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8 things to expect at Google I/O 2019

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New Pixels, a Hub Max, more on Android Q, and so much Google Assistant

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

On Tuesday, Google will kick off its annual I/O developer conference with a keynote led by CEO Sundar Pichai and other executives from the company. This is where Google outlines the many features and improvements coming to Android, Google Assistant, and many other of the company’s apps and services over the next year.

This year will feel a bit different because Google is all but guaranteed to announce two new Pixel smartphones during the I/O presentation, adding a lower-cost option smack dab in the middle of the typical smartphone refresh cycle. You can still expect to hear a ton about AI advancements, machine learning, and, yes, even good old search over the course of the keynote. Here’s a preview of what’s likely to get time on Tuesday:

The Pixel 3A and 3A XL

There were already plenty of leaks before this week, but a final wave has confirmed basically everything there is to know about Google’s upcoming midrange Pixel phones — including the prices. The Pixel 3A will reportedly start at $399, while the larger Pixel 3A XL with its 6-inch screen will be $479.

Both devices are expected to offer camera performance that’s basically on par with the flagship Pixel 3 phones for much less money. Google did some cost-cutting in other areas by using less powerful processors, switching from a glass build to a plastic one, and stripping out wireless charging. But hey, the headphone jack is back, and when isn’t that good news?

This is the most aggressive Google has been on phone pricing in years, undercutting even OnePlus in an attempt to come up with a midyear hit. The Pixel 3A and 3A XL will each get three years of software and security updates, plus other features like Call Screen.

Nest Hub Max

Google prematurely revealed a larger, Nest-branded take on the company’s Home Hub smart display. The Nest Hub Max features a 10-inch screen and stereo speakers. Apart from that, we don’t know much else about the Hub Max other than it’ll likely be running the same software that puts a big emphasis on Google Assistant and gives it a visual interface that can go anywhere in your home. We also don’t know the price, but for comparison’s sake, the 7-inch Home Hub sells for $150.

As a Nest product (and because it has a built-in camera), it’s also very likely that the Hub Max will take on home security features that the camera-less Home Hub is simply incapable of. A smart display and smart camera in one? Sounds pretty nice.

A fuller preview of Android Q

Sure, we’re already a couple of beta releases into Google’s development of Android Q, but it’s very likely that the company has been saving some of the bigger announcements for its stage presentation at I/O. The next major release of Android will give users more flexible privacy controls, including the ability to limit apps to tracking location only when they’re actively being used. A dark mode, color theming, and a much more responsive sharing menu have also been present in the early betas, and Q is laying the foundation for a future of foldable phones.

Google also seems to be working to fix gesture navigation in its Pixel phones, and there are even signs of a Samsung DeX-like desktop mode for when you plug your phone into an external display. Surely, there’s even more that will ultimately be part of Q. With the update likely to launch for consumers by the end of summer, we should get a good sense of Google’s plans on Tuesday. Hopefully, that will include a fresh beta release as well.

More details on Google Stadia

Google unveiled its cloud gaming service, Stadia, back at GDC. We know it’s coming sometime this year, but Google has yet to share critical details such as how much a subscription will cost. It’s possible that I/O will see another demo of Stadia with more specific information on the consumer launch. But the company might also choose to wait for the gaming-centric E3 conference (or even later) until it tells the full story.

New Google Assistant and Google Lens tricks

Every year, Google likes to take a good chunk of time to showcase the advancements it’s making with Google Assistant and make a case for why it’s becoming a smarter, more capable voice assistant than Amazon’s Alexa. Then there’s Google Lens, which turns the camera of Android phones into a powerful computer vision tool.

More Google Photos improvements

It has become the de facto photo management app for many of us over the last few years, and Google usually makes sure to introduce some new features at I/O that are destined for Google Photos in the weeks and months after.

Probably not much Android TV or Wear OS news

Google apparently decided to get its Wear OS news out of the way before I/O even begins this year. The platform is getting new glanceable widgets that Google calls Tiles that let you easily check the forecast, your next calendar appointment, news headlines, and so on. The company’s decision to announce that before the keynote tells me that Wear OS might not get much stage time.

There haven’t been any other hints that Google has big plans to shake up or redesign Android TV this year. The coolest Android TV-related product that we saw at last year’s I/O still hasn’t made it to market, but the software continues to find its way to TVs from a wide assortment of manufacturers including Sony and Hisense.

What will be the must-see demo?

Last year, Google truly blew minds with the first public demonstration of Duplex, which allows Google Assistant to make voice calls to local businesses and make reservations on your behalf. Realistically speaking, it’s going to be hard for the company to top that in 2019. But who knows what’ll happen.