Google I/O 2021: Everything we didn't get

New Pixel phones and Nest smart home hardware were totally absent from Google's May event.

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Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon Editor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
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Andrew Lanxon
3 min read

Google I/O 2021 kicked off with a keynote event that included a look at some great innovations, from new features in Maps to updated ways to manage your search history to some great views into what's coming in the next big version of Google's mobile operating system, Android 12. But there were some large gaps in the presentation, some of which we expected and some that were more of a disappointment. 

Long story short is that the keynote presentation was entirely focused on software, with no new hardware announcements. 

Here then, are the big things Google didn't give us during this year's IO keynote event. 

An affordable Pixel 5A 

The Pixel 5 remains the company's top phone, packing solid specs and camera performance into an attractive and relatively compact body. And while its price tag is competitive against the iPhone 12 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, it's still out of reach for many. Google is expected to launch a cheaper version, the Pixel 5A, just as it did with the Pixel 4A last year, but so far there's no sign. 


The Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Pixel 4A was launched in August, however, so it's likely Google is keeping to a similar release schedule and we'll simply have to wait till the summer to get some of that sweet cheap-phone action. The Pixel 6, meanwhile, isn't expected until October, so we definitely weren't thinking we'd get any kind of hint of that just yet. 

The Pixel Watch

Google made a variety of announcements around upcoming features in its smartwatch operating system, Wear OS, but it didn't offer any new hardware to go along. That's a shame, as one of the bigger rumors around the event was that the company would show off its first wearable device, the Pixel Watch. We've seen a variety of leaked renders of the device and we were pretty much all set for its reveal. 

Pixel Buds A Series

The Pixel 4A offered a more affordable entry into the world of the company's phones, and a Pixel Buds A Series would've done something similar for wireless earbuds that provide Google Assistant functions. But a Buds A Series was, sadly, a no-show.

Pixel Buds 2 Google

Google Pixel Buds 2

Juan Garzon/CNET

Google's own smartphone processor

Google was rumored to be working on its own chip, apparently code-named Whitechapel, to power its phones, and likely its future Chromebooks too. The company was expected to debut the chip at Google I/O. That would've given developers the chance to find out more about the new silicon during the multiday conference, so they could start developing software in time for the chip's public rollout. 


The Nest Hub Max.

Angela Lang/CNET

New Nest Hubs

Previous rumors suggested Google might take the wraps off new additions to its smart-screen Nest Hubs, including a refresh of its largest, the Nest Hub Max. The Max was launched back in 2019 so it's arguably overdue for a bit of an update. 

Anything to do with Stadia

Google's video game streaming service hasn't exactly seen a stellar rise in popularity since its launch toward the end of 2019, and it didn't get so much as a mention on stage during the I/O 2021 keynote presentation. Whether that bodes poorly for the service, or if it's awaiting its own gaming-specific announcement later in the year remains to be seen.