Google unveils the Pixel 6a phone, along with a new Pixel smartwatch and tablet

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Google updates its Android operating system every year, but it hasn’t made its own Android tablet since the end of the Obama administration. And despite shelling out more than $2 billion for wearables maker Fitbit, Google has never directly targeted Apple with its own smartwatch.

Both of these things will change.

At the company’s I/O Developer Conference this week, Google offered the clearest look yet at how its hardware plans have begun to change.

Some of the new products the company introduced, such as its lower-cost Pixel 6a smartphone, represented the status quo. (Google has been releasing lower-cost retreads of its Pixel phones since 2019.) But with others, like the upcoming Pixel Watch and a new tablet slated to launch in 2023, the company is starting to dabble in products that it has historically been left to hardware. partners and competitors.

What does this mean to you? Ever since Google started building its own Pixel smartphones in 2016, the company has painted a very specific take on the gadgets it sticks its name on. Through smart software and savvy use of AI, Google wants its branded products to be smarter than rivals, even those that mostly run on the same chips and code.

You can’t, for example, expect a Samsung phone to give you an estimate of how long to wait before calling your bank during peak hours – that’s a Google Pixel exclusive. And for better or worse, none of Lenovo’s smart displays can watch you toss and turn in the night with radar in the way. Google’s Nest Hub can.

Whether you want to spend more time interacting with Google or not, it’s worth taking stock of what the company thinks our devices should be able to do. So, with that in mind, here’s what you need to know about the gadgets Google will be bringing to you over the next few months.

What is that? A cheaper version of the Pixel 6 smartphone that Google started selling last year.

What does he promise? Great performance for the price, a pair of AI-supercharged 12-megapixel cameras, and smart features — like lightning-fast voice recognition, real-time translation of audio into foreign languages, and more yet – that rival Android phones simply can’t match.

Our opinion : Google’s A-series smartphones have never been so flashy, but they get what they pay for. None of the compromises Google has had to make to cut costs here seem like a dealbreaker, so it could well be a contender for the best smartphone of the year at a non-obscene price. It doesn’t hurt that its toughest competitor in this category – Apple’s iPhone SE – has a much smaller screen and a single rear camera. (That said, the iPhone’s processor is arguably much faster.)

There’s one more thing to note here: Google’s Pixel 6 series has had to deal with a series of pesky bugs when they launched last year. We’ll have to see if the search giant has learned from its mistakes.

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What is that? A pair of wireless headphones that work well with iPhones and Android phones, and offer long-awaited features.

What does he promise? Solid audio quality for your music, active noise cancellation to block out noise from your commute (or co-workers), and surprisingly long battery life.

Our opinion : The very first pair of Pixel Buds weren’t the best, but Google has slowly been improving in this area of ​​wireless audio. We couldn’t try them out, so can’t vouch for the company’s sound quality claims, but 11 hours of music playback time on a single charge is ideal for this price range. That number drops to around 7 hours with noise cancellation, but on paper at least that’s still a little more than you’d get from Apple’s AirPods Pro.

What is that? The first smartwatch Google has ever built and staked on its name is coming this fall.

What does he promise? A smoother smartwatch experience with improved navigation and notifications, plus deep connections to Fitbit.

How much does it cost? Google Senior Vice President Rick Osterloh said it would have “premium pricing” but declined to elaborate.

Our opinion : The company plans to give the Pixel Watch a good time in the spotlight in a few months, which is why its teaser was pretty light on details. That said, it’s a good looking wearable – its round recycled stainless steel body lends itself to stylish business as well as more active pursuits – and the watch’s deep ties to Fitbit for features like heart rate monitoring. heart rate could make it a viable workout companion. (Thankfully, Osterloh was quick to confirm that the fitness data the Pixel Watch collects through its Fitbit features cannot be used to target Google ads to you.)

Osterloh also said the watch will be able to interpret Google Assistant voice commands and offer control of your smart home gadgets with a Google Home app, but there’s one thing the Pixel Watch doesn’t. absolutely can’t do: connect to an iPhone. It might not seem like a surprise, but here’s the thing: once upon a time there were wearables that used Google’s smartwatch operating system. worked reasonably well with phones from Apple.

What is that? Google’s next pair of high-end phones, launching alongside the Watch.

What does he promise? New AI-powered enhancements to features related to photography, video, voice recognition and security, all powered a new version of Google’s Tensor processor.

How much does it cost? Google wouldn’t say, but we expect prices to start around $600 like last year.

Our opinion : Google has made a habit of pre-announcing some of its new products, and for the upcoming Pixel 7s, the company hasn’t done much more than show off their designs. It’s not yet clear what unique software features these phones will ship with, but Osterloh said they’ll both run on Google’s new Android 13 software — an update that (for now, anyway) seems mostly full of delicate changes and a handful of cool features. If you’ve been using your current smartphone for more than a few years, it’s worth keeping the Pixel 7 in mind.

What is that? Google’s first Android tablet since 2015, using another new version of the company’s Tensor processor.

What does he promise? Google says it will be the “world’s smartest tablet”, although it’s unclear how.

How much does it cost? Your guess is as good as ours.

Our opinion : It’s obviously way too early to say much here, but it’s still interesting to see Google try tablets again – a product category largely locked down by Apple and Samsung. It’s possible that, as we’ve seen with the Pixel phones, Google could whip up some intriguing software features to bring its flavor of Android to the bigger screen. And for what it’s worth, Google has at least one thing working in its favor: despite a slight drop, tablets are even more popular now than they were before the pandemic.

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