I/O 2015: What To Expect

folder_openEvent Coverage, Rumours & Speculation

This post was published 8 years, 8 months ago. Due to the rapidly evolving world of technology, some material it contains may no longer be applicable.

I/O is now but hours away and we have a few ideas about what to expect from Google’s big annual event.

Zac and I shall be attending an I/O Extended event in London where we will be following the livestream with you and providing live blogging of the main keynote which kicks off at 5:30 PM GMT (9:30 AM PST).

We will share a link to the live stream before the start of the event. Until then, let’s have a look at what things Google is likely to talk about over the next couple of days.

Android ‘M’

Android Macadamia Nut Cookie
Android Macadamia Nut Cookie by Pedro Peguero Jr.

Let’s start with the big one! As ever, the next major version of Android is certainly going to be announced at I/O. We should also get some details about when we can expect a developer preview release – much like they did with ‘L’ last year.

We suspect they will also remain hush on the dessert name again until the actual launch later in the year when they bring out the new statue onto the Googleplex lawn.

The current internal codename for the release ostensibly is “Macadamia Nut Cookie” – often listed as MNC. This is likely to change for the actual release however.

So anyway, let’s go over what this release might bring:

Improved Power Management

n5-battery

The latest on the grapevine suggests that this release will aim to go even further than “Project Volta” did in Lollipop and will hopefully reduce the battery drain on Android devices and give us longer to make phone calls play silly games and watch cat videos.

These efforts could also reduce the system and application RAM usage, allowing for a greater number of apps to be kept in memory, bringing snappier multi-tasking.

Granular App Permissions

App Permissions
A mock-up by Android Police

Remember “App-ops”? Google is finally planning to bring this to light with more granular app permissions which will allow you to choose which permissions you grant to apps on an individual basis rather than simply accept them all.

Say you want to use a certain app but don’t feel comfortable trusting it with your contacts or location, currently you have no option but to grant it all the permissions it asks for or not install it. With this feature however you would have the option to individually revoke the permissions for the data you don’t want that app to have access to.

More Material Design

materialdesign_io15_vectorized
Google has already promised us even more refinements to the design language in Android M with Matias Duarte set to hold a “Material Now” session.

We have already seen a massive improvement to Android’s look and feel with Lollipop so we can’t wait to see the next step.

Native Fingerprint Scanner API

Finger Print Scanner Galaxy S5

Up until now any Android device with a fingerprint scanner has been a solution created entirely by the device OEM. However, with Android M Google are supposedly planning to bring native support a with Fingerprint API which could see far more devices adopt the technology, as well as better app support.

This could also mean attention from Google directly – think integration into first-party apps like Wallet and Chrome (password manager), stock Android lockscreen etc and perhaps also Google hardware. There’s certainly a chance the next Nexus phone(s) will sport a fingerprint scanner.

Android Pay

Google Wallet

Speaking of Google Wallet, Wallet is one of the many Google products which will likely be getting some attention at I/O. It is thought with Android M we will see the introduction of Android Pay.

It is believed that the Wallet brand will also stick around so this could just be the name of the new payment Android APIs. Google has said that Android Pay will be NFC focused at first but later will integrate with biometric systems (presumably fingerprint scanners).

With these Android Pay details and Google’s recent acquisition of SoftCard it seems they are geared ready for a revamp of their mobile payment efforts.

A Built-In Theme Engine

Vif RRO Teme
Vif, an existing RRO Theme

Last year Sony contributed a powerful theme engine to AOSP called the Runtime Resource Overlay (RRO) framework. This wasn’t initially compatible with Lollipop as they developed it before anyone had access to Lollipop’s source code but it has now been adapted and is likely what has allowed many OEMs to offer theme engines with their new skins this year.

RRO has also been implemented in some custom ROMs and is as an alternative to CyanogenMod’s theme engine, which itself is now based on RRO in CM12 – replacing the old T-Mobile theme engine.

It is thought that RRO will be polished up and made an official feature baked right into stock Android which will allow you to theme or ‘skin’ your Android system interface and applications. This would be a very welcome addition – particularly for Nexus users as it will allow them to customise their Android experience even further without needing to root their device.

This  feature could also make for an interesting new approach to OEM skins. We could theoretically see OEM themes which apply to the stock interface so if you don’t like the way your device maker designs their skin, now you may soon have a way of switching it to a more stock look or something else entirely with ease.

If OEMs did adopt a system like this then update times could probably be reduced as they would have to spend less time modifying the new system interface to fit their unique design languages.

Multi-Window

Android multiwindow mockup
An Android Police mockup of the multi-window functionality.

At long last stock Android looks set to get multi-window functionality baked in, starting with M. We have already seen manufacturers such as Samsung and LG make their own implementations of this idea as well as in custom ROMs such as OmniROM, but it will be nice to have the function polished and part of Android at core for all to enjoy.

The mockups show dragging recent apps cards from the overview screen to make them snap to the edges of the display. From there the windows could also then be resized, and content could be dragged across between windows.

We know Google has been working on this functionality for a while since we have seen references it in AOSP code since the inception of KitKat, but it looks like we may finally be reaching its completion. If it is indeed ready for prime-time then this is certainly something we would expect to see shown off during the main keynote.

Google Glass

Google Industrial Designer Isabelle Olsson and fellow Googler Amanda Rosenberg wearing Google Glass

It is probable that we will get at least some update on Google Glass during I/O since it is highly expected that a new, more consumer-oriented model should be available in the not too distant future. This could run some form of updated Android Wear system and have a less obtrusive look.

Additionally, the next version of Glass will hopefully have a new SoC which is faster and more power efficient so that the battery lasts longer and you can do more with the device. We would also expect that when it is available it should cost considerably less than the rather pricey Explorer Edition.

Smarter Hangouts

Smarter Hangouts
Credit: Ars Technica

Google purchased an instant messaging app/company called “Emu” last year which could scan messages and intelligently fetch extra, relevant information which might be helpful. It is expected that Google will be bringing more of this functionality into the Hangouts app/service.

Google already implemented one of Emu’s most basic features which brings up a box allowing you to share your location with a single press when someone asks where you are. Certainly very neat but Emu can do a lot more that – functionality which could soon also be in Hangouts.

For example, if you mentioned a nearby restaurant in a conversation to a friend it would add details about the restaurant such as reviews and opening times. Or if someone asks what you are doing, you’ll be able to send them your agenda for the day in a single tap. It also has features like snoozing a message for when you are busy to respond and want to be reminded to reply later.

These additions could make the service a lot more useful than many of its major competitors in instant messaging and we fully suspect that Google will have found ways to go beyond the already impressive offerings in the Emu app.

Material Design On The Web

IO15 Material Design

Back at I/O 2014 when Google introduced Material Design, they promised it would unify the web and app world with similar levels of polish and design. Many of Google’s own sites are yet to get a full refresh but the new I/O site notably has a very app-like look and feel.

Google are likely to spend some time at I/O talking about web technologies such as Polymer which will help make the web “more material”. It is also possible we will see some of their online services get a new look during the next couple of days to fall in line with the exceptions set out last year. Google Play Music recently got such a treatment.

This all sounds good to us, materialise all the things!

A tease: Google’s products might not be the only websites getting a new Material look soon! 😉

Chromecast 2

Chromecast

We don’t know for sure but it certainly sounds like the new Chromecast could even been launching at I/O and may well be one of the gifts to this year’s attendees.

Google VP of Product Management Mario Queiroz said in an interview with the no-longer-operating Gigaom, that we would see a new version of Chromecast soon with the new hardware which would “give us a better opportunity to take full advantage of a large screen paired with a small screen.”

It seems this version is likely to sport beefier hardware with focus on more interactive content and not just passive media consumption. There’s a “Designing games for Google Cast” talk scheduled for I/O and another which mentions “using Android and iOS mobile devices as game controllers to unleash new interaction models for Chromecast and other Cast devices.”

We would also hope that this version might include support for the 5GHz WiFi band and WiFi ac which would allow for faster connectivity with reduced latency and shorter load-times with less buffering.

Google/Intel/TAG Heuer Smartwatch

TAG Heuer

Google, Intel and TAG Heuer have been working together on a super luxurious (read: super expensive!) premium Android Wear watch which may well make its début at Google I/O. It is expected to cost around $1,400 and go on sale at the end of the year but we would not be surprised to see it make some kind of appearance during the event.

TAG Heuer have claimed that the watch will have an impressive 40-hour battery life, but then you would kind of expect it to be pretty amazing all-round if it is going to have a price tag like that!

We are not sure how many people will actually buy into luxury smartwatches which cost so much money, but if any companies could make it work TAG, Google and Intel are surely one of the strongest combinations most likely to do so.

At the very least it should set the bar high for even better smartwatches in general – including ones which don’t cost more than twice that of the device you pair them to!

Android Wear For iPhone

Androidwear iOS

Probably not the most desired feature among readers here, but Android Wear looks set to gain iOS support. Whether you use iOS or not this will surely be a big move for the platform which will see it actually compete directly with the Apple Watch.

It will be interesting to see how many iPhone users would purchase an Android watch over the Apple one, but there is certainly a good chance many would, especially considering the near-daily display of failures the Apple Watch has shown the world already and its crazy price tag.

For us Android users the main benefit of this move will be increased platform adoption. The more people who use Android Wear the more it will improve the greater the number of apps and app developers there will be making cool stuff to get the most from Android on your wrist.

Smart Home & Internet Of Things

Google Brillo OS

Apparently Google’s smart home ambitions and really ramping up and Android@Home-like initiatives are back from the dead.

Google has already made some headway since their acquisition of Nest but are now apparently making an Android-based Internet of Things (IoT) OS for smart home devices which will operate on as little as 32 or 64MB of RAM. This OS is currently referred to as “Brillo”.

Brillo will power all kinds of connected home devices such as WiFi-enabled light bulbs & switches, connected door locks, smart appliances and so on. According to The Information we will be hearing more during I/O about this attempt from Google to unify the word of IoT devices.

Project Ara & ATAP

Google ATAP

The ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) division that Google acquired when they purchased Motorola (and retained when they sold Moto to Lenovo) is responsible for some of Google’s post exciting future developments. As they put it themselves:

We like epic shit.
The future is what we choose to make.
We make what we believe in.
Welcome to Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group.
A small band of pirates. Believers. Makers.

One such project in particular is Project Ara – the modular smartphone based on the ‘Phonebloks’ concept which aims to make smartphones which are upgradeable with switchable modules.

Last year Ara had just reached the point of the first bootable prototypes. A year (well, just under) is a long time in tech and Ara has come along a lot since then, so expect to see the ATAP team featured during I/O to share their latest progress. We would hope to see some pretty functional prototype modules and Endos at this stage.

ATAP is also responsible for Project Tango – a super high-powered 3D mapping tablet which can create 3D scans of its environment. Google recently just cut the price of this tablet in half and are making it more widely available, so you can bet there will be more news on this project also.

Live Google Earth – Skybox

Skybox Logo

Google purchased SkyBox who planned to send 24 satellites to orbit by 2018 to provide live satellite footage of the earth. Since Google’s acquisition of the company and their influx of cash it is quite likely that this date will have been brought forward.

Google have a session titled “The Earth in real-time.” It sounds like they are planning to launch LIVE satellite footage which would be pretty amazing stuff!

We don’t know that they are there with it yet but expect this talk to explain what they are doing and how far they are with it and will not be a finished project demonstration.

Virtual Reality

Google Cardboard, virtual reality

Google has already stated they are working on a version of Android specifically targeting virtual reality and so it looks like they have ambitions well beyond the Google Cardboard (pictured above) that they showed off at last year’s I/O.

We don’t know an awful lot about what they are doing with VR or the progress they have made but I guess that is what we’ll soon find out!

Google Photos

As you may have heard, Google has a total revamp of Google photos on the way including a load of new features and the removal of its tether to Google+ (although we imagine they will still integrate nicely).

Before long Google Photos will be a separate app to Google Plus on Android and Auto-Awesome will be no more (in name) as allegedly it has been extended and rebranded as image “Assistant”.

Among other improvements, the app will also have a new interface with new organisational features including more detailed search using Google’s much-improved object and scene recognition. This will mean you can simply search for “beach” or “skyline” or “family” and get relevant results from your photo collection without any requiring the effort of tagging photos beforehand.

So far all we have seen is rumours and mockups, but we expect that the full unveiling will come during I/O.

Android For Work

Android for Work

It is also expected that Google will show off an update at Android For Work during I/O. For those of you who are not familiar with it, Android For Work is a set of tools and apps which help with using Android Devices for business in a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) setup.

It allows users to have separate work and personal profiles on the same phone so you can keep the two separate without having to carry two devices.

At I/O they may show improvements to Android for Work security features for use in enterprise and hopefully also support for paid applications (which it currently lacks).

Stay Tuned To Find Out More

Google IO 2015

As always, these are just predictions. As for what actually happens we will just have to wait and see! We will be covering details of the event here and on social media over the next week including a live-blog of the 2.5 hour Keynote so be sure to stay tuned for that!

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