Google's Full I/O 2019 Keynote Video + Highlights on the Issue of Privacy through to Hardware and Google Assistant Advances
Yesterday Google held their Google I/O 2019 keynote covering a lot of territory for developers. For consumers, Google tried to erase the past and turn a new leaf on privacy after Apple beat them with a stick in public in various interviews. Beyond privacy, Google introduced new hardware including a new higher-end Smart Display device for the home that they're calling the Nest Hub Max that comes with a larger display and wide-angle camera.
The star of the show came in the form of the new Pixel 3a and 3a XL smartphones at breakthrough prices that might encourage consumers to actually try out their smartphone. Google hasn't been able to make a dent in the market trying to challenge the premium iPhone. In fact the Pixel 3 had weaker than expected results in Q1 2019. Now that Google is unable to play in the premium smartphone sandbox, they've decided to move quickly into the vast middle pool of consumers in the hopes of getting some traction for their hardware.
They tried to spin the Pixel 3a's desperate price cutting move as a virtue of spreading technology to the lower end of the market. However, let's be honest here; they only saw the light after getting crushed during the holiday quarter that carried through to their Q1 2019 smartphone results that were extremely disappointing.
Lastly, Google took their usual wild swings at Apple to entertain their developer community. Apple has been a leader in the smartphone market for so long that it's expected that competitors of every stripe will continue to take pot shots at them while Apple laughs all the way to the bank with the only real profits in the industry.
Apple Pushed the Industry to Prioritize Privacy
It was Apple's CEO who led the charge on privacy issues in the smartphone sector. Apple has been banging that drum to the point of driving Facebook and Google crazy. The media has been applauding Apple while while slamming the two silicon valley giants as did the U.S. government. Congress never dragged Apple into the recent privacy matter hearings. Apple warned of consumer data being weaponized against them in a fiery speech in Europe as presented in the video below.
Apple also got under the skin of other tech companies this past January when they hung a massive ad banner on a building across the CES venue on privacy that drew a lot of attention.
Google's new Take on the Issue of Privacy
It's clear that Google doesn't like being preached to, even though evidence has shown that they've lost user data in addition to selling user data directly or indirectly. All the while, Apples' CEO Tim Cook continued to wag his finger at social media on this issue. In a New York Times report today, Google's CEO threw a silent stinger Apple's way without naming the company.
Sundar Pichai stated: "Our mission compels us to take the same approach to privacy. For us, that means privacy cannot be a luxury good offered only to people who can afford to buy premium products and services. Privacy must be equally available to everyone in the world."
You could also read a second NYTimes report on privacy titled "Google Says It Has Found Religion on Privacy" here.
Full Google I/O 2019 Keynote
A Few Google I/O Highlights
@22:31 of the video: Google Assistant - Next-Gen: covers AI on a device instead of the cloud making it 10X faster; multitasking when composing messages (text, email); Drive Mode, advances in-vehicle assistance; and shutting off device alarms by simply saying "stop." This is scheduled to land on Pixel phones later this year.
Click on any Image Below to Enlarge
@1:12:12 of the video: Nest Hub Max: Rick Osterloh, SVP Hardware introduced a new Smart Display device for the communal areas of the home. It has a larger 10" display than the current Google Home Hub (now renamed Nest Hub) and comes with a camera. It offers an all-new Home View dashboard to control smart devices in your home from a thermostat to lights etc. which is catching up with Apple's long standing "Home" app.
The new Nest Hub Max also has built-in facial recognition called "Face Match." This way when a single person is in the room, the device knows it's you via your face and is able to pull your data up if needed or requested for your calendar and schedule and so forth. When coming home after work, it could also present you with message waiting for a reply according to your facial ID.
This segment also covered "Google Duo" which is like Apple's FaceTime. The camera however comes with a wide-view that is designed to keep in the center of the display as a user moves around in a room like a kitchen while video chatting. For privacy, there's an easy to slide button to turn off the camera when not in use so you don't get creeped-out over whether someone is watching you.
The Nest Hub Max will be available this summer in the U.S., UK and Australia. Canada, you're being overlooked.
@1:18:29 of the video: Pixel Phones: Rick Osterloh then moved on to Pixel Phones that got the crowd excited. According to Osterloh, "A core element of Google's mission is to make technology more available and accessible for everyone. We need to ensure that technology benefits the many not just the few."
Building on that message, Osterloh added "but there's really been a troubling trend in the smartphone industry. To support the latest technologies everyone's high-end phones are getting more and more expensive. So we challenged ourselves to see if we could optimise our software and AI to work great on more affordable hardware; so we can deliver these high end experiences at a more accessible price point. Osterloh then introduced the new Pixel 3a starting at only US$399 or half the price of typical flagship smartphones.
Google's Sabrina Ellis, VP Product Management, reviewed some of the features of the new Pixel 3a staring with 3 colors: Just Black, Clearly White and (light) Purple-ish. It offers an OLED display, not an LCD like Apple delivered on the iPhone XR. It includes an audio jack which got a lot of whistles and cheers. To rub it in, Ellis stated that "We've heard that people want more headphone options," a clear slight to Apple.
The new phone doesn't compromise on the camera as it's the same as their premium smartphone, no compromises. Ellis hammered home that what other smartphones try to do with expensive hardware, they can deliver with software and AI including high-end computational photography. Ellis wound up and slammed Apple's iPhone X camera in low light photos with the camera on the cheaper Pixel 3a and the crowd ate that up.
Google did touch on foldable devices at the 55.29 point in the video, but it was just to say that only Android OEMs were leading the way in foldable devices.
Prior to the the keynote event, Mario Queiroz, who leads development of Pixel phones told C/Net that Google has also been experimented with the foldable form factor but that Google wasn't in a rush to get a folding product to market.
To look as if they're really in the game Queiroz added that "We're definitely prototyping the technology. We've been doing it for a long time but don't see a clear use case yet. It sounded like pure PR bravado rather than reality.
What Some are Already Saying about the new Budget Pixel Phones
In a NYTimes report posted yesterday titled "Google Pixel 3A Review: The $400 Smartphone You’ve Been Waiting For," Google's Brian Rakowski, VP of product management stated that "We’re seeing the fatigue with some of the flagship pricing of smartphones going up and up and up, and people thinking, ‘You know, five years ago I could buy the best possible phone for half this price."
While the Pixel 3A lacks some frills that you may find in premium devices, like wireless charging and water resistance, it's a great value.
The NYTimes report concluded: "In many ways, the Pixel 3A feels like the phone Google should have delivered in the first place. The internet company built a reputation on making its products free or cheap and thereby accessible to as broad an audience as possible. With the Pixel’s latest iteration, Google is making a statement that many will agree with: Communication devices should be a tool for everyone, not just the elite."
And lastly, Engadget gave the new smartphones a hearty thumbs up in a report titled "Google shows Apple and Samsung how ‘lite’ flagships are done."
All in all it was a decent Keynote for 2019 but not much to get too excited about. Of course if you're an Android fan about to update your phone, there was good news to save you money. Next up, Apple's WWDC 2019 set to kick off on June 3rd.
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