At Google I/O, the company announced an expansion into several new categories, including tablets with the innovative Pixel Tablet and foldable phones with the Pixel Fold. Also announced was the latest premium affordable phone, the Google Pixel 7a, which we had the chance to test for the last week and deliver our first impressions.
The Pixel Tablet is Like a Tablet and Smart Display in One
The Pixel Tablet is part tablet, part smart home hub. It combines the best of a traditional tablet with a smart display like the Amazon Echo Display, shipping alongside a neat speaker dock that serves as its home charging station. When docked, it can function as a digital photo display, smart home control device, or simply a docked video device for watching movies, making video calls, and more. Thanks to the ultra-fast fingerprint sensor, you can unlock it easily to control smart devices, like compatible lights, speakers, and security cameras without having to un-dock it. This includes Matter-enabled devices, all of which can be accessed from the hub mode or by voice.
Equipped with the Google Tensor G2 chip, it has four built-in speakers and a 10-inch screen with a nano-ceramic coating, as well as an aluminum enclosure and long-lasting battery. The Pixel Camera has been optimized for video calls, ensuring that the subject stays in frame and in focus at all times. It also includes the AI-powered tools you’ll find in Pixel phones, like Magic Eraser and Photo Unblur for photos you capture with the built-in camera. There’s also quick voice typing capabilities that Google says are three times faster than manual typing.
One neat addition is the ability to set personal profiles on the device so each member of the family can access their own profile with apps, bookmarks, accounts, and more. The tablet also has Chromecast built-in for seamlessly casting content to a big screen. In addition to the dock, the Google Pixel Tablet also has a built-in kickstand that will work well on airplanes, for tabletop viewing, and more, without the need for the dock. It docks, meanwhile, with the kickstand pushed back into place.
“We believe tablets still have a lot of potential,” said Google’s Rose Yao during the reveal, stressing that what makes them worthwhile is the versatility to use them both on the go and in the home, adapting the usage based on where you are and what you want to do.
The Google Pixel Tablet along with the charging dock/stand will be available next month in three colours for a starting price of $699. It’s available for pre-order today.
Google Pixel Fold is a Solid Competitor in Foldable Phones
Another exciting innovation, and the one most fans were anxiously waiting to learn more about and see up close, is the Google Pixel Fold foldable phone. It combines a sleek and compact mobile phone with a larger display when unfolded to reveal the full 7.6-inch screen. Equipped with the Google Tensor G2 chip that makes it both fast and secure, the phone has been redesigned to accommodate the camera, battery, speakers, and haptics technology. At the heart is the custom-built, durable hinge. The phone is durable in another way as well: it boasts an impressive IPX8 water-resistance rating.
Close the screen and you can use it just like any other Pixel phone, enjoying all the same features you get with other premium models. Once open, it functions much like a tablet (albeit a very small tablet), with apps optimized for the larger view. The handy dynamic Taskbar makes it easy to switch among apps, or even drag a compatible app into a split screen mode for multitasking. In this mode, you can even drag and drop files across apps: pick up a Google Photo, for example, to drop it into a Message or Slide.
Fold the phone into tabletop mode and you can watch videos, scroll through photos, or even record content without the need for a tripod or kickstand. With YouTube, the top half of the screen will show the video and, with an app update coming soon, playback controls will appear on the bottom.
The camera remains as feature-rich as in other Pixel phones, with features like Super Res Zoom with 5x optical zoom, Real Tone, Night Sight, and Portrait Photography, as well as 10-bit HDR video. And yes, it has those fun and useful features like Magic Eraser and Photo Unblur. Use the rear camera selfie mode to get a high-quality selfie using the main 48MP camera. And when using it in tabletop mode, you can get a wider field-of-view to capture everyone or a larger scene: all you need to do is use a new palm gesture to trigger the shutter.
A handy feature that will be coming to Pixel Fold later this year alongside the launch of Android 14 is Dual Screen interpreter mode whereby you can use both the inner and outer screens to translate live conversations.
The Pixel Fold is currently available for pre-order in the U.S. (no word yet on Canadian availability) and will be available next month starting at US$1,799. As a promotion, it will also come with a free Google Pixel Watch.
It’s All About AI
If Google I/O 2023 was any indication, the future will be all about AI and how we will be able to use it and incorporate it into our daily lives, from the workday to making travel plans, searching for a good take-out spot, or even refreshing our resumes. The ultimate goal, says Google’s Sundar Pichai, is to “make AI helpful.”
Both of these new hardware devices suggest that Google is continuing to head full force into the mobile space, adopting latest trends like foldable phones and reinventing older ones like tablets. But most importantly, Google is also looking to bring its AI technology into the hands of every user.