All the news from Google’s Oc­to­ber event

Google re­vealed all sorts of hard­ware at its Pixel 2 launch, but soft­ware was qui­etly the star of the show. BRAD CHACOS re­ports

Android Advisor - - Contents -

Google’s an­nual hard­ware event on 4 Oc­to­ber didn’t dis­ap­point. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL were re­vealed, as ex­pected, but that was just the tip of the ice­berg. The tech gi­ant also ex­panded the Google Home line-up with not one, but two new smart speak­ers of var­i­ous sizes, tweaked its Day­dream VR head­set, and fi­nally rolled out the Pix­el­book – a sleek (and more ver­sa­tile) suc­ces­sor to its swanky high-end Chrome­book Pixel. Plus, a Ba­bel Fish-like ri­val to Ap­ple’s AirPod ear­buds even ap­peared.

Fun­nily enough, though, the soft­ware on these de­vices al­most out­shone the hard­ware it­self. Over

the fol­low­ing pages, we re­veal every­thing Google an­nounced ear­lier this month.

Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL aren’t as ex­otic as Ap­ple’s iPhone X, but they ap­pear poised to make one of the best An­droid phones around even bet­ter. Be­yond the ex­pected spec bumps, Google’s new phones add in a clone of the nifty Edge Sense fea­ture found in HTC’s U11, and the wa­ter re­sis­tance sorely miss­ing from the first it­er­a­tion. Google aug­mented the Pixel’s al­ready-great camera by fus­ing op­ti­cal im­age sta­bi­liza­tion with elec­tronic im­age sta­bi­liza­tion, which should re­sult in re­mark­ably steady video. And of course, it’s the flag­ship for An­droid 8 Oreo.

For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion see our hands-on re­views of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL on pages 11 and 20.

Pix­el­book

The heir to yes­ter­year’s pre­mium Chrome­book Pixel lap­tops, the Pix­el­book blends sleek alu­minium de­sign and pow­er­ful in­ter­nal hard­ware with Google’s far-reach­ing ecosys­tem. USB-C fast charg­ing and a 360-de­gree flip-back screen dis­tin­guish the Pix­el­book from its pre­de­ces­sors, but the soft­ware feels

like the big­gest dif­fer­ence. Pre­vi­ous Chrome­book Pix­els were lim­ited to Chrome OS’s browser alone. We were ex­pect­ing the Pix­el­book to sup­port Google’s new­found abil­ity to run An­droid apps on Chrome­books—the sur­prise is how the Pix­el­book bakes in Google As­sis­tant. The big ques­tion is will any­body pay be­tween £999 to £1,699 for a Chrome­book, even if it is a slick piece of kit? You’ll also need to spend an ex­tra £99 for the Pixel pen.

Google Home Mini

One of the worst-kept se­crets in re­cent mem­ory was made of­fi­cial, as Google re­vealed a smaller, cheaper Google Home Mini. The £49 smart speaker is ba­si­cally a re­tort to the sub­lime Echo Dot, based around Google’s con­ver­sa­tional As­sis­tant rather than Ama­zon’s Alexa. All Google Home prod­ucts pro­vide deep syn­er­gies with Nest’s new hard­ware, too.

Google Home Max

Google also went big with the $399 (£TBA) Google Home Max, a larger ver­sion of the Google Home that takes on Sonos with pow­er­ful au­dio and AI. Google says the speaker’s vol­ume is 20 times more pow­er­ful than what the stan­dard Google Home achieves, but as with the Pix­el­book, the soft­ware is the se­cret weapon.

Google’s new Smart Sound tech scans the Home Max’s sur­round­ings to op­ti­mize au­dio out­put. It’ll tweak cal­i­bra­tions based on whether the speaker is jammed into a cor­ner or left on an open counter. Over time, it’ll learn to ad­just to your home au­to­mat­i­cally – low­er­ing mu­sic vol­ume in the morn­ing or rais­ing it when it hears your dish­washer run­ning, for ex­am­ple. It will also tailor per­sonal playlists for each mem­ber of your house as it comes to rec­og­nize your in­di­vid­ual voices and mu­sic tastes.

Day­dream View

A year af­ter launch­ing the £99 Day­dream View VR head­set, Google has given it a mi­nor re­fresh with new colours and bet­ter lenses for im­proved im­age qual­ity. But con­tin­u­ing the theme of the day, the soft­ware’s the truly in­ter­est­ing thing. Google is in­vest­ing in pre­mium con­tent to im­prove Day­dream VR’s en­ter­tain­ment and vir­tual tourism chops, with VR apps from IMAX, Dis­cov­ery’s con­ti­nent-span­ning TRVLR se­ries, ‘Austin City Lim­its Back­stage’ con­certs, a con­fes­sional se­ries by The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, and more on the way.

Pixel Buds

Google’s wire­less Pixel Buds ap­pear to be an Ap­ple AirPod com­peti­tor at first blush, but once again soft­ware makes it some­thing more. The ear­buds come with Google As­sis­tant baked in, but it’s Google Trans­late that makes these wild. Ac­cord­ing to our col­leagues at PCWorld: “It’s when you try to hold a

con­ver­sa­tion with some­one in a for­eign lan­guage that the Google Pixel Buds magic takes hold. If you tap the ear bud and say some­thing, the Pixel 2 phone will trans­late your words, play­ing them back through a speaker to your re­cip­i­ent. What­ever the other per­son says will be trans­lated and then played back through your ear­buds, elim­i­nat­ing any dis­trac­tions from the speaker’s voice or am­bi­ent noise. Up to 40 lan­guages are sup­ported.”

They are ex­pen­sive, though, at £159.

Google Clips

This came out of left field. Google Clips is a tiny, hands-free camera that taps into Google’s ma­chine learn­ing acu­men to know when to au­to­mat­i­cally take a pic­ture. “Clips looks for sta­ble, clear shots of peo­ple you know,” Google ex­plains. “You can help the camera learn who is im­por­tant to you so when grandma comes in town, you’ll cap­ture the grand en­trance.”

The pic­tures and short videos cap­tured by the camera syncs wire­lessly with a Google Clips app on your phone, and those images can be or­ga­nized in Google Pho­tos or any other gallery app. Google will give you un­lim­ited Clips stor­age space if you use its Pho­tos app, though.

The $249 (£TBC) Google Clips “is com­ing soon” to the US, ac­cord­ing to Google, which adds that it works best with the Pixel, Sam­sung’s Gal­axy S7 and S8, or the iPhone 6 and up.

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