Google welcomes the Pixel 2 smartphone and friends to the Google family
Google hosted an event for their new Pixel 2 phone this week, but the phone did not show up alone. New members of the Google family now include 2 new smartphones, 2 smart speakers, a premium Chrome laptop, an upgraded mobile VR headset, wireless headphones, and a weird mini camera. If there ever was a sitcom starring a family of consumer electronics, this would be quite the cast.
Google has mainly been known for their software and online services, and they seem to be using their clout in these areas to enhance their new hardware. With all these products, you’ll notice a trend of using machine learning and AI by tying them all together with Google Assistant. And we all know that a virtual assistant’s best vessel comes in the form of smart speakers.
Google Home Mini
If you’re tired of all the talk about Alexa, now’s the time to get back to saying “Hey Google,” as Google has unveiled 2 additions to their Google Home smart speaker line.
The Google Home Mini seems to be competition for Amazon’s Echo Dot. The Home Mini is an affordable $50 mini speaker with Google Assistant functionality, so you can ask it for weather updates, reminders from your Google Calendar, directions from Google Maps, and everything you’ve come to expect from a virtual assistant.
The Google Home Mini is available for pre-order now and will ship on October 19.
The tiny speaker is mainly built for these Assistant tasks rather than serving as a nice music speaker. If you want a more robust audio experience, Google has another product for you.
Google Home Max
In addition to Google Assistant functionality, the Google Home Max is a speaker made for playing music, featuring dual high-excursion woofers and two custom tweeters.
The Google Home Max utilizes what Google calls “Smart Sound” to automatically optimize audio playback based on tis physical surroundings. For example, placing it close to a wall will adjust the sound’s bass. It can also automatically adjust volume depending on the time of day (quieter in the mornings) and how noisy the environment is.
The device supports Google Play and YouTube Music and even comes with a 1-year trial to YouTube Music. It also functions with other music services, such as Spotify.
You can play music from other devices either wirelessly through Bluetooth or wired with the line-in jack. You can also connect 2 Home Max speakers together for dedicated left and right sound.
The Google Home Max will cost $399 and release in December.
The Pixelbook is a premium Chromebook for a premium price. It’s Google’s thinnest laptop ever, at 10 mm thick and weighing 2.2 pounds.
The display is a 12.3-inch 1440p touchscreen, and it’s hinged to allow it to fold back behind the keyboard for tablet use. It’s powered by 7th gen Intel processors (i5 or i7, depending on the configuration), with up to 512 GB of storage and 16 GB of RAM.
It features a 10-hour battery life and fast USB-C charging, netting you 2-hours of battery charge in 15 minutes.
While it is a Chromebook running on Chrome OS, you can basically use it as a large Android tablet, as it can run Android apps from the Google Play Store.
Like the rest of Google’s new hardware, Google Assistant is readily available on the Pixelbook, with it even sporting a dedicated keyboard button.
The base Intel Core i5 Pixelbook starts at $999 for 128 GB of storage and 8 GB of RAM and will begin shipping October 31.
For further enhancements, you can pair the Pixelbook with the Pixelbook Pen, a fancy low-latency stylus sold separately for $99. The Pixelbook Pen has 2000 levels of pressure sensitivity and can recognize up to 60 degrees of tilt. It also provides greater Google Assistant functionality, as you can use it to circle parts of an on-screen image or highlight text to gain more information on the circled subject.
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
As a dig at Apple, Google is proud to announce that, despite having 2 different models for their Pixel 2 phone, they both share the same features, with none exclusive to the bigger handset.
There are a few differences between the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, however. Obviously, the screen sizes are different. The regular Pixel 2 has a 5-inch AMOLED 1920 x 1080 screen and a 2700mAh battery, while the Pixel 2 XL has a 6-inch pOLED 2880 x 1440 screen with a bigger 3520mAh batter. Aside from that, they both have the same cameras, specs, and software features.
Both phones are powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 and 4 GB of RAM. You can choose between 64 GB and 128 GB storage configurations, and they both come running Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box.
The rear-facing camera is a 12.2-Megapixel f/1.8 aperture lens featuring optical image stabilization. Google’s computational photography algorithms make for composing smart shots. The Portrait Mode is available on both the rear and front-facing cameras for both fancy selfies and fancy portraits. Videos are enhanced with both optical and digital image stabilization. Google is also providing Pixel users with unlimited cloud storage for photos and videos at full resolution.
There are a number of persistent features on the Pixel 2, such as an always-on display that always shows the time and your phone’s notifications, as well as a Shazam-like music spotting feature for identifying any tunes you encounter out in the world.
Again, like everything else in the line-up, Google Assistant is a prominent bullet point on the feature list and can be accessed with either the home button, voice activation, or squeezing the phone’s sides.
The phone is water and dust resistant, and supports fast charging. You can get 7-hours of battery life from just 15 minutes of charging.
Though Google started the Pixel 2 presentation with poking fun at Apple, Google seems to also be aping Apple in a number of ways, right down to the silly color names like “Kinda Blue” and “Clearly White,” and, most importantly, the lack of a headphone jack on the Pixel 2. Google really wants you to buy their new wireless headphones. But if that’s not in the cards, each Pixel 2 comes with a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter.
The Pixel 2 starts at $649 for the 64 GB version and comes in the colors “Kinda Blue,” “Just Black,” and “Clearly White.”
The Pixel 2 XL starts at $849 for the 64 GB version and comes in just “Just Black” and “Black and White.” At least that last color is relatively normal-sounding.
As a special limited-time bonus, if you pre-order a Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, you’ll get a free Google Home Mini speaker. Pre-order now, and you can expect the phones to ship on October 17.
Google has updated their Daydream mobile VR headset with a wider field of view. It comes with a controller that can be stored in the headset when not in use, as well as a removable head strap.
The new Daydream View is compatible with a number of recent Android phones, including the Pixel 2, the original Pixel, the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, and Note 8, and the Moto Z and Z2.
It’s slightly more expensive than the original Daydream headset at $99 and comes in 3 oddly named colors: Charcoal, Fog, and Coral.
Google has removed the headphone jack from their Pixel phones, so of course they’re making their own wireless headphones, too.
Dubbed the “Pixel Buds,” the 2 earbuds are actually connected to each other by a short cable so they hang around the backside of your neck.
The Pixel Buds seem to be a very good way to utilize Google Assistant. The right earbud has a touch pad that you can hold your finger on to activate Google Assistant and ready it for voice commands.
You can use the touch pad to control music playback by swiping it to control the volume or tapping it to play and pause your tracks.
The Pixel Buds have a 5-hour battery life, and the included case is a charging case that can provide up to 24-hours of battery.
Probably the neatest feature of the Pixel Buds using it with Google Translate. When paired with a compatible Android device, the Pixel Buds can translate from 40 different languages in real-time. You use the headphone’s microphone to say your phrase in your own language, and the Android phone will translate it for you, playing it through the phone’s speakers. Then the person you’re speaking to can speak into the phone, and the translation will play directly into your Pixel Buds.
The Pixel Buds will retail for $159 and release in November.
Finally, there’s this odd little gadget. The Google Clips is an AI-powered camera. The idea is that it will automatically take photos and videos based on what the AI deems to be interesting.
It features a f/2.4 aperture lens capable of viewing 130-degrees angles. It can clip on to basically anything, to capture moments wherever you deem fit. You can also manually take photos with the built-in button, as well as link it with Android 7.0 and higher devices.
I’m not exactly sure how useful this will end up being. It honestly comes off sounding like a weird spy camera, but if you’re into this sort of thing, it will retail for $249. There is not a current set release date for the camera.
And that’s about it for the Pixel 2 event. That was a surprisingly large line-up, but Google seems to be taking the hardware game more seriously than ever. And they’re being smart about it by utilizing their data and information technology to power Google Assistant. I guess with all that data Google probably already has on us to bring us these conveniences, we can be considered part of the family, too.