This year’s Google I/O conference takes place between May 15 and May 17, and like previous years, will be held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. While its primary function is to bring developers working on Google apps and products together for workshops, technical sessions, and inspiration; the opening keynote has become as important to the tech industry as the famous keynote address at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference.
Last year, it was a two-hour marathon which introduced everything from the Nexus 7 tablet and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, to the incredible Google Glass demonstration featuring sky divers, mountain bikers and a giddy-with-joy Sergey Brin. It was always going to be a tough act for Google to follow that this year, and despite several exciting prospects on the horizon, according to comments made by Android boss Sundar Pichai, it’s not even going to try. In an interview, Pichai said Google I/O this year would be different to others, as it would shift the focus away from consumers and onto developers. While this crushes our hopes of several high profile product launches, it does make sense, as despite the crowd-pleasing keynote, Google I/O is first-and-foremost an annual developer community get-together.
There’s always a chance we’ll be surprised though, so here’s a roundup of what we have been expecting from Google I/O this year.
Glass was the standout hit of last year’s Google I/O event, and there are plenty of people hoping for a public release date and final price to be revealed during this year’s keynote. The Explorer Edition beta headsets have shipped to many who splashed out $1500 for one last year. Learn more about it in our Google Glass: Everything you need to know piece.
Those hoping for a release this year may come away disappointed. Judging by Larry Page’s comments in the most recent Google earnings call, where he said it was still “early days” for the product, it may not be coming out for some time. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt also said in an interview that Glass is still around a year away from sale, making the chances of a release date being made public during the keynote even more unlikely. Regardless, we can expect to hear something about Glass, but it could be more on the software development side, with overviews of the apps which are being created for use on the high tech specs. With all the excitement surrounding Glass, we’re hoping for some fun news.
Google didn’t announce a Nexus phone at last year’s Google I/O event, leaving the spotlight to concentrate on the Nexus 7 tablet instead. The Nexus 4 was eventually revealed in October, and took the world by storm due to its high-end hardware and low-end price tag. The Nexus 5 has had some very impressive features linked to it, but the chances of it featuring a 2.3GHz chip, 3GB of RAM and a 16-megapixel camera seem slim. We can guess a big screen – around 5-inches sounds likely – and a quad-core processor will be onboard. A recent leaked image partnered LG, Google, and camera experts Nikon up for the Nexus 5.
If Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie does make its debut, it’s traditional for Google to launch the new version on a new device. If the Nexus 5 is that device, the big question is how much will it cost? The Nexus 4’s $300 price is what made it standout, and having done it once, Google really needs to repeat the pricing strategy with any new model.
Updated Nexus 4
Google may address some of the complaints made about the Nexus 4 in a revised version of the cheap handset, which is rumored to be ready for launch during the event. Word is, the new model will add a CDMA radio, 4G LTE support and up the built-in storage memory to 32GB.
Updated Nexus 7
The Nexus 7 has been the budget Android tablet to buy for the past year, and Google could announce an updated version to keep up with advances in the market. While Asus has been linked with building the new model, it may not use the Nvidia Tegra chip this time around, and instead swap to a Snapdragon S4 Pro. Rumors have also spread about a screen update, primarily from a report by DigiTimes, where it was said the display would get a Full HD resolution, although this sounds unlikely if the low price is to be retained.
An analyst has also spoken about Google’s plans for the Nexus 7, and in addition to agreeing with the processor change and a high resolution screen (he says it’ll have a 1980 x 1200 pixel resolution), he also speculates a 5-megapixel rear camera will be added, along with wireless charging capabilities.
Should a new Nexus 7 be announced, the outgoing Nexus 7 could see a reduction in price – perhaps as low as $100 – and kept in the range as a truly budget tablet, while the new model could takeover the $200 and $250 price points, although a base $150 price point has also been suggested.
Motorola and the X Phone
Here’s the other possibility for the device on which Android 5.0 will first appear. The X Phone has been chatted about for a while, and even discussed in passing by Google. As Motorola works its way through its catalog of already planned hardware, the X Phone is apparently being worked on in the background, and would be the first handset to be built with Google’s direct influence. The most solid information regarding the X Phone comes from Google itself, with Larry Page saying Motorola is working on, “Breakthrough” devices with tough exteriors and long-lasting batteries.
Unlike the Nexus 5, there has been a steady stream of rumors concerning the X Phone’s technical specification. Most tend to agree the device will be powered by a Snapdragon 800 processor with a clock speed of 2GHz, and have a 4.8-inch touchscreen, which could be covered in indestructible sapphire glass. A carbon fiber or Kevlar rear panel will add to the toughness, while a 4000mAh battery should keep the phone running for a sensible amount of time.
Finally, the X Phone may be extensively customizable, from the wallpapers and apps which come pre-installed, to the amount of RAM the phone boasts. All this sounds too good to be true, and until Google I/O, that’s the way it remains.
Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie
This is the big one, as although Android 4.1 and 4.2 have brought considerable improvements to Google’s mobile OS, they were point updates to Android 4.0. For that reason, Android Key Lime Pie will need to be pretty impressive if it’s to warrant a version number boost to 5.0. Surprisingly, little is known about what Key Lime Pie will contain, but you can check out all the gossip in our separate rumor roundup for the software here.
Sundar Pichai’s comments about I/O being more about the developer this year, make talk of a new Google Maps app sound more likely, as does the introduction of Google Play Games. This could be a challenger to Apple’s iOS Game Center, where games players can store high scores, earn achievements, and save games in the cloud. Additionally, Google Now may be coming to the desktop, as some code discovered in Chrome has led some to believe the software has been integrated into OS X’s notification center.
Babel may end up being part of Android 5.0, and is said to be an Android version of iMessage and BlackBerry Messenger – in other words, a free, inter-device messaging platform that uses data and not an SMS. It could also bring together all of Google’s communication tools, including Google Voice, Hangouts, and Google Talk. Networks may not like them, but the popularity of iMessage proves smartphones users love this type of service. It’ll be a big deal should Google release it.
Google Wallet and YouTube payments.
Although a physical Google Wallet credit-style card won’t be revealed at the show, apparently due to Google Wallet boss Osama Bedier leaving to company, there may be some improvements to the Google Wallet app. These could include an expanded list of supporting partners and new loyalty rewards. This could all fit in with the introduction of paid YouTube channels, as Google Wallet has been added as one of the payment options for the new subscription model. Perhaps an alternative version of the app is coming to open this opportunity up to more people?
According to the Google TV Developers Google+ page, we should “stay tuned” (groan) for more news about Google TV at Google I/O. While it doesn’t command the same level of attention as Android or Chrome, Google TV is due for some love, having hardly been discussed at all last year. Could this link in with the re-introduction of the Nexus Q?
Google launched the expensive, cool-looking media streaming orb last year, then quickly removed from sale and effectively swept under the carpet like it never happened. Perhaps Google will come up with the Nexus Q1 ready to take on the Apple TV, complete with Google TV integration, and a healthy price reduction? Sadly, this probably isn’t going to happen, at least not this year. A report quoted sources familiar with the matter, who said Google won’t have any news on the Nexus Q at this year’s Google I/O.
All the above are rumors about which we have heard a fair amount, so if they’re going to be made official, Google I/O is a good place to do so; but there’s always an outside chance we’ll see some other, more unknown, software and hardware. How about the Google Watch? Google’s name has been attached to what’s looking like one of the hottest trends of the year: a watch which connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone. We’ve not heard anything else yet, but if it is revealed during the event, it could steal the show – and get the jump on all its competitors. Sounds a bit early to us, though.
There are also rumors about the re-introduction of Android@Home, a home automation system nobody has heard anything about since 2011. Sounds like it has taken a back seat to other projects, but it could make an appearance.
So, that’s it for now in our roundup of what may happen during Google I/O. As always, we’ll be updating this article should any other details be made public before the event. If not, join us for news from Google I/O starting May 15.
Updated 05/10/2013 by Andy: More rumors about a refreshed Nexus 7 have been added, along with a few other small additions.
Updated on 05/13/2013 at 08:20 by Andy: Added Sundar Pinchai’s comments concerning the event concentrating more on developers than consumers, plus details on Google Play Games, Google TV, Google Now for Desktop, and Google Wallet.
Updated on 05/14/2013 at 04:30 by Andy: Added new rumors on the Nexus Q.
Article originally published on 4-23-2013.