Earlier this month Google made a big announcement about a new line of devices that were either designed to expand upon their existing hardware, or start something brand new. Each of these items on their own are fairly impressive, but it is their potential to work together that is exciting.
The Pixel and Pixel XL
Google is making a phone optimized for its own Android operating system. While the manufacturing is being handled by HTC as many other Android phones have been in the past, Google has packed in a high end camera and many other premium goodies. It’s worth mentioning that this phone is only available in stores at Verizon, which is unfortunate if you have any other service. However, if you order directly from Google online, it can be unlocked. It’s also worth mentioning that ordering from Google online means that you do not have all of Verizon’s utilities loaded onto the phone (some call this “bloat-ware”), but wherever you get the phone from, all OS updates will be handled directly by Google and not by your cellular carrier. The starting price for the Pixel is $649.
Google is getting into the virtual reality scene. Much like Oculus Rift or Samsung’s Gear VR, this virtual reality operates with a headset and a remote. You’ll clip in your Google Pixel phone, then watch movies on big screen, or navigate through games and applications, experience news broadcasts, and so on. The best part is the price of admission. The Oculus Rift will set you back almost $800 for a full kit. If you already have the Google Pixel phone, the Daydream kit is $79, which is great for anyone wanting to get started on virtual reality.
An improvement on Google’s Chromecast, this upgrade features 4K playback, faster performance, better wifi download speeds, and HDR playback. While there isn’t a ton of content out right now that supports this resolution or HDR playback, services like Netflix are beginning to make that content available. For more info.
Like Amazon’s Echo speaker, the Google Home is a wifi connected speaker that allows you to control music, search the internet, and even control certain smart appliances. It will utilize Google Assistant, which is what allows it to reach out to other devices and carry on a conversation with you.
If you’re going to use phone, virtual reality headset, TV entertainment hub, and a connected speaker, you’ll need to have a strong wifi connection in your home. Google will be releasing a wifi router for the home, which can either be used with a single wifi router, or with three to create a wide ranging mesh network in your home. Other companies like eero offer similar solutions, and Google offers a similarly simple setup. For more info.
This is the software that could tie a lot of this hardware together. Apple has Siri, Amazon has Alexa, and Microsoft has Cortana. Google Assistant has the added benefit of offering a very wide variety of conversational information. You might ask for your flight status, followed by the local weather of wherever you’ll be landing, followed by a request to translate “where’s the bathroom?” into another language. Google Assistant handles it all. And because it works with the Pixel and Home, and supposedly with Google’s new Allo smart chat app, Google clearly believes that connectivity across all of your devices is important to create the same kind of data driven ecosystem that companies like Apple enjoy with their iCloud service.