/ Technology

Are Google’s new devices worth getting excited about?

Today is Google’s big annual consumer hardware launch. I’ll be there with all the latest updates right here on Which? Conversation, but will we see anything groundbreaking from the tech giant?

Autumn is consumer tech launch season as the big players unveil their line-ups for the shopping season: Black Friday, Cyber Monday and of course Christmas. We’ve already seen big launches from Microsoft and Amazon in the past couple of weeks, and today it’s Google’s turn.

The actual event is in New York, and sadly I’m not jetting off to the Big Apple for it, but I will be at the parallel London event in Shoreditch this afternoon.

Although Google does other big events through the year, this is the one where they show off their new kit.

In the past couple of years at this event Google has launched its Google Home devices and Pixel smartphones, and last year it added the Pixelbook, a luxury Chromebook, and its Pixel Buds earphones that come with inbuilt translation abilities.

What can we expect?

Google doesn’t reveal in advance what it’s going to launch, but there are plenty of good informed guesses out there. It’s not sticking my neck out to say we can expect the Pixel 3 phones to be launched, and they’re probably going to feature the notch display that many other phones already have.

We’re also expecting to see a Google Home with a screen, with pundits confidently saying it’s going to be called the Google Home Hub, taking on Amazon’s Echo Show.

There’s talk of a Chrome OS tablet, which I’m particularly interested in seeing as I’m not sure that Chrome OS is really ready for showtime as a tablet device just yet. There could also be a new version of the Pixelbook, and refreshes of both the Chromecast and the Pixel Buds.

Smart TV

I’ve seen speculation about some kind of smart TV kit bundling a Google Home Mini and a Chromecast, which would be an interesting move. Google has made a couple of feints into the content delivery space pretty much owned by Amazon with its Fire Stick and Fire TV ranges, but hasn’t done anything big in that area since the Nexus Player, which it killed off in 2016.

Mind you, it has kept Android updated on the Nexus Player: mine is running last year’s Android Oreo, though that will be its last update – it won’t be getting Android Pie.

Google has also played with putting Android TV directly on to televisions, but that has been a low-key strategy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new play for your sitting room from Google today – it’s a bit of a gap in its march to global device domination.

What are you particularly looking forward to seeing? Will you be watching the livestream on Google’s YouTube channel? I’ll be updating this piece in the comments, and I’d love to have you join me. It starts at 4pm.


I won’t be holding my breath to see what new things Google has produced.
That said, I’ve just acquired my second nice cheap secondhand Chromebook and, so far, I’ve managed to hold onto it for me, me me!

As appliances for easy access to internet based activities and services, I think Chromebooks are hard to beat. I’ve not yet played with one new enough to run Android apps, but I guess that adds useful extra capabilities in way that will be obvious and easy for smartphone users.

The idea of a Chrome OS table sounds interesting – but how would such a device really differ from an Android tablet? From my general experience with tablets, they make great e-readers but, when you need to do a lot of typing, devices with built-in sturdy keyboards win hands-down.

For home media applications, including remedying the short support lives of expensive smart TV’s, I think there is a lot of scope for systems can use an HDTV as a display and provide maintained apps for things like BBC iplayer. Easier to use and more powerful Android and Chrome OS “boxes” or dongle might have something to offer there.

Notch? What am that for?

These technical discussions are a bit like watching an unfamiliar sport on television. I do wish they would explain the rules – repeatedly for new viewers. Even the Ryder Cup got me baffled by the 3 and 4 and how the 4s worked. I understand bowls, because I play, but anyone watching without that knowledge would get a headache working it out. 🙂

@katebevan, thanks Kate! I’ll explain bowls rules if the opportunity ever arises. 🙂

Big thanks to Kate for the live commenting last night! Some great photos. Amazed at how similar the Pixel 3 looks to the iPhone X.

Really? 🙂 You’d almost think Google was copying Apple…

Fondleslabs sounds vaguely Shakespearean, out of Upstart Crow 🙂 . I really don’t mind having a bezel. Our 15 year old TV has one but it’s the picture we watch.

I am catching up with technology with a Samsung 4. In my terms, a terrific picture, but for phone calls my Nokia C1 takes up a lot less room. Funny how miniaturisation produces bigger things.

I probably have a fondlewafer and a small fondlebrick as well as a fondleslab.

When watching the presentations I kept thinking that what was missing was Steve Jobs.

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Duncan – thanks for the link. I see that blog also includes Google’s criticisms of Duck-Duck-Go’s study methodology and I think there are some valid points there.

My main desktop PC is currently running LXLE linux, where Duck-Duck-Go is the default search engine. Every time I use that, I cringe at how useless it is, then I open my book-marked Google page and do a decent search from there. So whatever Google is doing, it does a better job of helping me find what I need on the net.

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Duncan’s reference to “Google is “god”” got me to thinking. It’s fashionable to think of Google in exactly the opposite sense, in fact; Google is often thought of as the Devil Incarnate, the ultimate trickster, the epitome of Mephistophelian abomination, the cacodemonic manifestation of all things evil.

But if we pursue that line of conjecture, isn’t it true that those are the very qualities with which the Puritans imbued any mechanism that made life easy? It’s very true that Google – like Facebook – doesn’t believe in privacy (except for its own executives) and it shamelessly attempts to monetise its customers. But it does make the fastest and arguably most comprehensive search engine around.

If we class Google as evil, then we must surely extend that label to anything which works very well, monetises its customers, tracks everyone and anything and – in short – behaves exactly like the ultimate capitalist.

One reason why I stick with Apple was presented very nicely in the Register the other day. I know I’ll pay a little more for my things but they do last and Apple doesn’t flog off my data (as far as I know).

And we always have the choice. We can choose not to use the sperm of the devil (Google) and enjoy less efficient search returns, or we can follow Dante’s suggestion “Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate” and choose to throw in our lot with Satan. Which, after all, is simply an anagram of a well-loved figure at this time of year. Happy undoings.

If the Register thinks second hand iPhone SE’s are good value at only £150, I tend to agree, but that’s still £125 more than I paid for my new but heavily discounted Android phone.

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Duncan – that’s interesting.

Would I be right in thinking that Yandex is also based on Chrome – or at least the Chromium internet source project?

In my recent “computer buddy” voluntary work, colleagues and I have been seeing printing problems with the Chrome version on our W7 PC’s. This is that, from time to time, images like event tickets fail to print properly if printed from Chrome but print OK from Internet Explorer. I’ve also seen the same – or a related problem – with downloaded PDFs (perhaps as “printed” to PDF from Chrome on Android). So our network printers don’t always seem to work OK with Chrome.

If any one else is encountering similar problems, two quick fixes that may help are:

1) download and print your tickets (or other misbehaving items) from a different browser, e.g. one not based on Chrome/Chromium

2) screen shot the document images and then print them using the Windows photo printing utility (or equivalent)

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