Google has spent the past few years diversifying from its core business as the world’s biggest search engine. From services such as YouTube and Gmail to the Android operating system, Google’s software products have been as varied as they are game-changing.
Now, Google’s latest move is into hardware. At their recent ‘Made By Google’ event, the company announced a range of new hardware products, including their very first smartphone built in-house. With products that are designed to connect you to media, communication and information like never before, Google’s new range represents an intriguing development for the technological world.
The Pixel smartphone
The ‘Pixel’ smartphone is the biggest news of all, becoming the first new Google phone in six years without the Nexus branding. It represents the final step in the evolution of Google’s smartphones – creating a genuine rival to Apple’s iPhone.
With the 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL on offer, the phone boasts an all-metal unibody, Full HD AMOLED display (Quad HD on the XL), a Snapdragon 821 processor, and what Google claims is the highest-rated smartphone camera ever made. The latter is a 12.3MP lens with the ability to shoot 4K video, and it comes with unlimited photo and video storage on Google Drive.
On the back of the phone is the Pixel Imprint fingerprint sensor, which debuted on last year’s Nexus phones. It can be used to unlock your phone, authorise purchases and even to swipe down and see your notifications.
Google’s new flagship also boasts 13 hours of typical battery life (14 for the XL), and the ability to charge your phone with seven hours of battery life in just 15 minutes. Charging and connectivity comes from the latest USB Type C connector, as well as a standard 3.5mm headphone jack for those feeling put out by Apple’s omission on the new iPhone 7.
These premium features come at a premium price, with the 32GB Pixel starting at a hefty $1,079 – iPhone-level money. But with all the aforementioned features, and Android 7.1 installed out of the box, the Pixel could well be worth it.
Daydream View VR headset
To go with the new Pixel phone, Google has also announced the Daydream View VR headset. A fabric and textile virtual reality headset, the Daydream View and its accompanying remote let you slot your smartphone it and experience games, movies and TV in virtual reality – wherever and whenever you feel like it.
Google also announced their latest addition to the Chromecast line-up – the Chromecast Ultra. An upgraded version of the regular Chromecast, the Ultra also plugs into your TV’s HDMI port and allows you to stream 4k Ultra HD video and HDR-quality images to your TV.
Using the Chromecast app, you can stream from just about any mobile device – including both iOS and Android – as well as from any computer using the Chromecast web app. The Chromecast Ultra is dearer than the Chromecast or Chromecast Audio, at $99, but is well worth it for an increasing number of Aussies whose internet speeds allow them to watch 4K media.
Google also announced two other products, neither of which will be coming to Australia at this stage. The first is Google Home, a voice-activated speaker which allows you to ask questions of the inbuilt Google Assistant – an upgraded version of the company’s voice search software.
Google Home lets you do just about anything with Google’s services that you’d do on your phone or computer – search for anything and everything, play music from one of several online streaming services, set calendar reminders, and much more.
The second product not coming down under is Google Wi-Fi, which is essentially a home Wi-Fi booster with some clever extra features. By controlling it from your smartphone you can turn the device on or off, pause Wi-Fi on certain devices, manage security and data encryption, and even prioritise certain devices on your network.
As you might expect, you can link multiple Google Wi-Fi devices together to create a full-house Wi-Fi setup far superior to a single router. The inbuilt Network Assist software also works to transmit data on the optimum signal for your device and location, which optimises your connection no matter what you’re doing.
The future – Made By Google
Google has made a big step in a new direction with their Made By Google product range. In one fell swoop, the company has introduced a top-of-the-line smartphone, an affordable VR headset to compete with the likes of Samsung and Oculus, and a swathe of products designed to create a fully connected smart home within Google’s own domain.
The company’s vastly expanded hardware range is a sign of its growing ambition. Google not only wants to be the provider of all your online services, but to connect your life to the online world in ways you didn’t even know you wanted.
With more and more technologies in all walks of life becoming dependent on software and internet connectivity – a phenomenon often known as the Internet of Things (IoT) – Google’s bold step into the hardware market signifies a company which wants to be at the forefront of the digital revolution in every way possible. It’s an exciting development for consumers, and most of all, it’s a sign – both exciting and ominous – of things still to come.