What to expect from Google’s October 4 Pixel and hardware event
Google’s big October event is tomorrow, and rumors suggest we’ll see a ton of new hardware unveiled, including new Pixel smartphones running stock Android (replacing the Nexus lineup of devices). The event will also tell us more about Google Home, the Amazon Echo competitor that Google previewed at I/O earlier this year, including likely when you can get your hands on one.
Here’s a breakdown of what we can expect, including some of the more out-there possibilities that haven’t already been leaked to the extreme.
Google Pixel and Pixel XL
Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones are two of the worst-kept secrets in tech right now, and will be more Google-owned than any Nexus devices before them (though HTC is said to be the supplier behind the scenes). The Pixel and Pixel XL will have similar specs, but the display on the standard version is 5-inches, while the larger XL will have a 5.5-inch screen.
As you might expect, these will have the latest and best in terms of specs, including a new Snapdragon 821 processor from Qualcomm, 4GB of RAM to power the OS and apps, and a full 1080p HD screen on the Pixel, plus a 2,560 x 1,440 or 2K display on the XL. Both will have 12-megapixel cameras and fingerprint scanners for access security.
It sounds like buyers hoping for a Nexus-style bargain like in the early days of the program are out of luck – reports beg the beginning price at $649 for these babies. Rumors suggest financing programs, similar to Apple’s own instalment purchase plans for its iPhone, might help ease the burden for buyers.
I’d be willing to accept premium pricing on these as long as they can deliver industry leading performance in all respects: Nexus never really set the bar for other Android makers so much as struck the best value point, so it’d be great to see Google really stretch its legs in terms of showing what Android can do at the top of the market.
Almost overnight, Alexa became the gold standard in terms of voice assistants in the home, and so Google was bound to try to recapture some momentum there, especially given its early adoption of the “Ok, Google” voice command interface. Home is that product, a speaker with a vaguely air freshener-esque aesthetic, but with Google Assistant on board to field queries and take commands.
The $129 anticipated price tag for Home would put it in line with Amazon’s offerings, shy of the Echo but above the Dot, but the Bluetooth-enabled device has some additional advantages, since it ties into your Google account, and since it’s a Cast-ready device that can stream content from your iOS and Android apps out of the box.
Home got a preview at I/O earlier this year, but we’ll hopefully find out when it ships tomorrow, and maybe get some more details on how it ties with Assistant on your phone and in Allo, too.
Google’s minimalist approach to the TV streaming category continues with this rumored evolution of the Chromecast, which is said to support 4K video streaming and potentially also HDR. It’s reported price will be $69, putting it still well under competitors like the latest Apple TV.
This minor update to the Chromecast is a further continuation of Google’s light-handed approach to streaming; basically, they’re enabling basic tech improvements, while leaving the content/navigation/interface to the smartphone devices users are already more comfortable with to begin with. Adding 4K is a way to address some market demand inexpensively and early, which is smart on Google’s part.
Google has already revealed that its new VR platform, Daydream VR, is built right into Android 7 (Nougat), for devices that have the specs to support it. But a key ingredient for Daydream will be hardware headsets and controllers for the VR experience.
The word on the street is that Google will unveil a first-party Daydream VR headset and controller, to set the stage for third-party options to follow. Or it might just unveil the first tangible partner products for this platform. Either way, we’ll hopefully get an update on Daydream and how we can start using it – this could be the next big moment for consumer VR, if it gets included in enough devices next year and OEMs do what they can to support it.
Google already has OnHub routers, but it’ll introduce a new router device at the event tomorrow that’s designed more to be the anchor of an extensible network for whole-home coverage, reports suggest. This $129 device will be able to pair up with others to form a flexible, simple to use and configure extended network, similar to devices like the Eero.
OnHub’s whole purpose was to provide a dead simple router experience for end users, with some additional perks thrown in for users based on Google’s overarching product offerings. Making a new, low-cost modular option that complements the existing lineup sounds like a good idea, but the price point and nature of this rumored makes it seem like it could actually be rolled into Google Home and offer the same convenience plus speaker and assistant features. Still, it seems more likely it would live alongside that device as a separate offering, at least for now.
Lots of signs, including tweets by Android and Chrome SVP Hiroshi Lockheimer, suggest we’ll see a major rethinking of Android at this event. This will probably be more than just a point update (we just got Android 7.0, after all) and will instead be a reconfiguration of the product to do more than just power smartphones.
Android already powers a lot of devices beyond smartphones, but Google will be looking to make that more apparent, and direct it along those lines in a more concentrated and effective fashion. Also, we could see the debut of the so-called Andromeda Android hybrid OS, which incorporates some features of Chrome OS and could make Android more suitable for desktop working environments.
We’ll be live from Google’s event tomorrow, so you can follow along as all the news arrives right here on TechCrunch. This could well be the biggest day ever for Google hardware thus far, so it should be well worth it to tune in.