This year’s Google I/O could prove critical for the search giant, especially considering strong AI competition from Microsoft.
As Google gears up for next month’s I/O event, the company is still playing catch-up to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. OpenAI sped past Google in releasing an AI-powered chatbot to market late last year, and Google has been fumbling to counter with something as dramatic. Bard, Google’s answer to ChatGPT, has proved to be mediocre by comparison. Investors had plenty of AI questions during Google’s recent earnings call. And Bing’s revamped AI search, which piggybacks off of ChatGPT, is giving Google some competition in the internet search business, with Bing seeing nearly 16% growth.
While it’s likely Google will spend a significant amount of time focusing on its own AI developments, it’ll likely also take the time to give new product details, including updates to the Pixel Tablet and the potential unveiling of its first foldable phone.
Here’s everything you should expect from Google I/O 2023.
When is Google I/O 2023?
This year’s Google I/O will take place on May 10, with the keynote starting at 10 a.m. PT. For those interested in tuning into the livestream, you’ll need to register on the Google I/O website.
Is Google I/O in person?
This year’s I/O will also be the first since 2019 with press attendance. CNET will be on the ground reporting on the latest developments. Unfortunately, it won’t be open to the public.
Expect lots of AI
Last year’s Google I/O put a strong focus on the company’s AI developments. CEO Sundar Pichai talked about its models being able to summarize meetings and large amounts of texts while also being able to understand jokes. However, none of these products were made available to the public. And after one former Googler started saying the company’s AI chatbot had become sentient, Google was understandably hesitant to give members of the public or press an opportunity to talk to this AI chatbot.
But then came ChatGPT late last year. OpenAI was able to do what Google couldn’t: release an AI chatbot to the public for free. It’s not that it was out of Google’s capacity to do so. Rather, Google felt it would be irresponsible to do so. This was after Google fired its heads of AI ethics in late 2020 and early 2021, eventually reforming its AI teams after months of turmoil. It’s also worth noting that AI chatbots could threaten Google’s core ads-driven search business model.
But these AI products have some problems to contend with. Chatbots like Bard or ChatGPT work by pulling from massive datasets of human-written text that’s available online. The problem is that humans have certain biases, and chatbots can sometimes lean into those biases. And because chatbots are more like autocorrect on steroids, the point isn’t to get the facts right, but to get the next generated word right. This can sometimes lead to “hallucinations,” situations where a chatbot confidently presents inaccurate responses. Earlier this year, Microsoft limited Bing’s chat to five replies to keep things from getting too freaky, after Bing’s AI chatbot told New York Times reporter Kevin Roose it loved him and he should leave his wife.
Given that Google fumbled the launch of Bard, which sent the stock tumbling, and that Samsung may be reportedly looking to switch to Bing on its handsets (possibly because of Bing’s integration with ChatGPT), Pichai and Co. need to use their stage presence to impress.
The New York Times reported that Google is actively working on an AI-powered search engine, code-named Magi. While we’ve been unable to independently verify this, it’s hard to say if Google will reveal, or even hint at, Magi. It may need more time to gestate before being given a full public unveiling.
Either way, expect multiple new AI products announced and all the ways Google feels its AI engines surpass the competition.
Time to unfold the Pixel Fold
After years of rumors, Android fans may finally see a true Google-made Pixel foldable at this year’s I/O.
If the current crop of rumors are true, the Pixel Fold will utilize a slightly more squat design when compared with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4. It may be closer to the Oppo Find N. That means when closed, it will have a more traditional smartphone 18:9 aspect ratio, instead of the long candy bar shape of a closed Z Fold 4. And when opened up, it’ll be more square than it is rectangular.
Rumors reported by Front Page Tech say the Pixel Fold will only come in either obsidian (black) or chalk (white). It’ll also reportedly be closer to the $1,800 range and will release on June 27.
One rumor we’re hoping isn’t true is that the Pixel Fold will use a much older camera system, like the one found on the Pixel 5 from 2020, according to 9to5Google. Given that the current Pixel 7 Pro has an excellent, almost DSLR-level, camera, a $1,000-plus phone in 2023 using a camera from three years prior would be a definite letdown.
Pixel 7A and Pixel Tablet
Google usually takes time at I/O to unveil a cheaper version of last year’s premium Pixel device. Rumors are pointing to a Pixel 7A reveal at I/O. It’ll reportedly be $50 more expensive than last year’s Pixel 6A at $499. Given that the standard Pixel 7 can be had for $599, the A-series might be cutting it a bit too close on price if the rumor turns out to be true.
At that point, it might be better to wait for a sale or price cut on the Pixel 7 or buy one used in very good condition.
Either way, expect incremental upgrades around the board for the Pixel 7A. Just like other A-series devices, it’ll likely sport the same Tensor chip found on its flagship counterparts, while also bringing improvements to the camera, screen and build.
Google will also likely shed more details on the Pixel Tablet. Google has already said it would arrive this year, and with its dock — which will be sold separately, potentially for $129 per a recent Amazon listing — it can also act as a smart display. Since Google has ended software support for third-party smart displays, some might feel it necessary to upgrade.
Android 14 and Pixel 8 teaser
While the Android 14 beta is available right now for Pixel devices, expect Google to give more details on the next version of its mobile operating system. Google said it would bring greater foldable and tablet compatibility in Android 14, according to a February blog post. It’s good news as the Android experience on larger screens feels like an afterthought.
Other than that, Google has already talked about satellite connectivity. Also expect the standard incremental improvements to speed, battery life and ease of use.
Likely, Google won’t leave the presentation without giving fans a small glimpse at its next flagship smartphone, the Pixel 8, as it’s done in previous years. Given that Pixel devices tend to leak online months before their launch, it seems that Google’s found it better to tease it upfront rather than deal with pre-release leak whack-a-mole.