Google I/O is Google’s annual developer conference, an event where the search giant we know all too well showcases some of its latest and most influential projects. We learn about the last twelve months and we learn about what is to come over the next twelve months. Like in year’s past, we’re expecting nothing less than big software announcements for Google I/O 2018. The three-day festival in Mountain View, California just outside San Francisco will begin Tuesday, May 8 and conclude Thursday, May 10.
There are a lot of Google topics we’re anticipating headlines on during Google I/O 2018 week. We already discussed in our what to expect post what’s possible for the various software platforms Google shares with the world, such as Android for mobile, Android TV, Chromecast, Wear OS, Google Assistant, and Daydream VR. But, Google is not just the world’s largest software company and search engine, there are many more creative projects the company actively works on that we expect to be discussed. Some of the possibilities we’d like to talk about are the various Google services, Chrome OS tablets, a mid-range Pixel smartphone, Android Auto, Google Lens, and more. We also want to know out of the topics slated for the event which is it that you want to hear about most? Let’s spark some discussion.
Over the weeks leading up to this year’s Google I/O, the search giant rolled out more than just a few updates for some of its Android and iOS applications. A bunch of these were the company’s entertainment apps, which is why we wrote a poll a month or so back on the possibility of Google focusing more on consumer entertainment this year. We reported on updates to Google Search, helping users find and purchase recommended movies tickets, Audiobooks that are now available in Google Play Books with new features to take on Amazon Audible, and a massive shift for Play Movies & TV with third-party content support and recommendations. Google Maps APIs releasing for game developers is a rather big move to spark augmented reality game development with real-world game creation, and Google’s AR Core app is due for some new upgrades as well. One other app we could hear about is Google Tasks, which debuted just one month ago and could gain some functions.
These were not the only updates. Many are said to begin rolling out around this time. Chrome 66 was released to the public in mid-April, indicating a desire to eliminate user frustrations with ads and auto-playing audio. The Google Phone app now has a beta program on the Play Store, which allows anyone to enroll for unstable updates to test new functions before they release to everyone else. There have also been minor updates and expansions for Google Maps, Files Go, Gboard, Gmail, Google’s favorite in Google Photos, and an interesting implement for Google Duo we believe might shape the future.
Google might also introduce upgrades to the Play Store that would follow suite with movements in its other Google apps like round-shaped bars and menus in addition to white backgrounds. The app has received a lot of minor upgrades to improve the layout and better content discovery by Android device owners, but the biggest update might be yet to come. Some say it’ll include design changes while others believe an expansion to the newly announced Google Play Instant program (upgrade to Instant Apps) that allows users to test not only apps, but games before they buy them without having to download them, is imminent.
Another service by Google that has received lots of treatment lately is Google Pay. This used to be Android Pay and basically merged with Google Wallet and the rest of your Google payment information stored in Chrome. For once, Google combined apps rather than split apart, and the name change follows suite with Android Wear which also dropped ‘Android’ from its name. This is likely because ‘Google’ resonates as higher-end than ‘Android,’ similar to how Pixel means more than Nexus. Over the years, we’ve seen a shift of everything over to Google branding, so this does not surprise us. Additionally Google Pay has received quite a few updates as of late including integration with the Google Assistant, support for transit tickets and gained web support. This year, it could expand to include more currencies, supported regions and banks, online retail partners, and transit ticket abilities for new cities. With voice search on the rise, it wouldn’t surprise me if Google connects Google Pay with Google Home as well, just like it does for Google Express.
Another service that could see some upgrades is YouTube TV. The affordable TV service that costs $40 per month has gained a lot steam, part due to Google’s prevalent advertising. The service recently expanded to Android TV in the form of an app, which could gain improvements, and the service continues to become available in more cities. YouTube TV has also gained a handful of channels, and more could very well be on the way. Mother Google is also rumored to be launching a new ‘Yeti’ game streaming service to compete with PlayStation Now. Users would have the ability to stream to Chromecast and Android TV in real-time, something current market competitors don’t currently do all that well.
One service that could see a launch at the event is YouTube Remix. YouTube Remix is expected to eventually replace and force users off Google’s Play Music service. By combining YouTube Music, YouTube Red and Play Music essentially into one consumer-friendly service, Google will look to appeal to a large audience with a brand new premium music streaming service. The search giant has needed one with modern abilities, as Play Music hasn’t been able to match offerings like Spotify. Rather than keeping the ‘Play’ branding that unifies all of Google’s core services, the new service could use the popular YouTube brand. Some rumored features are expected to carry over from Play Music. Recommendations and music suggestions are two that would likely take advantage of Google’s best-in-class AI and machine learning algorithms that learn from you and the current environment. There might also be integration with YouTube videos, for paid users to watch and listen at the same time. We don’t know what else the service will entail, but Google is expected to have surprises since it has been preparing and keeping this under closed wrappings for some time. Perhaps it’ll release for us to use during the event, and maybe it’ll be announced for both Android and iOS device owners. Who knows? While I’d hate to see Play Music go and a new entrant would be late to the market, I would love to see a new music app from Google for modern times.
Another service that could see its introduction at this year’s conference is Google Chat. The app surfaced in mid-April and appeared to be the latest attempt by Google at universal messaging for Android users. The name of the app is ‘Chat’ and it’s said to take advantage of developments in RCS Messaging. This would allow everyone to use chat, universally, whether they have the app on their phone or use a regular SMS app. The only barrier that stands in the way is cell carriers, which have proven to be the enemy of successful RCS messaging in the past and present with Android Messages.
Google has been on a mission for years and years to create a simple, user-friendly and universal messaging solution for everyone on Android that people enjoy using to compete with Apple’s iMessage. The search giant has had numerous failed attempts, many which have been spun-off into other things or killed off for good. Hangouts was one, and Allo and Duo were the most recent pair, which split up text and video functionality and were quickly disproved by the Android community. Despite Allo getting a web client, syncing between devices requires your phone to be on since everything runs through SMS and not your Google account. Google wanted the app to be simple to set up and one that both Android and iOS users could benefit from, but the user-friendliness didn’t work out all that well due to these inconsistencies. Despite all of Google’s great implementations for self-expression and getting assistance through built-in search, we still don’t have an app serves all functions. Maybe, just maybe, Chat will do justice for some of us.
See any of the below links for our recent Google apps coverage and rumors.
Chrome OS Tablets
Chromebooks and Google’s Chrome OS don’t usually get much spotlight at Google I/O, but that could change this year. Toward the beginning of April, Google made its rumored announcement of Chrome OS tablets official. Many had speculated this given the current state of Android tablets, rise of phablets, and last year’s reports of Android and the web-based Chrome OS merging. This isn’t a merge, but in fact is Chrome OS designed for full touchscreen devices. Android is more popular on phones than it is on tablets, and because manufacturers have not come out with many Android tablets especially high-end ones, the market is being slowly phased out. While some like Sony and Huawei are hanging on, Acer and HP have already announced the first two Chrome OS tablets, one being the Chromebook Tab 10. At this year’s Google I/O, it would not surprise us if Google details its plans for the project as it pertains to education and whether or not Android tablets are done for. This could indicate a shift from computers too much larger touch screen devices, which seem to be what Apple has been trying to make happen. Google might announce new partners, an update to Chrome OS with more touchscreen abilities, or perhaps a Chrome OS tablet of their own to show off some capabilities and get others attracted to the new market. Pixelbook is a super high-end Chromebook that Google released last year. Though it has a keyboard, it also has a full-fledged touchscreen and can be essentially converted into a tablet with the bendable keyboard. Perhaps it’ll get some new functions too.
See any of the below link(s) for our recent Chrome OS coverage and rumors.
It took a whole eleven months after last year’s Google I/O for us to hear about Android Auto. The OS by Google designed for automobiles is a lightweight system utilizing a few Google applications helpful when on the road. Last year, Google partnered with a handful of automakers to use head units with Google’s software in their own vehicles. However, knowing Google who wants Android accessible by everyone, anywhere they are, the search giant made an Android Auto app for Android devices that can act as the dash for those without an Android Auto compatible head unit. Replacing the unit is expensive and I’m not sure that many people would do it just so they can have Android Auto in their car. Therefore, this was a great alternative. Android Auto in cars just recently gained the ability to pair with some phones wirelessly, rather than having to be plugged in using a cable. That being said, Android Auto Wireless might expand to new cars and new phones at the time of this year’s show. Google could also provide a revamp to the software or expand to include more automakers as partners too. There are lots to be discussed at Google I/O, some more important topics than Auto, so we may or may nor hear about it during the keynote.
See any of the below link(s) for our recent Android Auto coverage and rumors.
Mid-range Pixel Phone
Back in April, we heard about the possibility of a mid-range Pixel smartphone for emerging markets. We haven’t heard anything in this regard since the initial report, though a Pixel 3 smartphone was mentioned at AOSP later in the month. Google is not expected to unveil new Pixel 3 smartphones by any means, though a ‘Made By Google‘ hardware event could see the launch of Pixel 2 successors and more in the fall season. The report indicates that this mid-range phone will launch sooner. We don’t think it’ll be introduced at this year’s I/O conference, but you never know, Google is unpredictable. We also don’t yet know if the mid-range Pixel will include the number three moniker or where exactly it will release, only that it will be more affordable.
In the last year, Google acquired employees from HTC for a $1 billion payment to gain much-needed experience behind the wheel when it comes to hardware. Pixel 2 XL had some issues, and Google will need to make things right for the sake of brand recognition in 2018. The team that used to be part of HTC now works in the same offices as the Made By Google hardware team, expected to be working on the upcoming model. Some believe the phone might be the first to run an Android P version of Android Go with Google’s lightweight apps. This would be the first actually made by Google if it were to release, which could spark some interest. We don’t expect it to give away secrets of the Pixel 3, but perhaps we’ll get a preview of what’s to come in the months ahead. I’m not sure that I agree with the idea for various reasons, and Google will surely have a tough time penetrating mid-range markets. Considering the lack of leaks, there could still be a ways to go but we’ll keep our heads held high.
See any of the below links for our recent mid-range Pixel phone coverage and rumors.
Google does so much making it difficult to explore everything, especially the smaller but growing fields. However, we will note a few. One thing we haven’t talked about is Google Lens. Google Lens was announced just last year and like the case with Google Assistant during its first year, it hasn’t seen a whole lot of improvement nor adoption. Google said it would roll out Google Lens to as many people as possible through a variety of Google apps and services, but many have only gained access to the AI and vision learning functionality through Google Photos. Very few have seen it in the camera and Google Assistant, and are still waiting for it on their Android devices. Google has made life hard for itself with all the fragmentation that exists with the open platform, so progress has been slow. We’re still waiting on a bunch of features too, said to make the technology more competitive with Bixby Vision and Amazon’s visual recognition software. There’s a lot of potential in Google Lens, we just hope this year it reaches more people, in more ways, and starts living up to our expectations for it.
Google has always lacked in comparison to Samsung devices, good ol’ BlackBerry phones and even iPhones when it comes to enterprise usage. But this year, the company wants to appeal more to the business customer. This was confirmed once Google’s Android For Business program gained a ‘Enterprise Recommended’ badge. High-end Android phones that meet the standards in Google’s certification program are awarded this badge of honor, letting business shoppers know which are safe to buy for their use. We could get an expansion of devices, learn about new partners or the program itself and/or Google’s plans, at the developer conference. Personally I think this could be a huge success if given the attention it deserves.
One other product I’m hoping gets some updates is Pixel Buds. The super expensive wireless earbuds with Google Assistant hot key came out last year and were very unfinished. Reviewers including us had some bad things to say about them, but luckily, a lot can be fixed with software. Now would be a great time for Google to come out with some upgrades to improve the headphones making them less problematic and better sounding. I thought these were a great idea to compete with Apple’s Air Pods, I just don’t see the value in the current state for the current price.
See any of the below links for our recent coverage and rumors on these products and programs.
The event will kick off with Google’s keynote on Tuesday, which will start promptly at 10:00am Pacific with Sundar Pichai. The address is expected to last for approximately 90 minutes before various sessions are held in smaller groups for more specific information.
Our expectations have been high and I think we’re in for a treat. For more on what to expect during the three days of Google coverage including the various Android platforms such as Android P for mobile, Android TV, Chromecast, Wear OS, Google Assistant, and Daydream VR, read our roundup of what to expect linked below.
This brings us to our poll of the week. It’s still anybody’s guess as to exactly what Google will pick to address during its keynote, but we want to know your opinion. We’ve talked about a lot of possible discussion points in this post, yet not everything. Out of what we talked about, what are you most excited to hear about?
Drop a comment letting us know and be sure to vote in our weekly poll down below. You can also find it on our right sidebar. The poll will remain open all week and we look forward to hearing your response.
Droid Turf will be covering the event starting Tuesday and ending Thursday, as well as everything leading up to it, post event analysis as well as insight. We’re covering Google I/O 2018 in its entirety, stay here at Droid Turf for coverage throughout the week.