For the last number of years Google has been making careful inroads into the hardware market, first working with other companies with their Nexus phones and more recently with Pixel laptops, tablets and the hugely successful Chromecast streaming sticks. At their I/O conference they announced a whole range of hardware including a VR headset and a speaker personal assistant system and the rumors and leaks had us expecting a new Chromecast, Pixel branded phones and a whole lot more.
Google focused the whole on the assistant that they hope will tie everything together. The assistant is designed to be a layer on top of all the Google properties and uses AI or machine learning to work with you.
Pixel and Pixel XL
Everything was presented as something that was to serve you individually. As expected they showed off two new phones – the Pixel and Pixel XL. The phones are aluminum bodied and have top of the line specs. This includes quick-charge, Nougat with automatic updates, 24 hour support via the phone and customisable cases. The larger version has a 5.5″ display and the smaller a 5.0 inch but are otherwise specced the same.
Google pushed five points – Google Assistant built in, photography, photos, virtual reality and communication. Assistant is built in with Google aiming for everything on the phone being intelligently voice controlled replacing Google Now. Google claims the Pixel takes better photos than any other smartphone camera even beating the iPhone 7. Photos means unlimited included online storage for photos and videos at full quality. Communications means pre-installed Allo and Duo.
The phones will be available through carriers or unlocked on the store starting at $649 (£599) in the US and for preorder today in the US and the UK. They haven’t mentioned a specific ship date.
DaydreamVR was first mentioned in the context of the Pixels and is Google’s upgrade to Cardboard. It appears similar to Samsung’s GearVR but is open to other manufacturers. The big specs that stand out are a claimed ability to work perfectly for glasses wearers, being made out of fabric and ‘snuggly’ and a controller that looks like an old-style wiimote with motion control. Google also showed off a J.K. Rowling Fantastic Beasts game, an updated Gunjack and a number of media streaming options. It’ll be available in November for around $80 (£69)
GoogleWiFi was next – its a series of mesh networking hubs for the home. Spot them around the home and they’ll automatically work together to give the best connection. It also gives control via an app on a per device basis. A single pack will be $129 (£100) or a 3 pack $300 (£235). They’ll be available for pre-order November with shipping in December.
Chromecast Ultra is an updated version of the Chromecast which will work in up to 4k UltraHD with full Dolby support. It’s also got a significantly better wifi antenna, a more powerful processor and an optional ethernet port if you want to be wired in. Available November for $69 (£69),
Google Home was previewed at IO and is Google’s Alexa – providing the Google Assistant available any time. It’s voice activated via “OK Google” or by tapping the top and has a claimed ‘high quality’ speaker inside it. It’s an answer system, voice control for the TV or other speakers if they have Chromecasts, Smart home controls. They are also able to handle multi room audio – put one in every room and it’ll follow you as you move around the house. Home is to be available at $129 or (£65) in the US from today although there’s no UK availability.