The 5-minute guide to Google’s Pixel 2 event

Google held a big event yesterday, as expected, and it showcased the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones – again, just as expected.

What you might not have expected are wireless earbuds that translate 40 languages on the fly, or a really tiny Google Home – and also a very large Google Home, too.

Google’s hardware event ran the gamut, from a high-end laptop to a tiny A.I. powered camera, but you don’t need to put aside a few hours to get the full run-through.

It’s all right here in our compact digest, and it’ll take you no more than a few moments to read. Here’s everything you need to know about from Google’s gadget extravaganza. Except when the search giant will finally bring their damn hardware to South Africa.

1) THE PIXEL 2 XL IS A STUNNER

The larger Google Pixel was the best of the pair the last time around, but now there’s a more pronounced difference between the two – and the Pixel 2 XL looks mighty fine.

Following the trend of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6, it features an extra-tall 18:9 display that takes up nearly the full face of the phone – it’s a flat Quad HD display like the G6 (with rounded edges), with bezel all around, but some slight curviness to the look. The two-tone look is a lot sleeker on the back, as well, even if the phone doesn’t have the same kind of pop as the Galaxy S8.

You’ll find a Snapdragon 835 inside with 4GB RAM, water resistance this time around (finally), 64GB and 128GB storage options (but no microSD support), and a 12.2MP back camera that promises to be even smarter and more impressive than last year’s. The asking price? It’ll set overseas buyers back upwards of R14,400, landing in stores in supported countries on 15 November.

2) THE PIXEL 2 IS… LESS STUNNING

Apple’s mantra with the iPhone 8 was pretty much just sticking with what worked before, and Google is all about that with the standard-sized Pixel 2. More or less, it follows the mould of the previous phone, which was just a hair underwhelming last year.

It still has a 5in AMOLED display at 1080p, but doesn’t see the same kind of all-screen redesign as the Pixel 2 XL. In fact, it packs a ton of bezel on the top and bottom, albeit now with front-facing stereo speakers. Water resistance is new, thankfully, and otherwise the specs look the same as the Pixel 2 XL.

The one big upgrade from the old Pixel, which is also in the Pixel 2 XL, are the touch-sensitive Active Edge sides, which let you squeeze to pull up the Google Assistant. But there’s an omission, too: the headphone jack is gone from both Pixel 2 devices. The Pixel 2 will be launching sooner: on 19 October at R11,300 for the 64GB model and R13,100 for 128GB. Look for it to show up in importer’s stores for a bit more than that soon afterwards.

3) THE HOME MINI IS SIMPLY ADORABLE

Amazon’s Echo Dot’s reign as the must-have connected home tech bargain of today will soon be matched by Google, thanks to the Google Home Mini.

It puts the full power of the Google Assistant into a much, much smaller package: a fuzzy, button-like disc. It has a few LED lights on top that double as touch buttons for adjusting volume and such, but otherwise it’s meant to be hands-free: just ask and the Assistant will assist. It’s priced at around R900 and due out on 19 October. If you can get it, this might make an essential stocking stuffer for Christmas.

4) GOOGLE HOME MAX GOES BIG

Not getting the kind of sound quality you want from the standard Google Home? Well, the Mini isn’t going to solve that dilemma – but the Google Home Max just might.

The Max is Google’s ultra-premium version, and it’s a big, hearty speaker with dual 4.5″ woofers, custom tweeters, and the right composition to keep the sound clear and stunning, the company claims. You can lay it flat or put it up vertically, and the speaker can automatically adjust the sound to fit the kind of space it’s in thanks to the AI-powered Smart Sound feature.

You can even pair two of them wirelessly for proper stereo output, but it’ll cost you: each one is priced at $399 (R5,450), and there’s already a waitlist for them. It’s not coming to South Africa yet, either.

5) GOOGLE BROUGHT SOME BABELFISH-STYLE BUDS

Apple’s got AirPods, and now Google has Pixel Buds. They’re not exactly like Apple’s untethered, free-floating earbuds, but they’re similarly designed to be the on-the-go earphone of choice for your high-end smartphone.

The Pixel Buds are connected by what looks like a simple drawstring, and they last five hours on a charge, with the charging case holding additional charges (like the AirPods).

But there’s a big, awesome upgrade here: real-time translation for 40 foreign languages via Google Translate. That sounds amazing. The Buds also have touch controls that let you tap and swipe to control your music away from your phone.

Google’s Pixel Buds launch overseas on 22 November at R2,900, and they’ll work with both Android and iOS phones, but the real-time translation will be exclusive to Android users.

6) THE PIXELBOOK IS NO MERE CHROMEBOOK

Technically, it is, we suppose: the Pixelbook is a Google-made laptop powered by ChromeOS. But this premium 4-in-1 shares little in common with the budget-minded Chromebook pack, which is why Google isn’t giving it the same kind of branding.

And it’s a beauty: it’s a laptop when you need the keyboard and a tablet when you don’t, measuring just 10mm thick, and it’ll pack power with Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, up to 16GB RAM, and as much as 512GB storage. It also packs a Quad HD LCD multi-touch display, which you can sketch on using Google’s new pressure-sensitive Pixelbook Pen.

That all comes at a price, naturally: the 128GB model goes for R18,000 with the 256GB version at R21,400, both available later this month (but not here. Aww). The 512GB version, meanwhile, will set buyers back R28,700, and they’ll have to wait ’til early December for that one.

7) GOOGLE CLIPS TAKES ITS OWN SHOTS

Most of us have a pretty brilliant camera with us at all times thanks to our smartphone, but Google Clips is something else: it’s an A.I.-powered, automatic camera designed to capture moments without any effort on your part.

It’s a tiny little doohickey that can sit on a shelf or clip to your clothes, and it’s trained to recognise familiar faces and capture what it believes to be interesting moments. In short: it’s for parents and pet owners, which Google honestly said is the target market for this first edition. Both still photos and short clips are then saved to your Google Photos account.

This one’s not quite ready for prime time: Google says it’ll be available “soon” in the U.S. for $249. It’ll work with Pixel phones, the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S8, and iPhone 6 and newer.

8) DAYDREAM GETS A WIDER VIEW

Google’s Daydream View VR headset was supposed to be phone-agnostic, supporting a wide array of handsets with Daydream software – yet Google just introduced a new one. And it’s going to be more expensive at R1,800.

Why? Well, it offers a wider field of vision, which should make VR experiences more immersive and expansive, plus the build looks a little smoother with a new kind of fabric exterior. Otherwise, it should act and feel much the same. It’ll be out on 19 October.

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1 Comment

  1. Ah, so much stuff. Do excuse the pun. I am certainly excited by all this and well, at times I am so torn between which company to give my hard-earned cash to. Google, Amazon or Apple maybe Microsoft or whomever makes the best tech for the right price. Take the decision to buy a smartphone for example. Some people are fiercely loyal to brands whereas I am purely motivated by curiosity and a sense of wonder at the possibility of thoroughly enjoying my new smartphone’s features. I have been on the iOS platform and I switched over to Android to venture out into the tinkerers haven and I was rather unsettled from the onset, and bewildered by the amount of choices I could make regarding settings and every nook and cranny regarding my smartphone. Here I have to decide whether I get to utilise the stock Samsung Calendar app or go with Google’s. Email, contacts app, messaging app (SMS), even Facebook Messenger handles SMSes on Android!?! Whaaa… Okay, now having choices is great, but this was a bit much too much for me. Okay, now there are AirPods, and EarPods or whatever and Pixel Buds and Home Pods (don’t know is that one is real or not…) and Google TV, Apple TV and Amazon TV all just vying to be your TV service of choice. Don’t get me started on the music, whoooooo… we certainly live in interesting times, especially when one must decide which product to go with and you must think long and hard about which product or service deserves your stash of cash. Right now I am not only trying to figure out which music streaming service to go with, and why and for how much. I will also do that for movie streaming services and then I must sit and decide whether to be heavily invested in a certain company’s app ecosystem, which to me is just imprisonment. Once you are locked-in then all that freedom you had in the beginning seems like a figment of one’s imagination as you try to switch to another platform or app ecosystem and it’s damn-near hard to leave all your purchases in the cloud of Apple and you want to move to Google’s drive in the sky.

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