Thumbs up for Google’s new smart­phones

Tech gi­ant un­veils bargain mo­biles and a re­vamped home sys­tem at an­nual de­vel­oper con­fer­ence

Llanelli Star - - TECH NOW -

GOOGLE kicked off its an­nual I/O de­vel­oper con­fer­ence at its Moun­tain View home this week by launch­ing a pair of new hard­ware de­vices, as well as a range of new fea­tures in its soft­ware.

The head­line-grab­bers were a pair of new Pixel smart­phones, and the most ex­cep­tional things about them were their price.

The Google Pixel 3a and the Pixel 3a XL will cost £399 and £469 – that’s about half what you would pay for a Pixel 3.

To re­duce the price, ob­vi­ously Google has had to make some com­pro­mises, but the choices it has made seem to be the right ones – for a start, it has pri­ori­tised the camera, which is the same as you’ll find in the more ex­pen­sive Pixel 3.

It’ll do the cel­e­brated Night Shift mode, which cap­tures great im­ages in very low light, and also fea­tures the Por­trait mode which pro­duces great blurred back­grounds.

Bat­tery life is also good, with 30 hours of use promised when the “adap­tive bat­tery” tech­nol­ogy Google has cre­ated is en­abled, and you can get seven hours out of just a 15 minute charge.

On the down­side, there is only one camera on the front, as op­posed to two on the Pixel 3, and the bod­ies of the phone are made from plas­tic.

They also

have slower pro­ces­sors, and lack fa­cial recog­ni­tion, un­der-screen fin­ger­print sensors and wire­less charg­ing.

You can buy these phones now, and they’re avail­able in three colours – black, white and pur­ple.

The other hard­ware de­vice launched was a new ver­sion of the Google Home Hub, which also comes sport­ing a new name – Nest.

Google bought the smart home ther­mo­stat and smoke alarm com­pany a few years ago, and has now brought it into its main Google busi­ness.

And to mark that, it has re­branded its smart home kit with the new name – so what was the Google Home Hub is now the Google Nest Hub, and also comes with a new price – down from £199 to £119. In fact, you can get one for free if you order a Pixel 3a or 3a XL on the Google Store now.

The new Google Nest Hub Max (£219) brings a few things you don’t get on the reg­u­lar Nest Hub – firstly, it has a big­ger screen – 10in over 7in. It also has much bet­ter and louder au­dio, with a 3in woofer built in to the back.

The big­gest new hard­ware fea­ture is a camera, which will in­evitably bring con­cerns about pri­vacy. Google clearly un­der­stands this, so was at pains to point out how much the user is in con­trol of the camera – there’s a switch on the back that will phys­i­cally dis­con­nect both the camera and the mic if you want to be sure it’s re­ally off. It also acts as a se­cu­rity camera, de­tect­ing move­ment and in­form­ing you if there’s some­one in your house.

On the soft­ware front, Google an­nounced a raft of new ini­tia­tives and fea­tures, in­clud­ing a pre­view of its next op­er­at­ing sys­tem for mo­bile, An­droid Q.

Not sur­pris­ingly, pri­vacy and se­cu­rity are front of cen­tre in Q, with those set­tings sim­pli­fied and made more ob­vi­ous.

A new “Fo­cus Mode’ plays to those wish­ing to limit dis­trac­tions – you can turn off ac­cess to apps of your choice for a time win­dow.

And a new “Incog­nito mode” is com­ing to the suite of Google’s main apps af­ter fea­tur­ing in Chrome – it al­lows you to use apps with­out track­ing your ac­tiv­ity – Maps, YouTube, News, Search and oth­ers will be get­ting this mode soon.

There are also up­dates com­ing to Google Lens – you will soon be able to use your

phone’s camera to see pre­views of food on menus, just by point­ing your camera at it. Point your camera at a res­tau­rant bill, too, and it will cal­cu­late the tip, and split the to­tal for you so you don’t have to do the maths your­selves.

Up­dates and fea­tures seemed to spring up ev­ery­where; my favourites were the sim­plest ones. Like stop­ping an alarm from the Google As­sis­tant just by say­ing “stop”. And hold­ing your hand up to the Google Next Hub Max to pause mu­sic.

The coolest fea­ture, though, is com­ing to Google Maps. In walk­ing di­rec­tions, you’ll be able to see AR ar­rows that show you the way when hold­ing your camera up in front of you.

Google CEO Sun­dar Pichai de­liv­ers his key­note ad­dress Google’s I/O de­vel­oper con­fer­ence

The Google Nest Hub Max

The Google Pixel 3a is about half the price of the Pixel 3

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