Last week Google took over a conference center in San Francisco to announce a number of new offerings that it plans to launch by the end of the year. Now that the dust has settled, we can see what their announcements really mean for the mobile and tech industries. In front of a room of a hundred journalists, tech insiders, and friends, Sundar Pichai hosted his first event as Google CEO (surprisingly there was little to no mention of Alphabet during the event).
The event may not have been full of surprises, but it is always nice when rumored specifications and release dates are confirmed or revealed for the first time. There wasn’t a lot of groundbreaking news that came out of the event, but what did come out was a number of practical upgrades to current offerings. Pichai began the event by revealing a number of truly staggering statistics which help grasp how important Google is to the technological ecosystem. Android has 1.4 million users a month on average, which means that one fifth of the world has a phone running a version of the OS. He also proudly stated that 30, 000 Chromebooks are being activated every day. These statistics were attention grabbing, but everyone in attendance- and viewing online- were there for what came next; the hardware announcements.
Here are the top five stories to come out of the event:
1)Nexus 6P & 5X
Google is unique in the mobile world because it is not linked to a single manufacturer. The Nexus 5X is made by LG, while the Nexus 6P is made by Chinese manufacturer Huawei.
Google is calling the 6P its most premium phone to date. Upgraded features over the Nexus 6 include, a new front-facing camera and rear camera that can shoot 4K video, a new USB Type-C port which claims to charge a phone twice as fast as an iPhone 6 plus, and a new rear fingerprint sensor called the Nexus Imprint.
The Nexus 5X is positioned as the Nexus line’s affordable option, but still boasts most of the same upgrades as the 6P. It has two new cameras, the new charging port, and the fingerprint sensor on the rear of the phone. In addition the 5X also has a larger display and battery life than its predecessor.
Both phones are currently available for pre-order, with shipping dates set for the end of October. Initial reviews have been positive, but without the final version of Marshmallow running on the devices that were tested, it is unfair to produce a final verdict. The comparisons to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are inevitable, and it will be interesting to see if the two Nexus phones can reach similar pre-sale numbers.
2) Android Marshmallow
Android had already announced its sixth iteration operating system back in May, but its release date and a more polished understanding of its features were finally presented. The tastily titled Marshmallow, has begun rolling out on Nexus devices this week, with all others to follow shortly. The upgrade integrates a newer lock screen, fingerprint support, a new app drawer, Google Now On Tap, simplified permissions, among other features. The most anticipated feature would be Now On Tap which enables the integration of google searches and voice interaction into individual apps.
3) Chromecast 2 & Chromecast Audio
At a $35 the Chromecast 2 and Chromecast Audio come in as the most affordable pieces of hardware unveiled at the event.
This small fob connects to any TV via HDMI cable, and mirrors content from your Android phone through the Chromecast app. The Chromecast 2 is a welcomed upgrade of its first generation, as it can support the casting of thousands of more apps than its predecessor (eg. Netflix, Sling TV, Discovery, Google Photos, and DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket). Chromecast 2 enters into a crowded streaming media device marketplace to compete against Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and the Roku Streaming Stick.
In an interesting turn of events Amazon announced Friday that it would no longer be selling Chromecasts on its site. Losing the support of the world’s largest retailer may hurt the Chromecast 2’s sales, but Google is still very optimistic about its launch.
Although almost identical in design to the Chromecast 2, the functionality of Chromecast Audio is much different. Chromecast Audio is to music, what Chromecast 2 is to videos. You plug the device into an audio output source like an A/V receiver or a powered speaker and stream audio over WiFi from your phone. It doesn’t have many bells and whistles, but simplicity is one of its selling points. Some detractors may point to the fact that Chromecast 2 does everything that Audio does, and also has the ability to cast video. The only difference is that Chromecast Audio is able to transmit the audio at a higher quality because it does not have the excess strain of video. So if you are an audiophile who is looking for a way to seamlessly stream music over speakers, this could be the device for you.
Google’s final offering of the event was the Pixel C, an Android convertible tablet with a removable keyboard. This 10.2-inch tablet will run Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and is equipped with an Nvidia X1 processor and 3GB of RAM. At $650 the Pixel C is priced closer to a laptop than a tablet, and the jury is still out on whether or not it is worth the investment. To be judged as successful it will have to show that it can act as an all-in-one mobile device that can take care of all your computing needs. To make a splash in the market, the Pixel will need to combine the usability of a tablet and the productivity of a laptop.
5) Everything Else
New hardware took center stage at Google’s special announcement, but there were still some interesting supplementary services that were highlighted. Google Play Music and Google Photos both have updates to make sharing with family and friends easier. As well, the Chromecast app has announced a number of new applications and features to coincide with the Chromecast 2 launch. Another interesting topic discussed was Google’s own mobile network- Project Fi. Google Fi works by combining WiFi calling with a compatible cellular network connection. The announcement stated the Fi would now work with the two new Nexus phones as well as the older Nexus 6.
Google has been busy after changing its name to Alphabet, and this special announcement only affirmed this. Google is hoping that these new products- launched just in time for the holiday season- will be able to drive its end of year numbers.