Everything Google announced at Google I/O 2022

Posted: 12 May 2022 6:53 am
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From Pixel 6a to Pixel Tablets, and even a sneak peek at Pixel 7 and a return of Google Glass (sort of), here's everything Google had to show off at its Google I/O keynote.

Google's I/O conference is primarily a developer conference for software designers to get to grips with Google's existing and upcoming software features – but it's also an event where Google has traditionally shown off a lot of new hardware too.

Google I/O 2022's keynote address did not disappoint on this score. Most folks were expecting a new cheaper Pixel A series phone, and maybe some headphones – but we got quite a bit more besides.

Pixel 6a: Yes, it's coming to Australia

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The Pixel 6a was one of those more widely expected announcements, with Google expected to follow up on the excellent Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro with a cheaper Pixel 6a phone.

Which is precisely what Google did. The Pixel 6a will ship in 3 colours, with Google's familiar Chalk and Charcoal colours joined by a green-tinged Sage variant. It features a 6.1-inch OLED display, but unlike the pricier Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro, there's no fast refresh rate in play, locked at a more standard 60Hz.

In terms of design, it's using the same rear camera "bar" as other Pixel 6 phones, but as you might expect the cameras are a slight downscale from its pricier siblings. At the rear it runs with a 12.2MP primary and 12MP ultra-wide sensor, while the front facing selfie camera has an 8MP sensor.

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While that's not going to compete shot for shot with the Pixel 6 and especially the Pixel 6 Pro, you don't miss out on any of the Pixel family's fancy AI-driven photo features such as Magic Eraser, and that's because Google has taken a trick from Apple here.

Where Apple juices up the Apple iPhone SE 2022 with its premium A15 Bionic processor, Google is doing the same via its own Tensor processor. The same brains that run the Pixel 6 Pro will run the much more affordable Pixel 6a, matched up with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of fixed storage.

On the power front, the Pixel 6a's smaller frame doesn't give Google quite as much space for battery capacity as the larger Pixel phones. The Pixel 6a has a 4,410mAh battery on board, which Google says is good for "over 24 hours of battery life". Interestingly it's a slight downgrade from last year's Pixel 5a phone and its 4,680mAh battery pack – but then that was a phone that never reached our shores.

The good news here is that the Pixel 6a will sell in Australia, priced at $749. Availability in Australia will be from 28 July.

Pixel Buds Pro: Noise cancelling at last

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From the outside, the new Pixel Buds Pro look a lot like Google's existing Pixel Buds line of true wireless headphones. The Pro moniker is added because they're Google's first in-house earbuds with active noise cancellation on board, putting them directly up against headphones such as Apple's AirPods Pro, Sony's WF-1000XM4s or the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds.

They're also multi-point pairing compatible, which means you'd be able to hook them up to a Pixel phone and a Bluetooth compatible laptop or tablet simultaneously, taking a call on your phone and then switching back to your other device without any messy re-pairing needs.

In terms of battery life, Google is claiming 7 hours of listening with active noise cancelling enabled, or up to 11 hours without it. The charging case can bump those figures up to 20 hours and 31 hours respectively, a little above what the competition offers if Google's claims actually stack up in real world usage.

The Pixel Buds Pro will arrive in Australia on 21 July – in Charcoal, Fog or Lemongrass finishes for $299.

Pixel Watch: Round, classy – but not for iPhone users

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Google's Pixel Watch was perhaps the worst kept "secret" device in years, and at Google I/O it stopped being a secret entirely.

As the name suggests, it's Google's take on a smartwatch with a round face design and side dial. Google says it's constructed of recycled stainless steel and will ship with a 4G LTE option when it arrives.

Predictably, it's a WearOS device, but Google is also leveraging its acquisition of Fitbit, so it's also a Fitbit device, but in a slightly odd way.

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Google's buyout of Fitbit was predicated on it keeping Fitbit data seperate, so that Google's ad algorithms presumably couldn't try to sell you yoga mats based on your Fitbit profiles, and that's true for the Pixel Watch too. What that means is that the Pixel Watch will ship with both Fitbit and Google Fit on board to track your movement and exercise activity.

Naturally, a whole host of other Google features such as Maps, Assistant and Google Pay are on board – but only if you're an Android user. Google debuted the current version of WearOS via Samsung's Galaxy Watch 4, and that device was specifically Android only. The same is true for the Pixel Watch. It's not yet clear if this is a WearOS limitation for the new version, or simply a position statement for Samsung and Google specifically. We'll have to wait for somebody to release a third WearOS watch to find out.

The Pixel Watch will go on sale later this year. Google hasn't announced any pricing just yet, but you can expect it to hit more of a premium price point. It is at least listing it as existing in the Australian Google Store, so it should officially go on sale here at around the same time as the Pixel 7 phones.

Can Google finally make Android tablets sexy?

For years now, various makers have tried to take on Apple's iPad line with Android tablets. Google itself has had a few cracks at this challenge, first via the Pixel C tablet line, and later with the Pixel Slate. To date though, it's had little traction in the tablet space.

Google is going to give it a try again, announcing the new Pixel Tablet set to debut next year. Yes, next year, presumably the global chip shortage is to blame there, with a Tensor chip under the hood and a range of tablet-specific Android 13 optimisations to help make it a more compelling experience. Not surprisingly, there's no word on pricing for the Pixel Tablet just yet.

Why wait to see the Pixel 7?

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You'll have less of a wait for the Pixel 7 line of phones, which will debut this year with a "next gen" Tensor processor and Android 13 on board. Google didn't say a whole lot more about what the Pixel 7 family will actually offer, but like last year, it did show off what the phones will look like.

The camera bar is clearly an idea that Google is fixed to, but the design has been tweaked with slightly smoother lines this time around. They'll arrive as the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, and we don't need Google to tell us that the Pro model will be larger and have better specifications than the regular model.

Could Google Glass make a comeback?

Google debuted Google Glass via skydiver a decade ago… wait, that can't be right, can it?

It really did.

Google Glass was not a hit at the time, no matter how many people fell out of planes to promote it. Google is giving it another go, showing off a "concept" AR device designed to make language translation instantaneous while avoiding the "techy" look of Google Glass.

It's only a prototype at this stage, and Google does a lot of this kind of research and development, so it may well never be an actual commercial product.

It's not just about the hardware

I/O is still a software developer's conference, so while the hardware was the visual star of the show, Google actually spent longer talking up the new features coming to its software platforms and how developers might leverage them at its keynote. There were a lot of software announcements to be made too.

Google already has its Live View feature for Google Maps, but it's going to turbocharge that with a new AI assisted "Immersive View" mode for selected cities that leverages all the different images Google has of locations to let you see how it looks at different times of day, as well as likely traffic or weather conditions.

If you're a Google Docs fan, it's going to get automatic document summaries, while YouTube will add automatic chapters and transcriptions for videos by the end of the year. Those who rely on Google Translate to communicate with the world will benefit from 24 new languages being added.

Google has been under significant scrutiny around privacy in recent years. It's claiming that it will continue to focus on this area with new privacy features such as easier removal of private information if it's within a Google search, as well as an ad centre to give you more control over your advertising preferences.

Search is still Google's bread and butter, and at I/O it showed off some interesting optimisations around this, including the ability to use a Google Lens search alongside a "near me" phrase to not only find out details about an object, but also which merchants near you might have it in stock.

Closer to home, Google announced that it's working with the CSIRO to use AI to automatically analyse images from the Great Barrier Reef in order to assist scientists to control outbreaks of the crown of thorns starfish on the reef. The idea here is that machine learning will allow those scientists to monitor outbreaks in real time, making suppression considerably easier.

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