Google I/O is home to many of the company’s biggest announcements, like the news of 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.
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 it. 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 of headlines for Google fans.
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. The 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 timeslot to participate. The workshops will be led by a designated instructor, while the AMAs offer chances to ask questions of experts on various Google products. If you’re interested in connecting with other attendees, Google will host Meetups — as Google puts it, “casual, open, facilitated forums.” Again, you must be registered and make a reservation to attend.
One major draw are the Interactive Sandboxes, 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.
What to expect from Google I/O 2021
There are few rumors about what Google I/O 2021 might hold, but there’s a lot of speculation.
While we know for certain that Google won’t release the final version of Android 12 at I/O, there’s a good chance Google 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’d 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.
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 their current flagship phone, as seen in 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 anyway — 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 that’s coming just over a month later.
So, we’re going to get a Pixel 5a, it just won’t be happening at Google I/O 2021.
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 more potential focus on 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 perhaps more information on voice recognition, more device compatibility, and new ways to control your smart home.
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 their smart devices; after all, 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 may never know what the company may announce.
This is pure speculation, but there is a gap in the market Google could meet with a Nest Subwoofer. The Amazon Echo Sub fills 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.
Google I/O is just over 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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