Made by Google Event Showcases Hearables and Smart Home Strategy
Google built its annual Made by Google product showcase this year around the idea of ambient computing, where the services and features of its technology are accessible everywhere at any time. Plentiful leaks and previews meant there weren’t a lot of big surprises, but seeing Google’s latest line of hardware and software gave some context to the company’s larger strategy, especially regarding voice and artificial intelligence.
|Like AirPods and Echo Buds, the updated version of Google’s Pixel Buds are truly wireless and offer hands-free activation of Google Assistant but are notably more expensive. The new version sticks out less from the ear but lacks noise-canceling abilities designed to block out background noises using the on-board microphones. Google didn’t give a shipping date, only Spring 2020, and the demo versions had a disclaimer saying they were not yet approved by the FCC.
|The Nest Mini is a rebrand of the Google Home Mini and is part of Google’s larger strategy to get people to build their own smart homes. It can be mounted on the wall, includes more microphones and faster computer hardware so it can respond more quickly even in loud environments. At $49, the Nest Mini will also be competing directly with the Echo Dot. It’s available for pre-order and will ship on October 22.
|$6 or $12/month
|Nest Aware is the service Google created to connect Nest cameras to the cloud record. The service now offers a listening mode for Nest devices so that when it hears a potential problem like a smoke alarm or loud noises outside the home, it will note the incident and alert the user. Previously, Nest Aware was priced per device, but is becoming a monthly subscription in 2020. For $6 a month, you can access 30 days worth of recorded events where the camera detected motion. For $12 a month, you can access 60 days of events, including 10 days of non-stop recording.
|$269 2-pack / $349 3-pack
|Router/ Smart Speaker
|The Nest WiFi is much of what was previously suspected. The Wifi mesh router will come with Google Assistant and will include a central router and separate beacons. The router and voice assistant will allow for voice control of the internet and will connect with other Google Assistant-powered smart speakers. The devices will start shipping November 4 and come in packs of two or three.
|The central product of the event, the Pixel 4 is the updated smartphone that fans of Google’s earlier phones were hoping for in terms of incredibly advanced camera and Google-centric apps. The phone also includes a revamped design for Google Assistant and a few new features. For one, a lot of the voice assistant’s work can now be operated locally, without needing to access the cloud. Google Assistant also has a potentially great new feature where it can search for individual words or sounds within voice recordings, reducing the need to manually hunt through them for particular moments. The phone will ship starting October 24.
Google’s Competitive Edge
Google had plenty more to show off at the event, including a new Pixelbook Go laptop and a cloud-based gaming service called Stadia, as well as lots of bragging about its environmental efforts. When it comes to hearables, Google has made an impressive product, unobtrusive yet very functional. Still, it lacks some of the flexibilty of its competitors, including the noise-canceling component, yet is still priced above them. The right killer app for them might change the equation, but for now they seem to be only for those committed to the Google ecosystem.
The smart home products on the other hand show a notable range of options and could potentially snap up a lot of customers who are initially looking just for a good router or smart speaker. Building out the smart home with Google as the foundation is going to be easy to do and not too expensive with the Nest Mini costing the same as the Echo Dot. Encouraging people to try Google products and then making it easy to stay with them is obviously what Google wants and where it sees its greatest chance of beating out Amazon, Apple, and other competitors.