After weeks of leaks, Google is finally onstage in San Francisco today to announce its new line of hardware — and there's a lot hardware. With new Pixels phones, Daydream VR, Google Home, Google WiFi, and Chromecast all getting unveilings, there's so much to look forward to in the coming weeks and months. Catch up with all the news and analysis here.
On Wednesday, Google unveiled two new versions of the Google Home speakers: the Mini, which is priced to compete with the Amazon Echo Dot, and the Max, which is positioned at the luxury end of the market, similar to Apple’s HomePod. Both the Max and the HomePod are set to come out in December. So how do these smart speakers stack up against each other? With most of these products still unavailable in retailers until November or December, we can’t determine the best smart speakers in terms of sound quality just yet. Historically, Sonos has cornered the market with the very well-reviewed Sonos Play: 1 and Play: 3, and the company just unveiled a speaker with Alexa software built in.Read Article >
So even though we can’t make a full comparison just yet, we are able to line these speakers up spec by spec to give you a good look at what will be available this holiday season. We’ve factored in price points, speakers, microphones, processors, and more. Here’s what we know so far. (You can scroll the spec sheet.)
Google’s Pixel event today confirmed a lot of leaks and rumors, but it also held some surprises and software upgrades developed with machine learning. Marking its second year making hardware, Google announced the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL; an interesting new camera called Google Clips; a new Google Home Mini and Max; a Pixelbook, and an updated Google Daydream.Read Article >
If you missed any of it, we have the biggest announcements right here.
In addition to its Pixel phones and Home devices, Google announced a surprise today during its Pixel event. The company has come out with a camera that uses artificial intelligence to capture intimate moments that you aren’t able to get on your own. If your dog or baby is camera-shy, you can plant the Google Clips camera somewhere nearby to automatically take photos for you. The camera is trained to capture soundless video of faces and pets that it recognizes.Read Article >
As shown in the demo onstage, Google Clips looks to be targeting parents and pet owners, allowing them to focus more on interacting with their kids and pets than holding a camera in their hand. By only capturing soundless video, Google Clips dodges any laws against wiretaps. When the camera is on, an LED light blinks to let those in the room know they are being photographed.
Oct 18, 2016
At long last, almost eight years to the day the first Android phone went on sale, Google is launching a smartphone for which it designed the hardware, software, and cloud ecosystem itself: the Pixel. No longer will the tech giant be entirely dependent on other companies to present Android in its best light, in hardware that varied wildly but never was built from the ground up to be the best physical instantiation of pure, Google Android.Read Article >
I wrote last year and last week about why it makes sense for Google to become, like Apple, a vertically integrated hardware maker. I believe this is the right move. I believe it will shake up the industry. But the question is: how did Google do? How good is the Pixel?
Oct 5, 2016
Google’s Pixel hardware event today unleashed a torrent of news and product announcements on the tech world. We got to see two new phones, a new virtual reality headset, a tiny puck-sized router, a 4K-ready Chromecast, and pricing and availability for the new Google Home speaker. For Google — which tends not to have big, splashy events outside its I/O developer conference every May — today marked its most significant hardware push in years.Read Article >
If you’re still trying to wrap your head around everything the company showed off, you’re in luck. We’ve boiled the 117-minute presentation down to 10 minutes of essential video. Check it out to catch up on Google's ambitious play to control every bit of consumer computing and entertainment, from the smartphone to home appliances to internet connectivity.
Everybody copies everybody. It doesn't mean they're "out of ideas" or "in a technological cul-de-sac" — or at least it doesn't necessarily mean that — it does mean they want to make money and keep users. It's actually one of my favorite elements of the tech industry. It's self-regulating in a small way, because there's a certain shame to, say, copying GoPro or Meerkat or Snapchat or Dropbox, but sometimes a product category or feature is just irresistible.Read Article >
At today's Pixel event, Google hit a lot of pre-existing categories and features with its own Google-branded hardware. And to clarify once more, because I don't want to be misunderstood: I'm not saying this is bad or dumb or unethical or boring, I'm just saying it's kind of obvious where the "inspiration" came from.
When Google revealed its Cardboard virtual reality platform back in 2014, it launched an endless series of conversations in which I tried to explain why a $20 piece of cardboard wasn’t the same as an Oculus Rift. The two might both get called "VR," I protested, but their technology and design created two fundamentally different ways to interact with virtual worlds.Read Article >
Two years later, Google has another VR platform. This one is called Daydream, and it’s launching on the Pixel and Pixel XL phones, along with a $79 headset called Daydream View. More compatible phones and headsets are expected in the next several months, with the goal of turning Daydream into a standard Android VR platform. And already, I can hear the question: So it’s Cardboard, but nicer?
Oct 4, 2016
Google’s had a busy day. It unveiled two smartphones, launched a connected speaker, introduced a VR headset, announced a fancy router, and debut a new Chromecast all in one fast-moving hour-and-a-half event.Read Article >
But throughout all of those flashy hardware announcements were details about a software feature that Google seems to think will ultimately be more important: the Google Assistant.
Oct 4, 2016
Google is deadly serious about its new Pixel smartphones being able to take on the iPhone in every respect possible. And in a move that also mirrors Apple’s own past efforts, the company is now providing instructions for anyone looking to switch from their current iPhone to a brand-new Pixel.Read Article >
Google’s instructions involve connecting an iPhone or iPad running at least iOS 8 to the new Pixel using Google’s Quick Switch Adapter. The search company advises that you turn off iMessage in Settings first, but also links out to Apple’s deregister tool in case you jump the gun and start losing texts. From there, you just need to sign into your Google account and decide what you want to move over to your new phone.
For years now, consumer virtual reality has been pitched as an exotic, futuristic creation; it's one of those products that seems created to fulfill the tech industry's sci-fi fantasies. But permanent novelty can only stay exciting for so long. So when Google announced its Daydream program earlier this year, it promised VR that felt normal. Daydream is an extension of your Android phone’s existing interface, coupled with headsets that are supposed to feel as comfortable as a pair of nice running shoes, the first of which was announced today. But Google doesn’t just want to make a piece of VR hardware — it wants to set the standard for how we experience mobile virtual reality.Read Article >
While Google is releasing the initial Daydream devices, every major Android manufacturer is supposedly on board to announce a compatible phone, and other companies will begin making their own headsets based on Google’s reference design. But the ethos is very different from that of the fragmented Android ecosystem, and not just because phone makers will have to meet specific technical specs.
Google's not just taking hardware inspiration from Amazon with its new Google Home voice-controlled speaker, it's going to challenge Amazon on third-party software developer integration as well. That might not sound thrilling, but seeing how Amazon recently announced it has over 3,000 "skills" for Alexa, there's a lot of ground to make up for any potential challengers to Echo's throne. Google will need a lot of buy-in from software developers, service providers, and publishers to make Google Home a compelling alternative.Read Article >
Today Google announced it will launch its Actions on Google program in December, which will allow developers to build "Actions" for Google Assistant. These will come in two flavors: Direct Actions and Conversation Actions.
Google has announced Android 7.1 Nougat, which adds a number of features to Android 7.0 that launched earlier this year. Android 7.1 brings new features to all devices, but it also includes a number of special things that are exclusive to Google's new lineup of Pixel phones.Read Article >
The Pixel phones will have Google's new launcher, Google Assistant, a phone and chat tech support service, unlimited, original-quality backup for photo and video to Google Photos, and a new Smart Storage feature that automatically removes backed up photos and video when the phone's storage is full. They also have a few cosmetic updates, including more system theming options, unique navbar icons, and a dynamic calendar date icon.
With the announcement of Google's new Pixel and Pixel XL today, there has been the question of what's happening to the long-running Nexus hardware program, which started in 2010 with the Nexus One and has been comprised of eight phones, four tablets, and two media players. According to Google, the company has "no plans" for a future Nexus product, marking the likely end of the Nexus run.Read Article >
The Nexus program went through many iterations, but it largely existed for Google to provide an example of how Android devices should be built. Nexus phones and tablets were the first devices to get new versions of Android when they were released, and they frequently had hardware features that took advantage of new software features Google was showcasing in the latest versions of Android. Google also experimented with pricing in the Nexus program, ranging from premium-priced smartphones over $600 to lower-cost midrange options.
Google has dropped a pair of new phones into the world, the Pixel and Pixel XL, but it's not letting them roam around naked. The company also announced the return of Live Cases — its range of customizable phone cases first announced for the Nexus phones earlier this year. Users can design their own case, or buy one readymade from Google's new Artworks collection — which includes illustrations from artists like FAILE and Justin Maller, and even snaps from Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.Read Article >
The original Live Cases cost $35 a pop and used an NFC connection to transmit their design straight to the phone to use for its wallpaper. But it's not clear if this feature will also be available for the Pixel cases and price is unknown as well. It'll be a shame to hide the Pixel phone's design, especially that lovely Really Blue color (it really is really blue), but with Live Cases, at least you'll be able to customize what you're covering up with.
Oct 4, 2016
During Google’s Pixel event today, Google announced the Chromecast Ultra, a 4K version of its very popular streaming device. The Chromecast Ultra will be able to stream 4K content from YouTube Netflix, and Vudu at launch, with films from Google Play Movies gaining support in November. HDR content — both HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats — is also supported by the Ultra.Read Article >
Google says the Ultra is its fastest Chromecast, regardless if you have a 4K TV or not, loading videos 1.8 times faster than the standard Chromecast, thanks to improved Wi-Fi connectivity. The company is also including an Ethernet port on the power adapter for users whose Wi-Fi connections may not be able to handle 4K streams.
It's been an exciting year for home wireless networks, with the launch of Eero and the many similar systems that have followed it. Now Google's getting in the game of multi-point routers with the simply-named Google Wifi. It's not Google's first foray into routers — last year's OnHub system is Google's platform for other router makers to follow — but it's the first in-house product of this type for Google. And if you know anything about Eero, Google Wifi is going to sound very familiar.Read Article >
The Wifi router can be purchased two ways: as a single unit or in a multipack, just like Eero. A single unit is $129, while the three-pack will cost $299. That's significantly cheaper than Eero, which sells for $199 for one or $499 for three. Google says Wifi will be available for preorder in the US in November and will ship to customers in December. There was no mention of international availability.
Google showed off its Daydream VR system for the first time today and with its debut came a better look at the games and content users will eventually be able to access. More than 50 Daydream apps are supposed to be released this year, with "hundreds" more coming after that. Google already listed several developers at its I/O event in May, but it's given some new, specific projects to look out for. That includes Gunjack 2, a sequel to EVE Online developer CCP's turret shooter for the Gear VR.Read Article >
On the video side, Google previously announced apps from Netflix, HBO, and Hulu, as well as VR journalism from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. A VR version of YouTube will include both 360-degree video streaming and support for watching traditional videos on a flat virtual screen, and Google has a slate of YouTube projects that we'll hear more about around launch. Google will also have a VR version of Street View that includes "tours" of 150 global landmarks, like the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids in Egypt, along with the ability to see any location in 360-degree VR.
Google has just unveiled the first headset for its Daydream VR platform: Daydream View, shipping in November for $79. Daydream View is both a consumer product and a general reference design for all future Daydream headsets, which Google hopes will proliferate next year. It's the same device we saw as a line drawing a few months ago at I/O, when Google first announced Daydream. But we now know a lot more about what's actually shipping next month.Read Article >
Daydream View's body is made of foam and soft fabric, with a hinged plastic panel where you place an Android phone. Google says it weighs 220 grams, making it significantly lighter than the competing Gear VR headset. The face mask is held in by velcro, so it's removable and hand-washable; people will also be able to buy replacements separately. Currently, Daydream is only working on Google's new Pixel and Pixel XL phones, but the View is supposed to hold any phone that ends up supporting the platform — the hinges slide out slightly to accommodate different thicknesses or even phones in cases. Similarly, future headsets based on the design should work with any Daydream phone.
Just as it did with its Nexus smartphones, Google will sell its brand-new Pixel and Pixel XL via the company's Project Fi mobile network. So although Verizon is the exclusive carrier partner, you'll still be able to buy the phone unlocked (or with monthly installments) starting at $649. Monthly payments start at $27/month. The Pixels fully support Fi's network switching between T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular.Read Article >
Project Fi costs $20 per month for unlimited calls and texts, plus $10 for each gigabyte of data. Google also credits customers back each month for any data they've paid for and not fully used. Whether Fi is financially advantageous versus traditional carrier plans depends on how much mobile data you use month to month. Customer service is handled directly through Google and the Project Fi app.
There's a traditional form for tech events. Before we get to the actual news, there's usually a bit of corporate throat-clearing in the form of figures and statistics. At Apple events, this usually means some very large numbers about, say, the number of apps downloaded, or iPhones sold. At Google's unveiling of its new Pixel smartphones today, the stats were still there, but instead of boasting about sales, they were all about how good Google is at artificial intelligence.Read Article >
CEO Sundar Pichai led the charge here, noting that Google's Knowledge Graph (the easily accessible information that pop up under the search bar for certain queries) now encompasses 70 billion facts. He then moved onto the company's image recognition tech, noting that it had improved its accuracy from 89.6 percent in 2014 to 93.9 percent in 2016 — a small numerical difference that makes a big difference in results. Pichai topped things off with improvements to Google's machine translation; recently super-charged by deep learning to go from a score in translation accuracy of 3.694 (out of 6) to 4.263. Human-level quality, said Pichai, is only a step away at 4.636.
Oct 4, 2016
Verizon will be the exclusive US carrier for Google’s new Pixel phones. Google just announced the news on stage during its hardware announcement event in California. The phones will have access to Verizon's "LTE Advanced," but they'll also be available on Project Fi as well.Read Article >
We spoke with a Verizon rep here at Google's event and he basically characterized that not-great history as water under a pretty old bridge. For Pixel, Verizon is very excited, and will be giving it significant presence both on its website and also in its stores. And it also has that preorder deal, he reminds me, where people who order from Verizon will get a free Daydream View headset. So: Really Blue skies are gonna clear up, is the message, and we'll see if things go better this time around. Seems like they might!
Oct 4, 2016
With its newly revealed Pixel phones, Google didn’t settle for just black, blue, or silver. The official colors for the Pixel and Pixel XL will be Quite Black, Really Blue, and Very Silver, Google's Sabrina Ellis announced onstage at today's keynote.Read Article >
Really Blue will be available as a limited edition, and a subsequent video identified it as "a blue so blue we created it new." Ellis did not elaborate on what distinguishes the Pixel’s Really Blue from the more quotidian shades of blue we encounter in everyday life.
What makes Google's just-announced Pixel phones different from the Nexus products we'e seen before? It's all in the software. Yes, the Pixels will keep current with the latest version of Android and monthly security updates; those are important things! But this is no longer the bare "stock" Android that Nexus devices were always known for. Google has layered on new features exclusive to the Pixel and Pixel XL overtop Android 7.1 Nougat. A lot of the changes are cosmetic, but there's also some genuinely useful stuff that's reserved for Pixel owners. Here's all that's new.Read Article >
Oct 4, 2016Read Article >
Following an absolute deluge of pre-event leaks and revelations, Google's new Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones are now finally official. Differentiated primarily by the size and resolution of their screens — 5-inch 1080p display on the Pixel and 5.5-inch Quad HD panel on the XL — these two devices are built by HTC, but Google takes full credit for their design and makes this explicit with its "phone by Google" branding. Both Pixel models are powered by the latest Snapdragon 821 processor and run a specialized version of Google's Android software, which includes support for the Daydream virtual reality platform that was announced at Google I/O in the summer.