We already knew Google I/O 2021 would be kicking off on May 18, but now Google has released the full schedule of events for the three-day developer conference and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai is drumming up interest with comments given during Alphabet's Q1 earnings call.
The Google I/O 2021 program is available online now, giving us a few hints as to the focuses for the conference. Based on comments from Pichai during Alphabet's earnings call covered by 9to5Google, there is likely to be some product news as well (via Android Central).
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Significant product updates and announcements
Pichai specifically indicated that "significant product updates and announcements" were coming at Google I/O 2021, and while he could simply be referring to digital products, it's hard to imagine it won't also touch the underlying tech we expect to see in the Pixel 6 later this year. Pichai has been hinting at the rumored Whitechapel chipset across the last two earnings calls and Google I/O would be a fitting place to take the wraps off and get developers optimizing for it now.
While we know the Pixel 5a is coming, given that Google has already acknowledged it and indicated it will be getting a more limited release, this can't be what Pichai is referencing.
In terms of hardware, Wear OS and the potential Pixel Watch are another big question mark heading into the event. There are a number of sessions on Wear OS including an overview of changes to the platform, but Google needs something big to reassert itself in a market dominated by the Apple Watch.
Google's Pixel Buds (2020) were a pleasant surprise last year and a dramatic improvement over the originals. Rumors suggest we could be getting a new pair of the true wireless earbuds soon. Google itself has leaked the existence of the product, so the only question is whether the headphones will be shown off at Google I/O.
Finally, we haven't heard any specific rumors regarding a new addition to Google's Chromebook lineup, but one is at this point overdue. That could be a follow-up to the Google Pixelbook from 2017 that appeared to be quietly discontinued last year or the more recent Google Pixelbook Go released in late 2019.
Google I/O 2021 Schedule Highlights
The keynote starts at 10 a.m. Pacific (1 p.m. Eastern) on May 18 and that would likely be the time for any major product announcements. However, there are plenty of other sessions of note.
Android 12 is sure to be a focus for many, while the Android 12 Developer Preview has been available already. Google will give us a clearer picture of what features will make it into the final build launching in the fall. So far, we've seen a number of helpful new features like an extra-dim mode, the new conversation widget, updated notification shade and a new theming system. However, that is no doubt just scratching the surface and we can't wait to see more of what Google has in store for Android.
Beyond speculation regarding new Wear OS hardware, the software has been undergoing major updates already and more are expected. Opening up the Tiles to 3rd-party developers should spark more interest, but it's going to take more than that to make Wear OS relevant again. With rumors of the Galaxy Watch 4 running Wear OS, that would certainly be a high-profile launch for the platform, so let's hope it is up to the challenge.
Google Assistant, both in Android and the Nest line of smart home products, is part of a number of sessions. This includes App Actions that allow users to use features from their Android apps with Google Assistant as well as new product announcements that, of course, aren't detailed in the schedule.
There are dozens of sessions across the three days so this is hardly comprehensive, but we'll bring you all of the biggest announcements at Google I/O 2021 as they happen. If you want to join yourself, the virtual conference is completely free so you just need to visit the Google I/O website and register.
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Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more. Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.