I always feel that the Google I/O conference is similar to the Apple WWDC conference. In name, they are all "developers conferences", but in fact, some hardware products will always be released to cheer everyone up.
It's like me yelling to refuse supper, but I can't help but order a cold roasted noodle while watching the press conference.
▲ The photos sent back from the scene in front of Ai Faner
Let's turn the time back to the 2016 I/O conference. At that time, shortly after Pichai became the CEO of Google, he proposed the concept of "AI First" and announced that artificial intelligence would be the focus of Google's future work.
After that, most of the things that won a lot of applause at the I/O conference were related to artificial intelligence. Consumer-grade hardware products have begun to be bleak, and they are often complained about lagging behind the market by a generation or two.
This year's I/O conference is still the same, but the hardware products are more exciting than in previous years. The arrival of the folding screen, the resurrection of the tablet, the update of Android 14, etc., have made Google a little "hardened".
▲ List of new hardware products
Happy addition to the Pixel family
In my opinion, the Pixel series belongs to the "back killer". Regardless of shape or color, it is worthy of Google's top position in the technology world.
But the positive appearance is too down-to-earth. Especially for the mid-range models, the bezels are so thick that even domestic brands such as Redmi and Zhenwo can’t stand the thousand-yuan phones.
Pixel 7a, don't run, it's you.
The Pixel 7a, which starts at $499, is the "youth version" of the Pixel 7 series. The back continues the family-style design, with a unique and eye-catching strip camera module, which contains two ordinary cameras: 64-megapixel main camera wide-angle, and 13-megapixel ultra-wide-angle.
The newly added water blue and coral colors, whether clear or warm, are all exciting. But the beauty stops at the back view. The wide black border and thick chin on the front accurately step on the minefield of digital enthusiasts.
▲ Pixel 7a real machine, shot with Pixel 7a
In terms of configuration, it is also a proper mid-range machine level. Let's list them briefly:
- 6.1-inch 1080P 90Hz screen
- The same Tensor G2 chip as the big brother Pixel 7
- 8GB+128GB storage combination
- 4385mAh battery
- 18W wired charging and 7.5W wireless charging
- IP67 waterproof
If you have to find a reason to buy it, it may be that you can experience native Android 14 first. Or, simply want to contribute (financial) resources to Google's grand vision of "making AI benefit everyone".
Compared with the less coquettish Pixel 7a, the appearance of the folding screen Pixel Fold is much more interesting.
Although folding screens have reached the Red Sea stage in China, it is still a blue ocean for Google. Pixel Fold looks like the OPPO Find N series, both of which are the main compact type in the horizontal folding screen.
▲ Pixel Fold on-site real shot, shot with Pixel Fold
When closed, Pixel Fold has a high degree of completion, and the colorful and light color matching makes it at least as good as the predecessors in the folding screen industry in terms of appearance. But after unfolding, the wide borders and conspicuous creases of the inner screen may make the OPPO Find N series say: Don't get involved.
Today, when the folding screen technology and supply chain are maturing, the internal screen of Pixel Fold is really puzzling. Fortunately, the hardware configuration is not too far behind:
- The same Tensor G2 chip as the Pixel 7 series
- 5.8 inches 2092×1080, 120Hz external screen
- 7.6 inches 2208×1840, 120Hz internal screen
- 12GB+256/512GB storage combination
- 48-megapixel main wide-angle camera + 10.8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle + 10.8-megapixel periscope telephoto lens
- The folded thickness is about 12.1mm, and the unfolded thickness is about 5.8mm
- 4821mAh battery + 30W wired charging
- IPX8 waterproof grade
▲ Shooting with Pixel Fold
The belated Pixel Fold did not give people much new ideas, so Google had to show some sincerity in its sales strategy: it starts at $1,799 and comes with a Pixel Watch. That's right, buy a mobile phone and get a watch.
From a market perspective, the greater significance of Pixel Fold may be to give similar manufacturers some reference and guidance on software adaptation. That is, on the Android 14 platform, how to better tap the potential of folding screens.
Unfortunately, there were not many bright spots displayed at the press conference. For example, the adaptation of the hovering state, the relay of internal and external screen applications, and split keyboards are all functions that domestic manufacturers have already implemented.
The one I'm really excited about is the biggest of the new Pixels — the Pixel Tablet. During its appearance, the audience also broke out the highest voice of the whole show.
As early as last year's I/O conference, Google announced that the tablet product line would be revived in 2023. This time, Google didn't let the pigeons go.
After the failure of its predecessor, the Pixel Slate, Google spent a long time rethinking the meaning and value of tablets in this era. Pixel Tablet is their new answer: the hub of the smart home.
Although at first glance, the appearance of the Pixel Tablet is relatively ordinary, but the actual materials and design details are quite elegant. Aluminum shell with nano-ceramic coating, good texture and feel. At the edge of the fuselage, a large number of large arcs are used, reminiscent of the warmth of a smart home.
Its main parameters are as follows:
- Tensor G2 and Titan M2 chips
- 11-inch (2560×1600) screen
- Can achieve 12 hours of video playback battery life
- four speakers
- 8GB+128GB/256GB storage combination
- The power button integrates the fingerprint recognition function
What can better reflect Google's design ability is the accessories of Pixel Tablet. To accentuate its homely feel, Google has included a matching charging dock with built-in speakers.
The combination of the two reminds me of the home interactive terminal Nest Hub released by Google in 2018. However, that screen can now be removed and used independently as a tablet.
After the magnetic connection, Pixel Tablet will automatically enter the "central control mode", the main page will display the electronic photo frame, and it can also be used as the center console of the smart home. Based on the newly designed Google Home App, it has now supported more than 80,000 smart devices.
In addition, Google also designed a protective case for the Pixel Tablet, which comes with a beautiful bracket. The shape of the bracket is a hollow ring design, and the speaker base can directly pass through the bracket to absorb the tablet body.
In terms of price, Google once again showed its sincerity: $499, and comes with a speaker base, which is worth learning from domestic manufacturers.
Android 14 powered by AI
In this two-hour conference, the content related to Android 14 was only about 10 minutes. To put it simply, there are two main points worthy of your attention, one is "Help me write" (Help me write), and the other is a more personalized appearance setting.
Let's talk about "magic transfer" first. Listening to the name, you should already be able to guess the general idea. It's a bit like we give ChatGPT a simple sentence and let it polish.
Android 14 allows AI to modify the language for you in various chat scenarios such as replying to messages and writing emails. For example, when sending an email, the original message was "Congratulations to Rick (led) for the release of Pixel Fold." After letting the AI trim, it becomes the following:
Dear Rick, congratulations on successfully releasing Pixel Fold at this conference. Its cooperation with Android will definitely change the development dynamics of the entire market and technology.
How about it? It can be said that the sentences are fluent and the voice is full of emotion. It can be predicted that when I apologize to my girlfriend in the future, I won't have to use up my brain cells to make concave words.
Then let’s look at the second big update, the personality setting under the blessing of AI.
Android 14 allows you to play tricks on the lock screen, customize the font, color, size and design style of the clock, etc. Shortcuts can also be added, such as flashlight, wallet payment, launching camera, etc.
iOS 16 has a new feature that is popular among young people-expanding Emoji into wallpapers, and Android 14 has followed suit. You can choose your favorite Emoji to generate a dynamic wallpaper in various arrangements and colors.
In addition, you can also choose your favorite photos from the album. Based on the cinematic wallpaper technology, you can separate the subject and the background in the photo to achieve the effect of 3D parallax.
What is relatively interesting is to use Google's AI technology to create wallpapers. You can choose various styles and keywords to generate high-definition pictures. In the words of the host, "among the billions of Android devices in the world, I am unique."
Well, this is very Material You.
Once the protagonist halo, now relegated to the second line
As early as the Android 12L era, Google already knew what a folding screen should look like and what value a large screen can bring to users. But at the practical level, the late Pixel Fold did not interpret the term "good things go hard".
In this conference, Google emphasized that "Pixel has been defined as an AI-centric mobile phone from the beginning. Through chips and cloud services, it can provide truly personalized AI."
The idea is beautiful and exciting, but some of Google's practical examples are disappointing: the Pixel will analyze calls you don't want to answer and ignore them, and improve the sound quality of calls you do want to receive. Pixel cameras can use AI to better understand facial expressions and skin tones to optimize photos and more.
These functions have long lost their novelty for domestic users. If this is "personalized AI", it is too narrow. Pixel is the benchmark and demonstration of the entire Android market. Google failed to come up with an AI practice that matches its capabilities, and the protagonist's halo is dim.
Under the turbulent tide of AI, Google needs to show more imagination and inject surprising or thinking functions into Android products. For example, voice assistants that are collectively bad and have made little progress, should they be revolutionized?
Google once used Android to popularize smartphones to every family. Now, it's time to use Android as a medium to benefit all beings with AI.
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