10 things Google should have announced at I/O 2016 – but didn’t
The dust has settled on Google’s I/O 2016 keynote, and there’s plenty of new stuff to talk about. But forget about that, because we have 10 bones to pick with Google.
We heard about VR software. We heard about artificial intelligence. We heard about another new messaging app, as if there weren’t enough of those already. Google’s searching is smarter, Google’s software is more popular, and Google’s Googling is more Googlier. But while the keynote was chock with news, we remain clueless on a few matters. Here’s a roundup of all the things Google chose not to reveal at its annual developer conference.
Dear Google, why didn’t you talk about…
Android N’s release date
This is the big one. The latest version of Google’s mobile OS – Android N – is coming, but we knew that already. What we still don’t know is exactly when it will arrive, and it’s unlikely that we’ll find out for quite some time. While it’s almost guaranteed that the new software will become available in its final, consumer-ready form around autumn – alongside the probable launch of a new Nexus phone – Google has yet to pin down a specific date. Boo!
On the bright side, Google did announce the availability of the Android N release candidate beta. That means it’s now stable enough to use on your primary device – provided it’s a Nexus – rather than having to play with it on a secondary handset.
Related: Best Android Apps 2016
New Nexus phones
Prior to I/O, some speculated that Google was going to bring up the matter of this year’s new Nexus phone(s), which is/are expected to be mere months away. Unfortunately, Google remained quiet on the issue – we didn’t even get a teaser. That’s not surprising, as I/O is a software conference (mostly).
Fortunately, we’re not entirely in the dark. There are rumours floating around in the ether that Google might actually be building the phone itself this year, just like 2015’s Pixel C, which was also produced in-house. Other sources point to HTC being the chief contender for Nexus phone manufacturer in 2016. We can’t say for certain either way, so stay tuned.
A new Nexus 7
The Nexus 7 (2012) is still one of the most beloved Android tablets of all time. Its 2013 follow-up was also critically acclaimed. Then came the ill-fated Nexus 9 in 2014, and the oddball, custom-built Pixel C in 2015. It’s no surprise that Android fans are longing for the days of yore.
A new Nexus 7 has been heavily rumoured for imminent launch, and some thought that Google would drop news about the tablet at I/O 2016. That didn’t happen, which is a shame. Nevertheless, our fingers remain tightly crossed for an announcement this autumn. Please, Google.
Google was heavily rumoured to be plotting an Amazon Echo-style AI speaker, set to be revealed at I/O under the name “Chirp”.
In fact, Google didn’t announce Chirp – this turned out to be little more than a codename. Instead, Google announced “Home”, which is basically the same thing, but with a less stupid name. Great news.
You can read more about Google Home here.
Android N’s real name
Google could have quite easily announced Android Nutella, and we could all have gone home in peace.
But Google, the ruddy tease, isn’t ready to drop the name just yet. Instead, it’s launched a new website that outsources the decision to you, loyal Android fans. Yes, Google has asked the internet to choose its favourite word beginning with “N”.
Nougat? Is it nougat?
An official Google VR headset
Virtual reality, it’s finally here, and tech companies everywhere are desperately scrambling for relevance in the VR space. Google was early to the game with the Cardboard VR, but the budget-friendly viewer pales in comparison to titans such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. That’s why everyone was expecting Google to show off something more substantial at I/O 2016, thanks to rumours of an “Android VR” codename.
Well, Google sort of did, and sort of didn’t. Google really has built a new VR headset, but you’ll never be able to buy it. It’s actually just a reference design, which means third-party companies can copy all (or some) of it for their own products. Google also showed off a motion-sensitive controller – also a reference design – at the keynote. You can’t buy this either.
Oh, and there’s a new VR platform called Daydream, which you will be able to use. But not yet.
Related: Android Pay vs Apple Pay
Beyond virtual reality, driverless cars are almost certainly the next big thing. Google has long established itself as a key player in the space, but today’s keynote skipped straight over vehicle autonomy.
With the rival Apple Car rumoured to be in development, Google may be playing its cards close to its chest. That, or Google simply has too little to show off at this early stage. Whatever the reason, we’ll have to wait a little longer to understand what Google’s big vision is for the future of transport.
Google is certainly invested in VR, but it’s giving AR a whirl too. Project Tango is Google’s effort in the augmented-reality space – that’s when virtual objects are overlaid onto reality, just like Microsoft’s HoloLens.
It was rumoured that Google would divulge new details on Project Tango and its integration with Intel’s RealSense 3D camera, but the keynote gave it a miss. Soz.
Seriously, what the hell happened to Project Ara?
In 2015, Google’s curious modular smartphone moonshot was all anybody could talk about. But all’s gone quiet on that front for the past few months, and we’ve been left in the dark about a Google project that finally represented some real innovation in the smartphone space.
Maybe Google has come to the realisation that modular smartphones are actually pretty hard to pull off, as LG recently discovered with its tepidly received LG G5. But according to the official Project Ara Twitter account, the phone is still due for a 2016 rollout. We’re not so sure.
Project Fi Expansion
Back in February, Google rocked up to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona with news that Project Fi was finally launching. The MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) service – Google offering its own phone network by piggybacking on Sprint and T-Mobile – was made available for Nexus users in the US.
It was expected that Google might expand Project Fi beyond the Nexus range – or even into new countries – at I/O 2016, but the opportunity was missed. What gives, Google?
Related: Best Android Smartphones 2016
Hands-on with Google’s Android N:
What did you think of this year’s Google I/O keynote? Let us know in the comments.