Google’s big night (as per our time zone, this was at night) was a mix of hardware and software-related announcements with hardware taking centre-stage as Google paraded six hardware products on stage, all of which we expected.
Here is a quick look at all of them:
While there was definitely so much more to be excited about last night when Google took the stage, the Pixel smartphones are pretty much what we were all waiting for. On that front, Google delivered. Maybe even over-delivered.
First things first, the two smartphones, the Pixel XL and the Pixel, are not new to us. We were pretty familiar with them thanks to the leaks before Google finally confirmed the obvious. They have unsightly chins/bezels that honestly, should’ve been trimmed. But they are more than the looks. Inside, they pack the latest and best chipset from Qualcomm. According to Google, they have the best cameras ever on a smartphone, they are the first smartphones to have Google Assistant built in, they are the first to arrive with Android 7.1 and so on and so on.
Both devices are identical save for the battery capacity and display size and resolution.
|Size and weight||143.8 x 69.5 x 8.6 mm, 143g||154.7 x 75.7 x 8.6 mm, 168g|
|Display||5-inch Full HD AMOLED, 441ppi. Protected by Gorilla Glass 4||5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED, 534ppi. Protected by Gorilla Glass 4|
|Processor||Snapdragon 821 clocked at 2.15GHz||Same|
|Memory||4GB RAM; 32/128GB internal storage||Same|
|Camera||8MP front; 12MP back with OIS||Same|
|Operating System||Android 7.1||Same|
|Battery||2,770mAh with fast charging||3,4500mAh with fast charging|
|Network||3G, 4G LTE||Same|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, USB Type-C, NFC||Same|
|Colour options||Quite Black, Very Silver, Really Blue||Same|
One curious thing that got the Internet reeling with laughter was the choice of colour names. Seriously, who comes up with colour names like Really Silver and Quite Black? Really Google? I’ve got to admit, though, the Really (really?) Blue that will be exclusive to Verizon looks edible. But at that price ($649 for the 32GB version, $100 more for the 128GB model and $769 and $869 for the 32GB Pixel XL and 128GB Pixel XL respectively), I may be stuck with my Huaweis and Xiaomis for a while.
Google is making the offer count, though. Unlike everyone else who has to watch helplessly as Google compresses their photos and videos to 16 megapixels and 1080p respectively if they are to take advantage of Google Photos’ unlimited storage, owners of the Pixel phones will be able to save all their photos and videos in their full resolution. Throw in 24/7 tech support from Google right from the devices’ settings app. Damn!
2. Google Assistant
Assistant is not a stranger to Android land. It was announced back in May at I/O 16 and showed up over a week ago in Google’s messaging app with AI smarts, Allo. My first (and only) encounter with Google Assistant was on Allo. To say that Google Assistant is great is an understatement. It is so good that I was, for a while, stuck wondering why Google was hiding such a neat feature deep inside a messaging app no one would want to use. Now I know better.
The best news out of yesterday’s event concerning Google Assistant is that Google will be opening it up to developers through Actions so that Assistant is everywhere and everyone will be able to make bots that interact with it. Like what Facebook has done with Messenger, Google wants Assistant to have its own bot ecosystem. Having used Messenger bots to catch up with whatever was happening in Rio during the Olympics, I can’t be more excited to see what the partners Google has already signed up bring to the table.
The only thing Google Assistant can’t do? Purchases. You can’t pay for stuff using it so that’s kind of a bummer right there and an advantage to rival Alexa from Amazon.
3. Google Home
Like Google Assistant, Google Home is not new to us. It got a mention and a demo back at I/O 16 in May. However, it’s about time we got to see it in flesh in our living rooms isn’t it? Google starts selling the smart speaker that is expected to give Amazon’s Alexa a run for its money on November 4th at a cool $129.
If you remember well, long before Allo became a thing, Google Home was the only place where we’d ever seen the Google Assistant at work. So it lives on and it is expected to do all the cool stuff it will be doing on mobile there as well. For instance, during the demo on stage yesterday, upon being greeted ‘Good morning’, the smart speaker responded while also adding all the information that one would want to know when they get out of bed in the morning before jumping in the shower. It will even stream music from one’s favourite music streaming service (Spotify, Play Music etc) as you have breakfast.
4. Daydream View
At I/O, Google announced its mobile virtual reality platform dubbed Daydream. Yesterday, the first Daydream hardware product was showcased for the first time ever. It is called Daydream View and it is made by Google out of fabric and plastic so that it is not as bulky as whatever is on the market (I am looking at you, Samsung Gear VR) and it is comfortable.
The best thing about it is that it pairs with compatible devices (Daydream-ready phones) wirelessly. There are no cables or ports involved. You remember that Samsung had to hold back switching to USB Type-C just so that its newer phones could continue being able to pair up with its Gear VR? Even when it eventually did switch to USB Type-C with the
exploding Galaxy Note 7 it had to make a new Gear VR variant just so that buyers would not feel left out of the VR party. Google is having none of that.
When it ships in November (for $79 as the rumours had intimated), there will be more than 50 apps waiting for the early adopters to try them out on the Daydream View according to Google.
— Google (@google) October 4, 2016
5. Google Wi-Fi
Google Wi-Fi is Google’s latest attempt at fixing our bad Wi-Fi woes. Previously, the company partnered with industry leaders TP Link and Asus to make some Wi-Fi routers branded OnHub. Think of them as the Google Nexus of Wi-Fi routers. Yesterday, the company announced its own Wi-Fi router. Think of it as the Google Pixel of Wi-Fi routers :-).
Google Wi-Fi is a router that is meant to bring better wireless connectivity to every room since wireless signals are known to get weak depending on how far one is from the router. How does it do this? Well, you’ll need to get several of these Google Wi-Fi routers if things are to work as advertised (Google will sell them to you at $129 each or $299 for a three-pack). They work like some other Wi-Fi router I have become a big fan of, Eero (read WSJ’s Geoffrey Fowler’s nice review here).
— Google (@google) October 4, 2016
Here’s Google’s explanation:
The system uses a technology called mesh Wi-Fi (something usually only seen in expensive commercial installations). Within our mesh network, each Google Wifi point creates a high-powered connection, and the different points work together to determine the best path for your data. The result is fast Wi-Fi everywhere in your house, not just right next to the router.
6. Chromecast Ultra
As the name indicates, finally a Chromecast that allows users to stream 4K content. It can also stream HDR content. Netflix is onboard, too.
Google says it is 1.8 times faster than its current Chromecast dongles. It carries over the new Chromecast design we first saw at I/O 16 when Google announced the latest generation of Chromecast. For $69, one also gets Ethernet support when the dongle goes up for sale next month.
If you feel like there’s still something missing on this list then it’s because there is!
The rumour mill had us salivating at the prospect of seeing a Chrome OS-Android hybrid operating system. Yesterday, there was nothing. Not even a mention of Andromeda was made. And that rumoured 7-inch Huawei Nexus tablet? Not a sight. Not that we were expecting it any soon anyway but something to calm down our expectant nerves would’ve been better. Sigh! The wait continues.