Unlike Apple or Samsung, Google decided to go with a sensible virtual event to showcase its new devices that will be “helpful to people, in both big and small ways, feels more important than ever”. The focus is on entertainment and better features on Pixel phones. The new Chromecast with Google TV promises to change the way we discover and watch shows while Nest Audio is about making home audio sound crisper. Then there is the new Pixel phones, which come with a lot of helpful features rather than just spec bumps.
How much and when?
Nest Audio: Available for $99.99 online at the Google Store and other retailers in the US. Canada and India will get it on October 5. Here, you will be able to buy it on Flipkart and at other retail outlets.
Chromecast with Google TV: Available in the US for $49.99 and in more countries by the end of the year.
Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5: Pixel 4a (5G) (upwards of $499) will be available in Japan on October 15 and eight other countries starting in November. Pixel 5 (upwards of $699) will be available in eight countries starting October 15, and in the US and Canada starting October 29.
Pixel 5 has new camera tricks and software innovations, like ‘Hold For Me’ to help users who are put on hold
Google’s first Pixel device appeared in 2016 but compared to Apple and Samsung, its sales are lagging and has a small market share in North America. Will Pixel 5 change the course for the company? Going by the phone’s power of computational photography, there’s a good deal.
Pixel 5 comes with the same processor as the new Pixel 4a 5G — Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G, which is not the flagship Snapdragon 865 that we hear a lot about but it’s certainly a brisk performer that indicates one doesn’t need the top processor to turn in a strong performance. Also, it has helped to check the device cost.
There is a 12MP main camera and a 16MP ultra-wide camera on the rear while an 8MP selfie snapper greets the user. Last year’s Pixel 4’s zoom lens has been replaced with computational photography that the company is known for. On the front camera, there is the option to take portrait mode shots using the phone’s Night Sight mode. There’s nothing much to report in way of the display: A six-inch 2,340 x 1,080 OLED panel with a 90Hz refresh rate.
But there some good software additions. The company has added an AI-powered Portrait Light mode that lets you adjust the lighting on portrait mode shots, a Cinematic Pan for panning shots and three new stabilisation modes for shooting smoother video. There is also an Extreme Battery Saver mode to stretch battery life to up to 48 hours (minus a lot of features, of course).
The biggest “other” addition is the ‘Hold For Me’ feature. The software has a neat trick: It will stay on the line for you when you’re placed on hold. When someone picks up, you get alerted. In previous years, the company has introduced Call Screen to vet incoming calls and Duplex for restaurant reservations. And a few weeks back, Verified Calls arrived to tell the user who is calling and why. It’s particularly helpful when one calls service centre numbers.
In case you are missing out on watching same videos with friends or when it comes to helping family members walk through some tech steps, with Google Duo one will soon be able to share the screen. And on the Recorder app users will be able to select a portion of audio from a recorded file and then either share or remove from the larger audio file.
The new Chromecast with Google TV ups the streaming game by a zillion points
When Google’s original Chromecast appeared in 2013, it sort of revolutionsed TV viewing in many markets, like India where there is a huge base for older generation television sets. With a simple device suddenly people were able to cast videos from their phones. Here’s the biggest upgrade for the tiny device; it’s called Chromecast with Google TV.
The device comes with a physical voice-controlled remote that as a minimalist look but packs in a lot of functions. There are buttons for Google Assistant, YouTube, Netflix, TV power, back, home, mute and TV source; volume buttons are on the side. Plug the device to your TV’s HDMI port and also connect it to a power source.
From set-up to viewing. Unlike before, the new Chromecast has its dedicated interface — Google TV, which is a big step up from the barebones Android TV. Consider Google TV to be a skin on the operating system. The new interface is chock-a-block with content from services like Netflix and Prime Video (no Apple TV+ yet). There is 4K support as well as Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. The best part is that Google TV is compatible with more than 6,500 apps built for Android TV OS so you can access your favorites across gaming, fitness, education, music and more
Voice search is one of the big improvements. The user can have a chat with Google Assistant asking for particular things minus the usual staccato approach. Feel free to say: “Watch Seinfeld on Amazon Prime Video” or something like “show me Emmy Award-winning shows”.
The user can also tell Google TV the streaming apps that are being paid for, so those will appear first.
The introduction of the remote control is interesting because no longer the phone will be the remote. Yes, apps can be cast from your phone or tablet but now the focus is more on the remote.
When you are not watching TV, the ambient mode can take over, allowing the software to connect with Google Photos, showcasing your favourite images on the screen.
Know your Google TV terms
- Chromecast with Google TV: It’s the new device that can be used to stream videos — directly or through casting.
- Google TV: If one is talking about Google TV in tandem with Chromecast, it refers to the interface on the TV screen; the one you browse to find what you want to watch.
- Google TV (the app): Google Play Movies & TV, which you have on your phone to rent movies, will now be known as Google TV. It’s more of a branding change and the app will still allow you to manage your watchlist and recommendations.
- Android TV: This is Google’s main television operating system. Google TV runs on top of Android TV; it’s more of a layer on the operating system.
- YouTube TV: Meant for the US, this is Google’s live television streaming offering.
- Google TV (2010-2014): The original Google TV integrated the Android operating system and the Google Chrome web browser to create an interactive television overlay on top of existing online video sites. It no longer exists.
Nest Audio Google
Nest Audio — a smart speaker with more sonic smarts
Google is taking a rain check from 360 audio for a speaker that’s meant to be in the centre of the room. Nest Audio — Google’s new range of smart speakers powered by Google Assistant — has a direction to it. Musician-producer Mark Ronson believes that Google is pushing sound quality with the device. “It’s important that when it (songs) comes out of the speaker that people hear what I intended,” he said during the launch.
The Nest Audio is larger than the original Google Home and there are four LEDs underneath the fabric cover to offer visual signals when Google Assistant is listening or responding. There is also a mute switch on the back of the bread-loaf shaped offering.
The size makes it possible for the speaker to pack in a punch. There is a 75mm woofer, a 19mm tweeter, and three far-field microphones, which, according to Google, makes Nest Audio 75 per cent louder than the original Google Home and has a 50 per cent stronger bass response. The company says that there is a Media EQ feature which automatically tunes the device to whatever it is you’re listening to — music or podcasts.
It’s an interesting time for Google to come up with the smart home assistant as its rival — Amazon — has just revamped its Echo smart speakers, which now sport a spherical look. If you are planning to buy the Mi Smart Speaker, which is also powered by Google Assistant, wait for a few days as Nest Audio is coming to India.