The lowdown on Google’s ambitious consumer hardware launch

5 Oct 201717 Shares

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The Google Clips smart camera. Image: Google

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San Francisco played host to the Google hardware launch event on Wednesday (4 October).

Google has been funnelling cash into hardware for quite some time now, and we saw with its recent purchase of the HTC unit (which built its first Pixel phone) that it’s taking the steps seriously.

The company is aiming to compete with the likes of Apple and Amazon, both companies with a strong foundation in consumer hardware products. Hardware boss at Google, Rick Osterloh said the new suite of products “perfectly demonstrate our strategy of re-imagining hardware from the inside out”.

The new suite

Pixel 2 smartphone

The second iteration of the Pixel smartphone has a camera powered by Google’s computational photography and machine-learning capabilities, and you can now also take high-quality portrait shots with background blurs in both the front and rear cameras.

Google Assistant will also be playing a larger role in the Pixel 2. Google says it will eventually help users book tickets, buy flowers and control music playback and other home devices. Apparently, it will even help you set your alarm or turn off the lights in your house.

It comes in two sizes – 5in and 6in – and both phones are powered by Android Oreo. Google has also launched a range of cases, cables and headphones from more than 25 partners as part of its ‘made for Google’ programme to ensure they meet the company’s exacting standards.

Google Clips – a portable smart camera

This product aims to make getting spontaneous shots of family and friends easier. Ostensibly, it’s a lightweight, hands-free camera that helps you “capture more genuine and spontaneous moments of the people – and pets! – who matter to you”.

Clips uses a machine-learning algorithm called Moment IQ to “automatically” determine what photos you would like to take. Some people may view it as a nice addition to create new memories, others may feel that it’s an unnecessary and somewhat invasive piece of kit to introduce into the home.

Google Home Mini and Max

The Mini is a doughnut-sized Google Home speaker that can hear you even when there’s music playing in the background. It also comes in three colours.

Max is the more robust offering, with Smart Sound speaker intelligence that adjusts to wherever you place it in a room. Both products come with an always-listening Google Assistant element.

Pixel 2 and Daydream View

AR is becoming a big feature for Google, with new AR stickers coming with the Pixel 2, allowing users to express themselves with emoji-like stickers for every mood. In terms of VR, Google also announced a new DayDream View VR headset with high-performance lenses for better image clarity.

Pixelbook

The Pixelbook is a high-performance Chromebook with a sharp touchscreen display that can be used as a laptop or a tablet, and is the first Google laptop with Assistant built-in. Handily, it can also tether instantly with Pixel phones so users out of range of Wi-Fi can still get some work done.

Google Pixel Buds

These wireless earbuds provide five hours of listening time with a single charge, and the connection to Assistant means you can be told in-ear when you have a new message or email without checking your phone’s display.

Ellen Tannam is a writer covering all manner of business and tech subjects

editorial@siliconrepublic.com