This year's Google I/O developer conference is likely to bring Android to your TV, car and wrist
And just like that, it's time for another Google I/O developer conference! This year's I/O starts with a two-hour keynote presentation this Wednesday, June 25, at Moscone West in San Francisco — that's where we're expecting all the big headline-grabbing announcements to emerge. (Be sure to join our liveblog!) But perhaps even more important are the sessions and workshops that let developers — folks way smarter than us — get to grips with all the new stuff from Android and other Google properties.
This year's Google I/O is going to be a big one. We're expecting big news for smartwatches and Android Wear, a refreshed living room strategy with the new Android TV, and the first fruits of the Open Automotive Alliance, bringing Android to the car in a big way. That's along with any new devices and hints about what's next for Android at the platform level.
So read on to learn about all the Android-related goodness we're expecting from Google I/O 2014.
Android Wear and Google Fit
The announcement of Android Wear in the months leading up to up to I/O point to wearable Android being one of the cornerstones of this year's conference. Sure enough, scheduled developer sessions for I/O 2014 include "Android Wear: The developer's perspective", "Wearable computing with Google" and "Designing for wearables", so there'll be plenty besides the existing preview SDK for developers to get stuck into. Expect to learn how devs can leverage the full-blown Android OS on these devices for functionality beyond simple notification mirroring.
The rumored Google Fit project, reportedly a hub for collecting health data tracked through wearables, could be central to any Android Wear developments at I/O this year. New APIs, likely included in a Google Play Services update, would allow developers to easily tap into this info, potentially unifying the disparate ways in which health apps track this data at present.
With the LG G Watch already in the hands of some carrier partners and a UK retail release reportedly on the cards for early July, it's likely we'll learn more about when the first Android Wear smartwatches will actually be available to buy. As for any new hardware reveals from partners who've not yet shown their hand? It's certainly possible, especially if the "Android Fit" rumors are on the money.
Samsung will reportedly launch its own Android Wear hardware at I/O
According to a recent CNET scoop, Samsung is among the manufacturers set to unveil new Android Wear hardware at Google I/O. That shouldn't come as a huge surprise, after all the Korean electronics giant has been an Android Wear partner since the project was first announced — along with HTC and ASUS, by the way, both of whom have yet to show their hand.
Unveiling its own Android Wear smartwatch at I/O would allow Samsung to underscore its commitment to Android Wear, and the burgeoning smartwatch market in general. But it raises the question of how this new Samsung watch might coexist with the company's current Tizen-powered Gear lineup. Samsung is all about product diversity, but adding a fourth smartwatch alongside the Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo and Gear Fit could prove confusing to consumers — and a challenge to its efforts to get devs working with its own Tizen-based wearable platform. On the other hand, Samsung is smart enough to know that an Android Wear product — which would be compatible with all modern Android phones — might be its best weapon against Apple's anticipated iWatch.
Two years after I/O attendees were first given the chance to become Google Glass explorers, Google's face-mounted computer continues to exist in a weird post-beta limbo. If Glass is going to move forwards, it needs to bloom into a full retail product, with all the expectations of quality that go with such a transition. As Android Wear hits retail, users will be expecting Glass to evolve into a similarly polished product. (Though perhaps the recent arrival of the Glass Explorer Program in the UK — with a whopping £1,000 price tag to boot — pours cold water on that.)
On either side of the Atlantic, the greater challenge for Glass is the somewhat negative public perception of the headset, a point Myriam Joire explores in her recent "Through Glass" piece. As much as improved Glassware and better battery life, this is a problem Google could start to address at this year's I/O.
Android TV and Google's 'Molly' set-top box
A leaked Android 4.4.3 changelog recently revealed that Google is working on a KitKat-powered set-top box. Codenamed "Molly," the device is believed to be the company's answer to Amazon's Fire TV, though the changelog doesn't give much away.
Expect Android TV to be a major highlight of this year's I/O keynote, with new hardware to boot.
Back in April The Verge bagged images of the new, simplified, content-centric Android UI for the living room. Naturally, streaming apps and Google's own content ecosystem are front and center, but we're hearing this NVIDIA Tegra-powered device will have a strong gaming focus too, including controller support. Multiple sources tell us to expect an I/O reveal for Google's homemade Android TV box.
A Google-made set-top box dubbed "GFHD200" recently passed by the FCC, with documentation suggesting it's a next-gen Google Fiber box. The device description reads: "TV box, 10/100 Ethernet, MoCa 1.1/2.0, WiFi AP, HDMI 1.4 w/ HDCP." That points to it being a new home entertainment hub for your TV and Google Fiber, and a likely target for the new Android TV software. However it's currently unclear whether "GFHD200" is "Molly" (or some Fiber-equipped Molly variant), or whether the two are entirely separate devices.
Either way, expect Android TV to be a major highlight of this year's I/O keynote, with new hardware to boot.
Android in your car
The car is another important battleground for the mobile giants. Apple has CarPlay in the early stages, and earlier this year Google and friends unveiled the Open Automotive Alliance, with partners including GM, Audi, Honda, Hyundai and NVIDIA. The OAA hasn't gone into great detail about its plans yet, but it refers to having Android run seamlessly within the car itself, while building a common platform across vehicles to which Android phones can easily connect. I/O, naturally, is the ideal venue to share more details with developers.
A recent report by AutoNews claims Google will introduce a Auto Link, rival to Apple's CarPlay at I/O, allowing users to navigate their phone's software using controls within the vehicle. Unlike standard infotainment devices, data would be projected from a connected Android phone onto the vehicle's dashboard screen.
App support will be a big part of Auto Link's draw for manufacturers — from a carmaker's perspective, it's much more economical to integrate Auto Link or CarPlay than developing bespoke apps for in-car systems. So expect to see plenty of car talk at this year's conference.
New tools and toys for developers
This goes without saying, right? A year after the Android Studio IDE was first introduced, look for new tools to help developers work with Android on the wrist, the road and the TV. (And don't be surprised if a few big-name devs already have apps ready for these new platforms.)
Much of this year's developer conference will focus on wearables and the living room, and without giving too much away, we'd expect the 2014 I/O swag bag to reflect this.
Other stuff to watch out for
Hints of what's to come for the next major Android release
Android's "L" release, which for the sake of argument we'll call Lemon Meringue Pie, might not be ready for release yet, but that doesn't mean I/O won't provide some valuable insights into what's next for the OS. Look for sessions at this year's conference to help developers get up to speed on the features and technologies that'll eventually form the next major version of Android. Aside from ART, 64-bit and working with Tegra K1, we'll also keep an ear open for any word on upcoming changes in API level 20. Google dropped many a hint about Android 4.3 at last year's conference through talk of new additions in the then-unreleased API level 18.
Update: Sundar Pichai says we'll get a preview of what's coming in Android's "L" release at I/O. So that's that.
On the mobile security front, Google has already said the next version of Android will ship with "kill switch" type protection to prevent stolen phones being wiped and sold on; more details on the specifics of this new feature may be shared this week.
As much as I/O is about getting developers up to speed on the latest products from Google and its partners, it's also about exploring crazy projects fresh out of Google's skunkworks. (That's a label that could easily have been applied to Glass when it broke out at I/O 2012.)
Devs can expect to get their hands on the Tegra K1-powered Tango tablet.
The company's sensor-filled, depth-mapping Project Tango has evolved from a phone into a tablet over the past few months and is now powered by NVIDIA's Tegra K1 processor. Project Tango uses its array of cameras and sensors to map its surroundings in 3D, giving it the ability to understand the space around it. The tablet will sell to developers later this year for $210, but I/O would be an ideal place for Google to give a few developers an early look at the Tango hardware, and a chance to get their hands dirty. (One of the developer sandbox sessions directly refers to optimizing Android for Tegra K1 devices.)
And — perhaps revealingly — Google is reported to have ordered an initial run of a few thousand Tango tablets just in time for I/O.
Google Play edition Samsung Galaxy S5
This year's conference could be where we finally meet the elusive GPe Galaxy S5. It's been partially revealed in a Play Store snafu before passing by the Bluetooth SIG recently. And a year on from I/O 2013, where the GPe Galaxy S4 emerged, the time seems right for a Googlified version of the current Samsung flagship. If it does make an appearance, we'll be interested to learn how well the GS5's specialized hardware, including fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor hardware, are supported in a "stock" Android version of the phone.
Something, anything on Google Voice
Hangouts integration? A long-overdue mobile app overhaul? Hopefully we'll see some signs of life from the long-neglected voice calling service.
What we're not expecting at I/O 2014
This year's I/O is going to be a big, important conference for developers and anyone with an interest in Android. But there's a lot of mainly consumer-facing stuff we're not expecting to see in San Francisco this week.
A new Nexus tablet from HTC — One of Android's worst-kept secrets is that HTC is making the next (and possibly last) Nexus device, an 8.9-inch "stock" Android tablet. But nothing we're hearing suggests the Nexus 8 (or Nexus 9) will be ready in time for I/O.
Anything official on "Android Silver" — Again, it's too early for an official announcement of the rumored replacement for the Nexus line, dubbed "Android Silver." The first handsets released under this program aren't expected until early 2015, according to the most reliable info available.
An Android 4.5 or 5.0 public release — We'll get a preview of the next version of Android, but anyone hoping for a public release may be disappointed. Pie slicers at the ready for later this year, though...
Follow all our live coverage from Google I/O
Keep it locked to Android Central for the rest of the week for full coverage of all the news from Google I/O. Our Google I/O event page is a great place to get started.
Google I/O 2014 kicks off with the live keynote presentation on Wednesday June 25, at 9am PDT (that's 12 noon EDT, 5pm BST and 6pm CEST.) We'll be live from SF to bring you full coverage, and we'll have the video stream embedded along with instant commentary and analysis from our liveblog.
What are you hoping to see from this year's Google I/O conference? Shout out below!