This week, the biggest show in town was Google’s San Francisco hardware event, where it announced its range of new products, including the hotly anticipated Google Pixel 2 and Google Pixel 2 XL, the Google Home Mini, Google Home Max speaker, Pixelbook, Pixel Buds, Google Clips, and Daydream View. That’s a lot to roll out at once, but in the wake of the recent iPhone 8 release, it wasn’t unexpected that Apple’s sharpest rival would be pulling out a bigger dick before long.
The question on everyone’s lips, of course, is what precisely these new products do, especially the Google Pixel 2. Let me give you a rundown:
The Google Pixel 2 & Pixel 2 XL
Whilst the iPhone 8 famously shocked everyone with a $1000 price tag, Google prefers to price their products a bit more reasonably. The Pixel 2 is opening at $649, whilst the XL version comes in at $849. Still not exactly a snip, but when converted to GBP, it’s not a bank breaker for those with the means and tech-dedication.
That said, if you opt for the XL, you’ll be paying $200 (or GBP equivalent) for one-inch extra screen size. If you think that extra inch makes all the difference (*insert joke here*) then that extra outlay may be worth it. Seriously though, the extra inch is more a difference between the bezel-encrusted 2 and the edge-to-edge QHD OLED display of the XL (note: the 2 has that same OLED display but just isn’t edge-to-edge). That the 2’s bezels make it look soooo 2016 may mean more consumers opt for the more pricey XL.
In terms of features, we’ve got that ball-busting Snapdragon 835 processor, better display and even more super-duper camera than the original Pixel (it’s scored the highest ever rating from a smartphone camera by DXO Mark – 98). Google has followed Apple’s lead (no pun intended) in killing the headphone jack and phasing in their own ‘Pixel Buds’ to parallel Apple’s AirPods. Dear Apple, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Along with the choice of 64 or 128-gigabyte storage, the Pixel 2 and XL are also water- and dust-resistant. Though they don’t have wireless charging, as Google decided the charging speed wasn’t up to much yet, the appearance of the phone itself is killer.
There’s the choice of Clearly White or Just Black for both models. For the standard 2, you also have the option of Kinda Blue. For the XL, there’s the sexy AF Black & White design, which has a black glass stripe along the top, a white aluminium body, and a bright orange power button.
Before we move on, we need to talk about augmented reality.
AR Core, Google’s AR dev kit that was announced earlier this year, is all ready and waiting in the Pixel 2 and XL. Those killer cameras in the new phones are designed specifically to handle augmented reality like a boss.
At the event this week, Google gave a preview of its AR stickers that will be available on the Pixel 2 and XL, specifically its Stranger Things ones (ahead of the second series on Netflix no doubt). These stickers are alright, I guess, but they’re not exactly blowing my mind. That said, I expect the AR offering from Google to deliver as the content becomes available.
Google Home Mini
Just as the Pixel has muscled in on Apple’s recent iPhone 8 glory, so has it sought to piss all over Amazon’s bonfire. Hardly a week has passed since Amazon announced half a dozen new Echo products, Google announces its mini version of the Google Home speaker/virtual assistant.
That being said, the Mini, which competes directly with the Echo Dot, isn’t quite as good. It’s smaller, yes, but its speaker sucks. Despite Google’s insistence that it sounds better than you think (lol!) it’s simply not the same. Anyway, that doesn’t matter too much when you can link it up with any Chromecast-enabled speaker for wireless music playing.
It also doesn’t have the lovely flashy coloured lights of its bigger brother, with just three little white LEDs lighting up when the Mini is listening. That’s not terribly important though, especially seeing as it’s so cute. It looks like a lovely little pebble, and comes in grey, dark grey, and coral.
Despite its shortfalls, the Google Home Mini is a decent equivalent to the Echo Dot, particularly in terms of its aesthetics. It’s more attractive to have in every room of your house than the Dot, which can’t pass for anything other than what it is.
Google Home Max
From Mini to Max. At the same time as announcing the itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny Google Home Mini, it’s also brought out the whopping great tabletop speaker that is the Google Home Max. It’s bloody loud, too. 20 times more powerful than the Google Home, in fact. It also configures its sound to best suit your space using in-built AI and, of course, includes that all-important Google Assistant.
A whole new step up from the ultra-awesome Chromebook Pixel, the Pixelbook is cooler than a polar bear’s toenails. It features a 12.5-inch screen that rotates 360 degrees, allowing you to use it as a tablet or laptop. That’s not really an innovation in itself. My 3-year-old Lenovo does that. But unlike my shitty Lenovo, you can actually use it as a proper tablet with Google Play and all your favourite apps (including Snapchat).
Ooh, and the Pixelbook has a Pixelbook Pen that goes with it, although it doesn’t come with the laptop, and costs an extra $99.
You can get the Pixelbook with a Core i5 or Core i7 processor, up to 16 gigs of RAM, and up to 512 gigs of memory. It charges over USB-C, and the same cable can charge your phone. Oh, and it’s totally got Google Assistant, too.
The burning question is, ‘Are Pixel Buds better than the Apple AirPods?’
Well, they are a serious rival. Particularly as they have Google Translate built in, so you can listen to your French buddies chatting and have their words translated in real-time right in your ears. It’s like the Hitchhiker’s Babel Fish in real life. That’s cool, and Apple doesn’t have it.
They’re also easier to keep in your ears for their up to 5 hour charge period. And considering you may not really want to take them out because they’re so useful, that’s a good thing. Rather than dangling around in your ear in the hope that they’ll fit your ears and stay there, the Pixel Buds beat the AirPods by being designed to stay in place. The Pixel Buds have a small loop of cable that tucks into your ear folds, keeping them secure.
The most important thing about the Pixel Buds, however, is that they are – like everything else in Google’s new bag of treats, connected to Google Assistant. No different to the Siri-connected AirPods, except that Google is positioning its AI at the absolute centre of its entire strategy right now.
Finally, reports suggest that the sound of the Pixel Buds is really quite impressively rich and loud. Good good.
Oh my God, this is most definitely my favourite. It might be the creepiest one for personal data tin-hat wearers, but it’s the sort of tech I could really do with. You know those nights out that are so totally fun that you forget to take any photos? Or that moment that your baby did that mental face that would have made an immediate viral hit? Or, you know, whatever your photo opp priorities are…?
Well, Google Clips has you covered. It uses AI to identify moments you might like to capture and takes those shots for you. It captures videos and gifs, too, which then export to your phone over wifi. It’s the size of your palm so you do need to actively get it out to use it, but it’s still pretty cool. I’d like to have it the size of a brooch really, so I don’t need to remember to get it out and point it at all. But no doubt that will come.
I’ve always been a bit meh about the Daydream, but this 2nd gen model promises to be much better. It has a wider field of view, the headset is more secure, and it’s set to have a good array of fresh virtual reality content. Oh, and it comes in Coral, which seems to really be important to people.
So, what about you?
Are you impressed by Google’s latest bunch of products?
What’s your weapon of choice in the battle of the brands?
Let us know where your loyalties lie.