Since Google I/O was canceled completely last year due to COVID-19, this year’s festivities — which will be available online to anyone who wants to watch — are sure to be, well, festive. Today’s two-hour event will introduce what is expected to be a full treasure chest of new hardware and software.
Of course, nothing’s for sure when it comes to Google, but it’s very likely we’ll get some information about the latest version of its OS, Android 12. (There have already been some developer previews.) This could be very interesting since rumors have it that there are some major UI changes in the works. We’ll also be looking for the much-anticipated Pixel Buds A-series and a custom processor for Pixel phones. We might even get a preview of the Pixel 5A phone — and who knows? Google may have some other surprises planned.
We’ll be watching live and keeping you updated here with everything Google announces.
May 19, 2021
Android phones can finally tap to pay for public transit in the SF Bay Area
In 2010, the San Francisco Bay Area introduced a single tap-to-pay NFC card for practically all its public transit — and Google introduced the first NFC-equipped Android smartphone. Now, over a decade later, the two ideas are finally compatible. Today, you can finally digitize a Clipper card into most Android phones, or buy one there to start, then tap it to ride 24 different transit systems in SF and the greater Silicon Valley.Read Article >
Apple also added the same functionality to iPhones and Apple Watches last month, and here’s how I described it at the time:
May 19, 2021
Google is reinventing Docs to fight a two-front war
Let’s talk about some big changes announced to the platform where many of us get a lot of work done: Google Workspace, home to the suite of cloud-based tools that includes Docs.Read Article >
The relative stagnation of Docs in a rapidly evolving world of productivity tools has been an ongoing fascination for me. When I’m writing for myself, I use slick, modern tools like Notion, Bear, and (more recently) Substack. But when I write for others, it’s most often in Docs, which launched 15 years ago and looks more or less the same as it has since the late 2000s.
May 19, 2021
Spotify and YouTube Music will bring much needed offline tunes to Google’s Wear watches
Spotify’s product lead for cars and wearables teased an exciting new feature coming to Wear devices during Google’s Developer Keynote on Tuesday: the ability for the streaming services’ 356 million users to download music directly to their watch, and listen to it at times when they don’t want to carry their phone (via XDA Developers). The feature isn’t included in the redesign that was just released, but Spotify says that it’s currently in the works.Read Article >
The announcement came alongside Google’s reveal that it would be merging Wear OS with Samsung’s Tizen. During Tuesday’s I/O keynote, Google promised that the updated OS would bring faster performance and longer battery life, which are currently still issues for Wear OS watches.
May 18, 2021
Google I/O 2021: the biggest announcements
Google just finished its live Google I/O 2021 keynote, where the company unveiled a huge number of announcements, including a new look coming to Android, a bunch of features coming to its Google Workspace productivity suite, and even a new AI that talked as if it were Pluto.Read Article >
Nilay Patel and Dieter Bohn followed the whole thing in real time right here on our live blog. But if you just want to get caught up on the biggest news from the show, read on for our recap.
May 18, 2021
Google is trying to make its image processing more inclusive
It’s a long-standing problem that dates back to the days of film: image processing tends to be tuned for lighter skin tones and not that of black and brown subjects. Google announced an effort to address that today in its own camera and imaging products, with a focus on making images of people of color “more beautiful and more accurate.” These changes will come to Google’s own Pixel cameras this fall, and the company says it will share what it learns across the broader Android ecosystem.Read Article >
Specifically, Google is making changes to its auto-white balance and exposure algorithms to improve accuracy for dark skin tones based on a broader data set of images featuring black and brown faces. With these tweaks, Google aims to avoid over-brightening and de-saturating people of color in photos for more accurate representation.
May 18, 2021
Google previews Project Starline, a next-gen 3D video chat booth
Google is working on a next-gen video chat booth that makes the person you’re chatting with appear in front of you in 3D. You can see them from different angles by moving around and even make eye contact, Google said during a preview of the project at its I/O conference today.Read Article >
The system is called “Project Starline,” and it’s basically a really, really fancy video chat setup. The platform uses multiple cameras and sensors to capture a person’s appearance and shape from different perspectives. It then stitches those together into a 3D model that’s broadcast in real time to whomever they’re chatting with. In Google’s preview, Starline was used for person-to-person calls (not group chats), and both sides seemed to be using specialized tech so it could all work.
May 18, 2021
Google announces health tool to identify skin conditions
Google’s latest foray into health care is a web tool that uses artificial intelligence to help people identify skin, hair, or nail conditions. The company previewed the tool at I/O today, and it says it hopes to launch a pilot later this year.Read Article >
People can use their phone’s camera to take three pictures of the problem area — for example, a rash on their arm. They’ll then answer a series of questions about their skin type and other symptoms. The tool then gives a list of possible conditions from a set of 288 that it’s trained to recognize. It’s not intended to diagnose the problem, the company said in a blog post.
Google Photos will soon make animated photos from your still shots
Google Photos will soon have a cool new trick: if you take two similar images with your phone’s camera, the app will be able to create an animated, moving shot that combines them. It does this by using machine learning to synthesize movement between the two shots. Google creates new frames between them, resulting in a “vivid moving picture.” Google’s Shimrit Ben-Yair made this sound like something that parents will love since now your multiple attempts at the same shot will allow for this added benefit.Read Article >
The new feature is called “cinematic moments,” and it will work on both Android and iOS, Ben-Yair said.
Google Maps’ Live View feature now offers more useful information about restaurants and businesses
Google announced a bunch of new features for Google Maps at its 2021 I/O developer conference today, including upgrades to its handy Live View tool, which helps you navigate the world through augmented reality.Read Article >
Live View launched in beta in 2019, projecting walking directions through your camera’s viewfinder, and was rolled out to airports, transit stations, and malls earlier this year. Now, Live View will be accessible directly from Google Maps and will collate a lot of handy information, including how busy shops and restaurants are, recent reviews, and any uploaded photos.
Google and Samsung are merging Wear OS and Tizen
In yet another sign of the growing alliance between Google and Samsung, today both companies announced that they are essentially combining Wear OS — Google’s operating system — and the Tizen-based software platform that has been foundational to Samsung’s wearables for many years. The resulting platform is currently being referred to simply as “Wear,” though that might not be the final name.Read Article >
Benefits of the joint effort include significant improvements to battery life, 30 percent faster loading times for apps, and smoother animations. It also simplifies life for developers and will create one central smartwatch OS for the Android platform. Google is also promising a greater selection of apps and watch faces than ever before.
May 18, 2021
Android 12 will turn your Pixel phone into a car key — assuming automakers bother
Nearly a year after Apple announced the iPhone would become your digital car key, Google is doing the same. Android 12 will officially let “select Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones” natively double as a car key later this year, the company just announced at its Google I/O 2021 developer conference today.Read Article >
It’s not like Google is exactly late to the party, though, because automakers are taking their sweet time rolling out the technology, too. In fact, Google’s announcement only names a single brand — BMW — which already announced it would work with Samsung earlier this year. And last we checked, BMW has only committed a single car to support the seemingly “best” version of the digital car key technology.
Android 12 preview: first look at Google’s radical new design
Google is announcing the latest beta for Android 12 today at Google I/O. It has an entirely new design based on a system called “Material You,” featuring big, bubbly buttons, shifting colors, and smoother animations. It is “the biggest design change in Android’s history,” according to Sameer Samat, VP of product management, Android and Google Play.Read Article >
That might be a bit of hyperbole, especially considering how many design iterations Android has seen over the past decade, but it’s justified. Android 12 exudes confidence in its design, unafraid to make everything much larger and a little more playful. Every big design change can be polarizing, and I expect Android users who prefer information density in their UI may find it a little off-putting. But in just a few days, it has already grown on me.
May 18, 2021
There are over 3 billion active Android devices
There are over 3 billion active Android devices in the wild now. Sameer Samat, VP of product management at Google, announced the news at Google I/O 2021, which is live, but totally online, this year.Read Article >
Google added over 500 million active Android devices since its last developer’s conference in 2019 and 1 billion devices since 2017. (That was when it hit the 2 billion mark.) The number is taken from the Google Play Store, which doesn’t take into account devices based on Android but that use alternative stores, including Amazon Fire devices and the myriad of Chinese Android-based devices that avoid using Google’s apps altogether. That means the number of active Android devices is likely much higher than what Samat announced on the live stream.
Google Photos is adding a locked folder for your private images
Google is introducing a new feature to Google Photos that lets you hide specific pictures so they won’t show up in your photo feed or in other apps. The feature, called Locked Folder, will put whatever sensitive pictures you’d rather not share behind a password.Read Article >
In its I/O presentation, Google used the example of parents trying to keep a puppy purchase secret from their kids — though the feature should be useful for any sensitive images that you don’t want to share with others. It’s easy to see how this feature could be useful: who hasn’t handed their phone to someone to show off one or two pictures, then suddenly realized, “Wow, I hope they don’t scroll too far to the left or right”? Locked Folder will help Photos users avoid that fear by keeping whatever sensitive pictures you’ve got on the service out of your main photos feed.
May 18, 2021
Android introduces new privacy-friendly sandbox for machine learning data
At the I/O developer conference on Tuesday, Google announced a range of new privacy measures, including a new partition within Android to manage machine learning data more securely.Read Article >
“With Android’s privacte compute core, we’re able to introduce new features,” said Google executive Suzanne Frey in an onstage presentation, “while still keeping your data safe, private, and local to your phone.”
Google showed off its next-generation AI by talking to Pluto and a paper airplane
Artificial intelligence is a huge part of Google’s business, and at this year’s I/O conference, the company highlighted its work with AI language understanding. The star of the show was an experimental model called LaMDA, which Google says could one day supercharge the ability of its conversational AI assistants and allow for more natural conversations.Read Article >
“It’s really impressive to see how LaMDA can carry on a conversation about any topic,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai during the presentation. “It’s amazing how sensible and interesting the conversation is. But it’s still early research, so it doesn’t get everything right.”
It’s about to get easier to change compromised passwords in Chrome for Android
Google is adding a feature to its Chrome password manager that allows you to change a compromised password with a few button taps. If its security check feature finds a password that was potentially leaked, the message will now include a “Change Password” button for supported sites. Tapping that button will automatically take you to the page to change your password on that site and will fill out a new one with a suggested secure password. That password will then, of course, be stored in Chrome’s password manager.Read Article >
Google says this feature is partially powered by its Duplex for the web technology, which was introduced to help complete tasks like ordering food and buying movie tickets. Google does say in its blog post, however, that you can interrupt the process at any time if you’d prefer to do some parts manually.
Google Workspace turns to ‘smart chips’ to weave Docs, Tasks, and Meet together
Google is launching a slate of new features for its Workspace productivity suite today, starting with new “smart chips” that connect Google Docs to other products. Just like you can tag people with an @ symbol, starting today, you can use it to specialize links inside docs that hook up other files or meetings. They’re part of what Google is calling the “smart canvas,” a new initiative that promises to increase the cadence of product improvements for Workspace.Read Article >
The idea behind the smart canvas is similar to workplace productivity suite dreams that reach as far back as OpenDoc in the ’90s: having smaller bits of information like charts, text, and images become more modular and interconnected. It’s not dissimilar to Microsoft’s Fluid Office document project, which launched last year.
May 18, 2021
How to watch the Google I/O 2021 keynote
It’s been over a year since Google last held I/O thanks to the pandemic, but with the COVID-19 outlook slightly more positive in 2021, the company is making its triumphant return to the (virtual) stage with an entirely online Google I/O developer conference. And with a year and some change between I/O 2019 and now, there’s plenty of room for interesting announcements when everything kicks off at 10AM PT (1PM ET) today.Read Article >
Android 12 is expected to make its official debut, with rumors swirling that the new update will shake up the visual style of the mobile operating system, among other improvements. We’re also hoping to hear more about a less expensive version of the Pixel Buds and maybe more information about the Pixel 5A, after both products leaked in the lead-up to the event. There’s also a good chance there’ll be improvements to Google Assistant and possibly an introduction to the custom system on a chip Whitechapel that Google is rumored to be developing to compete with Apple’s A-series chips.
May 16, 2021
New leak ahead of Google I/O claims Android 12 may include changes for widgets and notifications
Just ahead of Google I/O, which gets underway on Tuesday, a new leak purporting to be a preview of what’s coming during the annual developers’ conference gives some insight into what Android 12 might look like. A new video from Jon Prosser shows what appear to be slides from a presentation of Android 12.Read Article >
The first slide sets up what to expect: “A beautiful new experience,” “Stronger privacy and security protections,” and “All of your devices work better together.”
May 14, 2021
What to expect from Google I/O 2021
Google I/O, the company’s big developer conference, is back after being canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The keynote kicks off on Tuesday, May 18th, at 1PM ET / 10AM PT, and it will likely be packed with news about Google products.Read Article >
In the keynote’s official description, Google is unsurprisingly coy about what might be announced: “Tune in to find out about how we’re furthering our mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” But we can make a few educated guesses about what could be shown off at the event. Read on to find out what to expect from the big show.
Apr 20, 2021
Dieter Bohn, Nilay Patel and 1 more
Live blog: Google I/O is back for 2021
After taking a year off, Google is back with its I/O developer conference for 2021. Like most tech events over the past year, this is not an in-person event and will be streamed over the internet instead. Unlike most tech events over the past year, this keynote will actually be live, not prerecorded.Read Article >
What will Google announce at I/O? It could be anything. It’s a lock that there will be a deeper look at Android 12, but a late surprise is that Wear OS might also get some attention. Google usually has some kind of fancy AI demo, and there are lots of other products that could get some stage time.