In Depth: Google IO 2016: dates and keynote predictions

Google IO 2016

Update: The official Google IO 2016 dates have been announced to be May 18 – May 20, which means this year’s Google IO tickets should go on sale soon. Here’s everything we’ve been hearing.

It’s been a big 12 months for Google: Android 6.0 Marshmallow released, it made developments in self-driving car tech, and, perhaps most significant of all, it shuffled its corporate structure so it’s now owned by a company called Alphabet.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Google will sit back and relax in 2016. Google IO 2016 will likely be a huge event with lots of news, just like Google IO 2015 and 2014 before it. In fact, the pressure of Microsoft’s recent push of great new products and Apple’s ever-growing popularity are likely to cause Google to go even further than it has in the past and come up with better products that can appeal to a wider range of people.

We here at techradar have high hopes for Google IO 2016. Here are some of our predictions for every major product category at next year’s conference.

Android N

Google IO

The Google IO 2016 product most users will be chomping at the bit to see will be the next version of Android, currently dubbed Android N. While we don’t yet know what the official name of the software will end up being (Android Nutella? Android Nougat?), it’s likely that Android N will be a major update, especially considering that Android Marshmallow, the most recent version of Google’s mobile OS, was relatively small.

Features that are expected of Android N include a more feature-rich power menu and the ability to uninstall non-essentially stock apps. It’s also likely we’ll also see a number of performance upgrades and battery-saving features, too.

By the time Android N is released, many users will still be waiting for Android Marshmallow to make it to their devices, but that certainly won’t slow Google from releasing its newest version of Android.

Android Wear

Google IO

Android for smartphone won’t be the only branch of Android to see an update at Google IO 2016. A number of updates have been released to Android Wear over the past year, not least of which was iOS compatibility. It’s certainly possible that Android Wear will also be made compatible with Windows Phone, which would be a great announcement for Google to make at its developer conference.

Other updates that we’d like to see from the wearable operating system include better voice control, more standalone features and perhaps even gesture-controls.

Android Auto

Google IO

Google is likely to make a number of car-related announcements, including at least one related to Android Auto. Since Google IO 2015, a number of automakers have jumped onboard with Android Auto, either offering the infotainment system in current models or planning to include it in future vehicles. We wouldn’t be surprised if major car makers who haven’t announced Android Auto compatibility use Google IO 2016 to do so.

Google will also likely announce more third-party apps that will make it to the platform, as well as similar voice control updates as we will (probably) see with Android Wear.

Project Ara

Google IO

After coming out of the gate hot and fast, things have slowed for Project Ara over the past six months or so. We’re optimistic about Google’s modular phone, though, and think IO 2016 is prime time for Google to break the silence on the project.

Not only that, but Google has offered us one little hint that it will announce Project Ara-related releases at IO, with the company sending out a simple tweet in August saying “When? 2016” along with the hashtag #yeswearelate. Sure, that gives us a window of a whole year, but what better place to make an announcement than when everyone is watching? This isn’t, after all, an announcement Google will want to make quietly.

So what exactly will we see when it comes to Project Ara? Well, Google will probably either release the Project Ara phone to one or more markets, or at least announce when it plans to do so. It’s also likely that the company will announce hardware developments that it’s made of late, including a better camera, improved battery life, and a new system for how the components connect to the phone (remember the #FailedTheDropTest joke?)

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Self-driving cars

Google IO

Self-driving cars will almost certainly make an appearance at Google IO 2016, with the company first likely to give a report on the development of the little koala car’s software as well as address safety concerns (even though stats show every self-driving car accident has been the fault of human drivers).

Google mentioned in September that it, as a company, didn’t actually want to manufacture physical cars to sell to customers, so it’s also possible that we could see Google announce partnerships with major auto companies who might want to use Google’s technology.

If it does end up announcing partnerships, it’s completely unknown which firm(s) it will partner with – it seems like every auto manufacturer is already working on its own self-driving car tech. With self-driving car tech on the rise, however, it’s very unlikely that we won’t see a Google Car appearance at IO.

Google Chrome

Google IO

Chrome is another Google product that we’re sure to see on stage at next year’s IO. Google has slowly molded how it wants Chrome to look over the past few months, removing a few features like the “Ok, Google” voice command, and tweaking how much RAM it takes up, especially when it comes to use on OS X.

It’s very likely that we’ll see Google update cross-compatibility features, such as enabling users to access files and information on their mobile devices through Chrome. There have long been rumors that Google is planning on more closely integrating Chrome with Android, so keep an eye out for an announcement along those lines at IO.

Smart home

Google IO

The smart home is primed to be a big focus at Google IO 2016. The company has already begun planting seeds for a successful smart home platform with products like OnHub, a wireless router.

There’s more to OnHub than wireless connectivity, however: it’s also set to be the base for Google to build its own Internet-of-things platform, as announced in this OnHub release blog post.

With Apple having gotten a head start in the smart home space and Google really only having made a few, minor announcements related to the smart home at IO 2015, we expect it to put a much stronger focus on intelligent appliances and the like at IO 2016. It does own Nest, after all.

Virtual reality

Google IO

Google Cardboard is a nifty product that brings virtual reality to many who might not want to drop a lot of money on a dedicated virtual reality headset, like the Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR. We don’t expect Google to deviate from its DIY virtual reality headset, but we do anticipiate Google will reveal a few upgrades to make it even better.

What we’re likely to see at IO 2016 is vastly improved VR video for YouTube. YouTube engineering chief Matthew Mengerink told CNET that Google plans on upping the quality of VR videos on YouTube in the near future, and we should see the fruits of this initiative at the developer conference. More Cardboard compatible apps as well as a new hardware design that works with more smartphones are other announcements that wouldn’t catch us by surprise, either.

Project Fi

Google IO

Google’s Project Fi wireless service made a splash when it was deployed earlier this year, but buzz around Fi has been relatively quiet ever since. At Google IO 2016, it’s certainly possible Google will be looking to change this. Currently, the program is only available to Nexus users, Google may be looking to expand the service to allow other phone users to join. What’s more, in order to grow its user base, Google may want to open invites to all for more than a day.

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