The opening keynote address of the Google I/O developer conference today was stuffed with announcements of new devices and AI-powered features coming to familiar software tools. The company leaned hard into generative computing, loudly characterizing itself as a decades-long leader in AI tech. It also gleefully put AI at the forefront of nearly every service and device it operates, including the new Pixel phones and tablet it unveiled today.
Here are all of Google’s announcements from I/O 2023.
The Pixel Fold Arrives
Google’s first folding phone, the Pixel Fold, is here and costs a startling $1,799. It’s thinner than Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold4, and there’s a wide, full front screen that offers up an almost normal smartphone experience. Open it up and you get a 7.6-inch OLED screen for watching movies, multitasking, or reading. We’ve got a hands-on report where you can read more about the Fold. Preorders are live now—if you bite, Google is tossing in a free Pixel Watch—but it ships in June.
There’s a Pixel Tablet Too
Announced at last year’s Google I/O, the Pixel Tablet is finally a reality. Well, almost—preorders are live today (only in 11 countries), and it goes on sale June 20, so you still have to wait a bit more. This $499 tablet isn’t really meant to be a tablet you take with you on the go. Rather, it rests on a magnetic dock (included) when you’re not using it, and the dock wirelessly recharges the slate and doubles as a speaker (the sound quality is purportedly equal to a Nest Hub). When it’s on the dock, it acts as a traditional Google smart speaker, with options to control your smart home devices, and even has a similar microphone array to pick up your “Hey Google” commands. Chromecast is built in, so you can cast to it from your phone or laptop.
When you want to use it, just pop it off the dock and it’s a normal Android tablet—except a bit better, because Google has made some strides in improving the tablet experience on Android, with more than 50 Google apps optimized for the larger screen. It’s powered by the Tensor G2 chipset, and has many of the same software features as other Pixel devices. Sadly, there are no other accessories—no stylus and no keyboard. You can take it out and use it with Bluetooth accessories, but it’s clear Google is really envisioning this as a homebody.
Also a Low-Cost Pixel 7A
Every year, Google announces an A-series version of the flagship Pixel that came before. This year’s Pixel 7A is a little more pricey ($499) than last year’s model, but you get a few more high-end perks, like a 90-Hz screen refresh rate and wireless charging support. The cameras are also completely new, with a 64-megapixel sensor leading the pack. You can read more about it in our review (8/10, WIRED Recommends). You can also order it right now—Google is tossing a free case and $100 for another accessory (like the Pixel Buds A-Series) if you buy it today.
Chatbot-Style Answers Are Coming to Search
Google users in the US will be able to access an experimental version of the company’s web search that incorporates ChatGPT-style text generation. For some queries, AI-generated text will appear above the usual links and ads, summarizing information drawn from across the web. A query about the coronation of Britain’s new king might be met with a couple of paragraphs summarizing the event. If asked about ebikes, Google’s algorithms can list bullet-point takeaways of product reviews published by various websites. WIRED, of course, is one of those websites that publish many product reviews, so we’ll be watching to see how this feature changes the way readers encounter our buying advice.
Android Gets an AI Boost
Google’s updates to Android—normally the focus of I/O events in the past—came some 80 minutes into the event. As you might have guessed, Google is sticking even more AI features into its mobile operating system. It laid out some enhancements to privacy protection, but mostly focused on cosmetic settings. The big setting that Google execs seemed stoked about involved AI wallpapers, which let you change the art styles of photos and create interactive, moving backgrounds from pictures and emoji.
Google is also bringing the generative features of its Bard chatbot directly into Android messaging, with settings that let you ask questions right in the chat box and adjust the syntax of your messages to adapt to different tones.
Generative AI Creation Tools in Workspace
Google is sliding AI into its Workspace apps like Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Duet AI for Workspace, as it’s called, can use Google’s generative AI to create job descriptions, write creative stories, or auto-generate spreadsheets for tracking information. It can also build out whole presentations, suggesting text for slides or instantly generating custom visual elements like photos. It appears to be Google’s answer to Microsoft’s 365 Copilot, which uses some of the company’s generative tools to add productive and creative enhancements to Microsoft’s Office software. Google’s AI-powered updates to its free web-based software suite will be available to consumers soon, the company says.
Behold the Magic Editor
An update to Google’s photo-editing feature Magic Eraser is coming later this year. The tool will now be called Magic Editor, and Google says it’s basically a quick mobile version of Photoshop. Users can change nearly every element of a photo, including adjusting lighting, removing unwanted foreground elements like backpack straps, and even moving the subject of the photo into other parts of the frame.
Google’s pitching the service as a way to enhance photos, but the potential is there to make really any edit to a photo at all. It’s not hard to imagine this going wildly off the rails, as any photo can be easily adjusted to move people around, reposition arms so it appears the person was touching something they weren’t, or even add elements to the frame that weren’t there in real life. Google hasn’t said whether the manipulated photographs will be labeled as such, though it did mention it would be watermarking images that were entirely generated by computers.
Matter and Smart Home
We always seem to be on the cusp of the real and helpful—and not annoying—smart home. But what will it take to tip that expectation over the edge into reality? Google bets that small, incremental improvements will slowly tempt you to incorporate more connected devices into your home, like the fabric-covered Pixel tablet that functions as a portable Nest hub with one-tap access to a newly redesigned Google Home app. Other sweeteners include easier access to Google Home from your Wear OS smartwatch and a new control panel for your home that runs on Android tablets. Google is even—gulp—building tools to provide Matter support for iOS users.
Google didn’t spend a lot of time touting the relatively new Matter smart home standard during the I/O keynote. But it did let us know in briefings that in just a few weeks, you’ll be able to control Matter devices in the Google Home app from iOS devices. Any family member can access the panel, or switch profiles. As they say, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em … in putting a Matter sticker on every home appliance.
In something of a plodding reply to Apple’s startling plans for CarPlay 2 announced in June last year, Google’s Android Auto team finally has news to share. It didn’t come during the I/O keynote, but it came in side-briefings before the show.
Cottoning on to the fact that people are sitting in their vehicles with little to do while at charging stations, Android Auto will now support video, gaming, and browsing in cars. Apparently, YouTube will be available in Polestars, which already run on a Google OS, in the coming weeks. Games mentioned include Beach Buggy Racing 2 (will you be able to play using the steering wheel?), and Solitaire FRVR (yawn). Apple’s version, rather than working alongside the existing car software, will supposedly replace it entirely—so this Android Auto update feels “lite” in comparison. Still, car companies will likely be happier with Google’s less aggressive approach here. Android Auto is also working with Cisco, Microsoft, and Zoom to enable conference calls, so you can join meetings by audio directly from the car display. Gaming, browsing the web, and conference calls … this is hardly bleeding-edge tech. It’s also worth noting that if you’re sitting and charging your EV, you can do all this from your phone anyway. But any improvement to Android Auto is welcome.