Google flagged new user privacy controls as it unveiled fresh hardware, its latest Android OS and updates to Assistant at its annual I/O conference.

CEO Sundar Pichai (pictured) said the goal of the changes is to offer users “clear, meaningful choices around their data”, adding the company is looking for more ways to “do more for users, but do it with less data over time”.

Privacy-focused announcements permeated the event, including the introduction of a new auto-delete feature to periodically erase web and app activity, and location history.

The company plans to expand Incognito Mode from its Chrome browser to its YouTube, Maps and Search apps, allowing users to browse and search without having their activity recorded on their Google account.

Android Q
In addition to giving users more control over what data is shared with apps, Google executives said Android Q will be compatible with 5G and foldable devices, and feature a new Dark mode.

A major highlight proved to be on-device machine learning, which Google said will enable several new features. Examples include Live Caption, which automatically captions any audio playing on the device; and Smart Reply, which suggests responses to messages and predicts actions a user might want to take, such as opening an address from a text message in Maps.

Android Q is now available in beta on devices from ASUS, Essential, Google, Huawei, LG Electronics, Nokia, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Sony, Tecno, Vivo and Xiaomi.

An updated Assistant will run on-device rather than in the cloud, after Google shrunk its 100GB AI models to less than 0.5GB. The company said the change will slash latency, allowing Assistant to respond to user requests up to ten-times faster than before.

Updates due in the coming months include multitasking across apps and a Personal References feature to better respond to requests involving specific people, places and events.

Google is also expanding its Duplex AI technology, originally used to book appointments over the phone, to the web to allow Assistant to complete online bookings by navigating websites and filling forms for users.

The Duplex feature will be added later this year in the US and UK, though it will initially be limited to purchasing cinema tickets and hiring cars.