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I/O, I/O, new Android soon on show: What's coming up at Google's dev conference

Cryptic tweets and likely deets as late May dates revealed

Analysis At its upcoming I/O event, Google will almost certainly lift the lid on the latest version of Android – which will most likely be called Android 11 after Mountain View called time on its dessert-themed nomenclature last year.

Although the headline features remain under wraps, there have been a few leaks that point towards welcome additions and adjustments to be unveiled at the chatfest, which we now know will take place between 12 and 14 May at Google's Shoreline Amphitheater.

One commit on the Android Open Source Project repository suggests the ability to modify the behaviour of Airplane Mode so it doesn't automatically disconnect Bluetooth when activated. This is handy given that the humble 3.5mm jack is an endangered species.

A tweet posted last year from Android engineering veep Dave Burke suggests that scrolled screenshots are in the works. These allow you to capture the entirety of a page without having to stitch multiple screenshots together.

Some Android manufacturers, most notably Huawei, offer scrolled screenshots as a standard feature within their own Android environments, and have done for some time. Its inclusion in the stock Android experience is overdue.

There's also the possibility of scoped storage, which was expected in Android 10, but didn't make it. This feature allocates a specific portion of the phone's internal storage which is exclusively for the purpose of a specific app, effectively sandboxing it. While it will offer a slight performance boost, the real aim here is privacy and security.

Of course, that's by no means an exhaustive list. Consider it an amuse-bouche before the main event.

Smartphones and stuff

But what about devices? Google typically saves its flagship Pixel devices for a dedicated launch event normally in October. However, last year it used Google I/O to launch its midrange Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a Plus mobes. A repeat of this looks extremely likely, with leaks of the Pixel 4a flooding in thick and fast.

We wouldn't be surprised to see Google ditch Soli – its gesture-detection tech – here. The biggest reason (other than it's a bit pointless) is that it uses the 60GHz frequency range prohibited in some jurisdictions, most notably India. This oversight was a colossal misstep, and prevented Google from selling its flagship phone in arguably one of the most important and enthusiastic tech markets in the world.

Of course, there's the celestial elephant in the room. As you've probably noticed, the I/O logo this year looks a bit like a satellite. Then there's Google CEO Sundar Pichai's cheesy "Cosmos aligned" tweet, and the fact that Google used a collaborative online satellite minigame to tease the event just before the weekend (when completed, it spelled out the date using a constellation of pixelated satellites).

Google presumably plans to unveil something space-themed at this year's event. And while it's not clear what, suffice to say we're intrigued. ®

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