When thinking of Google, there are essentially two versions of the company that come to mind for most. Some immediately — and solely — link it to its iconic search box put front and center on google.com, while others who are more aware know about the ocean of products and services the Mountain View firm is deeply involved in. One thing that doesn’t often come to the average person’s mind, though, is hardware. Come the next few months, however, that may all but change…
Rumor has it that October 4 is going to be a huge day for the search giant; it should mark the date Google is to unveil the portfolio of devices it is rumored to be working on, and boy is it a hefty one.
For all we know, Google could be prepping up to nine new devices. That’s a lot of gear. And what’s more is that it looks like the majority (if not the entirety) of them will at least be branded — if not outright built — by Google itself, with very little external intervention. After all, formally organizing a new hardware team under the leadership of Rick Osterloh had to mean that they were going to do something serious hardware-wise; and about time too, I’d say.
Project Ara may have been axed, but there really is no shortage of new stuff. And while not all of it may be announced on October 4, we could still see all of these products on stores’ shelves come the holiday season. So what exactly are we talking about here? Let me recap for you:
“Pixel” and “Pixel XL”
First we have two new smartphones, the so called “Pixel” and “Pixel XL”, replacing the Nexus 5X and 6P. Manufactured by HTC, the two handsets are however said to be branded as the first truly “Google phones”, which would partially explain why Google is looking to ditch the historically partnership-based “Nexus” nomenclature. In an effort to further streamline the offering, both Pixel phones should look almost identical, save for size and a few specs (a la iPhone/iPhone Plus).
Speaking of, we’re talking either a 5″ or 5.5″ AMOLED display (FHD and QHD respectively), a quad-core, 64-bit CPU (perhaps the Snapdragon 821), 4GB of RAM, a 2770 or 3450mAh battery (Pixel and Pixel XL), 12/8MP cameras (with Sony’s IMX378 sensor, aka the 5X/6P’s sensor but with OIS), 32GB of storage as a base option, and then your usual batch of Bluetooth, a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, NFC, etc.
Unfortunately, it seems like front-facing stereo speakers will be no more, but considering that HTC is the manufacturer, something akin to the HTC 10‘s system shouldn’t be unexpected. Hopefully Pixel will also mean a cool light bar, but we’ll see about that. We are confident that these are set to be unveiled next month, so start saving.
There’s also a 7″ tablet built by Huawei, with 4GB of RAM. It’s been almost a year from the Pixel C’s launch, so we might expect this to come as a replacement, but my bet is that it will be a complimentary device. The 7-inch Nexus 7s have been pretty popular in the past, so despite the general lack of interest (or indeed market potential) for Android tablets, this could be somewhat of a success.
It just remains to be seen how Google is going to market this (it could be a Huawei-made, 3rd gen Nexus 7, but that would be weird, so our bet, if it exists, is that this too will be some sort of Pixel device) and what purpose it will serve. 7-inch tablets make for great media consumption devices, but 2016 phones (and 2017’s for that matter) are already plenty big to accommodate that need, so we’ll see whether that 4GB of RAM will be accompanied by a suite of specs that can make this a more capable device. It’s not clear if this will be part of October’s event, but it is nonetheless rumored to be available within the end of the year.
New Android Wear watches
Also on deck are two Android Wear smartwatches, again Google-branded. This time around, however, no third party OEM should be involved, with Google doubling down on its hardware efforts. Their main purpose will be to drive interest towards Android Wear up, as the tech behemoth is reportedly slightly unhappy with the platform’s first two years. With the introduction of the Apple Watch and a Samsung increasingly more focused on refining and broadening the compatibility of its Tizen platform, it’s no wonder why Google would want to make such a move, and a pair of self-made smartwatches (of unclear branding) could represent exactly what they need.
(Image via Android Police)
They would also be a conduit to fully exploit Android Wear 2.0’s potential, and made infinitely more interesting with the arrival of Google’s assistant. The so-codenamed “Angelfish” and “Swordfish” will allegedly be round and cover most people’s needs, with Angelfish being the “full on” device (LTE, GPS, heart-rate sensor, etc.) and Swordfish representing the cheaper, smaller, slightly more customizable option (with support for MODE watch bands). They would make for a sweet pair with the Pixel phones, so hopefully that’ll be the case.
The company’s attempt at making a name for itself among the more traditional OEMs is not just a catch-up game in the more widely used consumer electronics realm, but also one that seeks to stay ahead of the game. Sure, Amazon‘s Alexa — the device it is explicitly going after — has been here for some time now, but while being supported by a slew of third parties, it does not come even remotely close to the level of ecosystem integration Google is aiming for.
Google Home will again be a Google assistant-powered device, and one that integrates with all of the company’s apps and services you already have, use, and love. It’s a big bet as much as it is a first step, so we’ll have to see how it goes. Apple‘s presence is indeed looming (as is Microsoft‘s), so it’ll be interesting to see how things pan out. Home is already official, but its attendance at next month’s occurrence will clarify price and availability.
A 4K Chromecast
There’s not much that needs to be said about this device, which is said to come under the name of either “Chromecast Plus” or “Chromecast Ultra”. Considering that 4K TVs are quickly becoming more and more broadly available (and at increasingly cheaper prices), it only makes sense for Google to step up the game and take advantage of it; hopefully keeping the price low and the device easy to use, colorful and Googley as ever.
A VR headset
Remember what I just said about Google being ahead of the game? With this device — of which one possible name is “Daydream View” — the company is likely aiming to go even one step further, granting it a solid lead in what seems to be an increasingly bigger trend that could radically change things such as gaming and media consumption, among others.
Google put much emphasis on Daydream, its dedicated mobile VR platform baked right into Android Nougat, and its scope is to make VR universally accessible (once capable phones are cheap enough) and useful (with no restricting cables and other gear you need to tether to, like on the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift), so this will likely be a big point of focus during next month’s event. Watch out.
The Chromebook Pixel 3
Now, this one’s actually a bit of a fantasy, but considering Google’s rather sudden and mysterious discontinuing of the Pixel 2 last week, it could be that the firm has a new model ready to unveil up its sleeve. There’s no strong argument to support this — nor any rumor — but considering that Chrome OS has just started supporting Android apps (meaning that machines running it have become infinitely more capable all at once) it would be stupid for them not to have a flagship product to best showcase this.
Sure, there’s plenty of other Chromebooks out there, but if there’s anything that can be made of this post is that Google’s hardware team is working aggressively, and it’d be a shame (other than a bit weird), among all these new Pixel devices, not to have a new iteration of the one that started it all. Hopefully Google agrees. That all assumes that Chrome OS isn’t dying.
Software and hardware integration is something I have long called for at Google, and I honestly can’t wait to see what they are up to. So far, its only two entries have suffered an either abnormally high price (the two Chromebook Pixels) or an underlying half-baked, “last-minute” software (the Pixel C), so it’s been hard to truly judge what a 100% Google experience is like. Hopefully these new products will give us a better sense of how Google is envisioning the future, and indeed show what they’re capable of. Get ready.