google annual developer The conference, Google I/O, returns to Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheater next week, and for the first time in four years, we’ll be back with it. The keynote is always packed with information and introduces all the different software projects the company has been working on over the past year.
Update: Google went ahead and announced the Pixel Fold in Twitter. The company took a good look at the upcoming foldable smartphone from almost every angle. That means all three expected pieces of hardware, including the Pixel 7a and the Pixel Tablet, have been officially announced.
The event, which starts May 10 at 10 am (Pacific Time) it will be a great showcase of everything that is on the way for Android 14. The company has arguably lost a step when it comes to the current generative AI land race – heck, who could have predicted after all these years that Bing finally do you have a moment?
CEO Sundar Pichai will no doubt make the case that the company continues to lead the way in the world of artificial intelligence. There has always been a fair amount of stuff at the event focused primarily on practical, real-world applications like moving images and dealing with customer service. This year, however, he would say it’s safe to say the company is going to go crazy with things.
Meanwhile, hardware is always a bit tricky at developer conferences. But after a bad year for the industry as a whole, a flurry of rumors is lining up pointing to what is likely to be an unusually consumer electronics-focused keynote. Given the fact that the last bit is my focus at TechCrunch, I’m going to start the list there.
The Pixel 7a is as sure as bets. Google has settled into a comfortable release cadence: releasing a flagship in the fall, followed by a budget device in the spring. The former is designed to be an ideal showcase for its latest mobile operating system and first-party silicon, while the latter makes some compromises for price, while keeping as many of its predecessors as possible.
It’s a good system that works, and Google’s newly focused mobile hardware team has created some surprisingly good devices at extremely reasonable prices. The company, never swayed by the onslaught of rumors, went ahead and announced via Twitter that its next device will go on sale on May 11, the day after Google I/O and, perhaps not coincidentally, my birthday. It was Google India who specifically made the announcement, which is perhaps not surprising 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, which isn’t really a surprise as these things go. Although he does not mention the name, as was 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 commando performance, likely bringing with it many of the software features it enabled the first time around.
We know for sure that a Pixel tablet is coming… at some point. Google confirmed the device’s existence at last year’s event, providing a broad release date of 2023, along with a render alongside the rest of the current Pixel lineup. Sure enough, 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(?) re-entry into the sport doesn’t get at least some stage time. As a category, the Android tablet has been very hit and miss over the years; presumably/hopefully the company has a unique twist here. I’d be surprised if Google went back into space without some kind of novelty angle.
The leaks point to a design that would effectively turn the system into a giant Nest base. It’s not entirely original, as Amazon tried something similar with its Fire tablets, but it would certainly be opposed to the iPad model, which is so ubiquitous in the industry. Other rumors include the aforementioned Tensor G2, along with 8GB of RAM.
Here’s your wild card, folks: the pixel fold. Apparently, Google has been laying the groundwork for its own foldable for years. This is what I wrote a couple of weeks ago:
Some important background here. Google first announced support for folding screens for Android in 2018. Obviously, Samsung was both the big partner and the recipient in those days, and Google wanted to make Android development as seamless as possible for other OEMs by exploring the factor of shape.
The following year, Google’s folding patents emerged. Now, we’re all adults here, who implicitly understand that patents don’t mean that a company is working on a product. That said, it’s another key data point in this story. In the intervening years, foldables have started to pick up steam, even outside of Samsung’s orbit. I was really surprised by how many different models were lining the halls at 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 a common design DNA with Oppo’s recently foldable, which is frankly the right direction. EV Leaks says the foldable is half an inch thick when folded and 0.2 inches unfolded, weighing 283 grams.
As our trip to MWC in February demonstrates, foldables are no longer fringe devices. True, they are still cost prohibitive for most, but it will soon reach the point where almost every Android manufacturer will have their say in the category. So why shouldn’t Google?
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 all of those are unlikely, though. last one in particular We didn’t get much in terms of Nest products last year, but so far not much in terms of rumors about products for the home.
Android is always a Google I/O tent for obvious reasons. We’ve already caught some major glimpses of the mobile operating system, via beta builds. As Frederic noted in March, “So far, most of the features that Google has talked about have also been developer-focused, with only a few user-facing features exposed so far. That also holds true for this second preview, which is primarily focused on additional new security and privacy features.”
The operating system, which is apparently called Upside Down Cake internally, will likely be released in the summer at the end of July or August. At the top of the list of potential features are increased battery life (you can always use one of those), additional accessibility features, and privacy/security features, including blocking users from install old apps because of malware issues.
AI will be everywhere. Expect generative AI (Bard) in particular to appear in virtually every existing piece of Google consumer software, 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 anticipate a ton of news on the AR/VR side of things, but I’d also be surprised if it doesn’t at least get a nod, given what Apple supposedly has in the works for June.
The opening speech begins in 10 am (Pacific Time) on May 10. As always, TechCrunch will bring you the news as it comes.