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Observations from today’s Google Event: Nexus, Chromecasts and Pixel C

Today’s Google event was chock full of new products and services many of which were leaked ahead of the event. While most of the new items had been covered in recent days (casemakers were ready), Stephen, Cam, Jordan and Chance did an excellent job rounding up the unexpected too. Some things that stood out:

  • As is now typical, Google’s Nexus event is after Apple’s blockbuster iPhone event and allowed Mountain View to take some jabs Apple and its new competing products. I noted a few areas where Google thought they could outdo Apple’s iPhone including the obvious pricing, new cameras (which I believe use very similar hardware as the new iPhones), charge time (half as long with USB-C), and display/footprint (above). The new Chromecasts features also were peppered with Apple barbs.
  • Both new Nexus Phones use a 12.3 Sony f/2.0 optical sensors and do 4K video, which seems like it closes the loop on the major weakness of past Nexus phones. In fact, it may be one of the best cameras around.That also means just about every flagship phone including Apple’s iPhone, Samsung’s Galaxy S6, and the Moto X all use Sony cameras.  That’s a major win for the Japanese company that has fallen on hard times in recent years. It is also about the only company who hasn’t built a Nexus device, but maybe next year they’ll get their shot and perhaps even make it waterproof.
  • The Pixel C is a big deal and in my opinion a big blow to ChromeOS. The C is a convertible Android tablet that keeps the squared edge Pixel look but instead of using ChromeOS, it uses Android. Why? My feeling is that Google asked themselves if a ChromeOS convertible tablet could take on Surface/Windows Tablets or the iPad Pro. I don’t think it would be close. Android on the other hand has a huge library of quality apps – though many still haven’t been optimized for the tablet form factor. I don’t know if the Android Pixel C will change that. At $499 for the tablet and $150 for the keyboard, I’m looking over at a much sleeker $379 iPad Air 2 and $50 Keyboard Case or a Windows convertible tablet priced similarly. I’m thinking this thing isn’t going to do very well. The bigger question however: Is ChromeOS dead? Not yet. I think its kiosk-like usage model is fantastic for schools where it is simply dominating (Google says 30,000/day deployment, more than all other computing devices combined). They are cheap, easy to maintain and secure, and they don’t walk off like iPads. If I had to guess, however, I don’t think there will be another high-end Pixel Chromebook.
  • Fingerprint readers on the backside will take some getting used to. I think it might be too good of a spot. My finger goes back there when I’m just holding a phone or making a call. I’m expecting a lot of accidental readings.

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  • The Android Sensor Hub seems to be Google trying to play Apple’s game of naming parts you shouldn’t really care about. Of course there are sensors, of course they are smart, and of course you want them to use as little power as possible. Let’s just leave it at that.
  • Are Google’s Nexus and Pixel products built to show off the future or does Google want to be a hardware player? I think the pre-holiday launch window and the aim at Apple show that Google wants to move some product, not just educate developers like it has to say in order not to piss off its OEMs. Unfortunately without the carrier relationships, I don’t think it will gain much ground there.
  • Project Fi was mentioned and it is the only way to get a montly price on the new Nexus phones currently. Bravo. Now open it up to everyone Google – what are you waiting for?!
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  • The $379 starting point of the Nexus 5X is a fantastic deal for those who want to get into the Nexus ecosystem. The $499 Huawei’s Nexus 6P may also make a great flagship, though I have to say every Huawei phone I’ve used up until now has been mediocre at best. Furthermore, I’m extremely disappointed that there isn’t any expandable SD card storage options here. It would be great to be able to pop a $50 128Gb card into a $379 Nexus and blow away Apple in terms of storage.
  • We knew a lot about the new Chromecasts going in but clearly Google is taking the next step. 4K is probably too much to ask for at this point but a quick start and better app for discovery are probably pretty close seconds on most of my friends’ lists.  Keeping the $35 price point is key. I like this model better than Apple’s TV model. The smartphone/tablet/laptop are the controllers, so why spend over $100 on a remote that is less powerful than the phone in your pocket?
  • The Google Photo additions are certainly nice but it is pretty shocking that they couldn’t be put onto the big screen via Chromecast already. Glaring hole. Sharing will be cool.
  • I was really happy that Google wasn’t going to show off a gold Nexus 6 even though we’d seen a gold variant in the leaks in recent days. As it turns out, there is a gold Nexus 6P special edition that will be sold in Japan. Like other gold products, it looks like ass to my eyes.
  • Nexus Protect, better known as the Apple Care of Nexi, seems like a good option. You get an extra year of protection and a spare phone within 24 hours or so if yours breaks all for $69 for the 5X or $89 for the 6P. Although I’m generally against warranties, this one seems worth it for those who do them. I probably won’t.

At the moment, I am getting a Nexus 5X but I am looking forward to reviews of Huawei’s 6P and might “go there.” I’m currently enamored with the $399 Moto X Pure which I think falls in between these two phones and might be the sweet spot as long as it gets updates quick. I also have a new Chromecast on order and will use the updated Chromecast and Photos apps when they hit. I’m pumped to play with all of this new stuff.


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