In just a couple days, Google will hold its annual Google I/O conference in San Francisco, during which it will show off all its latest software tools and services. At last year’s event, the tech giant offered an early glimpse at Android L (which later launched as Android 5.0 Lollipop), Android apps on Chromebooks, the Google Fit health platform and more. In previous years, the company debuted YouTube and Project Glass.
So naturally, the tech industry is already buzzing with predictions about what Google will be announcing at the two-day developer event, held Thursday and Friday. And so we’ve rounded up all the rumors and reports on Google TV, Android M, Android Wear and more so you know what to expect ahead of the conference.
Without further ado, here’s what we know so far—and what we think we might know—about what Google will be unveiling:
There’s a good chance Android M won’t officially launch until the fall, when new Nexus devices are revealed, but we’ll still no doubt be informed about new features that will come with it. A slight mishap broke the news of Android M earlier this month: Google briefly—and perhaps accidentally—shared the names/descriptions of some Google I/O sessions on the I/O site (and pulled them a short while later). What we found out is that Google is seems to be planning to ramp up its enterprise offering with something called “Android for Work,” which “brings the power of Android to all kinds of workplaces.” One I/O session detailed a “Voice Access” feature, which hints at expanded voice control for Android M, and another suggests the possibility of refined notifications. Other rumors indicate that the new version of Android will support Touch ID-esque fingerprint sensors, Android Wear support for iPhone users, major Android Auto updates, and also a public Google Now API.
With all the hype around the Apple Watch this year, it makes sense that Google would be honing in on its own wearable. The I/O schedule showsseveral sessions relating to Android Wear, with one focusing on how developers can better leverage its support library to make awesome apps for the smartwatch. Specifically, Google seems to be interested on fitness: Two breakout sessions center around Google Fit and building better fitness apps are also available. As far as what Android Wear updates to expect, it’s definitely possible that Google willannounce iPhone support, which would allow iPhone owners to use an Android Wear-powered smartwatch instead of Apple’s.
It’s worth mentioning that Google recently added additional voice command support for certain third-party apps—and a session called “Building voice actions for your Android app” indicates that Google Now “looks to be the platform these voice actions will work though on phones, tablets and Android Wear watches.” Imagine how much easier it will be to find and open an app on a Google-powered watch.
Last year, Google announced Android on everything from your wrist to your car and your living room—now it’s time to demonstrate how different devices can be connected, like your kitchen appliances and even your home lighting system. And considering how fast the IoT market is maturing, it’s totally possible that Google will shed more light on its smart home technology Brillo. It’s believed that this platform will be integrated into the next version of Android, arguably Google’s most significant move into the IoT category. Brillo isn’t actually an entirely new platform, though: Apparently, it’s a framework that Android developers and manufacturers can tap into.
Android TV games
It seems like Google has big plans in the works for Android TV—and they involve making a massive library of Android-powered games to your living room. To this effort, the company has introduced new multiplayer features and preorders for new apps. Pretty soon, A/B testing abilities will help devs to optimize how they sell apps in the Google Play Store. We’ll likely hear more about these efforts—as well as the Android TV console—in the Google I/O keynote. The gaming machine, which was announced in February, was recently featured on Amazon for a brief period, and is slated to release any day now.
Speaking of gaming, Google just might some minor announcements regarding Cardboard—a piece of pre-cut cardboard that folds into a VR headset—which it just released last year. With Mattel’s help, Google recently revamped the Viewmaster toy based on the same concept as the Gear VR. Between Google’s devices, the Gear VR. Thus far, starting a VR app on any of these platforms is a complicated process, but Google reportedly wants to simplify everything: According to The Wall Street Journal, Google is building “a version of the Android operating system to power virtual-reality applications.”
Seeing as Google recently hired a new head of its VR division, it’s unlikely the company will have any big developments to reveal, but we may get more hints about the rumored Android-based platform specifically for VR.
Back at the Mobile World Congress conference in March, Google confirmed that it’s developing Android Pay—a payments API for developers. Now, the rumor mill is churning with speculations that the API will officially launch at I/O. “The platform will power in-store and in-app payments for third-party apps,” reads an Ars Technica report.
There are quite a few sessions dedicated to Project Ara on the I/O schedule. This modular phone initiative promises maximum customization, allowing developers and users and developers to build their own smartphones according to their preferences piece by piece. Back in January, Google announced the launch of a Puerto Rico pilot program later in 2015. So I/O seems like a reasonable time to reveal a release date, as well as more information about the parts and prices.
One thing we know for a fact is that Google will be talking at least a little bit about Android Auto, an app that transforms a car’s dashboard into an Android phone. There’s a chance Google will focus on adding more apps to the currently limited selection, or maybe the company will offer more details around the new immersive features that Android M will offer when used as the the operating system for car infotainment systems. Perhaps Google will announce a few new automobile partnerships, too?
It’s hard to believe that Google’s Chromecast launched two years ago—and while the software has seen a number of updates, the hardware has remained the same. For that reason, rumors are spreading that Chromecast version 2 is in the works. Adding legitimacy to this speculation is the fact that Google executive Mario Queiroz said last October that new Chromecast devices are coming. The I/O conference seems like a good time for Google to offer up some more insight into this development.
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