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Google I/O 2021 event: start time, how to watch and the latest rumours on product announcements

From Android 12 to the Pixel Buds A-Series, here's what could possibly be unveiled at the event on May 18, 2021.

Google logo on phone

Google may have started life as an internet search engine, but in 2021 its tech empire is arguably just as well-known for its devices.

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Under the Pixel umbrella, Google has pushed out popular smartphones, laptops, earbuds and tablets. Its Android operating system remains the dominant mobile software, and its devices are increasingly powered by artificial intelligence. What does the future hold? Today we get a glimpse, thanks to Google I/O 2021.

While the event is generally geared towards the developer community, it has also been used to make some major brand announcements in the past — including the unveiling of the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL phones back in 2019.

After the COVID-19 pandemic put a swift end to the 2020 event, I/O has returned in a virtual format, meaning you can watch the announcements from the comfort of your home. Stay up to date with the RadioTimes.com coverage of the showcase.

If you are interested in Google devices, make sure to check out our reviews of the Pixel 5 and the Pixel 4a 5G. Or, compare them all in our Google Pixel 5 vs 4a vs 4a 5G head to head. To see how Google’s flagship phone stacks up against a rival, make sure to read our iPhone 12 review.

Jump to:

What is Google I/O?

Google I/O, which the company has said stands for Input/Output and “Innovation in the Open,” is a developer conference that is often used to announce updates or news about devices and software, typically with on-stage demonstrations.

Where and when is Google I/O?

Breaking from tradition due to the ongoing global pandemic, the 2021 event will take place online from today, May 18 until Thursday, May 20.

How to watch Google I/O?

All of the live content — which includes keynotes and workshops — will be free for everyone, and registration is now open on the Google I/O website.

It’s as simple as signing up with some personal information to get a digital badge, but anyone who just wants the news about shiny new devices should bookmark Google’s YouTube channel, which will be live-streaming the opening keynote.

Some of the big news is also likely to be shared on the Google Developers Blog and the tech giant’s related Twitter and Facebook accounts in real-time.

What should I watch at Google I/O?

While Google is highly secretive about what will be revealed during the event, it’s highly likely that the biggest news will be featured in the opening keynote, which will reportedly be helmed by executives, including top boss Sundar Pichai.

According to the schedule posted online, the keynote starts at 6 p.m. today U.K time (10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET). Pichai recently teased “significant product updates and announcements”— so the session has been tipped as a must-watch.

Google I/O rumours: what is likely to be announced?

The big one: what is actually being announced? Rumours and speculation have swirled on social media in recent weeks about what new devices we are likely to hear about at Google I/O, from the Pixel 5a to a new set of affordable headphones.

In truth, only Google knows, but we are not totally in the dark. Some information can be gleaned from the published schedule, which has confirmed workshops or presentations about updates to Android, Assistant and Google Play.

At least one workshop appears to reference Wear OS, the Google software used to power smartwatches. However, there is little to say for certain that a new Pixel smartwatch— rumoured for literally years now — will finally see the light of day.

Some are definitely more likely to take place than others, but here are some of the potential announcements that we could hear about at Google I/O:

  • Pixel 5a 5G
  • Android 12 software updates
  • Google Pixel Buds A-Series
  • Wear OS/Pixel smartwatch

Google Pixel 5a 5G

The timeline for the release of the smartphone in the more affordable “A” range, dubbed the Pixel 5a 5G, has been pretty murky over the past year.

Google was recently forced to deny speculation the device had been scrapped altogether, confirming it would be available later in 2021 in the U.S. and Japan and announced “in line with when last year’s a-series phone was introduced.”

While vague, that timeline suggested the new smartphone would be unveiled in or around August, similar to last year’s Pixel 4a. For now, it’s unclear, and we may still be given some snippets of news about the popular mid-range handset.

For more information, be sure to check out our coverage of its specs, price and availability on our Google Pixel 5a release date page, which will be updated as news surfaces.

Where to buy the Pixel 4a

Where to buy the Pixel 4a 5G

Where to buy the Pixel 5

Android 12 software updates

The next significant version of Google’s operating system, Android 12, has been in the hands of developers for a few months now — and the keynote “What’s new in Android” looks set to provide news about features and enhancements.

Reports suggested the new OS update will consist of menu updates to settings, notifications, emergency SOS features, Wi-Fi network sharing and haptic feedback. Beta testing for Android 12 was previously announced as starting around May, so that appears to align with Google I/O 2021.

Google Pixel Buds A-Series

We know due to leaked Google material that the Pixel Buds A are on the horizon, with the more affordable version of the Pixel Buds popping up in a now-deleted post on the Android Twitter account and a marketing email to customers.

The Twitter leak suggested the new buds would come with a “fast pair” Bluetooth feature and have two colours: white and green.

There’s still lots we don’t know, including price, release date and availability. But it seems possible the new buds could be on the agenda for Google I/O 2021. In the meantime, be sure to check out our in-depth Pixel Buds review, which cost £179.

Wear OS/Pixel smartwatch

Speculation about a Google Pixel smartwatch has been circulating for a long time at this point. We know Google completed its purchase of Fitbit in January this year, suggesting it would wade into the health and fitness space, but it’s still unclear when, or if, a dedicated Pixel watch will be actually released.

Renders of what Google’s first smartwatch could look like were released in April this year, showing off a minimalistic circular design. Speculation suggested it could possibly launch in October, meaning it is very unlikely to appear at Google I/O.

There’s a lot of choice in the smartwatch space these days. If you are interested in the tech, check out our Fitbit Versa 3 review and Galaxy Watch 3 review, or read our round-up of the best smartwatches and best Android smartwatches.

And that’s not all; other possible Google I/O news could include:

  • News or updates to the Google Assistant.
  • New smart home/Nest product announcements.
  • The latest on its Stadia streaming platform.
  • Demonstrations of its artificial intelligence tech.
  • Future updates to the Google Chromecast.
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For more of the latest news, release dates and reviews, including for the latest Google devices, head over to the RadioTimes.com Technology section.