Google IO: Pixel 6a, Pixel Watch and Android 13 unveiled

New Pro earbuds and upcoming Pixel 7 phones, tablet and software shown off during virtual event

Google has announced a series of new products as it looks to compete with Apple on tablets and smartwatches. It has unveiled a lower-cost smartphone, high-end earbuds and a watch due later this year, as well as Android updates.

During the keynote kicking off its IO developer conference, Google set out its intention to build a broader collection of own-brand devices rather than rely on third parties such as Samsung using its software.

“We’re going for the ecosystem,” said Rick Osterloh, Google’s head of consumer hardware. “We want people to know where Google is headed with devices as an organisation over next few years.”

Pixel 6a

Colour options of the Pixel 6a
The Pixel 6a is Google’s smaller, cheaper smartphone, but shares the same chips and design as its top phones. Photograph: Google

The Pixel 6a is Google’s new smaller, mid-range Android phone, costing from £399 ($449/A$749), shipping on 28 July. It has a 6.1in screen and the same recycled aluminium body, two-tone colours and camera bar across the back as the firm’s high-end phones.

It has Google’s top-end Tensor processor, 5G and the Titan M2 security chip from the Pixel 6, with 6GB of memory and 128GB of storage. It will be supported with software updates for at least five years, making it one of the longest-lasting Android phones.

The 6a has a pair of wide and ultra-wide 12-megapixel cameras on the back, which support the same improved skin tone and magic eraser features as Google’s top models.

Pixel Buds Pro

The Pixel Buds Pro and their charging case resting on a book on a desk
The Pixel Buds Pro are Google’s high-end earbuds with noise cancelling. Photograph: Google

Google announced its first Bluetooth earbuds with noise cancelling, called the Pixel Buds Pro, which will ship on 28 July costing £179 ($199/A$299).

The earbuds use Google-designed chips, algorithms and speakers, competing directly with Apple’s pricier AirPods Pro. They have IPX4 sweat resistance and the same smart features as Google’s previous earbuds such as hands-free voice assistant, walking directions and instant translation abilities.

The Buds Pro can connect to two Bluetooth devices at once, such as a phone for calls and a laptop for music, including iPhones, Macs and PCs. They last up to seven hours with noise cancelling, and up to 20 hours with their charging case.

Pixel Watch

The front and back of the Google Pixel Watch
The Pixel Watch is Google’s long-awaited WearOS smartwatch and a direct challenge to the Apple Watch but for Android. Photograph: Google

Google showed off its first own-brand WearOS smartwatch, called the Pixel Watch, which will ship in the autumn. It has a round, domed design, is made of recycled stainless steel, and has optional 4G connectivity. It features various Google apps and services including Assistant, Maps and Pay, and the Play Store for third-party apps.

It will also feature a suite of Fitbit health and activity-tracking services, after Google’s purchase of the firm, which completed last year. The watch will work with most Android phones, not just Pixels.

Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel Tablet

A group shot showing various coloured backs of the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro smartphones
The Pixel 7 and 7 Pro are Google’s upcoming top smartphones, due in the summer. Photograph: Google

Google unveiled its upcoming top Pixel 7 and 7 Pro smartphones for later this year. They will feature premium polished aluminium and glass bodies and the firm’s next-generation Tensor processor, shipping with Android 13 in the autumn.

Google also announced its intention to return to making Android tablets in 2023 as companions for its Pixel phones. The premium Pixel Tablet will have Google’s Tensor chip and will take advantage of Android 13 with additions for better split-screen multitasking and use of space on tablets, including updates to 20 of Google’s apps, with third-party apps such as TikTok, Zoom, Facebook and others gaining new tablet-optimised designs.

Android 13, Maps, Search and Assistant

A shot of Google maps giving fuel-efficient driving directions around Berlin
Google’s eco-friendly directions in Maps, which shows the most fuel-efficient routes, is expanding to Europe. Photograph: Google

Google showed off some new software features coming later this year, including the ability to request removal of search results containing your contact details, automatic summarisation of key points in Google Docs and Chat, and the ability to speak to Google Assistant just by looking at the Nest Hub Max smart display.

Later this year Google Maps will gain a new immersive view, which combines street and aerial images to create digital models of cities including London, Los Angeles and New York. Users will be able to virtually walk through the cities at various times of the day with information overlaid, such as weather conditions, traffic and how busy a place is.

Android 13 will also be released in the summer as a free update, bringing with it greater customisation and privacy options including the ability to force apps to ask whether they can send you notifications before doing so, similar to iOS, and further restrictions to location access for apps.

Google’s Material You colour theming from Android 12 will be expanded across more of the interface, including custom app icons. Now more than one language can be used on a phone at the same time, such as English in a social media app but Spanish in a banking app. The new Google Wallet will be able to collect payment cards, loyalty cards, transport tickets and boarding cards in one place, with various kinds of identification such as student IDs and driving licences in the US later this year.

Users keen to try the new features can test out the software in beta form on Google’s Pixel phones and others from third-party manufacturers.


Samuel Gibbs

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Google Pixel 4 XL review: not quite ready for primetime
Face Unlock, radar and on-device voice skills show Google’s magic, but some bits need fixing

Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor

29, Oct, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
Google Pixel 4 review: a good phone ruined by poor battery life
Brilliant camera, slick features and small size mean nothing when the phone won’t even last a day

Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor

31, Oct, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
Google Pixel 3 review: raising the bar for the Android experience
New phone reaches Apple-level of polish, with top-notch performance, fantastic camera and attractive design

Samuel Gibbs

18, Oct, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
Google Pixel Watch review: a good first attempt
Small smartwatch gets much right but comes up short versus cheaper rivals and cannot be repaired

Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor

20, Oct, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
20 best Android apps and games this week
Android Wear, City Air, Boots, FuseMe, 99 Bricks Wizard Academy, Bounden, Blek, Bezircle and more. By Stuart Dredge

Stuart Dredge

07, Jul, 2014 @2:38 PM

Article image
Samsung launches first water-resistant folding phone and Google watch
New flip phones and phone-tablet hybrids, plus updated earbuds and first Google Wear OS 3 smartwatch

Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor

11, Aug, 2021 @2:00 PM

Article image
Google I/O 2014: smartwatches, Google Fit – and Android Lollipop?
Connected cars, Android TV, home automation, Google Glass and some surprises likely as annual developer conference kicks off. By Stuart Dredge

Stuart Dredge

25, Jun, 2014 @2:23 PM

Article image
Android 12: everything you need to know about Google’s update
Upgrade is big design overhaul, improves speed and privacy and adds new features to Maps and Photos

Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor

19, May, 2021 @10:04 AM

Article image
Android N: Google reveals future of the OS
Early developer preview available with better battery-life optimisation, faster app switching, multi-window and night mode

Samuel Gibbs

10, Mar, 2016 @12:36 PM

Article image
Google can unlock some Android devices remotely, district attorney says
New York County district attorney report argues Google and Apple should give law enforcement access to user smartphone data reveals court order system

Samuel Gibbs

24, Nov, 2015 @1:06 PM