Sadly the Shoreline Amphitheatre will be empty this year. Google I/O is online-only.
Enlarge / Sadly the Shoreline Amphitheatre might be empty this yr. Google I/O is online-only.

image alliance / Getty Photographs

Google I/O 2021 is truly occurring this yr. However attributable to a sure worldwide pandemic, it will likely be all on-line as a substitute of out of doors within the solar of Mountain View. Google skipped the 2020 version completely, however the firm is lastly able to ship its first ever digital Google I/O. For us onlookers, meaning we’re formally getting into unknown territory.

Google I/O begins Tuesday, Might 18 at 1 pm EDT, when Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai will take the stage and presumably exhibit what Google has been engaged on all yr. We have been prepping for the present ourselves, and the shift to an all-virtual occasion hasn’t lessened the quantity of tea leaves to learn. We’re anticipating to see fairly a couple of issues over the subsequent week.

Effectively, first, let’s discuss what we’re most likely not going to see: the Pixel 5a. At Google I/O 2019, we noticed the launch of the Pixel 3a in Might of that yr. However with I/O 2020 canceled, the Pixel 4a did not hit the market till a lot later within the following yr, on August 20, 2020. Usually we’d name the launch timeframe for the 5a a toss up between mirroring the 3a or 4a launch dates, however Google has already set us straight. Again in April, the corporate mentioned the Pixel 5a could be “introduced according to when final yr’s a-series telephone was launched.” In order that’s August, not Might, and never at Google I/O.

New Android 12 stuff, hopefully together with the large redesign

We’re as much as a number of releases of the Android 12 Developer Preview by now, however Google I/O will mark the discharge of the primary “beta” model. Android 12 undoubtedly has a giant redesign coming—we have already seen leaks of the brand new design, and it appears like a major departure from earlier variations. There is a wild new color-changing UI that shifts to match your wallpaper. All of the buttons, sliders, and each different UI widget have been reshaped and rearranged. It has a brand new scroll checklist design that, like a Samsung telephone, works higher on larger shows by initially beginning with a giant title and pushing the highest of the checklist content material additional down the display screen, the place it may be simply reached. There is a new privateness UI, which alerts you when your digital camera, microphone, or location is in use. There’s additionally a brand new search for widgets, mirroring iOS’s latest widget revamp.

There’s a lot “Android redesign” proof on the market we do not truly know what Android 12 appears like out of the field. We simply maintain seeing screenshot after screenshot of wildly totally different UI bits, and having options that change shade based mostly on person settings additionally actually would not assist when attempting to visualise the whole bundle.

We all know all that’s coming. The query is, will or not it’s formally unveiled at Google I/O? The earlier developer previews have been completely high quality transport new performance whereas stripping out all of the fascinating UI modifications. Google may need to blast out the brand new design from the I/O digital stage, or it’d need to reserve it for nearer to launch. One good signal we only recently received was a leak of what appears to be a Materials Design sizzle reel from YouTuber Jon Prosser. It is nonetheless not very enlightening as to what Android 12 will appear like, however it looks as if the kick-off video for unveiling the subsequent model of Materials Design.

The Google I/O schedule says no less than a couple of issues might be talked about. The brand new widgets are one thing that can want developer uptake, so these are getting disclosed at Google I/O throughout the “Refreshing widgets” speak. The speak guarantees to point out off “helpful, discoverable, and delightful widgets on Android and Assistant.” There’s an fascinating curveball on the finish there—what do Android homescreen widgets must do with the Google Assistant?

The Slices API is dead, but maybe the new widget API will offer something similar? A single block of code that can display in multiple places?

The Slices API is lifeless, however perhaps the brand new widget API will provide one thing related? A single block of code that may show in a number of locations?


Sharing code between Android residence display screen widgets and the Google Assistant is one thing Google truly began engaged on earlier than—it was referred to as the “Slices” API. For some motive, although, it by no means took off. In considered one of our many interviews with Dave Burke, Android’s head of engineering, we requested him level clean, “No matter occurred to the Slices API?” Displaying distant app content material in a number of locations appeared like a good suggestion to us.

“I nonetheless assume it is a terrific thought, however I do not assume we discovered the match for it simply but,” Burke mentioned. “We truly constructed it out, and proper now we’re working with the Google Assistant group to see if we will determine one thing that is sensible.” The Google Assistant group, you say? That sounds suspiciously like the brand new widget API. So we’ll be looking out for displaying widget content material in different, distant locations.


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