Google unveils new Pixel phones, speakers, futuristic headphones


Google has pulled the curtain off a whole collection of new gadgets.

The company revealed on Wednesday its latest hardware products at a press event in San Francisco, including the Pixel 2 smartphone, futuristic headphones and two new smart speakers. It included a number of nods to Apple, including killing the headphone jack on its Pixel phones.

Tech companies such as Apple and Google tend to announce their newest products this time of year, ahead of the holiday shopping season. This year’s big tech trends include smart speakers, home security, and of course, smartphones.

Here’s a look at Google’s new products:

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones

The Pixel is Google’s flagship phone, designed to show off the best possible version of the company’s Android mobile operating system. The latest editions of the Google-made smartphones have new OLED screens, fingerprint sensors and are water resistant. They also pack a powerful rear camera — one of the Pixel’s biggest draws. Oh, and they no longer have a headphone jack.

During a demo, Google made a dig at Apple’s strategy to keep some features specific to its larger-sized iPhone Plus model.

“We don’t set aside better features for the larger device,” said a presenter on stage.

But the biggest changes to the devices are inside. Earlier this year, Google previewed its new Lens feature, which lets you point your phone’s camera at a something — like a sign or animal — for relevant information like phone numbers and dog species. Google will finally debut Lens as a special feature within the Google Photos app, but only on new Pixel devices to start. Google would also like to make Lens a verb, so make sure you say “I’m Lensing this dog!” when using the feature.

The Pixel is adding a portrait mode, just like a certain company that rhymes with Snapple. Portrait mode fakes a shallow depth of field effect by detecting the subject and throwing the background out of focus. Google is doing it with just one camera instead of two.

Not to be outdone by Apple’s talking poop emoji feature, Google is adding AR stickers, so you can add things like virtual coffee to your videos and photos.

Pixel 2 has a 5-inch screen and will cost $649 and up. The Pixel 2 XL has a 6-inch screen and starts at $849. Both are now available for pre-orders in Australia, Canada, Germany, India, the U.K. and the U.S.

Last year, it was a challenge to get your hands on a Pixel phone. It’s unclear as of now if Google will increase its supplies for the new models.

Google Pixel Buds

Pixel users will be able to use the phones with its new Pixel Buds, a pair of wireless headphones connected to each other with a string. The $159 headphones will only work with the Google Pixel phone for now, but they have one really cool trick. The headphones can translate 40 languages via Google Translate. The built in microphones help handle almost real-time translation. In an on-stage demonstration, Google translated Swedish to English.

Google Clips

Google Clips is a small square camera for people who don’t want to press buttons. Users place it in front of a scene such as on the floor of a room that toddlers and dogs frequent. It will detect when something is worth recording and take still photos or silent videos. It is specifically scanning for faces you have trained it to recognize, smiles, dogs and cats. The final files are 15 frame-per-second movie clips. They’re transferred to your phone over Wi-Fi, where you can save it as a GIF or movie file, or pick out a single frame to save as a photo. To counter potential privacy concerns, all the processing is one on the device or your phone, meaning nothing is saved in the cloud unless you do it yourself. The Clips’ battery should last about three hours, and the LED lights let you know when it’s recording.

The device isn’t entirely original. There have been similar products in the past, but not that include Google’s powerful AI technology. The device ($249) works with the Pixel, iPhone 6 and later, and Galaxy S7 and S8 phones.

Google Home Mini

There’s now a tiny-sized version of the Google Home speaker. Called the Google Home Mini — which Google said is smaller than a donut — it is a rounded disk covered in the hottest new technology material: fabric. It has the same powers as the full-sized Google Home, like voice recognition and the usual smart home and calling powers. There are four LED lights on top, and it plugs into the wall.

The device, which comes in grey, dark grey and coral, will cost $49 and be available October 19. It’s Google’s answer to Amazon’s Echo Dot.

Google Home Max

Google is also releasing a direct competitor to Apple’s forthcoming HomePod. The Google Home Max ($399) is a higher-end speaker with the company’s built-in Google Assistant technology. The device, available in light or dark grey, includes a feature called Smart Sound, which allows you to adjust the audio based on the surrounding environment. Two Max speakers will play music in stereo.

The device will launch in December and include a free 12-month subscription to YouTube Red, the video service’s subscription option.

Google Pixelbook

The Google Pixelbook is the company’s newest convertible laptop. This means you can fold the screen all the way back and pretend it’s a tablet. It has a 12.3-inch touchscreen display and the battery can last 10 hours, according to Google.

The Pixelbook touts a feature called instant tethering that will automatically connect it to a Pixel phone’s Wi-Fi network, if no other connections are available. The laptop comes with Google Assistant built in — it even has its own dedicated key on the keyboard. It also works with a stylus ($99).

The Pixelbook, available on October 31, starts at $999.

Google Assistant updates

Google noticed that kids enjoy talking to the Google Assistant, so it added a few features especially for tinier humans. Google said it’s improved how the technology understands the way kids speak, and there’s a new account option for children under 13 that parents can set up and control.

Google is also adding 50 “experiences” for kids, such as games and a story time feature. It is also working with companies like DC Comics and Disney on new apps.

The event

Sundar Pichai opened up the event with a nod to recent events: the shooting in Las Vegas and multiple hurricanes.

“It’s been hard to see the suffering, but I’ve been moved and inspired by the everyday heroism,” said Pichai.

He mentioned how people have opened their homes up to victims and called out the help from first responders.

“We are working closely with many relief agencies in affected areas and are committed to doing our part,” said Pichai.