Google Just Made A HUGE Announcement

Photo: Courtesy Google.
Today in San Francisco, Google unveiled what's next for the company — and what it means for you.

For the first time, Google created a phone from the ground up, just like Apple, and in fact, showed that it's ready to take on the smartphone leader. But that's not all. Google unveiled this new pair of phones, useful products for the home, and tools that will make your life easier. Google doesn't want to just live inside your desktop anymore — it wants to be integrated into all aspects of your daily life.

Here's how it plans to pull that off.

Google Assistant

Google CEO Sundar Pichai kicked off today's presentation with the software that ties all of its new products together: Google Assistant. It's "a personal Google for each and every user," he said. Google's had various iterations of this technology in the past (namely, Google Now), but now it wraps all of its machine learning smarts into one voice-controlled package.

Assistant, which Google announced at its I/O developer conference in May, is a bit like Siri on steroids. You can ask it questions, conversationally, and it will serve up answers from the web, from the apps on your phone, from your calendar and contacts, and more. It can send messages for you, and integrates Google Maps so you can find out more information about a destination, or how to get there. Instead of having to dig up information in half a dozen different apps, it presents what you need in one place, easily accessed by your voice.
Photo: Courtesy Verizon.


And perhaps the day's biggest announcement, the Google Pixel, is centered around that Google Assistant experience. Like Siri on the iPhone, you access it with a long press of the home button, or through a key phrase ("Okay Google"). When you're in a thread with the Assistant, you can swipe upwards from the bottom of the phone to get more contextual information about what you're talking about, such as directions to a restaurant.

This is the first phone Google built 100% on its own, and the company made multiple jabs at how it's better than the iPhone: It doesn't have an "unsightly camera bump," for example, and thanks to unlimited, free remote storage, you'll never get one of those "storage full" pop-ups again. The latter alone sounds like bliss, but there's a lot more that makes this phone something to be excited about.

Available in 5-inch and 5.5-inch varieties, one of the phones's biggest selling points is its 12.3-megapixel camera, which, according to the camera analysts at DXOMark, is the highest-rated smartphone camera, ever (it scored three points higher than the iPhone 7). Features include an f/2.0 aperture lens; a smart burst feature for capturing action shots and selecting the best, clearest image; and HDR+, which is designed to provide clear, vivid pictures in even the most challenging situations, reducing blur and minimizing noise, too. It's also got image stabilization, so videos don't come out shaky, and incredibly fast shutter speed, so you don't miss any shots waiting for the camera to load. And, as we mentioned before, the phone comes with free remote storage so you can take as many photos as you want.

Other notable features include fast charging, which gives you seven hours of battery life after just 15 minutes of being plugged in, Google's new video-calling app, Duo, built-in, and a tool that automatically transfers everything from your iPhone to this phone so you don't lose a single app, photo, or iMessage.

It's available for pre-order now, with a price tag of $649 unlocked, or $27/month on Verizon.
Photo: Courtesy Google.

Daydream View

A Google event wouldn't be complete without talking about VR, though. Daydream is the company's mobile-friendly VR platform, and the Pixel is the first phone that will be Daydream-ready. But for watching that VR content, you need a headset: The DayDream View, which will begin shipping in November for $79.
Unlike other headsets, it's not inspired by gadgets, but rather what people actually wear. Thus, it's encased in soft, flexible, breathable fabric. It's completely wireless, and comes with a small remote control that stores neatly inside the headset when not in use. (This remote is how you interact on-screen with your virtual world, like a Wii controller.)

You'll be able to watch content from more than 50 partners including Netflix, Hulu, and HBO on the Daydream View, as well as Google Play Movies, YouTube, and Street View. You'll also be able to get a cool, exclusive Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them VR experience that lets you virtually become a wizard in J.K. Rowling's fictional world.

Google Wi-Fi & Google Chromecast Ultra

For your home, Google introduced three new products, including a small home router called Google Wi-Fi, and a new living room dongle for streaming content from your phone (and other sources), the Chromecast Ultra. Google Wi-Fi goes up for pre-order this November for $129. The goal is that you can use this device to ensure solid, even Wi-Fi coverage throughout your home. In conjunction with an app, it can intelligently resolve issues when they crop up, or let you control who has access to the network.

Chromecast Ultra is one of the smallest and cheapest set top box-type devices out there. You plug the $69 dongle into your TV, and it lets you stream whatever's on your iPhone or Android phone to the set. It also gives you access to hundreds of apps, TV shows, games, and more, basically turning any old TV into a smart TV for a fraction of the cost. What makes it Ultra is that now you can stream content in 4K.
Photo: Courtesy Google.

Google Home

Google finished off the day giving us a better look at Google Home, its answer to the Amazon Echo. Google Home has a speaker in its base so you can play music, and you can swap it out with one of six color combinations to match your home decor. With Google Assistant smarts inside, you can speak to it, asking questions, or use the device to manage your every day tasks and control other devices in your home. One useful feature is called My Day, which, like the president's daily briefing, gives you an overview of your day, from the weather and traffic, to upcoming appointments and reminders. If you've got multiple devices in the house "listening" for that "Okay Google" command, it's context-aware and will figure out whether the question is best answered by Google Home, or your phone.

And if you're creeped out by a device listening in all the time, it has a mute button that turns off its listening capabilities. It's available for pre-order starting today for $129, and ships November 4.


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