(CNN) Google on Wednesday unveiled its latest lineup of hardware products, including its first foldable phone and a new tablet, as well as plans to roll out new AI features in its search engine and productivity tools.
The updates, announced at its annual Google I/O developer conference, come as the company simultaneously tries to push beyond its core advertising business with new devices while also racing to defend search engine from the threat posed by a wave of new AI-powered devices.
In a sign of where Google is currently focused, the company spent more than 90 minutes teasing a long list of new AI features before mentioning hardware updates.
Here’s what Google announced at the event.
The Pixel Fold
Google has become the latest tech company to release a foldable smartphone. Like other foldables, the $1799 Pixel Fold features a vertical hinge that can be opened to reveal a tablet-like display. But Google calls the Fold the thinnest foldable on the market.
“It took some smart engineering work to redesign components like our speakers, our battery and haptics,” said George Hwang, a product manager at Google, on a call before the announcement. The company packs a Pixel phone into a less than 6 mm body — about two-thirds the thickness of its other Pixel phones.
The Pixel Fold is a phone first: when it’s opened, it opens to a 7.6-inch screen, and moves on Google’s custom-built 180-degree hinge. That hinge mechanism has been moved entirely from under the display to improve its dust resistance and reduce the overall thickness of the device, according to the company.
The Google Fold includes features you’d find on a Pixel, such as long exposure, unblur, magic eraser, which allows users to remove unwanted or distracting objects. It also has Pixel Fold-specific tools such as dual-screen live translation, which allows a user to converse in another language with the help of quick audio and text translations on the external screen.
Google said it has optimized its top apps to take advantage of the larger screen but “more needs to be done” because “optimizing for a new foldable form factor takes time,” Hwang said. “It’s a process we’re committed to and it requires heavy investment with our developer partners across Android,” added Hwang.
Google was far from the first to embrace foldables, but it may have waited to launch its own version until the technology was more advanced. Early versions of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold, for example, had screen issues and most apps weren’t optimized for the design.
But even now, the future for foldables remains uncertain. Most apps are still not optimized for foldable devices; prices remain very high; and Google’s main rival, Apple, has not yet adopted the option.
Despite huge consumer interest in foldable phones — and a resurgence of 90s-style flip phones among celebrities and TikTok influencers — the foldable market is relatively small, with Samsung dominating the category, followed by others including Motorola , Lenovo, Oppo, and Huawei. According to ABI Research, foldable and flexible displays make up about 0.7% of the smartphone market in 2021, and in 2022 it is expected to fall to just 2%.
The Pixel Fold will be available in the US, UK, Germany and Japan. The company said the device will start shipping next month.
On the surface, the 7a looks similar to the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, with the same pixel camera bar on the back. It comes with the typical advancements you’d expect to see in any smartphone upgrade — a better display, advanced camera and longer battery life. But the 7a now boasts a Tensor G2 processor and a TItan M2 security chip, bringing advanced processing and new artificial intelligence features. It also offers wireless charging for the first time in an A model.
The Pixel lineup has long been known for its cameras, and the 7a is no exception. It’s packed with upgrades, including a 64-megapixel primary camera — the largest sensor in a Pixel A series to date, which will help with improved image quality, low-light performance and other features. It also offers a new 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera for taking wider shots and a new 13-megapixel front camera. For the first time, each camera enables 4K video.
The 7a also supports many key Pixel features, including unblur, magic eraser and an improved Night Sight that’s twice as fast and sharper than its predecessor. It also allows users to get long exposures and improved zoom.
The Pixel comes in multiple colors, including charcoal, snow, sea and coral, and will start at $499 through the Google Store on May 10.
The Pixel Series A line has long been aimed at the cost conscious who want great features at a reasonable price, but its reach is limited. Google sells between eight and 10 million Pixel devices each year, according to ABI Research.
“In general, smartphones are really meant for Google to show how software, and now AI capabilities, can effectively optimize hardware and improve the Android user experience,” said David McQueen. , a director at ABI Research. “Google intends to keep sales volume limited because it also needs to be mindful of its relationship with other smartphone manufacturers that use the Android OS.”
Google Pixel Tablet
While phones were a major focus at the event, Google also refreshed the rest of its hardware lineup.
Google introduced the Pixel Tablet, which is intended for use around the house, from turning off the lights in the house to setting the thermostat without getting off the couch.
The tablet, with rounded edges and corners, comes in three colors: porcelain, hazel and rose, and starts at $499. It will hit the screens on June 20.
Under the hood, the 11-inch tablet is powered by Google’s Tensor G2 chips, which bring long-lasting battery life and AI features to the device. It also offers a front-facing camera, an 8-megapixel rear camera, and a charging dock.
AI features coming to search
Google is also moving forward with porting plans AI chat feature in its core search engine amid a renewed technology arms race in Silicon Valley.
The company said it is introducing the next evolution of Google Search, which will use an AI-powered chatbot to answer questions “you never thought Search could answer” and to help get users the information they want. faster than ever.
With the update, the look and feel of Google Search results will change dramatically. When users type a query in the main search bar, they will automatically see a pop-up that is an AI-generated response in addition to displaying traditional results.
Users can now sign up for the new Google Search, which will launch first in the United States, through the Google app or the Chrome desktop browser. A limited number of users will have access to it in the coming weeks, according to the company, before it goes up.
Bard got better
Google is expanding access to its existing chatbot Bard, which works outside of the search engine and can help users do tasks like outline and write essay drafts, plan a friend’s baby shower, and get of lunch ideas based on what’s in the fridge.
The tool, previously available to early users via a waitlist only in the US, will soon be available for all users in 120 countries and 40 languages.
Google is also rolling out extensions for Bard from its own services, such as Gmail, Sheets and Docs, which allow users to ask questions and collaborate with the chatbot within the apps they use.
A new language model that competes with GPT-4
Google also announced PaLM 2, its latest large language model to rival ChatGPT-creator OpenAI’s GPT-4.
The move marks a big step forward for the technology that powers the company’s AI products and promises to be better at logic, common sense reasoning and math. It can also generate special code in different programming languages.