The biggest day of the year in the Android blogosphere is almost upon us. The doors of Google I/O 2014 will soon open, and thousands of enthusiasts and developers will pour into Moscone Center. For those of us that won’t be in attendance the excitement is just as real. Leading up to the event there is always a cluster of news, leaks, and rumors about what we might see. We will be at I/O to cover the news as it happens, but until then this is what you should expect to see at the show.
Android Wear launches with new smartwatches
This one is a no brainer. Just three months ago Google surprised everyone by announcing Android Wear, a new platform for wearables. Along with that announcement was the unveiling of the Moto 360 and LG G Watch smartwatches. Right then it was very apparent that we would see more about this new platform and devices at I/O.
Expect to see both the Moto 360 and LG G Watch on stage to show off Android Wear in-depth. We’ve seen some demos of Android Wear, and even a video for developers, but there is still a lot to learn about this platform. Those watches won’t just be on stage for demo purposes, either. We expect to get pricing and release dates for the 360 and G Watch, plus some Android Wear device announcements from Samsung and HTC.
The LG G Watch will be given away to all attendees as an entry-level device to get developers working on Android Wear. The retail pricing of the G Watch will likely be in the $200 or lower range, while the Moto 360 will be priced as a more premium device. Expect to see a lot about wearables and Android Wear.
Google Fit will get you in shape
A couple of weeks ago we first heard rumors of Google releasing some new API’s for health and fitness tracking. These API’s, called Google Fit, will be available to developers to implement in their own apps. The data collected will be stored in the cloud and available to access from anywhere. Since Android Wear will be a big part of I/O we expect to see Google Fit announced alongside it.
Wearables like smartwatches are the perfect devices to track fitness. Companies like Fitbit, Jawbone, and even Samsung have built fitness trackers that can be wore on wrists. If you’re going to have a smart device on your wrist at all times it should also be able to track fitness. If Google Fit is indeed announced at I/O we also expect Google to announce some launch partners. Android should finally be getting more fit.
Google finally does TV right with Android TV
Back in April we saw some leaked screenshots of a new project from Google called “Android TV.” In May we heard about the project again, and this time it was reported that Google would unveil it at I/O. Other than those two stories there hasn’t been a lot of news about Android TV, which leads us to believe there will be at least some mention of it at I/O.
Android TV is said to be a lightweight version of Google TV. A small and simple streaming media device like the Roku or Amazon Fire TV. Google admittedly tried to do too much with Google TV. It was bulky, complicated to set up, incompatible with some cable companies, and expensive. It was a product that seemed to have tons of potential, but never really caught on. Ever since its launch in 2010 the platform has received little attention and app support. Obviously Google needs a new approach.
With the Chromecast they created a useful device for a very low price. Android TV will take that idea a bit further by implementing an interface and allowing search. We’re not 100% certain that Android TV will be shown off at I/O, but we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it is. Google wants to be on every screen you turn on. The TV is a big part of that plan, and Android TV would go a long way in completing Google’s picture.
Android Automotive puts Google in your car
So far we’ve talked about Android on your wrist and TV, but how about your car? In January Google announced the Open Automotive Alliance, which included Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai, and NVIDIA. Google wants to create a great info-tainment experience for cars. The system will likely allow drivers to control their phone from built-in dash displays, similar to Apple’s Car Play.
At CES this year Audi was the first car company to show off an Android device for their vehicles. They were showing off an Android tablet with the Audi S8. Some of the features that Audi touted include navigation, beaming DVDs to the tablet, controlling windows, locks, and temperature, and the ability to detach the tablet to use at home. Check out our video below.
Since that announcement in January we haven’t heard much from Google’s partners. I/O would be an excellent time for some new information about Android in cars. As with the living room, Google wants to be on every screen you see, including in-car displays. The car is one of the latest battle grounds for companies like Apple and Google. It’s a big win for whichever company can use something as expensive and long-lasting as a car to hook you into their ecosystem.
More focus on design
A big focus at I/O this year will be design. It wasn’t long ago that Android was considered an ugly mess, but a lot has changed since then. Ever since Android 4.0 it seems Google has put a lot of time and money into making their products look great. Android 4.4 KitKat was all about refining the Android UI, but if recent rumors are true the next version could see a much bigger update.
The probability of Google announcing the “L” version of Android seems very unlikely at this point, but we could start to see some of the new design language. Rumors of a Bond-esque initiative called “Quantum Paper” have shown us glimpses of a brand new look and feel for Google mobile and web apps. They are planning to unify how things look across platforms and devices.
Another design project that we will hear about at I/O is Polymer. This is a tool that lets you build responsive websites with easy building blocks. The idea is that reusable elements will appear across platforms with minimal work from developers. Some of this can already be seen in the leaked Gmail mobile and web apps. Polymer is really just a precursor to Quatum Paper.
Will Hangouts get some love?
Will we finally see Hangouts merge with Google Voice? Will Google match Apple and add the ability to send SMS from the desktop? Both of these are valid questions heading into I/O. The former has been an often requested feature, but we don’t expect to see any major Hangouts news from I/O. Usually there are many leaks building up to the release of major features like these. We haven’t seen anything that would lead us to believe Hangouts will be getting any love.
Apple did make a major push into messaging with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. Google really needs to do what everyone has been asking for years: merge all of their messaging platforms into one unified interface. Adding SMS to Hangouts on the desktop would be icing on the cake. Let’s do this, Google.
Is a new Nexus Tablet coming?
Chock this one up as “highly unlikely.” Just this week we saw a leak of the rumored HTC Nexus tablet. We do believe that this tablet could be true, but the timing is so close to I/O that we would be shocked if they had a device ready to show off already. With all of the new Android Wear hardware to show off, we think a Nexus tablet would be a bit too much.
Weird stuff from Google
The last thing you can expect from Google I/O is some weird stuff. Google is not afraid to try crazy ideas. A couple of years ago they had people parachute out of a plane into the convention center during a keynote speech. Last year the CEO talked about wanting a special section of the country for experimenting without rules. They have a product called Google Glass. This is a company that can, and will, try anything. Be ready for the unexpected.
What do you expect to see at Google I/O this year? There is so much new Android and Google news just waiting to explode. We can’t wait to see what Google actually does announce. Is there anything that would leave you disappointed? What is the one thing you want to see the most? Let us know in the poll below!