Google I/O 2018: What to Expect

Google I/O is upon us. The annual developers conference kicks off today at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, where we expect to hear a flood of news regarding Android, the Google Assistant, wearables, and more.

Android P

Google will no doubt show off more features in the next version of Android, codenamed P. In March, the first developer preview of Android P arrived; it revamped the way notifications are displayed and paved the way for vendors to build smartphones that cop the iPhone X’s infamous “notch.”

The user interface on Android may also get a tweak. In April, Google accidentally revealed a redesigned on-screen navigation bar for Android P.

Android P navigation Bar

Presumably, it’ll do away with the “recents” button, which lets you switch between apps. To access the function, you’ll instead swipe up on a new pill-shaped home icon. According to 9to5Google, the company has also decided to make the back button occasionally disappear when the phone goes idle.

During Google I/O, the company may also highlight some new privacy features coming to Android P. Developers spotted a change to the operating system that will prevent third-party apps from monitoring your smartphone’s network activity and learning when other apps are connecting to the internet.

Artificial Intelligence

Google started off as a search engine provider, but the company has said its future is in artificial intelligence. Helping to lead that charge has been the voice-activated Google Assistant, which is finding its way to more and more third-party products.

Google Home Mini

Google I/O represents a chance for the tech giant to bring more developers on board to its platform at at time when Amazon’s Alexa has been reaching into homes through the company’s Echo smart speakers.

So don’t be surprised to hear upcoming features around Google Assistant, along with new partnerships. On Monday, for example, JBL announced that the virtual assistant software is coming to a hybrid smart speaker/TV hub called the JBL Link Bar.

Wear OS

The hype around Android-based smartwatches has faded, but Google isn’t giving up on the technology. In March, it changed the name of its OS for wearables from “Android Wear” to “Wear OS.”

Google implied it did this to avoid alienating iPhone owners, who have been gravitating to the Apple Watch. “We’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible with wearables and there’s even more exciting work ahead,” a Wear OS director Dennis Troper said at the time.

Days before Google I/O, the company announced some new features for Wear OS, including updates to the Google Assistant. The voice-activated assistant will now offer more responses to your questions. For instance, if you ask about the weather, your smartwatch will show you the current conditions, and display follow-up questions regarding the weather tomorrow or over the weekend.

During the developer conference, Google will probably demo these features, and preview some new ones slated to arrive in the future.

Google Lens

One of the most promising products the company unveiled at last year’s developers conference was Google Lens. It’s basically a search engine that runs through your smartphone’s camera. Take a picture of a restaurant, flower, or obscure word, and Google Lens will identify and pull up relevant information about it.

Google Lens Google IO 2017

The product was initially limited to the company’s Pixel phones, but in February, Google announced plans to bring it to more compatible smartphones.

Although the technology isn’t always accurate, it does present a game-changing way to do hands-free searches over your smartphone. LG said in a recent press release that “more details” about Google Lens will be mentioned at Google I/O this year.

Google News

The company is also reportedly going to talk up a redesign to its Google News service. According to AdAge, the revamp will feature more video from YouTube’s news section and load articles from media publishers faster. The company is also shutting down its Google Newsstand app—a product that compiles news into a digital magazine—but incorporating its features into Google News.

The change is reportedly part of a Google push to consolidate all its news services into one brand. Whether it makes for easier reading and a better experience, we’ll have to see.

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