Google IO 2018: all the keynote highlights and news from today

The top Google IO 2018 highlights are in now that the developer conference keynote has ended, and we're breaking down all of the news on this page. Everything from age-old Gmail to the newer Google Assistant tool are getting added features.

Of course a key highlight at Google IO 2018 is Android P. It's now become available in a public beta – and on a lot more devices than just Google-branded phones.

But there's actually so much more to Google IO than the new version of Android. Maps, Assistant, and even Gmail have new features you'll want to hear about.

1. Google Assistant handles your calls

Google Assistant is becoming smarter, and creepier, with a natural-sounding voice that can make phone call appointments and reservations for you. It's gotten to the point that it can handle a back-and-forth Q&A when it calls a business.

The company demonstrated this with two phone call recordings, which it said were real phone calls. It was really difficult to tell – both the Assistant (the caller) and the business (a human) sounded real.

The first call was to book a haircut. Assistant was able to relay that it was interested in a specific two-hour time. When the business asked about what service was needed before times were to be given, Google Assistant responded, "a woman's haircut." When presented with an alternate time, it was able to confirm the appointment. 

Google ran another recording for dinner reservations. The restaurant employee had an accent and a lot of follow-up questions, but Google Assistant was able to navigate the Q&A and respond naturally. The human messed up more the Assistant did.

2. Gmail gets better with Smart Compose

Gmail has undergone more change in 2018 than it has in its 14 years in existence. Well, it's about to become even better with a new AI feature.

Smart Compose is going to help you finish your sentences in emails thanks to machine learning. It reminds us of autocorrect, but for whole chunks of sentences, and because Google has so much of your data, it's bound to be a lot smarter.

3. Google Maps just solved your biggest problem

Google Maps is the best app ever created. It lets navigate unknown places and plot your route to work and other attractions everyday. But it's not infallible.

That's why Google is out to solve the biggest Google Maps annoyance – not knowing where the blue dot is headed. The compass only does so much (and it's often wrong). The company's fix? Integrating Google Lens into Google Maps.

Simply point your phone at the street and a StreetView AR overlay will pop up, pointing you in the right direction while also keeping the maps layout at the bottom of the screen.

Here's the bad news: Google didn't say when this feature will come to Google Maps. There was no release date attached to this demo.

4. Android P public beta is rolling out now

Can you believe we're up to the No. 4 Google IO highlight and we haven't even talked about Android P yet? That's because Maps, Assistant and Gmail were legit exciting.

Google is making the Android P beta more accessible, launching its public beta for Google Pixel phones as well as phones from seven other manufacturers. The new beta is available today.

  • Google Pixel phones
  • Nokia phones
  • Vivo phones
  • OnePlus phones
  • Xiaomi phones
  • Sony phones
  • Oppo phones
  • The Essential Phone

This is quite a switch as past Android betas, especially this early, have routinely been limited to Google-branded phones. This should make testing and seeding the final version of Android P even better. That's expected to happen in August.

5. Android P's smart intelligence features

Android P is going to be smarter than Android Oreo in four ways. First, it's becoming better at conserving battery life through what Google calls adaptive battery. This is is going help you see a 30% reeducation in CPU app wake-ups for apps that the operating system predicts you won't actually use for the rest of the day.

Google is also getting smarter about when it lights up the screen. In addition to taking into account your environment, adaptive brightness is learning your own personal preferences. Google says that half of users are quit manually adjusting brightness thanks to machine learning brightness tool.

App actions are ready to predict which apps tasks you want to tackle, based on time and circumstance, down to you plugging in you headphones. Searching for the new Avengers movie might suggest the Fandango app to buy movie tickets to this film. It's the evening, so Google might be ready for your evening run with a Strava workout suggestion.

App slices is a API that's going to allow developers put parts of their app into various portions of the operating system, starting with search. If you search, Lyft, for example, the search dropdown will not only suggest the the Lyft app, but also feed you options like Home and Work, along with the price each will cost. You can select the destination right from the search menu. Searching Hawaii may present a slice from Google Photos of a recent vacation gallery. Google says it'll expand this for actions such as playing a video and checking into a hotel.

6. Android P navigation design changes

Android P will have a new system navigation interface in order to make multi-tasking easier to understand, with a single clean home button. It's very much an iPhone X horizontal bar to replace the typical home and recent buttons.

This is part of Google's plan to make the UI simpler and adapt to the all-screen phone designs out there.

You'll be able to swipe up from the bottom anywhere in the operating system to see recent open apps as well as five predicted app at the bottom of the screen to save you time. Swiping up a second time and you'll see your app drawer. With this one-two swipe gesture, Google has essentially combined the all-apps and overview spaces gesture into one.

7. Fixed: Volume slider and screen rotation

Google IO marked a big change for how we adjust the volume on our smartphone, with the hardware buttons changing up the media volume from the outset. This is for everyone who hates thinking they turned down the volume, only to play a loud video and realize they only turned down the ringer.

Google's simplified media volume slider will appear on the right side of the screen, where volume buttons are located (makes sense), along with a bell icon to turn the ringer on and off (because you likely only care about it's on/off state, according to Google).

A small, but exciting change is the fact that you'll be able to manually control screen orientation thanks to a small pop-up icon that enables you to rotate the screen on your own.

8. Android P will help use Android P less

Google is creating a dashboard in Android P to tell you how you're spending time in apps. YouTube will have total watch time in mobile and desktop to help you understand how and when you spend too much time on your phone.

It'll even go as far as setting an app timer, letting you know when you're close to and reach a self-impose limit. These simple nudges may go a long way to helping people put down their phones.

Shush is a new Do Not Disturb mode. Turn your phone on its screen face and you'll be able to silence your phone, except for emergency calls from starred contacts. 

9. Google Smart Displays launch in July

We got to go hands-on with the Google Assistant-powered Smart Displays, like the Lenovo Smart Display at CES 2018. Now we're going to see them go on sale.

July is when you should look out for the first Google Smart Displays, according to the Google IO announcement. LG, Sony and JBL how smart displays in the works, too.

These screen-touting smart speakers are Google's answer to the Amazon Echo Show, and they play YouTube videos – something Amazon's Alexa-powered display cannot do.

10. Assistant is a very Google Now-like interface

The death of the Google Now launch appears to have been short-lived. We're about to see Google Assistant take on a new visual experience when you swipe up on the main Assistant menu.

It reminds us a lot of Google Now, reminders, notes, and directions based on your day and recent interactions with Google Assistant. It's like Google Now reborn, and it'll come to Android this summer and iOS later this year.

11. Google News gets a big revamp

Google News made news (very meta) at the Google IO 2018 keynote. It's getting a Flipboard or Apple News-like design and new features that make it easier to access information – drilled down into what Google calls briefings and newscasts. It's also adding subscriptions to news sources you like.

Google says that it'll use machine learning to surface credible publications, and this is all in an effort to present to you more high-quality, reliable information. This smarter version of Google News will roll out starting today on Android, iOS, and the web with everyone getting the update within the next week.

12. New voices for Assistant – including celebs

Six new voices are coming to Google Assistant to make to nail the global appeal of the virtual assistant, complete with accents and, yes, even celebrities.

Musician John Legend is lending his voice to Google Assistant, so you'll hear him through phones, speakers, and all Google Assistant voiced products soon. Google says Legend and the five other new voices will be coming later this year.

13. Google to help those with disabilities

Google is also using machine learning to better display closed captioning for shows in which two people talk over each other. It's a mess for human transcribers and the hearing impaired, but machine learning will be able to pick up individual voices, as demonstrated by Google's promising demo.

Further talking up its responsibility to people with disabilities, Google is now making its Gboard keyboard compatible with morse code.

14. Google Lens on more phones

Google Lens may come to an Android phone near you very soon, and not just a Google-branded Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphone.

Google Lens


Google's object recognition software using the camera lens is said to be rolling out to more smartphones. The LG G7 ThinQ, for example, contains an AI button shortcut that leads to Google Assistant with one press and Google Lens with two presses.

Right now, Google Lens works on other Android phones through the Google Photos app, but the company is expected to bring its smart software to the forefront at IO.

What we didn't see at Google IO 2018 (yet)

We didn't get everything we wanted at this year's Google IO keynote. There are more days to this conference, but we suspect Google is saving the following news for another time.

LG Timepiece and Wear OS update

Google recently rebranded Android Wear to Wear OS, but we're still hoping IO 2018 will bring more updates beyond the name change. More apps, improved efficiency and better support iOS would be a good start, among other things – and if some new wearables, like the rumored LG Watch Timepiece, land alongside it then all the better.

Adding to expectations that an update to Wear OS will show up at Google IO, there’s a session in the official schedule titled 'What’s new in Wear OS by Google.' Google has already launched new features in a developer preview of Wear OS, including a dark theme and a number of battery-saving changes, such as disabling radios when the watch isn’t being worn and limiting background activity. 

How much more we’ll see at IO is uncertain, but so long as Google keeps adding on features, as it's recently done with Google Assistant, we'll be happy.

Google's gaming ambitions 

Google could go big with gaming in 2018. Hints of its ambitions came to light back in February, with reports of a streaming and possible console project codenamed Yeti.

It could be working on its own 'Made by Google' console and streaming service run by veteran ex-PlayStation and Xbox exec Phil Harrison. He's been with Google since the beginning of 2018, so Google IO may be his moment to shine on the keynote stage.

On top of this, the company is said to be building its own social gaming startup called Arcade, according to Bloomberg, directly within the confines of Google. 2018 could be the year Google gets gaming right.

Chromecast 3 with Bluetooth support

Chromecast 2nd Gen and Chromecast Ultra are among Google's most successful hardware products, and Google IO 2018 may prepare the ground for a sequel.

Chromecast

Chromecast 3 (what we'll call it for now) is said to be coming with Bluetooth support, according to one recent rumor, while an FCC leak points to an entirely new 4K Android TV dongle.

Google may also take time to spotlight its JBL Link Bar, which brings Google Assistant and Android TV together in a soundbar – we'll be sure to go hands-on with that after the keynote.

A bigger VR push

Google got more heavily into VR with Daydream, announced back at IO 2016, and we'd like to see another big VR push at this year's event.

We probably won't get another Daydream View at IO, but you never know

That could mean the announcement of new VR games and experiences, or even some new VR hardware – although we wouldn't count on that, as a new version of the Google Daydream View landed in late 2017, and the Lenovo Mirage Solo just hit shelves alongside the VR180-capturing Lenovo Mirage Camera. We could see more manufacturers jumping into the standalone VR scene at Google IO.