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This article was published on May 10, 2022

Google I/O 2022: What to expect from the developer conference

Android 13 and some new hardware too


Google I/O 2022: What to expect from the developer conference
Napier Lopez
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Napier Lopez

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Napier Lopez is a writer based in New York City. He's interested in all things tech, science, and photography related, and likes to yo-yo in Napier Lopez is a writer based in New York City. He's interested in all things tech, science, and photography related, and likes to yo-yo in his free time. Follow him on Twitter.

Google’s annual developer extravaganza, Google I/O, is almost here. The conference is set to begin on May 11, starting with a keynote address at 10:00 AM PT (that’s 1 PM ET, 7 PM CET, and 10:30 PM IST).

As with last year’s conference, I/O 2022 will be free to ‘attend’ (virtually, that is), and everyone can stream the entirety of the event from the comfort of their pajamas. That said, the opening keynote usually has the most relevant announcements for everyday consumers, so that’s the bit you’ll want to be sure to watch.

We’re anticipating plenty of exciting news — including a good deal of hardware. What follows are our best guesses on the news to come, grouped by likeliness.

Definitely

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Android 13

It’s no surprise that Android 13 is coming; there’s a new version every year, after all, and enterprising users can already test the OS in its beta form.

So far, that beta hasn’t been very exciting. It features some minor UI tweaks and extra customization options for Google’s Material You design language, but so far it doesn’t look drastically different from Android 12.

The most useful new day-to-day feature might be a new clipboard that lets you keep track of copied text and images and edit them before pasting. Google is also trying to wrangle notifications by proactively asking you if you want to continue to see notifications from various applications. I appreciate it, but it’s a little ironic that Android 13 sends you popup notifications to ask you if you want to stop notifications.

All that being said, the company tends to keep some of its most exciting features — as well as public-facing beta builds — until I/O. While I wouldn’t expect any dramatic changes given the major redesign we got with Android 12, Google says and 13 is focused on privacy and security, so we’ll probably see various updates in that regard.

Updates to the Google Assistant and other services

We haven’t heard concrete rumors about the Google Assistant for I/O 2022, but Google always has something to say about its voice AI at the event. You can expect the same this year.

Likewise, you can expect a litany of updates across Google’s various products like Maps, Photos, and Drive.

Probably

The Pixel Watch

There’s a really good chance we’ll hear more about the Pixel Watch at I/O this year. There have been leaks aplenty in the past few weeks, strongly hinting the device will at least be announced soon.

The Pixel Watch will seemingly sport a round design with curved edges and silicone straps; it looks a bit like a mythical round Apple Watch. It also seems to be significantly smaller than the majority of Wear OS devices.

Leaked Pixel Watch
Credit: Reddit
Leaked Pixel Watch.

While it’s unclear how the Pixel watch will differ from existing Wear OS options in terms of software, it’s likely Google will place significant emphasis on fitness tracking features, given the company’s recent acquisition of Fitbit.

It’s also possible Google will make use of its own silicone inside the watch in order to optimize battery efficiency. That’s speculation on my part, but it would perhaps explain why it’s taken so long to launch a Pixel Watch in the first place. The company made a big deal of its hardware and software integration with the Pixel 6, and it’s possible that’ll continue here.

While we don’t know how much it’ll cost, I imagine it’s likely Google will try to undercut the Apple watch by some amount, similar to how the Pixel 6 launched at a significantly lower price than its immediate competition.

The Pixel 6A

Google has a history of announcing A-series devices at Google I/O, so we’re expecting the rumored Pixel 6A to make an appearance at the conference.

We don’t know much about the devices other than a handful of renders, showcasing a similar device to the Pixel 6. But according to a report by 9to5Google, the device could be using the same Google Tensor chip seen on the 6 and 6 Pro.

Google Pixel 6a render mockup
Credit: OnLeaks and 91Mobiles
A mockup of the Pixel 6a.

This would be unusual for Google, which has usually emphasized camera performance on its A-series Pixels and opted for cheaper CPU components. Instead, it seems like Google is taking a page out of Apple’s book, and making the camera weaker instead. 9to5Google’s report claims the 6A will use the same 12MP Sony IMX363 camera chip that was on every Pixel from the Pixel 3 to the Pixel 5A.

That said, this isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro have a great primary sensor, but their images were not dramatic improvements over the Pixel 5’s for most lighting situations. Google’s computational photography chops are still the core of the Pixel’s image quality.

Opting for a more powerful processor could make the Pixel 6A a better long-term purchase and offer stronger competition to the iPhone SE (which uses Apple’s latest processor). The 6A is also rumored to sport a massive 4,800 mAh battery, so it might last longer on a charge too.

Maybe

Pixel Buds Pro

Google’s Pixel Buds (and the superior A-Series) are arguably Android’s best answer to Apple’s AirPods, but there’s one big gap in the line-up: the Pixel Buds Pro. Google’s current offerings don’t offer active noise cancelation, a feature many users consider non-negotiable. Apple also has some neat spatial audio features Google has yet to implement.

It’s almost a given that Google will release noise-canceling Pixel Buds eventually. But on May 3, leaker Jon Prosser claimed we’ll see the Pixel Buds Pro “soon,” and that it’ll come in “Real Red, Carbon, Limoncello, Fog” colors. He has a solid track record with Google leaks, and I/O seems a good a time as any.

Moreover, as pointed out by Mishaal Rahman, Google has made significant progress with spatial audio in Android 13, so the timing seems right.

Google Stadia news

Google Stadia’s launch has been a mess, to say the least. After laying off its first-party game studios in 2021, we’ve barely heard a whisper about what Google plans to do with all that streaming technology it built. Google I/O would be a good time for an update.

On the other hand, it’s entirely possible Google will want to bury any Stadia announcements if it doesn’t have a concrete plan in place for the platform.

Probably not

A 2-in-1 Nest Hub?

According to 9to5Google, Google is working on a Nest Hub with a detachable display. The wacko form factor would certainly be unique, but the only timing information we have is “2022.”

Google could tease it at I/O, but if the rumor pans out, I’d expect it to make an appearance later in the year instead.

The Pixel Fold

The Pixel Fold has been rumored for a long time. The fact that Google is building Android 12L, which is specifically aimed at folding phones and large-screen devices, suggests the company is taking folding devices seriously. But it’s anyone’s guess whether a Pixel Fold will actually show up at I/O.

Pixel Fold

Given the scarcity of concrete leaks, and the fact that existing leaks have pointed to a late 2022 launch, I doubt we’ll see much of the Pixel Fold. At most, we might see a teaser of the device, but the company would likely want to leave a serious reveal for its usual fall event.

Some reports claim the device will arrive in 2023, or that it’s canceled altogether, so don’t get your hopes up. That said, whether or not the Pixel Fold itself makes an appearance, I assume we’ll be hearing a lot about Android 12L. Folding phones are here to stay.

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