The much-awaited Google I/O 2015 kicks off tomorrow at San Francisco. Scheduled to be held over two days (following a 150-minute keynote presentation), the annual Google conference will witness several interesting announcements.
The next fortnight or so promises to be mighty interesting for mobile app developers and general software enthusiasts across the globe. The two-day Google I/O 2015 starts tomorrow at the Moscone Center (West) in San Francisco – where a series of announcements and product updates are expected to be made. Close on its heels will be this year’s Apple WWDC, which would be held from 8-12 June. In today’s discussion though, we will focus on the most likely big announcements that are likely to happen during Google I/O 2015:
- A new iteration of Android Wear – Given how quickly Apple Watch has caught on among the early adopters, the Mountain View company would be eager to release a worthy competitor (or will there be multiple products?) soon. It has been more than a year since the custom Android version for the human wrist, Android Wear, was launched. Gadget analysts are expecting a word about the latest version of Moto 360, as well as a detailed session on the new features and enhancements that Google has managed to add in its Android Wear platform.
- First look of Android M – Yup, time travels fast. Less than seven months ago, Android app development experts were wondering whether the name of Android 5.0 would be ‘Lemon Meringue Pie’ or ‘Lollipop’. At this year’s Google I/O, its successor – codenamed Android M – would be announced. According to reports from mobile forums, Android M (i.e., Android 6.0) would be unveiled on the first day of the event, during the ‘Android For Work’ session. The key feature of the new version of Google’s mobile platform will be its enhanced support on devices used at workplaces. Given the lackluster adoption rate of Android Lollipop, all eyes would be on how Google promotes Android M. Don’t expect its name to be mentioned this early though – Google never does that!
- More on Virtual Reality – A short session, titled ‘Make Believe’, features in the itinerary of Google I/O 2015 – where representatives from mobile software and app companies would get first-hand experience of virtual reality – via consoles, headsets, and other gadgets. Useful tips and guidelines regarding the creation of virtual reality (VR) experiences for end-users would also be shared. Google Cardboard, released at last year’s event, has got to be one of the most underrated Google products in recent times (it is a VR-based helmet, in case you were not aware) – and it is widely expected that this year’s Google I/O will witness a greater focus on virtual reality.
- A possible comeback for Google Glass – While many online wearable technology forums and communities dismissed Google Glass as a flop long back, the tech giant has repeatedly said that the Glass program was ‘not dead’. It won’t be entirely surprising if the I/O is chosen as the platform where Google decides to release a new, improved version of Glass (Glass 2.0?). In order to be successful, it needs to have a more mass-appeal (read: a less geeky feel) and bear a lower price tag. Another Explorer Program might well be launched too.
- A foray into satellite imaging – In 2014, Google had acquired Skybox – then a little-known satellite images and analytics service provider. With the help of the latter’s technology, Google is likely to show off its very first attempt at satellite imaging at its annual conference this year. Right from disaster mapping and management, to provisions for faster, smoother internet access across the world – everything will be included from the much-anticipated Google-Skybox collaboration. All announcements and information-sharing regarding this will be made during ‘The Earth In Real Time’ session.
- The arrival of Android Pay – Once again, while Apple Pay is gradually catching on and Samsung Pay is being considered to be almost equally good – Google Wallet (released in 2011) has remained rather low-key. If the buzz amongst Android app development experts are anything to go by, things might well turn around with the announcement of Android Pay (as an extension of Google Wallet) at the I/O 2015 event. Google has clearly stated that Android Pay will be a mobile payment platform, and not a direct competitor of Apple Pay – but there will surely be a tussle between the two. Expect a list of retailers worldwide who have already pledged their support to Android Pay as well. Mobile payments is yet another domain of smartphone technology that is growing first, and tomorrow’s event is likely to add to this growth.
- Google’s take on Apple Touch ID? – The Touch ID on iPhones (the reported bugs in iOS 8.3 notwithstanding) offer greater security assurance to users. The recently released Samsung Galaxy S6 flagship has demonstrated that fingerprint sensors can indeed be seamlessly included on Android smartphones. It will only be natural if it is announced that Android M will come with such fingerprint authentication setups for all pre-installed applications (like Drive or Gmail). According to a section of Android app developers, the API of the fingerprint authentication tool would have the option of being added to any app, making the latter compatible with this security feature.
- Online photo-sharing and storage – Google fanboys might not admit it yet – but the ambitious Google Plus platform has fallen flat in its endeavor to become a worthy rival to the likes of Facebook. In such a scenario, the company might announce an all-new Photo Storage and Sharing (Google Photos will probably be its name) service at the I/O event. Not much is yet known about the specifications of this service – but it would be positioned as a competitor to Instagram and Flickr.
- News on second-generation Chromecast – The first-gen Chromecast dongle was a runaway success, and mobile app and software developers feel that Google I/O 2015 would be just the right platform to build on it. With Android TV having hit a bit of a dead end (Apple TV, with all its limitations, is still way more popular), a multi-featured Chromecast 2 can emerge as a more than decent rival of Apple AirPlay. Google will have to work on the audio features of Google Cast (the video functionality is already pretty much high-end). Support for 3D videos and 4K streaming is expected to be present in Chromecast 2. New controllers for the media streaming device would be unveiled as well.
- The Internet of Things – This is, arguably, the announcement that app developers and techies attending the event would be looking forward to the most. Nest, a smoke alert and thermostat service company, was bought up by Google last year – and at I/O 2015, the first hints of the collaboration between Google and Nest are likely to be revealed. There will be a separate session called ‘Working With Nest To Build A Thoughtful Home Together’, where Google will reportedly showcase Brillo – its low-powered Internet of Things (IoT) operating system. From powering common home gadgets, to adding to general security levels, Google’s IoT program will be covering everything.
- A word about Android Auto – The Android Auto program has long been in the works, and Google evidently has plans to make it a decent enough competitor of Apple CarPlay. Two sessions related to Android Auto – ‘Designing For Driving’ and ‘Getting Your Car On The Road With Android Auto’ have been mentioned in the Google I/O 2015 itinerary – a clear indication that the company has major announcements to make about its efforts to bring the Android experience in automobiles. We might get to know the names of the automakers which will be supporting Android Auto at the event.
- Granular app privacy – A recent Bloomberg report suggests that Google will be building on the user-permission requirements at the time of downloading apps from the Play Store. Professionals from the field of creating Android apps feel that Google would announce a more granular level of app privacy – which would mean people would be able to decide which device feature(s) any particular application is able to access. This, in turn, would provide a more personalized app-experience. ‘Nearby’ and ‘Voice Access’ are two other new app features that are likely to be introduced at this year’s Google event. Some time might also be set aside for a hands-on demonstration of the Designed For Families program.
- Revamped Hangouts and probably a new Calendar app – The acquisitions of Emu (a startup IM app) and Timeful (a unique calendar application) by Google in 2014 make this a probable announcement at the conference. Since Emu has machine learning features and comes with an AI-supported ‘assistant’, it might also enhance the features of Google Now (are the makers of Siri and Cortana listening?) as well, apart from improving Google Hangouts. In the calendar app of Google, we fully expect some new Timeful features – to enhance overall usability.
- Reports on Project Ara – Ever since Google’s modular smartphone program – codenamed Project Ara – has been announced, it has been in the news. At the Google I/O starting tomorrow, a session has been set aside, where hand-on demo sessions on the program would probably be held. In particular, the manner in which the different parts of an Android phone can be separately upgraded (that’s what the modular Project Ara is all about) would be showcased. There is an outside chance of select delegates being given Ara devices as well. For the time though, gadget and mobile software experts will be more than happy to get an in-depth understanding of Project Ara (which will have its full launch in August).
- Stable release of Polymer – Work has been going ahead at a fairly frenetic pace on Google’s very first open-source framework for desktop/mobile web app development – Polymer. The project has moved on from Version 0.5 to Version 0.9 in the last six months, and Polymer v.1.0 (a stable release) may very well happen during the annual conference. The built-in support for Material Design-based animations, component reusability and 3D user-displays make Polymer an interesting platform for app developers.
Yet another likely announcement at Google I/O 2015 will be related to the release of the ‘buy buttons’ for retailers (which would work with sponsored product searches and ads on mobiles). Although both Huawei and LG have been reported to be working on new Nexus handsets – chances of a flagship Nexus phone/tablet at the event are slim (Nexus 6 was unveiled a full six months after Android L was announced at last year’s Google I/O). Instead, there should be some news about Project Fi – which is geared to make Google a mobile carrier service provider. At the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) session, some information about Google’s ambitious Project Tango (involving the creation of a tablet with cutting-edge spatial reception) will be shared too.
Sundar Pichai will be taking over at the Google I/O keynote tomorrow at 6:30 GMT – and over the course of the next few hours, we will find out how many of these likely announcements are actually made at the event.
What new announcements are you looking forward to at this year’s Google I/O?