Google will ramped up up its consumer electronics strategy Tuesday when it announced new gadgets at an event in San Francisco.
The products included new smartphones and an internet-connected personal-assistant for the home similar to Amazon’s Echo speaker. All are intended to showcase Google’s software and online services. Google makes most of its money from online software and digital ads. But it’s putting more emphasis on hardware as it faces rivals like Apple, Amazon and Samsung. Julie Ask at Forrester Research says new devices could help Google keep its services front and center in the battle for consumers’ attention.
Here’s what you need to know about Google’s new products:
Google is promoting its new Home smart speaker as a way to access Google’s knowledge — hands free.
It will suggest the best way to get places, thanks to Google Maps, or find answers from other sources, such as Wikipedia. A feature called My Day will also offer a summary of your upcoming day. You’ll need to give Google permission to activate that.
Amazon, Apple and Microsoft all have variations of such assistants.
Home will work closely with other Google devices. For example, if you have a Chromecast streaming device, you can use Home to control video on your TV. The feature will be limited at first. In some cases, Google will have to fine tune the software to work with specific services. Netflix will be one of the first to work, so you can simply ask Google Home to start the Netflix show “Orange is the New Black.”
Home will be available for almost $130 and come with six months of YouTube Red, a $10-a-month ad-free subscription. Orders start Tuesday; Home will be in stores on Nov. 4. The cylinder-shaped Echo costs $180, though Amazon also sells a smaller version shaped like a hockey puck that sells for $50.
The Echo is an internet-connected speaker featuring a voice-activated digital assistant. It’s moving into more homes and lessening the need to find information on Google’s search engine.
As a counterpunch to Amazon, Google has built a similar two-way speaker that it simply calls “Home.” It will be able to perform many of the same tasks as Echo, including playing music and fielding questions about everything from the weather to what’s playing at the local theater. Google Home will also be able to control lights, appliances and other devices around the house, assuming you’ve installed “smart” versions of them.
Google teased the Home device at a technology conference in May.
Google is betting that the knowledge that it has gained while running the world’s dominant search engine will make the computer-powered assistant in Home smarter than Amazon’s Alexa in the Echo, which has been on the market since 2014.
If you’re feeling creepy about a speaker listening to your conversations, Google says you can turn the microphone off.
Google is updating its Chromecast video-streaming device for watching Netflix and other online video on big screens.
The new device, Chromecast Ultra, will support a higher-resolution format called 4K. That’s a feature already offered by larger, more expensive streaming devices such as the $100 Amazon Fire TV. Ultra will cost about $70.
Chromecast’s low price has won over a lot of households. But you need a companion phone to play, pause and fast forward video, disrupting email, Facebook and other tasks you might want to do while watching TV.
Google is facing competition with low-end devices. Roku just announced a $30 Express model that’s about the size of a finger, while Amazon just updated its $40 Fire TV Stick. Both of those devices come with a remote, making them suitable stand-alone gadgets. But neither streams in 4K.
Google wants to improve Wi-Fi in the home by creating its own router.
The company says people use internet differently now, with games, video chatting and more on various devices throughout the home. The new Google Wi-Fi system will be modular — just add new components based on how your home and rooms are shaped. Software will help manage the various access points for you as you move around.
It will cost almost $130 for the main device. A three-pack for larger homes will cost about $300.
Google has unveiled its own virtual-reality headset, called Daydream View.
It will differ from other headsets like Samsung’s Gear VR in having a companion motion controller and compatibility with a wide range of phones, including Google’s new Pixel phones.
Daydream is a challenge to more sophisticated systems from Facebook’s Oculus business, HTC and Sony — as well as to Google’s own Cardboard effort.
Cardboard is cheap — available for as little as $15 — but it doesn’t offer much control over VR environments beyond pushing a button on the headset as you move your head. The new wireless motion controller for Daydream can function like a fishing rod, a steering wheel or a pointer to permit more sophisticated VR experiences.
Although Google will make its own Daydream headset, it plans to share design guidelines with other manufacturers.
Google says 50 partners are bringing apps and games to Daydream, with more on the way. Google services such as photos, YouTube and Street View maps will also come to Daydream.
The unveiling came at a Google event in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Daydream View and the controller will be out in November for $79.
Google is stepping up the marketing of its new Pixel phones, and will offer them through Verizon as well as Google’s own online Play store.
Previously, Google phones have largely been limited to online orders.
The new phones will come in two screen sizes — 5 inches and 5.5 inches. The smaller one will cost about $650, with orders starting Tuesday; the larger version will go for about $750.
Google says the camera on Pixel phones will be “excellent.” Pixel owners will also get unlimited storage of photos at full resolution. Others get unlimited storage at high resolution of up to 16 megapixels; and anything sharper than that gets reduced in quality to qualify. However, Google’s Pixels cameras are 12 megapixels, so they would have qualified under the regular plan anyway.
The phones will be the first ones compatible with Google’s upcoming Daydream virtual-reality system.
Google, of course, already provides the Android system software that powers more than 80 percent of the world’s smartphones.
The new push pits Google against a familiar foe in Apple and its iPhone. But it also poses a new threat to Samsung, the biggest maker of Android phones.
[Source:-Los Angels Daily News]