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Google launches Pixel 6a and new mobile wallet at I/O developer event

The tech giant also gives a first glimpse at the Pixel 7, 7 Pro, and Pixel tablet

Google's Pixel 6a revealed on stage at Google I/O 22

Google gave users a first look at its upcoming Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro handset at its I/O developer event.

The tech giant revealed a breadth of new hardware and software products, including a Pixel 6a, more Android 13 features and a new mobile wallet.

I/O is traditionally developer-focused, however, 2022's event had a significant consumer theme with updates to software like Google Maps and Search, and new hardware including a Pixel Watch and Pixel tablet. The event was jam packed, so we've rounded up the biggest announcement below.

Pixel 6a, Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro

As expected, the "a" version of the Pixel 6 was unveiled at the I/O. The tech giant didn't dive too deep into specifications; it has a 6.2in FHD+ 90Hz display, a 4,500mAh battery and two 12MP camera lenses. But it appears to have almost all the same AI features and design as the Pixel 6. Users will be able to pre-order the handset from 29 July and it will cost $449.

Before anyone could really take the 6a in, however, it was almost immediately upstaged by a first look at the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro, both of which will debut in the Autumn. The new handsets, shown on screen as two white models with an aluminium camera bar, will ship with the next generation of the company's Tensor processor and come with Android 13 straight out of the box. The pair of devices will also head up a new pixel hardware ecosystem that will feature a much-speculated Pixel Watch and a new Pixel Tablet, both of which will be released in 2023.

The first look at Google's Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro smartphones

Android 13

Since it was first announced earlier this year, in beta, Google has revealed a number of features coming to Android 13. At I/O 22, the tech giant gave a few more, with a new Google Wallet arguably the most noteworthy. Along with credit cards and vaccine documentation, the Wallet will also be able to hold personal IDs, such as driver's licenses. Google is working with governments in the US and around the world to make that possible, though it expects it to be available in the coming weeks, hopefully in time for Android 13's full release.

Other updates for Android include more customisable features for the 'Material You' user face, end-to-end encryption for RCS messages, and a range of OS changes for Android tablets. The look and user experience of apps on tablets will see the biggest tweaks, though Google is also working on ways different devices can work together. These are mainly app switching/sharing functions, and also a faster process for pairing devices.

AI and machine learning

Language recognition and translation features took up a fair chunk of the event. The most eye-catching was the Google Assistant ditching 'wake' words for a new 'Look and Talk' feature. So instead of repeatedly saying "Hey Google", users will be able to look directly at their device and simply ask their questions.

A version of this in use already in the form of the 'Quick Phrase' function, which recognises common questions and commands. However, with six new machine learning models, the Google Assistant will be able to determine whether the user is in fact talking directly to it and not just muttering to themselves.

Workspace AI features

When it comes to Google's productivity suite, Workspace, there were a number of new AI and machine learning-focused updates. This includes automated summaries in Google Docs; this is a feature that will use machine learning to scan through a document that might be too long to read. The important details will be pulled out and automatically added to a summary at the top of the document, so a user can get the need to know information right away.

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Machine learning is also being deployed to improve the Google Meet experience. 'Portrait restore' is a feature that will boost video quality by addressing issues caused by low light, low-quality webcams, or poor network connectivity. All of this will be automatically processed in the cloud without impacting device performance, according to CEO Sundar Pichai.

Workspace security is also being expanded with the phishing and malware protections that guard Gmail being deployed on Slides, Sheets and Docs. This system will automatically alert users to phishing links. Earlier in the year, hackers were reportedly exploiting the '@' function in Google Docs to embed malicious links in its automated email services.

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