What to expect from Google I/O 2021

We could see announcements about Android 12, Google Assistant and more

Google I/O

Google I/O 2021 kicks off on May 18th and it’s bound to be a packed event. This is the first I/O conference Google has held in a while, after the company cancelled the 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, Google decided to take I/O online and is inviting anyone to join and watch virtually. The conference will run from May 18th to 20th, but most of the big news will likely drop at 10am PT/1pm ET on the 18th with CEO Sundar Pichai’s opening keynote.

As in previous years, I/O will focus heavily on the developer side of things, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any big news. With that in mind, here are some things we expect to see at the event:

Android 12


We’ll almost certainly get some Android 12 news, especially since I/O is a developer conference. Going by previous I/O events, Google typically showcases some big new features that will ship with the next major Android update. Typically, these announcements come alongside smaller conferences where developers can learn more about the new features and how to build for them or implement them in their apps.

There’s also a good chance Google will announce the Android 12 beta. Again, the search giant previously used I/O events to announce the beta version of the next Android update. Android 12 is currently available as a Developer Preview, but the move to beta should make it much more accessible to anyone wanting to try it out.

Finally, I’d expect Google to spend some time talking about design given some of the significant visual tweaks we’ve seen in the Android 12 Developer Preview so far. It could be an update to the company’s Material Design framework, or a new design framework entirely — that remains to be seen.

Google Assistant and other products

Next-gen Assistant on Pixel 4

Updates and new Assistant features are practically a given at Google’s I/O conference. The company announced Assistant at I/O 2016 and almost always puts a significant focus on new features and changes coming to it. Given how Google seems to update Assistant bit by bit (and tends to reserve some features for Pixel phones), I’d expect any Assistant announcements to have some exclusivity and likely no set release date.

In the same vein, we could see some announcements related to Google Duplex, a service that can place calls and make reservations on your behalf. Google first demoed Duplex at I/O in 2018. Since then, Google slowly expanded Duplex into other countries, including Canada in 2020.

Other Google projects like Lens will likely see announcements, as well as Google’s core services like Maps, News, Search, Gmail, Workspace and more.

New phones, earbuds and other hardware

Finally, there’s a small, small chance we’ll see some new Google hardware at the event. The search giant has already confirmed the Pixel 5a 5G, but also noted that the phone will be “announced in line with when last year’s a-series phone was introduced.”

In other words, Google will announce the 5a 5G around the same time it announced the 4a 5G. Google first teased the 4a 5G in August 2020 alongside the Pixel 4a launch, but it didn’t actually announce the phone until September. Given those times, and what Google said, it’s unlikely we’ll see the 5a 5G at I/O (but you never know).

Speaking of a-series devices, we could also see Google’s rumoured Pixel Buds A. We don’t know much about the Buds A other than they’ll likely be a more affordable version of the Pixel Buds and may lack gesture controls. Hopefully, we learn more about the Buds A at Google I/O 2021, but the company may plan to announce them alongside the Pixel 5a 5G instead.

Pixel Watch renders

Finally, Google might share updates about several other products, like smart home devices, Stadia, Wear OS and more. I’d say Wear OS updates are the most probable given rumours of a Pixel Watch launch later this year, but overall, I don’t think we’ll see much of these.

One other consideration is Google’s rumoured ‘Whitechapel‘ chip. According to reports, the chip will ship as part of the Pixel 6 (or whatever Google calls the next flagship Pixel). I doubt we’ll learn anything about it at I/O, but since it’s a developer conference and developers need to know things about hardware to build software for it, there’s a chance Google will talk about it.

Of course, most of this is based on speculation. We could see all the above, or none of it — we won’t know for sure until Google starts announcing stuff at I/O. To follow along with the announcements as they happen, make sure to follow MobileSyrup on Twitter and Facebook, or visit the website during the I/O event.