We’re not used to seeing so many hardware announcements from Google at once, which made the major event earlier today all the more special. It’s not going to be something we’ll fondly remember eight years from now (ahem, Google Senior VP), there were several needle-moving products unveiled. Let’s see which ones are hot, and which are not.
HIT: Google’s first real crack at smartphones
This is a given. When you’re willing to kill off your signature device lineup, the replacement has to be worth the sacrifice. The Google Pixel and Pixel XL stand as the new role models for all things Android, and it’s not just because of the high-end specs.
Their real highlight is the introduction of Google Assistant, which is Google Now on steroids. By using advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand your every move, the virtual companion is a lot more intuitive than Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri.
Another highlighted feature is their shared camera. While it doesn’t stand out for its features — there’s only a single lens and no optical image stabilization — the shooter gets lots of praise for topping the highly respected DxOMark rankings for smartphone cameras.
MISS: No Pixel tablet in sight
It was a bit of a long shot, but we were expecting an Android tablet to be announced alongside the Pixel phones. Rumors have stated that there’s going to be a Huawei-made slate in the works under Google’s guidance, yet not even a hint was made during the event.
Having a new Google-designed tablet to erase the memory of the overpriced Pixel C would be great. There’s a possible theory why the announcement was pushed to a later date; we’ll discuss that in the next miss.
HIT: Daydream View is the VR headset we’ve been waiting for
With the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive already available and Sony’s PlayStation VR headset coming out soon, virtual reality in our homes is finally a thing. Sadly, it’s an expensive thing. And even though Samsung offers a cheaper alternative in the Gear VR, the exclusivity with top-shelf Galaxy handsets prevents mass sales. Daydream View will sort of change that.
Emphasis on sort of, because a smartphone has to be Daydream-compatible to work with Google’s stylish headset. As of now, only the Pixel handsets and a handful of other smartphones are ready for Daydream. It apparently takes a lot of guts to handle Google’s pumped-up Cardboard.
What makes this a hit for us is the design and price. Fork over $79 when it goes on sale in November, and you get the comfy-looking headset bundled with a motion-sensing controller that has a touchpad and two buttons. It’s a complete solution for anyone wanting to dive into mainstream VR without spending too much. Oh, and it works with eyeglasses on!
MISS: No Andromeda operating system yet
This one disappointed us the most. We were spoiled by the news from last week, only for it to fly over the event without even a squeak. We’re talking about Google’s rumored Andromeda operating system, which is expected to merge Android and Chrome OS.
Introducing a mobile system catered to convertible notebooks would definitely shake up the crappy battle for market dominance between Windows 10 and iOS. Neither of Microsoft or Apple’s operating systems truly fit into the convertible mold, and are better off in desktops and tablets, respectively.
By putting together an ecosystem based on Android and Chrome OS, Andromeda could eventually fill in the gaps for ever-evolving convertibles. Although fragmented, Android still does a decent job of working fluidly across thousands of varied smartphone and tablet hardware, and an open-source Andromeda could one day do the same for hybrid laptops.
The delay in announcing Andromeda probably explains why Google didn’t bother introducing a flagship tablet or convertible, as mentioned earlier. The Nexus 9 tablet is too old for showcasing a fresh OS, and the Pixel C is better left forgotten.
HIT: A collection of home products
Google isn’t just after your pockets (as in putting its Pixel phones in your pockets, not taking your money — but the latter makes sense, too), the search giant also wants to take over your home, and will do so with Google Home, Google Wifi, and Chromecast Ultra.
Google Home is the company’s answer to Amazon’s Echo, letting you communicate with your connected devices through voice commands. With it installed at the center of your place, you may control your music, make it stream movies for you, and even have it answer questions about everyday things. It’s good at knowing what you need, thanks to Google’s intelligently adaptive Assistant. It’ll cost only $129, and will ship beginning November 4.
Google Wifi does what you’d expect, but better. It’s a router that makes use of multiple access points to cover all the dead spots in a house or office. Everything still connects to one central internet host, and it’s smart enough to optimize your wireless connection depending on where you’re staying. It also has a price tag of $129, and will be available some time in November.
Finally, we have the Chromecast Ultra. If you’re familiar with previous Chromecast products, all you need to know is that the newest generation can now handle 4K streaming, HDR content, and Dolby Vision. Plus, it has an Ethernet port in case your Wi-Fi connection isn’t good enough. For those unfamiliar with Chromecast, it’s a little round device you can plug into your television to watch online content. It’ll retail for $69, and will come out in November, just in time for Google Play Movies’ 4K streaming debut.
[irp posts=”8314" name=”5 Reasons why I love Google Home”]
Google is under investigation for abusing Android
Dominating the market comes with a price
Google has often been accused of monopolizing the smartphone market with the use of Android. While Android as an operating system is open source and anyone is free to make or use the system however they wish, Google’s push of its apps is a bigger problem.
Android is maintained by the search engine giant and the code is available for everyone’s use. But, Google pushes its range of apps in stock Android like Gmail, Maps, Play Music, YouTube, and more. Many accuse the company of forcing itself upon users and blocking the competition from a fair chance.
India’s Competition Commission of India (CCI) has been reviewing Google’s case for the last six months. The enforcement agency is currently at a preliminary stage and no official release has been made. Google, as well as CCI, have declined to comment.
The European Commission found Google guilty of dominating the market since 2011 and it’s abusing its standard practice of installing Google apps. The investigation led to a US$ 5 billion fine from the antitrust agency.
Google and CCI have met in recent months and the complaint was filled by a “group of individuals.” The agency has a track record of taking years to finish or conclude a case and we never know when a verdict might actually come.
Although, the CCI did impose a US$ 19 million fine on Google for “search bias” and abuse of its dominant position.
Android has a massive 85 percent market share and almost every Android phone ships with Google’s suite of apps. These apps, in return, help the search engine push ads to the user and generate revenue for the company.
EA is looking into making a mobile version of Apex Legends
To battle with Fortnite
EA‘s battle royale game is a certified hit. Apex Legends, which was developed by Titanfall makers Respawn, has no fewer than 25 million registered players in just one week. The game is playable for free on multiple platforms (PC, PS4, and Xbox One), but why not make it available on mobile as well?
Early reports don’t indicate mobile plans for the game, although during the Electronic Arts Q3 2019 earnings call, EA Games CEO said that they are looking into bringing Apex Legends to mobile devices.
Fortnite‘s userbase ballooned when it became available on Android and iOS, so it’s a no brainer than EA also wants mobile gamers to join the fun.
“We are looking at how to take the game to mobile and cross-play over time, and I also expect that this game will have tremendous value in Asia, and we’re in conversations about that,” EA Games CEO Andrew Wilson said during the conference call.
There’s no definite timeline for the release of Apex Legends on mobile, but it’s certainly on the drawing board. For now, EA plans to introduce direct purchase options for players to buy items and new legends or heroes. They will also offer the so-called Apex Packs or simply loot boxes for more random items.
Apex Legends is not a pay-to-win game, so these items are purely cosmetic and can be used to customize your hero’s looks in the game.
Introducing Bumble’s Spotlight: Pay to get to the top of the page
For just two Bumble coins!
You can’t buy your way to true love but you can now buy a top spot on Bumble’s swipe page.
You heard that right. Bumble just announced their new feature and they’re calling it Spotlight. For two Bumble coins, which is around US$ 2, you can get your own profile to the top of the swipe page — the most conducive spot for swiping. Your profile stays there for 30 minutes and people won’t even know you paid for the extra airtime.
Hi Martin! Spotlight is designed to advance your profile to the top for the stack to be viewable by more people instantly. When you use two Bumble Coins to activate Spotlight, for 30 minutes we will shuffle your profile to the top without anyone knowing. 💛
— Bumble (@bumble) February 6, 2019
Similar to Tinder Boost, this new feature allows for a bigger shot at better swiping results. It basically bumps you up in the queue. Remember, though, that you can only pay for being more visible on the app, but the swiping is still left to the other party.
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