Google I/O 2019 is upon us! If years past are any indication, the annual developer event in Mountain View, California is set to bring us the latest in Android, Google Assistant, Google Maps, AR initiatives, YouTube, and much, much more. This year is particularly notable, though, because we’re expecting some new developments from the hardware side of things too…
Hardware at Google I/O 2019: Pixel & Nest Hub
While Google I/O was an annual hardware showcase for many years, that tradition disappeared after a slew of Android Wear watches — you may remember them as the LG G Watch, Samsung Gear Live, and the Moto 360 — were announced at Google I/O 2014.
Since then, Google I/O has been primarily a software show — although attendees have gone home with some hardware in a couple of the years since… a Nexus 9 in 2015, and a Google Home Mini in 2018.
This year, it looks like hardware is making a big comeback, in the form of what appears to be a second #MadebyGoogle event of sorts. We’re expecting a new Pixel and a new Nest Hub Max.
Google Pixel 3a
The star of the Google I/O 2019 hardware show is most certainly going to be the Google Pixel 3a, a more affordable, toned-down, and lesser-specced version of last year’s Google Pixel 3. There’s few surprises with this device left.
We had the scoop on everything there is to know about the Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL almost two months ago (and our Damien rounded up all those details in a video, too). Google itself has even — accidentally — confirmed their existence, and we’ve even seen them show up on the shelf at Best Buy.
Look, I don’t know how else to say it — there just aren’t any surprises left for the Pixel 3a and 3a XL. And that’s pretty much par for the course with Google smartphone launches over the last couple years. A Google Pixel 3a packaging leak has corroborated the third color’s ‘Purple-ish’ name, screen size, hints at pricing, and details even the accessories in the box.
As mentioned, we gave you the deets on the Pixel 3a and 3a XL extensively last month. The smaller device will have a 5.6-inch OLED display at 2220×1080, a Snapdragon 670, 4GB of RAM, an 8-megapixel wide-angle front shooter, and a 12-megapixel rear shooter. There’s also a 3,000mAh battery, Active Edge squeezable sides, the Titan M security chip, eSIM, and 18W fast charging via USB-C.
One leak even hinted at pricing for the Pixel 3a, which will supposedly start at $399. Meanwhile, the larger Pixel 3a XL will cost $479, according to the person that shared photos of the retail box. We reported that the Pixel 3 could come to T-Mobile, and AP said the 3a will too.
More last-minute leaks:
- Pixel 3a spec sheet confirms rear camera identical to Pixel 3 as new high-res renders leak
- Sprint document points to carrier selling Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a and 3a XL
- Leaked Pixel 3a promos highlight Night Sight, 3 years of OS updates, Call Screen
Nest Hub Max
The other hardware announcement we’re expecting to hear about at Google I/O 2019 is a device called Nest Hub Max. Interestingly, this story actually originated all the way back in February, when our Kyle noted the existence of a likely larger version of the Google Home found in the Fuchsia source code. Then, Google managed to leak a “Nest Hub Max” product on its own storefront. Whoops.
Kyle did a great job rounding up everything we know about the Nest Hub Max, but the skinny is this: It’s a larger version of the Google Home Hub with a camera for Duo calls. And it has the Nest brand, obviously, which we’re not clear will be represented in the actual product or not. Will this be a Nest product “proper”? Or is the first of many Google products that simply has “Nest” as a “feature”?
Specs? Here’s the brief list that our Kyle has deduced based on his assumption that the “Sherlock” prototype in Google’s Fuchsia OS source code is indeed the Nest Hub Max:
- 10.1-inch LCD display
- 1280×800 at 150ppi resolution
- Amlogic T931 SoC
- 2GB of RAM
- 12MP Sony IMX277 “Nest” camera
- Stereo speakers
Another interesting tidbit which can inform what to expect along the lines of Nest at I/O 2019 is evidence we surfaced in the Google Home app. A product called “Zion” is described in the app as a “border router” with a “built-in smart plug” that enables the “Google ecosystem in a home” (a new Nest Connect?). There’s also “Castell”, which could be a Nest Detect. That would make sense if Google unbundles Nest Guard from the rest of the security system so that Nest Hub Max can be used instead.
As a side note, we’ve exclusively reported that Google is planning to rebrand the standard Google Home Hub as Google Nest Hub. That’s the only change we’re aware of on that front.
Software at Google I/O 2019: Android Q, Assistant, touchless Android, more
Google I/O has always primarily been a show about software —that which Google itself is building, and how it can help third-party developers build experiences for its platforms. That’s definitely going to be just as true this year as ever, and the centerpiece for now is Android.
Android 10 Q
We already know a lot about Android 10 Q — Google announced it earlier this year and has already released its second beta to the public. The first beta introduced lots of new features like Device Theming, a Google Material Theme redesign for Wallpapers and the Files app, a system-wide dark mode, an emergency shortcut in the power menu, and much more.
Android Q brings a renewed focus on privacy, giving users more granular control over how apps get permission to see their location, new runtime permissions allowing users to control app access to media, and apps must now use the Download system file picker to give end users more control. There’s also new Sharing Shortcuts, a new settings panel, better support for Android Foldables, and more.
Beta 2 and Android Studio 3.5 brought a new foldable emulator, a new way to multitask in Android Q called Bubbles, new gestures which now swipe between apps just like iOS, a volume settings shortcut and pop-up panel in slider, a new battery icon, notification swipe actions options, and much more.
At Google I/O 2019, we’re expecting that Google will officially launch Beta 3 of Android 10 Q, and will announce many of the user-facing features which first partially surfaced (perhaps unintentionally on Google’s part) in Beta 2. We’ll likely see the newest version of Google’s navigation gestures more stable and made official, further updates on “Bubbles”, dark mode, and more info on Q support for foldables.
Other Android Q things we might see at Google I/O 2019 include a ‘next-generation UI framework’ for Android, the bringing of Android Q to Chrome OS, ‘Find My Accessories’ for Fast Pair, the ability to customize the lock screen & AOD clock, support for ‘deep presses’ similar to iOS’s 3D Touch, a ‘Notification Assistant’ to help manage your notifications, and much more.
As for devices, we can expect that lots of devices will get the Android Q Beta 3 this year. Last year, the release of Android P at I/O brought the beta to devices from OnePlus, Nokia, Oppo, Xiaomi, and more. This year, expect even more.
Another thing that has been a centerpiece for Google I/O the last few years is the Google Assistant. Google tends to be better at keeping its Assistant developments under wraps, but there are some things we know for sure and other things we can make some educated guesses on.
We found solid evidence earlier this year that Google’s planning to show Assistant integration with Chrome for Android at I/O 2019. Our Kyle Bradshaw reports:
A new Chromium code change listed as being “for internal review” reveals a demo of the Google Assistant using context to recommend an action and automatically performing it in Chrome for Android.
Another thing we’re aware of is a revamp for Google Lens, which is essentially Assistant. Lens is a primary showcase for Google’s machine learning initiatives, and it makes for lots of “oohs” and “aahs” any time Google brings it up. As with other machine learning products, expect it to get stage time.
Perhaps the most interesting potential announcement is Assistant playing a more intelligent and proactive role in Android Q. Both added significance in the sense that it might permeate every aspect of the OS, but also moving away from its position in the forefront as a hold-home-button-to-activate feature. Some rumors have suggested it will be moving in the direction of Google Now in some ways.
One very interesting development in recent months has been that of touchless Chrome and Android. Our Kyle first uncovered evidence of this in a Chromium commit which shed light on a previously-unknown version of Chrome made for “feature phones” without touch screens. More recently, we surfaced solid proof that this Chrome is actually running on a previously-unknown version of Android.
The key detail of these screenshots, however, is actually not part of Chrome. In the top left corner of both screenshots, we can see Android 8.1 Oreo’s “Android System” notification in the status bar. This confirms without a shadow of a doubt that Chrome’s touchless mode is being built for a variant of Android Oreo.
This one’s truly up in the air as to whether or not we’ll actually see an announcement of some kind at Google I/O 2019, but if Google is hoping to get some third-party app developers on board to build out a true competitor to KaiOS, then the developers’ conference would be the place to do that.
Speaking of Chrome, Google’s primary focus in the laptop and tablet operating system department regularly makes appearances at Google I/O, and we expect this year will be no different.
Some random things we might see announced around Chrome and Chrome OS:
- Chrome OS Camera app update to bring Portrait mode, new layout, more [Gallery]
- Google to expand Advanced Protection program to Chrome w/ download safeguards [Gallery]
- Initial evidence suggests Google will bring Android Q to Chrome OS
- Google to demo Assistant integration with Chrome for Android at I/O 2019
One interesting thing we unearthed is something called “Project Euphonia,” which would fall strongly under the category of “Google accessibility efforts that generally take the stage at I/O”. This one is seemingly aimed as giving those with speech-impairment “their voice back”.
As our Kyle wrote:
Every year at Google I/O, the company displays its latest technologies across the many various aspects of life that Google has gotten involved in. This year, it appears Google will be unveiling a new accessibility technology, “Project Euphonia,” which is aimed at giving those who are speech-impaired “their voice back.”
We don’t have many details on this, but we know one of the sessions in Google I/O’s events list is called “Designing for Accessibility,” and is set to be hosted by accessibility advocate Elise Roy and Google scientist and Harvard professor Michael Brenner.
Google Stadia was announced earlier this year at GDC, and while we have the basic details of how the game streaming service works, we don’t know anything about pricing, game availability, and many other things. We don’t have any hard evidence that this is the case, but I/O might make a great venue to fill us in on some of those.
“What’s New in Gaming at Google” might have some information:
In this session, you’ll learn about how Google is providing solutions for game developers. Whether you’re building for console/desktop platforms, publishing on Google Play, or looking to improve your development toolchain, we have solutions for you.
And “Stadia Streaming Tech: A Deep Dive” also seems relevant. Although I’d guess that this one is mostly about what it says it is: the tech behind Stadia.
Android Automotive has made an appearance at I/O for a few years now, but it’s never actually come to any real cars. This year, that’s finally changing with the Polestar 2. As we wrote earlier this year, Volvo’s Polestar 2 electric car is the first vehicle to include native Android Auto.
Google also recently shared a blog post about ways in which developers will be able to build apps for the full Android Automotive experience:
Google’s vision is to bring a safe and seamless connected experience in every car. You can see that vision at work today with Android Auto, which enables millions of users to bring apps they use on their smartphones into cars. As display technologies evolve and cars become more connected, there are even more opportunities for developers to build for innovative car experiences and reach a new audience.
In terms of sessions, you should check out “How to Build Android Apps for Cars” at I/O. This session “will focus primarily on how to build new apps or adapt existing Android Auto apps to the new Android-based infotainment systems.”
Google also tends to use the I/O stage to talk about the latest developments for some of its tentpole consumer-facing products and services, like YouTube, Google Maps, Google Photos, and more. Unfortunately, we don’t really have many clues as to what expect in these categories yet!
Who knows! But Google’s only on-the-record statement on it is that you don’t talk about it.
Stay tuned for more from Google I/O 2019!
This weekend, myself and the 9to5Google team will be headed to Mountain View to cover every single development we can bear to uncover from the show, so be sure to stay locked in here — you’re not going to find better coverage of Google I/O 2019 anywhere else.
We’ll be liveblogging and livestreaming the morning festivities on May 7th, going hands-on with the new hardware, and of course we’ll be on the ground the whole week going to developer sessions and everything else to keep you in the loop! Oh, and we’ll be Alphabet Scoop-ing too.