Google pitted itself against smart home rival Amazon and hardware newcomer Facebook with the launch of a new Home Hub, which it unveiled alongside a new Pixel smartphone with beefed up camera and software capabilities.
The new $149 Home Hub features a 7-inch display and is the company’s answer to Amazon’s Echo Show and Facebook’s recently launched Portal device, creating a trio of smart screens vying for space on consumers’ countertops.
Integration with Google Assistant means Home Hub users will be able to use voice controls to navigate Google services including search; YouTube; Google Photos; calendar; and maps, with responses displayed on screen. The device will also come with compatibility for music services including Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio, along with a new smart home dashboard which lets users control all the connected devices in their home.
But, unlike the competition, Google decided to forego camera capabilities, citing privacy concerns among users.
“We consciously decided to not include a camera on Google Home Hub, so you feel comfortable placing it in the private spaces of your home, like the bedroom,” the company explained in a blog post.
Pretty as a Pixel
It seems Google instead channelled that energy into an updated camera on its new 5.5-inch Pixel 3 and 6.3-inch Pixel 3 XL smartphones.
While the phones retain a single 12.2MP rear camera, the company added a second front 8MP camera with a wide angle lens to create a broader field of view for group selfies. It also introduced a slew of camera software upgrades including Super Res Zoom to produce better detail in zoomed-in shots, and Night Sight to improve colour and brightness in low-light images without a flash.
Other updates to the Pixel include the introduction of new artificial intelligence features from Google Assistant, including the ability to screen calls. Now, when users get calls from unknown numbers they can opt to have Google Assistant answer the call for them to ask who is calling and why before deciding to pick up. A transcript of the exchange will appear on Pixel’s screen in real time.
Google also launched a new wireless charging dock for Pixel ($79), which essentially turns the phone into a Home Hub with the ability to answer questions, and play videos and music via Google Assistant.
The Pixel 3 and 3 XL will come in three different colors: white, black and light pink. Pixel 3 pricing starts at $799 and 3 XL $899 with a storage configuration of 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage.
As before, Verizon will be the sole US operator partner for Pixel 3, though Google will also offer an unlocked version of the phone.
Google rounded out its launch event with the introduction of Pixel Slate, its first tablet to run on Chrome OS instead of Android.
The new two-in-one features a 12.3-inch display; a wide angle selfie camera; front facing speakers; and a detachable backlit keyboard (sold separately for $199). Slate comes with four different memory and RAM configurations at price points ranging from $599 to $1,599.