New phone’s ridiculously good camera
Google has unveiled two new phones, the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G.
The tech giant also announced a suite of new hardware including new ways to stream on your TV, new smart speakers, with the hope of courting consumers away from popular flagship phones of Samsung and Apple.
The Pixel 5 undercuts both of them with a price of $999 and will be in the Google Store, Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, JB Hi-Fi, Officeworks and Harvey Norman from October 15 (pre-orders open now).
The Pixel 4a 5G will cost $799 at JB Hi-Fi, Officeworks, Harvey Norman, the Google Store and Telstra some time next month, with pre-orders open already.
The two phones aren't going to set any records for processing power, packing a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, but the focus of the Pixel range are on the features you'll actually use and notice.
The two phones share a camera system (you might have guessed by the name, but photography is a key focus of the Pixel line).
"It's our best one yet," Pixel product manager Soniya Jobanputra said.
The Pixel's famed camera is now even better.
The phones get new ultrawide lenses on the back and some new computational photography hacks to get the most out of the hardware for better photos.
Portrait mode now benefits from the Night Sight mode introduced on the Pixel 3 (and since copied by the likes of Apple and Samsung) for better pictures in the dark.
The new Pixel 5, which "brings together the best of Google's 5G experiences" according to Pixel product marketing manager Maya Lewis, is water resistant and has support for wireless and reverse wireless charging (to charge a pair of wireless earbuds on the back of your phone for instance).
The Pixel 4a 5G is essentially the same as the Pixel 4a but with a slightly larger edge-to-edge OLED display and a more powerful battery to accommodate that and the new 5G capabilities.
One new feature coming to the Pixel phones is called "Hold For Me".
The Google Assistant is even more of an assistant now, and the new feature could be a huge timesaver for some, as well as avoid a massively annoying part of the customer service experience.
"Hold For Me" allows you to get off the phone when you're on hold with your bank, telco or some other company that makes you wait for ages when you call up with an issue about the services you pay them for.
"Google Assistant will wait on hold for you and alert you when someone comes on the line and is ready to speak to you," Pixel product manager Shenaz Zack said.
The feature will first be available on the newly announced Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 smartphones before landing on older Pixel phones in the future.
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Portrait mode also gained a new feature called Portrait Light, which uses AI to simulate lighting.
Google said the feature would not be exclusive to photos taken on the new phones and will be usable in the newly redesigned Google Photos editor (presumably the pictures still need to be ones taken in Portrait mode on a phone that supports it).
Three new stabilisation features have also been added to video mode for smoother motion in videos, and Ms Jobanputra said they were inspired by the most watched cinematography tutorials on YouTube.
The main philosophy behind the Pixel line and the Nexus line that preceded it was creating a device to carry Google's Android software in its unaltered form.
"What really makes the hardware incredible is the software," Ms Zack said.
"5G makes many of the great experiences we deliver faster, but people want more than just speed."
She said 5G was creating new ways for people to communicate and entertain themselves, pointing to new features in Google's FaceTime equivalent Duo to watch videos with the person you're on a video call with simultaneously.
You can also stream games on the go on your mobile phone using Google's Stadia service (not available in Australia yet).
One of the key criticisms of last year's Pixel 4 was its disappointing battery life but Ms Zack has said improvements have been made this year, including the new "extreme battery saver" that lets you pick essential apps to keep on while everything else is paused.
She claimed it can improve your battery life up to 48 hours.
Google promises Pixel phones will receive Android OS updates for at least three years.
Extreme battery saver and Hold For Me will also be available on older Pixel phones soon.
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Ahead of the Pixel announcements, Google also announced new products in its Nest home automation and Chromecast streaming line.
The new Chromecast will benefit from an overhauled software design called Google TV, which essentially picks up where Android TV left off according to Google TV general manager Shalini Govil-Pai.
She said it makes it easier to keep track of all your subscriptions and content so you can actually spend time watching TV and movies instead of just looking for something to watch, aiming to leverage the companies famous search capabilities to quickly find what you're looking for.
The Google TV also gives recommendations based on the services you subscribe to.
"Another great feature we've bought to Google TV is a watchlist, which gives you one easy place to bookmark movies and shows that you want to save for later," Ms Govil-Pai said.
You can also add titles to your watchlist from your mobile phone.
Google TV is more of a software experience, but it will be available for the first time on the new Chromecast, a small stick that you can plug into your TV to stream content off the internet, essentially making it a Smart TV.
"To me the incredible part about Chromecast was that we were able to make old TVs new TVs," Google devices industrial designer Isabelle Olson said.
"Something that was antiquated all of a sudden became smart."
The new Chromecast has a remote for the first time (previously you controlled it using your smartphone).
The main reason for the remote is the addition of the Google Assistant so you can use voice activation commands to stream content to your TV.
There are also dedicated buttons for Netflix and Google-owned YouTube.
"The new Chromecast has a floating stance that invites you to pick it up," Ms Olson said.
"It comes in three distinct colours that live naturally in their surroundings," she added.
Hopefully this is enough to distract you from the fact that it also brings yet another microphone into your house, of which it's just best not to think.
The new Chromecast with Google TV will cost $99 when it goes on sale in Australia on October 15 from JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, Officeworks, and The Good Guys.
The Sunrise and Sky colours will be exclusive to the Google Store.
Google TV also integrates with cameras and doorbells from Google's own Nest home automation system.
Much like Amazon learned last year, Google has figured out that the smart speakers it sells (and sometimes just gives away in your groceries) may as well have decent sound quality.
The new Nest Audio "delivers fuller, clearer, more natural sound that really starts to take the music listening experience to the next level," Nest speakers product manager Mark Spates said.
It's also aggressively priced in the hope that you buy three or four of them to dot around your home, creating a multi-room wireless audio set-up.
Of course, Google Assistant is still built into these speakers and the idea is that you can walk around the house telling it to play songs in different rooms or the whole house as you go.
The Nest Audio will cost $149 and be available from October 15 at JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, The Good Guys, Officeworks and Vodafone.
Originally published as New phone's ridiculously good camera