At I/O 2022, Google gave a middle finger to leakers

The company teased three devices that won't ship until the fall, as well as a new Pixel-branded tablet destined for 2023.

There was definitely something different about Google’s I/O 2022 keynote. Whether it was the live in-person audience or the fact that the company simply had a ton of announcements to make, this year’s show felt more like the tech events of years past rather the over-produced streaming marathons we’ve been watching for the past two years.

Google generated tons of headlines yesterday with different announcements in machine learning, AI, the Google Assistant, and Android. But where there seemed to be the most excitement was at the tail end of the keynote, when the company brought out its Pixel hardware team to announce a slew of new products.

We got a proper introduction for the Pixel 6a, the company’s latest budget smartphone, as well as new high-end Pixel Buds Pro. Both of these devices will be going on sale this July, so it makes sense to see them unveiled during a live event in May. What didn’t make much sense were the company’s other announcements, which all involve products that won’t be shipping until later this year and into next year.

We got our first official look at the Pixel Watch, Google’s own smartwatch that will aim to provide the best Wear OS experience you can get. Alongside it, out of absolutely nowhere, Google shared a glimpse at the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, the company’s next flagships. Then, later on, we saw the Pixel Tablet which isn’t slated for release until sometime in 2023.

By most standards, this is extremely unusual. If companies like Google make a hardware announcement, they typically back it up with a shipping date that’s scheduled for two or three weeks from then. It’s incredibly rare for tech companies to announce products this early, so why is Google doing it?

One word: leaks.

Ask any technology journalist which company suffers the most brutal product leaks, and many of them will tell you it’s Google. The search giant has fallen victim to leaked renders, spec sheets, and real-life product photos for years, with some of the most significant involving yet-to-be-released Pixel phones like the Pixel 2 and 3.

Over the past few years, Google has tried to curve the spread of leaks by leaking its own products ahead of time. We saw them do this for the first time in 2019 with the Pixel 4, which was teased on social media in a single image. Then, in 2020, the company confirmed that two more Pixel phones would arrive alongside the Pixel 4a that offered 5G. Last year was no different, with the unveiling of the Pixel 6’s design two months ahead of its release.

Now, Google is straight-up announcing its next Pixel phones four months before they’ll be released. And for good measure, it’s also shown off its first watch (also plagued by leaks) and tablet (something there’s been next to no chatter about).

While this isn’t going to permanently stop leaks from happening, it certainly makes them far less valuable. Now that we know what the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro will look like when they’re released, there’s no point in waiting for CAD renders or other 3D mockups. Similarly, speculation around a Pixel-branded watch or tablet can calm down since we already know what they’ll look like in the hands of consumers.

Of course, leaks probably aren’t the only reason Google is teasing these devices so early. It wants to build hype for its next hardware portfolio which it says will be its most diverse and versatile yet. It wants to let you know that there are big things coming to the Pixel phone series, and it’ll soon have an in-house companion thanks to the Pixel Watch. I also can’t help but think the reason it teased the Pixel Tablet was to let developers know a Google-branded tablet is on its way, and they should get their butts in gear to start developing apps for it.

But clearly, Google is trying to take on the leakers here by doing all the leaking themselves. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, and that’s just what Google has done. They threw up their middle finger at the leaking community and took back their reigns, if only to ensure that the time their products surfaced in the real world remained under their control. And that’s something to respect.