Google’s annual developer conference, Google I/O, returns to Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheater next week, and we’re going back there for the first time in four years. The kick-off keynote is always packed with information and showcases all the different software projects the company has been working on over the past year.
Update: Google just went ahead and announced the Pixel Fold Twitter. The company took a good look at the upcoming foldable smartphone from just about every angle. That means all three expected pieces of hardware – including the Pixel 7a and Pixel Tablet – have been officially announced.
The event starting May 10 at 10 a.m. PT will be a major showcase for everything coming for Android 14. The company probably missed a step when it comes to the current generative AI landrush – damn, who could have predicted after all these years that Bing would finally have some ?
CEO Sundar Pichai will no doubt advocate for the company to remain at the forefront of the world of artificial intelligence. There’s always been a fair share of stuff at the event, largely focused on practical real-world applications like mobile imaging and handling customer service. This year, though, I’d say it’s safe to say the company is going crazy with the stuff.
Hardware, meanwhile, is always a bit of a mess at developer conferences. But after a low year for the industry as a whole, a flurry of rumors is brewing, pointing to what is likely to be an unusually consumer electronics-focused keynote. Given that the last part is my focus at TechCrunch, I’m going to start the list there.
The Pixel 7a is about as sure as bets get. Google has settled into a comfortable release cadence: releasing a flagship device in the fall, followed by a budget device in the spring. The former is designed as an ideal showcase for its latest mobile operating system and first-party silicon, while the latter makes some compromises on price while retaining as many of its predecessors as possible.
It’s a good system that works, and Google’s newly focused mobile hardware team has made some surprisingly good devices at very reasonable prices. Never one to be outdone by the deluge of rumours, the company went ahead and announced via Twitter that its next device is due out on May 11 — the day after Google I/O and, perhaps not coincidentally, my birthday. It was Google India that specifically made the announcement – perhaps unsurprisingly, as the company is likely to aggressively target the world’s number one smartphone market with the product. The image points to a very similar design to the 7 – not much of a surprise as these things go. Although it stops actually mentioning the name as it has been done in the past.
Basically expect the 7 with cheaper materials. Rumors point to a 6.1-inch device with a 90Hz refresh rate, paired with a 64-megapixel rear camera. The 7’s Tensor G2 returns for a command performance, likely with many of the software features it enabled the first time around.
We’re sure there will be a Pixel tablet… at some point. Google confirmed the device’s existence at last year’s event, with a wide release date set for 2023, along with a display alongside the rest of the current Pixel lineup. In fact, there are two points this year when Google is likely to officially announce the thing: next week or September/October. I’d be surprised if the company’s long-awaited (?) return to the category doesn’t get at least a little stage time. As a category, the Android tablet has been very hit and miss over the years – presumably/hopefully the company has put a unique spin on this one. I’d be surprised if Google jumped back into space without a new angle.
The leaks point to a design that would essentially turn the system into one giant Nest dock. It’s not whole original, as Amazon tried something similar with its Fire tablets, but it would certainly beat the iPad model so ubiquitous in the industry. Other rumors include the aforementioned Tensor G2 paired with 8 GB of RAM.
Here’s your wildcard, folks: the Pixel fold. Google seems to have been laying the groundwork for its own foldable for years. This is what I wrote a few weeks ago:
Some important backgrounds here. First, Google announced foldable screen support for Android in 2018. It’s clear that Samsung was both the great partner and receiver at the time, and Google wanted to make Android development as frictionless as possible for other OEMs in exploring the form factor.
The following year, Google’s foldable patents surfaced. Now we’re all adults here, implicitly understanding that patents don’t mean a company is working on a product. That said, it’s another key data point in this story. In the intervening years, foldable devices have picked up steam, even beyond Samsung’s orbit. I was truly amazed at how many different models populated the aisles of MWC in March.
The leaked renders point to a form factor that is more Samsung Galaxy Z Fold than Samsung Galaxy Z Flip. It also looks like it shares some common design DNA with the recently foldable Oppo, which is frankly heading in the right direction. EV Leaks says the foldable tablet is 2.5 inches thick when folded and 0.2 inches unfolded, weighing 283 grams.
As evidenced by our trip to MWC in February, foldables are no longer peripherals. It is true that they are still prohibitively expensive for most, but it will soon get to the point where almost every Android manufacturer will have their opinion on the category. So why wouldn’t Google do that?
Other less likely hardware rumors include a Google/Nest AirTag competitor (the company announced yesterday that it’s working with Apple to create a standard for the category), new Pixel Buds, and a Pixel Watch 2. I’d say that they are all improbable – that last one in particular. We didn’t get much in terms of Nest products last year, but so far not much has come out in terms of rumored home products.
Android has always been a tentpole of Google I/O for obvious reasons. We’ve already had some key glimpses of the mobile operating system, through beta releases. As Frederic pointed out in March, “Until now, most of the features Google talked about have also been developer-focused, with only a few user-facing features making it far into the open. The same goes for this second preview, which is mainly focused on added new security and privacy features.”
The operating system, which is apparently internally called Upside Down Cake, is likely to be released in late July or August in the summer. Topping the list of possible features are a battery life boost (could always use one), additional accessibility features, and privacy/security features, including blocking users from installing old apps due to malware concerns.
AI will be everywhere. In particular, expect generative AI (Bard) to appear in virtually every piece of Google consumer software in existence, following the lead of Gmail and Docs. Search and the Chrome browser are the main targets here.
A preview of a new Wear OS seems likely. I don’t expect much news on the AR/VR side, but I’d also be surprised if it doesn’t get at least a nod given what Apple reportedly has in the works for June.
The keynote starts at 10 a.m. PT on May 10. As always, TechCrunch will bring you the news as it gets out.