Google held its annual I/O 19 conference in San Francisco overnight, heralding in a slew of new software features and some hardware too for good measure. Software announcements were mixed and covered a wide range of Google’s product line. An undertone of privacy was peppered in also approaching the issue with a more deft touch than Facebook just a week ago.
The big one for software is of course the next version of Android, Android Q. A beta of the new OS will be available for install immediately and will run on 21 devices from different manufacturers.
Android Q features enhancements around security, location use awareness and privacy, a new dark mode and the ability to use smart replies for any messaging app and not just Googles.
Google Assistant, the core of Google’s voice driven services is receiving a major upgrade whilst shedding almost half its body weight after “breakthroughs” in deep-learning leading to a smaller install size on your phone.
The next generation will take last year’s Duplex feature one step further and be able to book restaurants, rent cars and buy movie tickets. Aussie’s still get no love here but it has begun rolling out to the UK so you’d assume it’s not too far away.
One of the biggest steps forward is the ability to stop your alarms without having to say “Hey Google” before blearily yelling “Stop!“. Privacy advocates may find issue with the feature however as it requires the device to be constantly listening, even if only for a short time around the alarm ending.
On the privacy front a new Incognito mode for Maps and Search can be enabled by clicking on your profile image. The mode will function similar to Chrome’s with search query and results left unattached to your account.
You’ll also be able to auto-delete your Google history. This is a feature set to come soon and will allow you to choose between a 3 or 18 months schedule.
Google rebranded their “Home” tablet in a fixed location, the Google Nest Home today and gave it a bit of an overhaul but really no one cares about it so I’m not wasting more than a sentence on it.
The real reveal today was Google’s new Affordable Pixel 3A & 3A XL. A cheaper version of Google’s flagship phone the “A” by no means sacrifices price for quality in possibly the first second-tier smartphone I’d more than happily buy.
Starting at US$399 the 3A retains its OLED display but with a smaller 1080p resolution compared to its 1440p big brother. Its pixel density still sits on par with an iPhone Retina display so the majority of us wont notice a difference.
It does have a slight bezel on the top and bottom but the upside of that is there’s no notch and personally I’d rather the bezel.
Headphone jack lovers your prayers have been answered and that 3.5mm hole remains sitting atop the new 3A as a further point of differentiation.
Guts wise there’s a Snapdragon 670 along with 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM, meaning its not as tricked out as the Snap 855s in say an S10 but it’ll happily do the job and from all reports has no issue with gaming either.
The Pixel 3As biggest boon seems to come in the form of its cameras though. Whilst they’ve been trimmed down to just one on the front and rear they’ve retained a level of quality and processing associated with its associated and more expensive flagship. Night Sight also lives on in its full glory with the 3A and while a lot of that comes down to Google’s algorithms the sensor required to pull it off and obtain enough info to do it still needs to be of a high level.
The Pixel 3A & 3A XL are available now for A$649 & A$799 respectively.