For most of its existence, Google has been seen as a software and services company. It’s the company millions rely on for search, emails, and documents.
But if today’s Google I/O presentation is anything to go by, Google really wants to make sure it’s known as a hardware company too.
Granted, Google has been building its hardware portfolio for years now, but devices have sometimes felt like a side gig for the company — products destined for the Google graveyard.
Then the company announced the Pixel 6 and revealed its in house processor, the Google Tensor, signaling a deeper commitment to hardware. That commitment was on display at Google I/O today.
Normally, it would be a big deal if Google announced on or two pieces of hardware at I/O; it’s a developer conference, after all. Instead, the company announced six new devices today (or seven, depending how you count).
Here’s what Google had to show off.
The Pixel Watch
The Pixel Watch is real, folks. The quasi-mythical device finally made an official appearance today, sporting a round design with curved glass edges and silicone straps. The curved glass is slightly reminiscent of the Apple Watch — except, you know, it’s round. It also seems to be significantly smaller than most Wear OS devices.
Google says the Pixel Watch will feature a revamped, smoother version of Wear OS, with a refreshed UI. Continuing the Apple Watch similarities, you can navigate the UI with a haptic crown, but there’s a side button for some extra functionality too.
Other features include tight Fitbit integration for tracking your health stats, including watch faces with glanceable information, and Emergency SOS alerts. The latter is a feature which can automatically contact emergency services after a car crash or other accidents.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get many other details, as the watch isn’t set to launch until the fall. Don’t expect it to be cheap though: Google says it will be a “premium-priced product.”
The Pixel 6A
At a price of $449, Google’s new Pixel 6A continues the company’s trend of affordable mid-range devices, but it’s a significant departure from previous A-series Pixel phones.
Google has typically prioritized camera performance on its A-series Pixels and opted for cheaper CPU components to save money. This time around, Google is taking a hint from the iPhone SE, packing its cheapest phone with its flagship processor — the Google Tensor chip — and saving money on the camera instead.
The Pixel 6A appears to use the same 12MP Sony IMX363 primary camera chip that was on every Pixel from the Pixel 3 to the Pixel 5A. You still get an ultrawide camera too, which does appear to be the same 12MP unit as on the Pixel 6.
Although some will lament the relatively wimpy camera, I’d argue it’s a smart decision, considering most of Google’s camera chops come from its computational photography. Since the 6A will have the same Google Tensor processor as the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, most daylight photos should deliver similar results.
Camera aside, the device sports 6GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. The Tensor chip means you also get support for features like Live Caption and Live Translate. Google is also promising solid battery life, claiming the 4410 mAh battery will give you 24+ hours of regular usage, and that it can last “up to 72 hours” with its Extreme Battery Saver mode.
Pre-orders start at $449 on July 21 and the device will be available starting July 28.
The Pixel Buds Pro
Google now has an answer to the AirPods Pro. The Pixel Buds Pro finally add noise canceling to Google’s lineup of headphones.
Google says it built a custom 6-core chip to power the ANC, while a feature called ‘Silent Seal’ optimizes ANC to each person’s ears to improve isolation. Of course, there’s also a transparency mode in should you want to hear your environment instead.
The headphones also offer ‘Volume EQ,’ adjusting the frequency response based on listening levels. This presumably follows the equal loudness contours, which show people need much more bass at low volumes than they do at high volumes.
Dynamic EQ is a good idea in principle, but it’s often bungled, so here’s hoping Google gets it right. On the plus side, Google is including 5-band EQ for the first time, so you should be able to adjust the tone to your liking regardless.
Other features include multipoint connectivity for quickly switching between devices and improved beamforming microphones which use AI to suppress noise. But I’m most excited about Spatial Audio, which unfortunately won’t arrive until later in the year.
Fancy features aside, the Pixel Buds Pro will also simply last longer; they’re rated for 7 hours of playback with ANC on, or 11 hours with ANC off. Coupled with the wireless charging case, you’re looking at up to 31 hours of battery.
The Pixel Buds Pro will be available to pre-order starting July 21 for $199; orders will begin arriving July 28.
The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro
Yes, you read that right: Google announced the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro at today’s event, although it didn’t reveal much about them.
The devices maintain much of the design language of their predecessors, but this time around the metal frame extends to the ‘visor’ surrounding the cameras.
Notably, the phones are sporting the same number of cameras as their predecessors, so I wouldn’t expect many changes in the optics. That said, the devices wil offer “the next generation of the Tensor SoC, bringing even more AI heavy-breakthroughs.”
The company says the devices will launch in the fall and run on Android 13 — because of course they will.
I’ve gotta tell you, it feels weird to see a major company show off a device this far in advance, even if it’s only a handful of images. You’re gonna put leakers out of business, Google. Speaking of…
A Pixel tablet in 2023
Back in 2019, Google’s Rick Osterloh said the company would be “solely focuses on building laptops moving forward,” responding to rumors Google was giving up on tablets.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Hey, it's true…Google's HARDWARE team will be solely focused on building laptops moving forward, but make no mistake, Android & Chrome OS teams are 100% committed for the long-run on working with our partners on tablets for all segments of the market (consumer, enterprise, edu)</p>— Rick Osterloh (@rosterloh) <a href=”https://twitter.com/rosterloh/status/1141791243128590336?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>June 20, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
The tablet doesn’t have a name yet. The only things we really know about it are that it’ll be powered by Google Tensor and that it runs Android, rather than Chrome OS like the defunct Pixel Slate.
Google says it plans to make the tablet available in 2023.
All that being said, we’ve heard rumors Google is working on a Nest-Hub with a detachable display, and this tablet definitely has some Nest-like design touches (the white trim around the display in particular).
There’s no concrete indication that the rumor is related to this announcement, but I wonder if Google plans to build a dock for the tablet that allows it to be used like a Nest Hub; that would explain the unusual look.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai closed the keynote address by showing off some of the tech Google has in store for a slightly more distant future: AR glasses that just look like regular glasses.
Don’t call it Google Glass. The AR glasses, shown off in prototype form, were seemingly built with the primary purpose of offering live translation.
Pichai said Google has a “long way to go” before the glasses are released to the public, but it’s still an important reveal. Ever since Google abandoned Glass and Cardboard, it seemed the company had all but given up on extended reality experiences.
Closing the show with this new prototype suggests Google isn’t just making the hardware to compete with where the tech industry is today; it’s investing in the future, too.
The glasses reveal can also be interpreted as a shot across the bow to Apple, which is expected announce its first XR glasses within the next year or so.
Either way, the message is clear: Google is serious about hardware now.