Thursday, April 19, 2018

Google IO 2018: what we want to see

To Android P and beyond

Google IO 2018 is just weeks away, with the event happening in early May, and it's sure to be used to unveil a bunch of Android software goodies and potentially even some new hardware.

We don't know much about IO 2018 yet, but Google has begun teasing the event, giving us a few clues as to what we might see – and when.

We've also come up with a wish list for what we want from Google's annual developer conference, which you'll find at the bottom of this page.

Cut to the chase

What is it? Google's annual developer conference
When is it? May 8-10

Google IO 2018 news and rumors

Google took to Twitter in January to tease IO 2018, and that tweet led users to the website, where a series of puzzles revealed that the event is to take place on May 8-10 at the Shoreline Amphitheater in California (where the last couple of IO conferences have been held).
That's not particularly surprising, as Google IO is usually held in May, but this would be slightly earlier in the month than usual. Since then, Google has released the official schedule for IO.

The site also features a picture of a pineapple upside-down cake, which is an obvious hint that the next version of Android could borrow that name, though it could just as easily be a red herring.

Android Pineapple Upside-down Cake is a bit of a mouthful, but Android Pineapple? That could work, although it doesn't follow the sweet treat theme Google has used to date.

And let's not forget, Android Ice Cream Sandwich wasn't exactly succinct. 

What we want to see

Google IO is sure to include some tasty Android news, but that's not all we want from it. Here are some of our main wishes.

1. An Android P beta

We may learn some things about Android P before Google IO 2018, but there's likely to be a lot of additional information at that event and hopefully a beta update, so anyone brave enough to deal with the bugs can get deeper into the software.

Google has already released the first Android P Developer Preview, for the truly daring (but actually mostly for developers). The developer preview isn’t the only place to spot new features for Android P though. Recently a new set of UI navigation buttons were spotted, showing the normal back button and a new horizontal bar in place of the typical home button, with the Overview button absent. These changes put the Android P UI in line with the iPhone X, perhaps as Google tries to cater to more phones with notches.

In any case, there's a good chance we'll get more in May, since Android Oreo entered beta during Google IO 2017.

2. Android P's name

Could this be an obvious hint at Android P's name? Credit: Google/The Verge

As well as information and a beta, we'd love to find out what Android P will actually be called. Our only clue so far is a picture of a pineapple upside-down cake, found by The Verge on Google's IO website, and we suspect that might be a red herring.

But we probably won't find out, as Google tends to reveal this information later in the year so it could be anyone’s guess for a long time yet.

3. Some major Gmail changes

The web version of Gmail has a number of new features and changes inbound, and IO is a likely place for them to be shown off in greater detail. What we’ve seen so far is a redesigned UI for Gmail, with larger, clearer buttons, which look a tad more touch-friendly for those of you who like poking your screen. More color appears to be showing up in the redesign as well, with different colors used to make it easier to distinguish between various types of email, such as personal, plans, and travel. These changes were spotted by The Verge.

The update appears to also include Googe’s Smart Replies as well as a sidebar with quick access to Calendar, notes from Keep, and tasks. The inbox view shows what attachments are included in each email, and they seem directly accessible from the inbox screen. Be prepared, though: from the leaked image we’ve seen, custom backgrounds may not make the transition to this new design. Hopefully, we’ll see more at Google IO, perhaps on May 10 during the G Suite event in the schedule.

Beyond the visual revision, a set of handy features are also inbound. One is the ability to snooze emails, which will remove it from your inbox, and then it will up like a new email again at a user-specified time in the future. Advanced security features are coming to Gmail as well in the form of a Confidential Mode, which will enable expiration dates for emails, block forwarding, printing, copying, and downloading, as well as giving users the option to password lock their emails and send the password separately via SMS.

4. Android Wear 3.0

Google has shown off Android Wear at IO before, and the event has even been used to announce smartwatches such as the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live. When IO 2018 rolls around, Android Wear 2.0 will be over a year old, making it due to a serious update.

Google recently re-branded Android Wear to Wear OS, but we're still hoping IO 2018 will bring more updates beyond the name change. We expect Wear 3.0 to introduce more apps, improve efficiency and support iOS better, among other things. If some new wearables land alongside it then all the better.

Adding to your expectations that an update to Wear OS will show up at Google IO, there’s a session in the official schedule labeled “What’s new in Wear OS by Google.” Google has already launched new features in a developer preview of Wear OS. Features include a dark theme, and a number of battery-saving changes, such as disabling radios when the watch isn’t being worn and limiting background activity. How much more we’ll see at IO is uncertain, but it’s possible the developer preview will at last move forward into beta during the event.

5. A VR push

We probably won't get another Daydream View at IO, but you never know

Google got more heavily into VR with Daydream, announced back at IO 2016, and we'd like to see another big VR push at this year's event.

That could mean the announcement of new VR games and experiences or even some new VR hardware – though we wouldn't count on that, as a new version of the Google Daydream View landed in late 2017.

Heck, maybe Google will even push back into augmented reality after its rough patch with Google Glass. The Intel Vaunt has convincingly shown that AR glasses can be made without looking horrible so it may be a good time for Google to jump back in.

6. Assistant improvements

Google Assistant is arguably the best AI assistant around, but there's still room for improvement and hopefully, a new and better version of it will be announced at Google IO 2018.

We already know that this year Google Assistant is becoming impressively multilingual, and the ability to respond to assigned names instead of "OK, Google" is a welcome change.

There's a lot that we'd like from it, but perhaps most importantly we want it to get even better at hearing and understanding what we're saying – and being able to usefully respond to our requests.

7. Google Home software updates

There's room to improve in Google Home's software

Google Home in its various forms is a decent smart speaker, and we wouldn't particularly expect to see any new Home hardware at Google IO 2018 (though news that the Home Max is coming to more countries would be appreciated), but what we might get is improvements to the software.

Whether that's a more responsive app, compatibility with more devices and services, or something else entirely, we want it.

8. Surprises

One thing we always like at events like these is surprises, and with so little known about Google IO 2018 so far, we might even get some. That's if everything isn't leaked in the weeks before it kicks off.

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