Google I/O 2021 live stream is set to kick off today, May 18. The search giant has decided to host the annual event virtually this year — after cancelling its last year’s version due to the coronavirus outbreak. Historical records show that while Google I/O is aimed at developers building new apps and stuff based on Google’s technologies, the I/O keynotes have become more of a consumer show. Google is likely to follow that pattern and host this year’s keynote with announcements ranging from a new Android OS version to some new updates for Wear OS and Google Assistant. The Mountain View, California-based company may also unveil its new Pixel smartphone at the keynote, though it would go on sale in a couple of markets later this year.
What to expect from Google I/O 2021
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 — especially considering the information that leaked this week. A slide showing official-looking material made its way around the web and hints at a complete visual overhaul for Android 12. It shows off new widgets and a new look that would tie in perfectly with the announcement of a new proprietary chip.
If there is any truth to these leaks, it points to a huge shift for Android and the first overhaul in several years.
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.
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 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.
Google Pixel 6
The rumor mill 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. Several unconfirmed leaks point to a redesign of the Pixel 6, and perhaps even a new name: The Pixel 6 Pro. These leaks increase the chance that Google will feature the Pixel lineup at Google I/O, but it’s still only rumor and hearsay for now.
Google Pixel Fold
There have long been rumors about a potential Pixel Fold. Though it might be a long shot, there is a chance that Google might announce news about the Pixel Fold at this year’s Google I/O 2021. In fact, internal documents suggest the phone has been in development since last year. Google I/O would be the perfect time to surprise drop a brand-new phone, although the chances of that are low.
After all, while surprise announcements are fun, surprise product releases rarely are. The rush to get the phone creates chaos. The more likely scenario is that Google I/O will provide more news or updates about the device, as well as a release date for 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. 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.
Earlier this year, a Federal Communications 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.