What Google I/O should bring for Android hardware lovers

CNET's Marguerite Reardon takes a look at the possible new Android products Google might show off at its annual developer conference this week in San Francisco.

Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

Google's hotly anticipated annual developer conference will kick off in just a couple days in San Francisco. And conference-goers and Android fans are excited about the possibility of new products the company may announce and/or give away.

But Android fans may be a bit disappointed if their expectation is brand new hardware. While the 2012 Google I/O conference saw the introduction of the new $199 Nexus 7 seven-inch tablet and the Nexus Q streaming media hub, the 2013 conference is likely to feature no brand new Android hardware. Instead, it's likely that Google will refresh some existing products and possibly provide more details on some of its upcoming Android hardware.

That said, Google is expected to focus a great deal on software. And CNET has high hopes we could see a new version of the Google Android software . Whether it will be an updated version of Jelly Bean or the new Android 5.0 version Key Lime Pie is still unknown.

Here's a look at what CNET expects to see when the sixth annual Google I/O kicks off on Wednesday.

Nexus 7 update

Eric Franklin/CNET
Word on the street is that Google is planning to unveil an upgraded Nexus 7 tablet . According to KGI Securities analyst Mingchi Kuo, whose report was picked up by the blog site 9to5Google, the updated Nexus 7 includes a faster Qualcomm APQ 8064 processor, a 1,920x1,200 7-inch display with narrower bezel, a 5-megapixel camera, wireless charging, and a body that's 7.5mm to 8.5mm thick. The new tablet is also expected to be lighter than the previous version. Google is also expected to keep the same $199 price for the upgraded tablet , according to Kuo. The new tablet could ship in June or July.

Google has never revealed sales figures for the Nexus 7, but there's no question that the $199 mini tablet has been a hit . The product has competed well against Apple's own iPad Mini, which is roughly the same size but costs at least $130 more than the Nexus 7. The upgraded camera and display and overall lighter weight of the upgraded Nexus 7 will put the new mini tablet on par with Apple's product.

Nexus 4 update

Nexus 4 Josh Miller/CNET
Google's Nexus 4 is the fourth smartphone to get the Nexus moniker and to provide the pure Android experience for wireless subscribers and developers. The smartphone, which is very similar to LG's Optimus G, was only released in late October, when Google took the wraps off the latest version of its Android software Jelly Bean Android 4.2.

This fact makes it somewhat unlikely that Google would release a completely new device so soon.

But there have been rumors flying around over the past several weeks suggesting that Google will upgrade this device , giving it both more internal storage and faster 4G network access. Google makes the current version of the Nexus 4 with either 8GB or 16GB of internal memory. The phone is meant for a worldwide audience and supports GSM technology. But it does not support 4G LTE. This fact alone has made it a big disappointment to U.S. smartphone consumers.

The updated version is likely to have 32GB of internal storage plus 4G LTE support. The big question will be whether Google is able to maintain its inexpensive pricing for this device. Today the 8GB version of the phone sells for $299, while the 16GB version sells for $349 in the Google Play store.

Motorola X Phone details

One of many concept designs for the rumored X Phone. Rain Tomista
It's been nearly a year since Google closed its $12.5 billion acquisition of handset maker Motorola Mobility. Since then, eager fans have been expecting a new Google-built phone that sports not only homegrown Google Android software but hardware as well. There have been rumors of the new so-called Motorola X Phone for months.

It's hard to know at this point if the supposed X Phone is an extension of Motorola's previous smartphone products or if it's been tailored made with Google influence.

While many fans would love to see the X Phone launched at Google I/O, it's unlikely the product will be announced and given away to developers at the show. That said, there is a chance that Google will give developers more information about the new product. Some of the rumors floating around suggest the device will have a 4.8-inch touch screen and a Snapdragon 800 processor running at 2GHz. Some say the X Phone will be virtually indestructible sporting a hardened case and display that is even tougher than Gorilla Glass.

Google Glass details

CNET's Scott Stein shows off Google Glass.
Google Glass had its big coming out party at Google I/O last year . And while only a prototype at that time, the wearable Net-connected technology got Google fans excited.

A year later, Google Glass recently began shipping to early developers and press. Google's co-founder Sergey Brin has said that pricing and availability of Google Glass will be announced by the end of the year. Perhaps he'll reveal more details at Google I/O.

Aside from shipping details and pricing, there is still so much to say about Google Glass that it's very likely Google will use the conference to talk up how exactly people are expected to use Google Glass. As a result, there's a good chance that Google may reveal some third-party apps that are being developed for Google Glass. Hopefully, we will get to see some cool demos during the big keynote.

Nexus Q upgrade

Nexus Q CNET/Sarah Tew
The Nexus Q was Google's big flop of 2012. The streaming media hub was announced a year ago at Google I/O 2012 . Priced at $299, the device, which didn't do much other than stream Google Play music and movies to other devices, was seen as wildly overpriced given its limited functionality.

Realizing the device wasn't up to snuff, Google worked to make it up to consumers. Soon after the Q hit the market, Google delayed the product launch and offered a free Nexus Q to customers who pre-ordered the product. At the time, the company said it planned to redesign the Q. Nearly a year later, there has been little if any talk about the Nexus Q. But that doesn't mean that Google hasn't been quietly working to refine the product anyway. There's a chance that a newly-revamped Nexus Q could be unveiled at Google I/O. Perhaps, it may even be bundled with Google TV, another Google product that has been slow to develop.

CNET will be out in full force covering Google I/O. The conference begins Wednesday. So stay tuned for more news.

 

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