Google held its annual developer conference, I/O 2023, at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. The company’s biggest event of the year was attended by developers, media, and partners. At the conference, Google offered a glimpse of new features powered by generative AI, and how it is changing the landscape of core products from Gmail to Sheets, Slides, and Google Photos. The company also showcased the advanced capabilities of its chatbot Bard. Google also made hardware announcements by launching its first foldable smartphone, the Pixel Fold, an affordable Pixel 7a smartphone, and the Pixel Tablet. There is a lot to talk about, and here are some key highlights from Google I/O 2023.
Generative AI takes centerstage
“AI is having a very busy year, so we’ve got lots to talk about,” said Sundar Pichai, as he started his keynote address. Google spent over one hour talking about AI and the company’s “bold and responsible” approach.
Gmail getting a new “help me write” feature
After features like Smart Reply and Smart Compose, Gmail is now getting a new feature called “help me write.” It is a simple feature that can help you save time and effort when composing emails. Say your flight was just canceled and you want to write an email asking for a refund. The new feature can grab flight details from the airline cancelation email and compose a draft email for you. If you think it is too small, there is an option to “Elaborate” to make it more compelling, or you can even click on “Recreate” for a completely new email. The feature will start rolling out as a part of Google Workspace in the coming weeks.
— Google (@Google) May 10, 2023
Google Maps gets a new Immersive View of routes
When using Maps for navigation, users can click on the “Immersive View” option to get a photorealistic view of the route. But that’s not all, it will also show you the air quality index (AQI), real-time weather updates and the weather forecast as well. The feature will be rolled out to 15 cities around the globe by the end of 2023.
— Google (@Google) May 10, 2023
Google Photos get Magic Editor
According to Google’s data, 1.7 billion photos are edited on Google Photos every month. After introducing Magic Eraser which lets you remove unwanted objects and people from photos, Google is now taking photo editing to the next level with Magic Editor. It uses generative AI and semantic engineering to help you edit and enhance your images.
— Google (@Google) May 10, 2023
In addition to removing unwanted objects, the Magic Editor can also fill in parts of the image that are not in the photo. Google showcased this feature with an example where you can move the subject in the photo and other objects too. Magic Editor can then add cropped-off parts like balloons and even extend objects such as benches, like in the examples below. Though the results are not perfect, as clearly evident in the below examples, it is still amazing what generative AI can achieve. The feature is coming to Google Photos later this year.
PaLM 2, Google’s latest LLM announced
The latest large language model (LLM) from Google, PaLM 2, can perform a broad range of topics from natural language generation to writing code, reasoning and even multilingual translation. It even supports over 100 spoken languages. More than 25 Google products are now using PaLM 2. Available in different sizes named Gecko, Otter, Bison and Unicorn – Gecko is small enough to run on a smartphone, even in offline mode.
Google is also deeply invested in AI responsibility, where AI-generated content will have metadata and watermarking to identify the content.
Google Bard gets better
— Google (@Google) May 10, 2023
Generative AI in Google Workspace
Google is also bringing generative AI to Workspace, including Docs, where it provides writing help. For instance, you can ask AI assistant to write a job description for a sales representative position, covering letter, a video script, product descriptions, invitations and more.
In Slides, you can create and add auto-generated images, video and audio clips to add flair to a presentation. In Google Sheets, you can ask the assistant to create a roster with rates, or pull out insights and analysis from raw data, and more.
Google Search supercharged with generative AI
Lastly, Google also talked about bringing generative AI to Google Search which can answer queries by summarizing text information found online. Users can then ask follow-up questions to get even more specific answers. Google demonstrated with an example of a search query for e-bikes. The algorithms can list and summarize product reviews from various websites and offer a link to purchase online. Interested users in the US can give this a try with a new feature called Search Labs, but it will not be activated by default for all users.
1/Today at #GoogleIO we shared the bold and responsible approach we’re taking to use AI to reimagine our products, including Search with a new generative search experience coming first to Labs. You can sign up starting today. https://t.co/rjQscvjWzQhttps://t.co/jmzhruXX2C pic.twitter.com/mgFpxpS8dc
— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) May 10, 2023
Commenting on Google’s generative AI announcements at I/O 2023, senior analyst Akshara Bassi said, “Google is integrating all its core products with AI which will make AI more reachable to the masses and integrated into their lives. The reinvention of basic tools such as Gmail with the introduction of ‘help me write’ feature is possible because of AI. The AI-powered immersive Google Maps promises to enhance the journey and plan it better. Google promises to become a one-stop destination across all its services from Photo editing to Google Search and integration of AI in all those services will accelerate the trajectory of AI as a ubiquity in our lives.”
With these announcements, Google is showing it can respond to the threat posed by Microsoft. Google had previously seemed to be taken by surprise by the completeness of Microsoft’s offerings and appeared defensive in the face of the competitive threat. However, during the I/O event, Google seemed more composed, and its array of AI-based applications and services shows it has likely headed off the threat to its core search business for now.
Google Pixel Foldable Phone hardware announcements at I/O 2023
As usual, Google also made hardware announcements starting with the affordable Pixel 7a smartphone, the Pixel Tablet, and the much-awaited Pixel Fold. All these devices aim to offer the best of Google’s hardware and software experience. Under the hood, all three devices are powered by the custom Google Tensor G2 SoC which brings features like Pixel Call Assist which helps avoid long wait times, navigate phone tree menus, and more. On-device Machine Learning also enables enhanced speech features like live translation and transcribe. The devices also offer enhanced security with Titan M2 security chip, secure face unlock, VPN, crisis alerts and car crash detection among other features.
Google Pixel 7a: Price, key specifications, and more
The Google Pixel 7a is available for $499 and comes with 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage. The smartphone comes with dual SIM options (physical SIM and eSIM) and supports Wi-Fi 6e and 5G. It features a 4385mAh battery and is capable of wireless charging.
The smartphone has a 6.1-inch FHD+ OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate, a 64MP primary camera with OIS, a 13MP ultrawide camera and a 13MP front camera. Users get all the Pixel camera features as the Pixel 7 Pro, including Magic Eraser, Photo Unblur, Long Exposure, Top Shot and more. In terms of videography, there is support for up to 4K 60fps for the rear camera and 4K 30fps for the front camera. Stereo recording, wind noise cancellation, and speech enhancement features are also present.
Commenting on the Pixel 7a launch, associate director Hanish Bhatia said, “For Google, the US market accounts for a significant share of the overall Pixel sales. Although Google has a low single-digit market share in the US, it is significant when we look at the overall premium ($600+) Android market. The key focus with Pixel 7 and 7 Pro was to plug the flow of premium Android users into iOS. But iOS has also gained in the sub-$400 prepaid market in the US with the iPhone SE and subsidized iPhone 11 series. This is where the “Pixel A series” is key. However, the Pixel A series still focuses on post-paid rather than prepaid.”
Google Pixel Foldable Phone : Price, specifications, and more
The Pixel Fold, Google’s first foldable is here, and while Google is late to join the foldable race, it has learned from existing foldable products from other OEMs. For its first device, Google has gone with a book-type foldable with a compact form factor like the OPPO Find N, rather than the taller form factor like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4. Our recent consumer insights study revealed that 28% of US smartphone users are likely to opt for a foldable as their next purchase, and it makes sense for most OEMs to focus on foldables as an important revenue driver.
Available for $1,799, which is the same as the Galaxy Z Fold4, Google has sweetened the deal with a pre-booking offer where users will receive a free Pixel Watch worth $349 (Wi-Fi), or $399 (LTE).
Google claims it is the thinnest foldable smartphone in the market, and it comes with an IPX8 rating for water and dust resistance. In terms of specifications, the Pixel Fold comes with a 5.8-inch wide FHD+ cover display, and a 7.6-inch internal foldable display. Both feature OLED panels and come with a 120Hz screen refresh rate. There is 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage, a 4821mAh battery with fast wired charging and wireless charging.
In the photography department, the foldable smartphone is equipped with triple rear cameras – a 48MP main sensor, a 10MP ultrawide camera and a 10MP sensor with a telephoto lens that supports 5x optical zoom, and 20x super res zoom. The front cover screen has a 10MP selfie snapper. There is also a fifth 8MP camera on the inner folding screen for selfies and video calling.
Commenting on the Google Pixel Fold launch, senior analyst Maurice Klaehne said, “Foldables are increasingly becoming an important revenue stream for OEMs as sales continue to grow. The Pixel Fold will help Google’s share in the ultra-premium segments in markets such as the US where Samsung has been the de facto market leader as there is no other competition. The EU market is similar but has a slightly wider selection of foldables. In Asia, having a foldable is now table stakes. At $1,799, the Pixel Fold is priced in line with the competition, but Google can better optimize the experience with the latest Android 13, which builds on the tablet-focused Android 12L.”
Google Pixel Tablet: Price, specifications, and more
Lastly, Google’s Pixel Tablet, which was announced last year, will soon be available for purchase. The device is priced at $499 for the 8GB RAM and 128GB storage model, and $599 for the 256GB model. Google is also bundling the magnetic charging speaker dock for free with the tablet.
The Pixel Tablet features a 10.95-inch WQXGA (2,560×1,600pixels) LCD screen with an aspect ratio of 16:10. It also supports the USI 2.0 stylus pen. The tablet comes with quad speakers and three mics for calls and recording. The Google Pixel Tablet features an 8MP camera in the front and an 8MP camera at the back. With a 27Wh battery, the tablet supports 15W wired charging.
The tablet connects with the magnetic dock using a Pogo pin connector, which then doubles as a charging device and an additional 43.5mm full-range speaker. This way, it can become a smart display or a smart speaker with a display, just like the Google Nest Hub. There is also a built-in Chromecast feature in the tablet, allowing you to stream music and videos right from your phone to the tablet and enjoy an immersive audio experience.
• Google is going all-in with generative AI to enhance the overall experience on its range of products and services. It has likely done enough to neutralize the perceived threat from Microsoft – for now.
• Features like immersive view on Google Maps and Magic Editor on Google Photos are valuable additions to popular apps.
• The Pixel Fold launch shows Google’s ambition to grab share in the ultra-premium segment and staunch the gradual bleed of Android users to iOS.
• The Pixel Tablet is a clever addition, showing Google’s renewed interest in large-screen devices and supporting the company’s ambition in smart homes. It can also help in the development of Android OS for different form factors.
• With the Pixel 7a, Google is looking to attract more users to the platform while showcasing its hardware and software capabilities. Again, it is responding to the threat from Apple that has been winning users over to iOS with its iPhone SE and older number series, e.g. the iPhone 11.