New Nexus Phones, Chromecast 2, and Pixel C Tablet: All the New Gadgets Google Just Announced
Unless you’ve been living under a rock — or just don’t care — you’ve already seen the leaks for most of what Google announced at press event September 29, 2014. And there really weren’t any surprises. But there was a little more detail.
Here’s a recap of everything you missed.
As usual, part of what we saw here today recaps the updates to version 6 of Android’s operating system — now dubbed “Marshmallow” — announced at Google I/O in May. Features like its Now on Tap personal assistant, aka Google’s Siri competitor, and the rollout of Android Pay at the beginning of September are joined by essential improvements like supposedly longer battery life with a Doze mode, more finely-grained application permissions, fingerprint-scanner support and an in-phone app search.
Plus, we heard the usual “we’re-doing-fabulous” number spinning, including a total of 1.4 billion active devices around the world, many first timers and from emerging economies, boatloads of Chromebooks in the US educational system and 10,000 companies working with Android for Work.
Have a Nexus device? You’re in luck. Google will be making Android 6 available next week, but unless you’ve got a stock Android phone, you’ll have to wait until your carrier puts it through the grinder and delivers it to you.
Phones: Nexus 5X and 6P
Google expands from a single Nexus launch to two stock-Android flagship phones from different manufacturers. Of course, they’ll both ship with the latest version of Android, and Google spent time recapping how these phones take advantage of it.
The LG-manufactured Nexus 5X incorporates a 2,700mAh battery. It has dual front-facing speakers, a USB Type-C port for connecting and fast charging, and a fingerprint scanner (dubbed “Nexus Imprint”) on the back. It’s has 5.2-inch display, . uses a 64-bit processor and comes in Carbon Black, Quartz White and Ice Blue.
Its bigger brother, the 5.7-inch Nexus 6P with a quad-HD (2,560×1,440) resolution AMOLED screen, comes to us from Huawei. It’s 7.3mm thick, made of anodized aluminum with a sculpted back, and comes in Frost White, Aluminum and Graphite.
It incorporates a 12.3-megapixel rear camera with a 1.55-micron-pixel-pitch Sony sensor (that’s pretty big for a phone) and an 8MP selfie camera.
Google claims that the larger pixels, which allow for faster shutter speeds in low light, eliminates the need for optical image stabilization. (Sorry, no. The lack of image stabilization is a big miss to me.)
The camera uses laser-detection autofocus and has improved processing with an automatic HDR mode in low light. The camera also gets 240fps slow motion and 4K video; in contrast, the 5X does 120fps. It shoots 30fps bursts with a best-image selection capability, and in Marshmallow, double-tapping the power button launches the camera. We compare the 6P’s specs with the iPhone 6S and Galaxy S6.
Home theater: Chromecast 2.0 and Chromecast Audio
Google puts the phone at the center of your living room experience. Google foreshadowed today’s Chromecast announcements at its developer conference in May along with its Channels programming feed for Android TV, and today we saw not just the update to its HDMI-connected TV streaming stick, but the addition of a new device for streaming audio from any Android device to your Wi-Fi-connected speaker system. Both gain Spotify support.
Totally new, Google revealed Chromecast Audio. It looks similar to the other device, but comes with a 3.5mm, RCA or optical colored audio cable instead of HDMI. It works with existing Chromecast-capable apps and operates similarly to its video sibling. It streams “the highest-quality audio”, mutes notification tones and works with Android Wear. A guest mode allows friends to cast without connecting to your Wi-Fi and it can mirror any audio — including podcasts and audible books.
It will also cost $35.
Android tablet: Pixel C
The goal of the Pixel team is to guide “aspirational” device development. Google previewed the Pixel C, a 10.2-inch Android tablet — that’s slighly larger than the iPad Air series — which looks like Google’s entry into the tablets-for-work crowd. The “C” stands for “convertible.” Rather than a Nexus-branded model, which are manufactured by third parties, instead it’s part of the Google-grown Pixel line, heretofore consisting of just Chromebook laptops.
Specs include a 308 pixel-per-inch display — that’s higher resolution than Retina — with an Nvidia X1 quad-core processor (the same CPU that drives the Nvidia Shield line of products) and Nvidia Maxwell graphics processor, 3GB of working memory, and it has an optional magnetically attached keyboard (with an 18mm key pitch) that connects via Bluetooth and which charges inductively when it’s closed and attached to the tablet.
It has stereo speakers on either side as well as four microphones for far-field voice input. The Pixel C will be available by the end of the year starting at $500, plus $150 for the keyboard.
Services: Project Fi, Google Play Music, Photos
Following in the footsteps of many competitors, Google announced a family plan for its all-you-can-eat music service, Google Play Music. Six family members with individual accounts will be able to share for $15-per-month fee.
Google Photos gets three new features: shared albums with update notifications, the ability to privately label photos and search the labels (available this week), and the ability to display photos to your TV via Chromecast (this week on Android, soon on iOS).
You can share an album by clicking on the album link and clicking on a “plus” button; album sharers and subscribers are notified, and each photo has an attribution. This will be available later this year.