Google I/O 2023: The latest on the Pixel Fold, Pixel 7a, AI, and more

This year, Google I/O is scheduled for Wednesday, May 10 (Google)
This year, Google I/O is scheduled for Wednesday, May 10 (Google)

Google I/O — Google’s annual developer conference — begins this month in what could be a significant year for the company on several fronts.

Caught unprepared for the sudden rise of ChatGPT and conversational AI, the firm is likely to announce some innovations for its internet apps based on artificial intelligence. This is risky given Bard managed to knock $100 billion (£80bn) off the stock price with a single mistake earlier this year.

Google has also already teased the hardware highlight of this year’s I/O show, the Pixel Fold. Following an initial teaser video, Google accidentally shared the link to anunlisted YouTube video complete with NBA stars showing off the foldable’s abilities. Much like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, it has a smaller outer screen for quick everyday interactions and a larger inner one for more tablet-like jobs.

Here’s what else we’re expecting from Google I/O.

What is Google I/O and why should I care?

All the big tech giants have annual developer conferences to showcase new technology and products. Apple has WWDC, Microsoft has Build, Meta has F8 and Google has I/O. It stands for Input/Output, if you’re curious.

A developer conference sounds like it will be of interest to only developers rather than consumers. While that’s true of much of the content, the main keynote often contains some big software and hardware announcements.

Google in previous years has used I/O to unveil big changes to Android and even some hardware. The Pixel 3a — Google’s first cheap Pixel handset — was announced at I/O and last year we were treated to previews of the Pixel 7, Pixel Watch and still unreleased Pixel Tablet. So there’s plenty there for consumers to get excited about.

When is Google I/O 2023 and how can I watch it?

This year, Google I/O is scheduled for Wednesday, May 10. The event is at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California, so will be eight hours behind us.

In the past, that’s translated to pretty reasonable times to watch from the UK, as the keynote tends to be first thing in the morning.  This year, it’s 10am PT, which is 6pm on this side of the Atlantic.

Google broadcasts its keynote to everyone on its YouTube platform. On the day, just head to the official YouTube channel and click on the “Live” tab to watch as it happens.

Google I/O 2023: New hardware

It looks extremely likely that we’ll see at least three bits of hardware unveiled at Google I/O 2023. There may also be a surprise or two, given the Pixel Tablet was originally unveiled last year without any kind of leaks giving the game away early.

Pixel Fold

In an unexpected turn of events, Google has already outed its long-awaited foldable phone. It posted a short video showing the design On May 4, a week before the start of the I/O conference.

Pixel Fold marketing shots (Evan Blass / Twitter)
Pixel Fold marketing shots (Evan Blass / Twitter)

It shows a design similar to existing foldables like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, but with perhaps slightly larger borders for the inner screen and a less skinny outer display. Not familiar with this style of phone? Much of the time you’ll just use the outer screen. When you want to get more involved with an app, or watch a video, you open up the phone to reveal the big inner screen.

Specs-wise, it’ll reportedly be similar to the Pixel 7, with the same Tensor G2 chip powering things, backed up by 12GB RAM and either 256 or 512GB of storage. It’ll apparently have a triple camera array on the back: a 48MP main sensor, accompanied by two 10.8MP lenses — one telephoto and one ultrawide.

Pixel Fold marketing shots (Evan Blass / Twitter)
Pixel Fold marketing shots (Evan Blass / Twitter)

Expect to pay a small fortune for Google’s first foldable, though. It’s rumoured to be coming in at $1,800 — or around £1,440. When tax is added, that might be comparable to the £1,649 the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 starts at.

Pixel 7a

If you’re looking for a quality handset that’s considerably more affordable, the Pixel 7a is likely to be worth holding out for. The current Pixel 6a retails for £399, and it’s likely its successor will be similarly competitive.

Google’s ‘a’ line of Pixel handsets generally make cuts to the phones in sensible areas while maintaining much of the appeal. Crucially, they include an unskinned Android operating system that’s first in line for updates straight from Google.

Leaked marketing literature shows that the Pixel 7a will use the same Tensor G2 chip as the Pixel 7 and feature a dual-camera array led by a 64MP main lens. For the first time in an A-series device, it’s expected to support wireless charging.

Pixel Tablet

The Pixel Tablet was teased at last year’s I/O with a launch window of this year. In the intervening months, it’s popped up at various official Google events — including an exhibition at Milan Design Week.

Pixel Tablet (Google)
Pixel Tablet (Google)

Although, bluntly, Android tablets aren’t that interesting, the Pixel Tablet looks like an exception to the rule. It’s set to launch with a dock that not only acts as a charger, but also has a built-in speaker, turning the tablet into a makeshift smart screen like Google’s Nest Hub.

If done right, a tablet and smarthome hub in one could be a seriously good product, and it’s well worth keeping an eye on.

Google I/O 2023: AI all the way

While we’ll likely be shown what’s coming to Android 14 and Wear OS 4, the most interesting announcements are likely to come with what Google is doing with AI — and specifically how it plans to deal with the explosion in ChatGPT’s usage in the past eight months.

Documents seen by CNBC indicate that Google will use I/O to unveil its new general-use large language model: PaLM 2. This has the internal codename “Unified Language Model” and can perform a wide range of tasks, from coding and mathematics to creative writing and analysis. The site says to expect announcements related to “generative experiences” in Bard and Search.

Google Bard (Mojahid Mottakin / Pexels)
Google Bard (Mojahid Mottakin / Pexels)

We’d also expect details of how the company plans to integrate generative AI features in Google Workspace web apps such as Docs, Gmail, Slides and Meet.

This is a controversial area, with an early Bard error triggering a $100bn hit to the company value and‘godfather of AI’ Dr. Geoffrey Hinton quitting Google so he can talk about therisks that artificial intelligence poses to humanity.

Nonetheless,Google CEO Sundar Pichai has been quite clear that Google will keep working on AI. We therefore expect the latest innovations to feature prominently in the keynote.