Ah, autumn: the smell of pumpkin spice, the changing of the leaves, and a whole heap of new gadgets from your favorite hardware-makers. Today, Google added to that pile with a new line of Pixel devices, unveiled at a media event in New York City. There’s a new generation of Pixel phones, a tablet called the Pixel Slate, a new smart home device with a screen, and a fresh way to freak out telemarketers.
Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL
When Google started making smartphones in 2016, it showed the best of what Android phones could be. The first-generation Pixel quickly became one of our favorite phones, rivaling the best from Apple and Samsung. Today, Google continued that trend with two new flagships: the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.
Google has made all of the requisite upgrades here: bigger displays, better cameras, and better processors. The phones come with OLED displays, and the screens are each a little bigger than before: 5.3 and 6.3 inches, respectively, up from 5 and 6 inches on last year’s phones. The plasticky backs have been replaced with matte glass to support wireless charging, and there are a few new colors too. No more tuxedo white-and-black, but there is a delightful new shade called Not Pink.
But it’s what’s inside that really counts here. Google’s expertise in AI software has refined every part of the Pixel, especially its photo-taking capabilities. The front-facing camera now consists of two wide-angle, 12-megapixel camera lenses, better for wide-angle selfies. Thanks to some smart software and Visual Core, a co-processor that Google developed with Intel, these cameras can do way more than before: features like Photobooth capture hands-free selfies, Night Sight takes better shots in the dark, and Top Shot finds the best still in a motion photo.
There’s also a new security chip, called the Titan M, inside the Pixel 3. It’s the same chip Google uses in its own data centers, which means something approaching enterprise-level security lives on the smartphone. Pixel 3 starts at $799; upgrade to the Pixel 3 XL for $899. That price includes a pair of USB-C headphones, and an adapter for a traditional headphone jack (something Apple left out of its new iPhones). There’s also a special dock, the $79 Pixel Stand, that can wirelessly charge the phone while propping it up like a smart display. The new phones will start shipping on October 18.
What do you get when you cross a phone, a tablet, a laptop, and Google software? You get something like the new Pixel Slate. (Also known as a… phabtop?) Google’s first Chrome OS tablet is meant to compete with Apple’s iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Line. It has a 12.3-inch display and the highest pixel density of any device in this category, which will make your Netflix binges really shine. It also has front-facing speakers and a redesigned camera that’s optimized to fit everyone in the frame when you make a video call.
To turn it into a workstation, pair it the detachable Pixel Slate keyboard. It has round, backlit keys, recalling the aesthetic of a typewriter. It connects to the Slate via a magnet connector and draws power from the tablet’s internal battery. It also works with the Pixelbook Pen, which Google debuted last year. The Pixel Slate starts at $599—but that doesn’t include the keyboard ($199) or the pen ($99)—and some configurations will drive the cost up as high as $1,599.
Amazon has its Echo Show. Facebook has its Portal. Now, Google has its own smart display: the brand-new Home Hub. The 7-inch display hovers over a stand that’s meant to sit on your kitchen counter, or your nightstand, or really anywhere in your house you’d like to see and hear your Google Assistant. Use it as a kitchen gadget, surfacing recipes or setting timers, or as an extra screen to watch YouTube videos. (Anyone who buys Home Hub will also get six months free of YouTube Premium.) You can look up directions, check your calendar, or even call an Uber, thanks to integrations with some third-party apps. When it’s idle, the Hub can display photos from the Google Photos app, like a digital picture frame.
Best of all? There’s no camera here, so you won’t feel quite as squeamish leaving it in your bedroom. And at $149, it’s way cheaper than either the Portal or the Echo Show.
Remember Duplex, the uncannily human-sounding robot that Google showed off at its I/O conference this summer? Today, Google gave Duplex its stripes: The AI tool will become available to people with Pixel phones in four cities by the end of this year.
When it launches, Duplex will introduce itself as a bot—“I’m Google’s automated booking service so I’ll record the call”—and work mainly with restaurants to make reservations. Google sees this as the future of its Assistant, a nimble AI that can schedule appointments, book tables, or even screen phone calls. (Today, Google showed how Duplex could fend off robocalls and telemarketers.) It’s also a good reason to buy a Pixel phone, for those who see Duplex as a convenient offering. But it also marks a shift in consumer AI, and the first time our phones will be able to speak for us in a way that’s passably human.
It didn’t get any stage time—not even a mention!—during Tuesday’s big show, but Google also released a new Chromecast. It still costs $35 and still supports 1080p streaming (the $69 Chromecast Ultra can handle your 4K and HDR streaming needs), but the 2018 Chromecast introduces support for faster 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. Other than a new matte finish instead of the 2015 version’s glossy sheen, that’s the only update.