In a world of Apples, Google wants to be… a Google-type of Apple. That’s my takeaway from the annual Google I/O conference last week. In typical Google fashion, they debuted new hardware, Android updates, and sorta-near-future mind-blowing tech. Let’s dive in.
Pixel Watch was not only leaked but something that had been rumored for a while. It’s round, has proprietary bands, and runs Wear OS. It’s hard to leave much to surprise when Google let the cat out of the bag a while back. So far, it looks nice, and honestly, Android users deserve a tightly-integrated wearable experience like Apple customers. Google, as it should, will integrate its Fitbit-owned tech into it too.
Google’s answer to failing time and time again to make a competitive Android tablet is… make another Android tablet. Next year the Pixel Tablet will go on sale. On the outside, it’s near-identical to an iPad except the camera is on the long side (as it should be). Confusingly, Google exited the tablet space only three years ago and said they were done. Now they’re back and it makes me wonder if the semi-computing direction Apple has taken the iPad lately has them wanting a piece of that pie. The iPad can be a simple slab of glass to consume content. However, the peripheral support, updates to iPad OS, and Smart Keyboard case all turn the device into a different type of computer. Google could easily lift this path and put their own spin on it. Apple’s iPad dominance has killed everything that has tried to compete. If Google REALLY means it this time, they need to give it their all. Apple’s lead is immeasurable.
What’s now common for Google is to launch a mid-cycle cheaper “A” phone and they did it again with the Pixel 6A. It drops the headphone jack, so yet another company who poked fun at Apple now is eating crow. At $449 it hits a great place in their lineup just in time… for Google to announce the Pixel 7. 🤦🏻♂️
I’ll call this a boneheaded move. Because it is. Google, only minutes before announcing the 6A, declared the Pixel 6 a major success. Their business plan this year must’ve included the phrase “screw it” because up on the screen came full photos and basic info on the Pixel 7 / Pixel 7 Pro. If anyone was getting ready to drop money on the Pixel 6, why even bother when the 7 is not only inevitable but now beginning its hype train to convince you to buy that come the fall.
Yes, we know Apple, Samsung, and Google ALL will replace their devices yearly. Even so, to announce and show a product so far in advance, I would chalk it up to two things. The first is Google stuff leaks like crazy. Intentionally, too. Google isn’t even pretending to hide things now and is rolling the dice. But, I also think this is to head off possible supply chain issues. It is possible Google may open preorders very early and get ahead of delays before they eviscerate their plans. I think they could easily have dealt with this behind closed doors, but Google’s approach is to be different here. So, the Pixel 7’s design and basic info is known and it’ll drop in the fall.
Lightning Round time:
Pixel Buds Pro where we get colors, waterproofing, and a $200 price.
Android 13, of course. You can set different languages per app, Wallet is back as a standalone app, and they’re leaning more into “Material You”.
Google Docs will get an automatic TL;DR
Google Meet adds virtual lighting.
With all that out of the way, we get into the “WOW” moment: AR glasses with live translation. I’ll admit this looks very interesting and a very practical use of AR for many people. The demo video went how you would think it would. A few real-world scenarios where language is a barrier and the glasses coming to the rescue. This is a simple and easy repurposing of voice recognition tech that exists right now. Fire up a YouTube video or turn on closed captioning while on Google Meet. You’ll see instant captions because the app is filtering all the audio through its systems for transcription. Take that, miniaturize it, and toss it into glasses, and you have instant translation.
I like the idea and of course it reminds me of universal translator technology that’s ubiquitous in Star Trek. The one weird part of the demo was how one-sided the examples were. If one person needs the glasses to understand someone, how can they possibly speak back to them unless the other party is bilingual? At no time were two people wearing the glasses in Google’s demo. I’ll put this in the “wait and see” category. Google loves rolling out this stuff and then it underwhelms when it finally comes out. Duplex and Glass are the easiest examples to cite.