Google IO 2015: the biggest news from Google's mega conference

TechRadar is front row and center for all the proceedings, bringing you the latest on the next version of Android plus what's new with Chrome OS, Android Wear, self-driving cars, Chromebooks and everything in between. As for what's not talked about, don't expect much on Google Glass or Google+ during this year's gathering.

In the year since IO 2014, Google has teased us with a number of tantalizing products and intriguing concepts, including the Project Ara modular phone, Project Tango tablet, and more Android Wear smartwatches than we can count. All of these - and more - have us looking forward to its 2015 conference.

But there's something else that makes us extra excited for the upcoming show: competition. Microsoft's latest Surface 3 and the ever-closer release of Windows 10, not to mention its new Microsoft Edge browser and HoloLens AR viewer, should have Google on alert.

Then there's Apple, which is seeing record iPhone sales and the generally positive reception of its first wearable, the Apple Watch. Plus, it's got its own WWDC conference coming on the heals of IO, and it's there we should hear more about iOS 9 and the next version of OS X.

Apple Watch vs Android Wear

Nothing like a little competition

Even Google's more far-flung projects, like its self-driving car, are seeing alternatives arise, such as Mercedes and its F 015 Luxury in Motion pod-car of the future.

Where Google balked from making a big splash at Google IO 2014, we think IO 2015 needs to reinvigorate developer, press and consumer imaginations with the company's classic panache. Read on for our predictions for Google IO 2015, along with the latest news and rumors.

Android M

If you're still waiting for Android Lollipop to land on your device, you may want to turn away.

An Android at Work session description that's since been pulled from the Google IO website reveals Google plans to announce Android M, the next version of its mobile OS, during the 2015 conference. The Verge spotted the session before it disappeared, and Android Police also managed to get a screen grab of the description.

The description offered few details on the upcoming OS specifically, expect to say it "brings power of Android to all kinds of workplaces." We know it will do much more than bring more functionality to the workplace, of course.

Android M

Android Marmite?

Lollipop, which debuted at IO 2014, may still be making its way to users, but Google is clearly not pumping the breaks on discussing - and even releasing - the next version of Android.

We got further confirmation of this less than 48 hours before the conference when a Google software engineer revealed the company is planning yearly releases of new versions of Android. He confirmed "M" will launch this year, meaning Android M (or whatever they end up calling it) is not far from reaching consumer devices.

All-new Google photo service?

Rumors are heating up that Google plans drop the "photos" from Google+ Photos and create a standalone photo sharing service. Bloomberg detailed the new service as offering editing tools taken from Google+. Users are said to be able to post directly to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

The latest has the new service making its debut at Google IO, so put this one in the highly likely column.

Self-driving cars hit the road

Google's bubble-like self-driving cars will put rubber to public road starting this summer, the company announced in May.

That's right: Autos that can drive autonomously will leave Google's test track and (cautiously) drive on real-world thoroughfares in the coming months. It's still part of the testing phase but shows Google's buggies are moving closer to public readiness.

Google self-driving car

Coming this summer

It's doubtful Google will make any major IO announcements related to these cars, though if it wants to delight the crowd and everyone watching at home, a demo of the vehicles in action wouldn't hurt. Safety isn't sexy, but touting how few accidents its other self-driving cars have been is worth a mention, too.

Android Auto

While we're on the subject of cars, Chevy revealed on May 27 it will bring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to 14 models in 2016. While a company-specific announcement, we wouldn't be surprised if this dovetails into some Android Auto-related news during IO. Perhaps we'll hear of even more new partners and/or an update on what's been going on in the world of Android Auto.

Google could also reveal new Android Auto apps, info on aftermarket integration, wireless support and (!) a more specific release date. The G Team has a two Android Auto sessions planned for each day of IO, focusing on helping developers create apps for the road. We may not see anything radically new come out of the conference in regards to cars, though Google will want to keep pace with Apple CarPlay.

Project Ara and Project Tango

The intrigue around Project Ara, Google's modular phone, is palpable. The biggest question surrounds whether this thing will actually work with so many options for parts, which we'll get to find out in the second half of 2015 when a pilot program launches in Puerto Rico.

It looks like we're in for some Project Ara discussion during a Day 2 session focused on Google's Advanced Technology and Projects team (ATAP), featuring ATAP head Regina Dugan. This may be the session to attend: Justin Lin of Fast & Furious 6 directorial fame will also debut a live action short to showcase for Spotlight Story.

Project Ara

A phone made of many different parts

Project Tango, Google's tablet that combines VR, AR and 3D mapping into one, also has a dedicated session at IO. It's been almost a year since Project Tango was unveiled, the description notes, and now it's time for developers to learn how to create location-aware and spatial experiences using the device. The session will offer a "sneak peak at how Project Tango will help users connect the virtual world with the real world." Sounds fun.

New wearables of an unknown sort

ATAP also plans to unveil some new wearables during Google IO. The devices will come during a same session entitled "Badass and beautiful. Tech and human. Love and work. ATAP."

According to the session description, the team will debut "wearables that we hope will blow your socks off. (We mean this more literally than you might think...).

"Our goal: break the tension between the ever-shrinking screen sizes necessary to make electronics wearable and our ability to have rich interactions with them," it continued. "Why can't you have both? We like to build new things. Sometimes seemingly impossible things. We can build them faster together."

What could these be? Holograph-projecting smartwatches? A re-imagined Google Glass? A modular smartwatch? A device we haven't imagined yet? We'll find out on May 29.

Android 5.0 Lollipop and Chrome

Android 5 is pretty sweet, but it's having a hell of a time getting to flagship phones. Will Google IO ring in the release of Lollipop onto more smartphones? We sure hope so.

Android Lollipop

Will more users be treated to Lollipop?

Chrome also seems likely for lots of IO love. While we haven't heard anything specific to IO, we do have a sense of things to come. Google announced in mid-January Chrome Remote Desktop for iOS, letting users access their PC on their iPhone or iPad. The concept is nothing new, but the fact Google released this specifically for iOS gives us a clue that more cross-OS functionality is top of Google's mind.

Cardboard (or other virtual reality)

Oculus Rift may rule the VR roost, but don't count Google Cardboard out before it gets a chance to shine.

In December 2014, Google announced some choice updates for its VR viewer, including a dedicated page for apps on Google Play and a number of places to purchase Cardboard so users don't have to make their own. Developers (the target IO audience) were also given access to Cardboard SDKs for Android and Unity. New viewer specs and a wave of VR-related hiring rounded out the year-end announcements.

Google Cardboard

Is Google serious about VR?

Google has several sessions dealing with VR during IO. One May 28 session is called "Make Believe" and it's here developers will "explore virtual reality and how it may change our lives." The session will go over how VR works and how to create VR experiences. The session description never mentions Google Cardboard by name however, so perhaps Google is changing the name or showcasing a new device entirely?

Android TV ... and maybe Chromecast 2

Say hello to the new king of Google's TV OS ambitions. Google TV is dead, the company announced in early January, usurped by the burgeoning Android TV platform.

With support ending for Google TV and the one-year anniversary of Android TV's emergence approaching at IO, Google is sure to spend plenty of time talking about the smart TV system this year. Sony plans to put Android TV in all its 2015 models, and developers are now encouraged to create Android TV and Cast-enabled apps.

Android TV

Google still (still!) wants to get inside your living room

Google Cast looks to be a big focus for Google at this year's IO, with several sessions dedicated to the music and video streaming platform. Gaming via Android TV and the smart home also look to be important parts of Google's IO plans.

One of Google's most well-received products was one of its cheapest. The Chromecast will be 22 months old when IO 2015 starts, making it high time for an update. We'd like to see 802.11 AC and/or 5GHz Wi-Fi, 4K and 1080p 60fps support, and a remote - all at the same low price.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.