that Google may be working on its own system on a chip, or SoC, with the code name Whitechapel. While Qualcomm has supplied Google’s chips for all of its phones and smart devices, the global chip shortage may be driving a transition to in-house manufacturing. If there is truth to this rumor, Google may make an announcement during the event.

Fitbit and Wear OS?

Google now owns Fitbit, but it hasn’t done much with the company yet. On that same note, Wear OS still lives but is a bit stagnant. Google I/O 2021 is the perfect time to announce a new Fitbit product that works with Wear OS or somehow combines the two services into one.

Google I/O is less than a month away. More information will undoubtedly become available the closer we get to showtime, so stay tuned. If you’re interested in attending the event, go ahead and sign up while you still can. With any luck, Google I/O might be an in-person event once more next year — with broadcast events for anyone who can’t attend.

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