+ Wednesday June 19th, 2019

Google will hold its annual developer conference Google I/O next week, kicking off on Tuesday at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. The keynote address from Google CEO Sundar Pichai – and other executives – is the highlight of the show from an audience perspective, and we’re expecting a number of announcements on stage this week.

Google I/O 2019 will mark a return to something the conference hasn’t featured for years – smartphone announcements. Google is widely anticipated to launch not one but two new phones during the keynote presentation, adding a lower-cost option half-way through Google’s established smartphone cycle.

There’s going to be lots more, though, and so here’s a quick guide to what we’re expecting from Google I/O 2019.

Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL

Google is the leaky ship of the seas when it comes to keeping its mobile announcements under wraps. The Pixel 3a range has been comprehensively leaked, and so we know specifications, inclusions, exclusions and more.

What you need to know is that these will be mid-range phones, with mid-range prices, but all the inclusions that Google and its Pixel line stand out for; a great camera, a great software experience and perhaps even the return of a headphone jack.

We’re expecting pricing well, well below the Pixel 3 pricing, which puts some Google Pixel goodness within reach of many, many more people.

We’ve got Scott attending Google I/O this week, so keep an eye on him for all the announcements from the ground.

A new Nest Hub?

There have been rumours of a larger Home Hub device coming, and with Google renaming some devices from Home Hub to Nest Hub, we’re expecting a Google Nest Hub Max next week.

The expectation is all but confirmed, with Google’s own advertising collateral referring to the product, naming it, and even confirming some of its features. We know it’ll feature a video camera, for example, because of the promised ability to make video calls to family and friends.

Rumours suggest it will also feature a 10-inch display and stereo speakers. Likely featuring a similar software experience, we’re keen to see how Google’s Nest team integrates a camera into the experience. Beyond video calling, will we see some Nest-like features?

A Home Hub with built-in smart camera for home surveillance? Maybe.

More details about Android Q

Android Q isn’t really news anymore; Google announced the testing process a little while ago and the public beta became available back in March. Since then, we’ve seen a couple of iterations and we have some feel for new features in the next version of Android OS.

Features like enhanced privacy controls, the ability to limit apps’ access to tracking data, system dark mode, colour themes and a much better designed sharing menu are just some of the things we know to see.

However, it’s likely that bigger features will be announced by Google at I/O – this is the pattern that has emerged in recent years, at least. We’re looking forward to seeing what Google has up its sleeves.

More details about gaming with Google Stadia

Since the announcement earlier this year, we’ve not heard an awful lot about Google Stadia. We know it’s coming later this year – albeit, not confirmed for Australia – but that’s about it. What we haven’t seen – and might expect to find out at I/O – is how much the service might cost, and more launch countries.

I think the main thing we want to hear is whether there’s a plan for Stadia to come to Australia, and tentative pricing. Hopefully there’ll be some demos there for Scott to try out as well.

Will we see much for Wear OS or Android TV?

My sneaking suspicion is no, probably not a lot. Google has already made announcements on the Wear OS front this week, bringing Tiles to Wear OS which are rather reminiscent of Samsung’s Tizen OS UI. With the feature already rolling out and confirmed available on some Australian Wear OS watches, there probably isn’t a lot left for Google to announce in Wear, unless it’s finally making a Pixel Watch.

Absent a Pixel Watch, I don’t expect Wear OS to get much of a mention during the keynote, although there will undoubtedly be some developer sessions focusing on the platform.

As for Android TV, the company has already made some semi-official commentary here in recent days, confirming an expansion for the Android TV ecosystem with more apps and more hardware options. With references to hardware options coming in “the next few weeks”, it seems at least plausible we’ll see something announced at Google I/O in the Android TV space but what? Who knows.

What about the killer app?

Google has always announced something a little different and unexpected at Google I/O. In recent years we saw Google Duplex, Google Assistant, and a few other things. Last year’s demo of Google Duplex was pretty incredible, and though it isn’t available in Australia (and probably won’t be any time soon, if ever), I just don’t get the impression we’ll see something more impressive this year.

What I do expect to see, though, is a real focus on Google building out its ecosystem – smartphones that more people can afford, more hardware to push into the connected home, and the expected improvements to its various software experiences to keep Google’s offering agile and responsive over the next twelve months.

Chris Rowland   Managing Editor

Chris Rowland

Chris has been at the forefront of smartphone reporting in Australia since smartphones were a thing, and has used mobile phones since they came with giant lead-acid batteries that were "transportable" and were carried in a shoulder bag.

Today, Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.

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