Google I/O 2021 preview: Google resurrects Wear OS and Android tablets?

Enlarge / Sadly the Shoreline Amphitheatre might be empty this 12 months. Google I/O is online-only.

image alliance / Getty Pictures

Google I/O 2021 is truly taking place this 12 months. However attributable to a sure worldwide pandemic, will probably be all on-line as a substitute of out of doors within the solar of Mountain View. Google skipped the 2020 version totally, however the firm is lastly able to ship its first ever digital Google I/O. For us onlookers, which means we’re formally coming into unknown territory.

Google I/O begins Tuesday, Could 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 12 months. 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 just a few issues over the subsequent week.

Nicely, 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 Could of that 12 months. However with I/O 2020 canceled, the Pixel 4a did not hit the market till a lot later within the following 12 months, 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 company said the Pixel 5a can be “introduced in keeping with when final 12 months’s a-series cellphone was launched.” In order that’s August, not Could, 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 big redesign coming—we have already seen leaks of the brand new design, and it appears like a big 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 record design that, like a Samsung cellphone, works higher on larger shows by initially beginning with a giant title and pushing the highest of the record content material additional down the display, 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 recent widget revamp.

There may be a lot “Android redesign” proof on the market we do not truly know what Android 12 appears like out of the field. We simply hold seeing screenshot after screenshot of wildly totally different UI bits, and having options that change colour based mostly on consumer settings additionally actually would not assist when making an attempt to visualise the whole package deal.

We all know all that’s coming. The query is, will 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 attention-grabbing UI modifications. Google would possibly wish to blast out the brand new design from the I/O digital stage, or it’d wish to put it aside for nearer to launch. One good signal we only recently acquired 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 seem like, but it surely looks as if the kick-off video for unveiling the subsequent model of Materials Design.

The Google I/O schedule says a minimum of just a few 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 attention-grabbing curveball on the finish there—what do Android homescreen widgets need to 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 useless, however possibly 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 dwelling display widgets and the Google Assistant is one thing Google truly began engaged on earlier than—it was known as the “Slices” API. For some motive, although, it by no means took off. In one in every of our many interviews with Dave Burke, Android’s head of engineering, we asked 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 suppose it is an awesome concept, however I do not suppose 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 staff to see if we are able to work out one thing that is smart.” The Google Assistant staff, 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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