Google’s annual developer conference is mere days away, so expect a giant heaping of announcements in the near future. We absolutely know the keynote will take place on Wednesday, May 15, and there we can hope for a number of new products and features to be unveiled. But truthfully, for now, we can only assume and guess at what those might actually be.
Plenty of rumors cropped up to fuel this intrigue, most of them surrounding Google’s forthcoming Nexus devices. But there are a few related to new features within Android, like an integrated multiplayer gaming service. We may also see the return of the Nexus Q, or a device like it, that Google could be putting the finishing touches on at this time. Speculation points to happenings with Google's Wallet service too, and there is even talk surrounding Google's consolidated messaging service.
The hysteria began when Android Police first discovered a feature list related to what appears to be a multiplayer gaming service, a la Apple’s Game Center. The list was discovered in a tear down of My Glass, which is the companion application for Google Glass. The package contained back-end code for an integrated multiplayer gaming service that has a separate “Games” folder. The folder revealed files related to turn-based multiplayer games and an in-game chat module. Further evidence pointed to a gaming Leaderboard, as well as the ability to receive invitations from other users wanting to play or “lobbies” where players can hang out as they wait for the roster to fill up. Many popular game titles have made their way over to Android in the last year and Google recently hired Noah Falstein as its Chief Game Designer. In the pre-I/O rumor mill, that's enough to give some credence to these findings.
But then Android Police managed to get a copy of the new version of Google Play services, which had genuine evidence of shared files for Google Play Games. The site provided screenshots that leaked what the new "Play Games" application will look like. There was a drop-down menu that will enable users to switch accounts and a settings menu for managing game notifications. A full-blown tear down discovered that the application will enable synced game saves, icon badges, matchmaking and invitations, achievements, and Leaderboards.
Although Android Police has always been rather spot on with its leaks and pre-release teardowns, remember—everything is alleged until we hear it straight from Google.
New, old Nexus
Google may build upon the success of its current devices rather than launch entirely new products. The Nexus 7 tablet already received a small upgrade last year for the holidays. But there are rumblings saying a new one is likely on the way, though it may not hit the market until July. The new version should have a thinner screen bezel to reduce the device’s overall size, and it could have increased resolution from the tablet’s predecessor. Rumblings point to a processor manufactured by Qualcomm rather than NVIDIA, and that could come with a 1080p display. Even further sources posit that the Nexus 7 will include a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, an HD front-facing camera, Wi-Fi and NFC, as well as a 4,000 mAh battery pack with Qi wireless charging capabilities.
We may not see an entirely new iteration of the Nexus handset, either. The Nexus 4 might possibly get a 32GB upgrade. It is, after all, a relatively recent device—we didn't even see the Nexus 4 until October of last year. A new CDMA with LTE version could be a part of that package, which would theoretically help more users adopt the phone.
...And the X phone?
TechCrunch reports that sketches have surfaced of a new handset model number from Motorola. What makes the news particularly interesting is that the blueprints of model number XT1058 are purported to be preliminary plans for Motorola's supposed "X Phone." Currently, there are no actual specifications tied to it.
The FCC's listing of this model number shows that it at least features Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, and 802.11ac, and apparently it supports AT&T's particular LTE bands. The sketches also match leaks that had surfaced a few months ago from Android and Me, which reported that the back of the "X Phone" would use a logo that acts as a touch sensitive button to launch commands on screen. The mock up photos originally appeared on the Vietnamese tech news site, Tinhte. van, but the speculation matches up with the recent patent Google filed for backside controls.
However, it seems unlikely that Google would reveal the "X Phone" at I/O this week. It was only a few months ago that the company was looking for someone to head up the project. It seems more possible that we will learn more about the what the future holds for this collaboration between Motorola and Google.
We waited a while for Google to provide more information on its Android-powered streaming media player, the Nexus Q. It was announced at last year’s I/O conference as a device that could stream content from the cloud, power speakers like an amp, or connect to a TV. The Q was pricey, though: $299. The price stemmed from Google's choice to manufacture it in the United States. Regardless, the device had to be taken back to the drawing board so that Google could refine it. The Q was eventually listed as unavailable in the Google Play store (though the company did end up giving the "dev units" away to those who had pre-ordered).
GigaOM offers an interesting perspective about what might happen within this product lineup at Google I/O. Since 2011, Google has continually propelled the idea of an automated household with proposed plans to have appliances all connected by the same gateway and controlled by Android devices. At one point, Google even announced an Android-connected LED light bulb that was manufactured by Lighting Science. That was slated to launch two years ago, but it never materialized.
It’s possible that Google may have just needed more time to polish an Android@Home-like service, which is why the Nexus Q wasn't yet ready for the public. We could see Google Now as a part of that vision, with the ability to check on things like the temperature of your house by glancing a Card on your mobile device. Interestingly enough, GigaOM reports that a there have been new hires to the Android@Home team. While an automated-by-Google home is more of a wish than a rumor, we're hoping to hear some announcements in this area during the conference.
More Jelly Beans
There has been plenty of discussion about what the next iteration of Android may be called—many have pointed to the fact that Google’s alphabetical naming means the next one would be likely called Key Lime Pie. But there is also lots of talk about the fact that Google may only release an incremental update to the operating system at this time.
In addition to a revamped Nexus 7 and Nexus 4, Google may include Android 4.3 out of the box on such devices. Android Police says it can “definitively” say that Google is working on Android 4.3, since there is a build floating around its server logs with the alias Android 4.3 JWR23B. There isn't much information about what features will be included in the Jelly Bean update, though reddit user danrant has posted what could be valid evidence of the forthcoming update.
There were some exciting details of a new unified messaging service that will link all of Google’s platforms. Some internal developer conversations apparently point to a service called Babel, which will tie together Google Talk, Hangout, Google Plus’ Messenger, and several of Google’s other messaging and communication tools. Babel would enable users to access all of these from multiple locations and have them stored within their Gmail inbox. Additional rumors pointed to the fact that Babel will actually launch as a part of the revamped Google Hangouts.
This information was first unearthed at Geek.com, which reported the service would be called “Babble." Screenshots have surfaced at other tech websites like Techradar, allegedly supplied by a Google employee. These all allude to the fact that Babel may be simply referred to as "Hangouts." One of the screenshots, seen above, shows that there are options to archive Hangouts and block users on a window that looks like the GChat instant messaging service.
Further speculation says that Babel would work across ChromeOS, Android, and iOS applications, but there’s no word yet on whether or not it will integrate with services like Google Voice. Electronistareports that there were hooks for clients found in the leaked HTML code and the purported Google Hangouts platform may work like BlackBerry Messenger and message.
Google Now will be the new iGoogle
It isn't yet time to ring the funeral bells for iGoogle just yet, but when it does go you might bet on Google Now to be its replacement. According to GoogleSystem, there is evidence that Google has live code for Google Now functionality built-in to a landing page. It wouldn't just be a homepage but a Google search page with all of the contextual functionality we've been using on Android (and now iOS).
Other evidence includes phrasing embedded in the code, like "Get started with Google Now" and "Google Now uses your Home location to show relevant information like weather, traffic conditions, and nearby places." The above image is a screenshot of what it might look like, fashioned after an existing Chrome extension.
Today's rumor roundup ends with something that’s dissipated a bit over the last few months. We haven’t touched upon Google Wallet in a while, but apparently Google is pushing through an update at I/O. It won't feature the physical credit card that was once ruminating about, however. AllThingsDattributes the change to the fact that Google Wallet head Osama Bedier is leaving Google. While the card was a part of a larger company goal to give consumers a way to use the digital payment service without utilizing NFC, it doesn't necessarily need it. Google does already have services like Google Play payment and Google Checkout on the Web. We could still hear about updates on the digital payment program, but for now we don’t expect a physical card soon.
Got anything you’d like added to this roundup of rumors? Leave it in the comments and be sure to follow along with our coverage of Google I/O later this week.