It’s been a very busy few weeks of announcements and product releases in the tech world, and the latest big showcase just wrapped up. Alphabet Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google held its Pixel event today, showing off the Pixel 2, Google Home Mini smart speakers and other new products.
The company is continuing to push into hardware sales with Google-branded devices, as it seeks to reduce its revenue — and GOOGL stock — reliance on ad revenue, while ensuring consumers have options to get the most out of Google services, free of third-party bloatware.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai kicked off the event with an intro suggesting the world is moving from a mobile-first world to an AI-first world, emphasizing Google’s lead in AI and machine learning.
From there, it was on to the hardware where Google emphasizes the integration of its artificial intelligence expertise.
Google Pixel 2
Google had a surprise hit when it released the Pixel in 2016. It may not have sold vast quantities (that the company initially seemed caught off guard by demand didn’t help there), but the first smartphone to carry the Google name made waves.
Despite a mature smartphone market with clear leaders, the Pixel made Android fans think twice about automatically buying a Samsung Galaxy S8. It even bested the iPhone in many camera tests.
Google is serious enough about its smartphone business that two weeks ago it spent $1.1 billion to acquire the 2,000 HTC staff who have been working on Pixel phones. This year, Google is building on the Pixel’s success.
Both new Pixel 2 smartphones share features.
They are powered by Qualcomm, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 835 processor, and both get always-on OLED displays. They both retain the glass and metal combo back of the original, with the fingerprint sensor on the back. Storage is a choice of 64GB or 128GB. Both new smartphones also gain a squeeze “active edge” feature that launches Android Assistant.
Google says the Pixel 2 series phones are IP67 water resistant. Both get even better cameras with both optical and digital stabilization (that AI strength comes into play in a big way here with features like Google Lens, Portrait Mode and ARCore augmented reality) — although no dual-camera setup to match the optical zoom of the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. While Google’s Pixel 2 doesn’t have a headphone jack, it does come with a USB-C adapter and stereo speakers.
The 5-inch Pixel 2 looks very similar to last year’s model, which isn’t surprising considering it is made by HTC –the company that manufactured the original.
The Pixel 2 XL is a bigger visual update and this one is reportedly manufactured by LG. It’s following the trend of minimal bezels, with slightly curved corners and a 6-inch QHD display, but doesn’t achieve quite the same ratio of screen to bezel that the Galaxy S8 or iPhone X do.
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will ship with “pure” Android Oreo and continue to get free, unlimited online storage of their photos.
Google Home Mini Smart Speaker
One of the hottest categories in consumer electronics this holiday season will be smart speakers. Google got into the category last year with the Google Home and has since captured 24% of the U.S. market for the devices. However, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is releasing its Siri-powered HomePod in December, and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) just announced a slew of new Amazon Echo models.
Today, Google introduced the new Google Home Mini, which offers Google Assistant in a compact speaker with a $49 price tag. The company also introduced a series of new family-friendly features. Like Amazon, Google is trying to boost adoption with a low price that encourages the purchase of multiple speakers, and makes it more attainable in less affluent markets.
The company also showed off Google Home Max, a $399 premium smart speaker that’s 20x more powerful than Google Home. It supports Google’s new Smart Sound machine learning audio tuning. This one is aimed directly at Apple’s HomePod.
The PC market may be in a slow downward spiral, but schools are still buying laptops. And increasingly, those laptops are Chromebooks running Google’s Chrome OS and using Google web apps.
Today Google announced the successor to its discontinued Chromebook Pixel, the Google Pixelbook. While third party Chromebook manufacturers chase that education market, the new Google PixelBook is aimed at professionals.
It’s a premium convertible laptop with a 12.3-inch Quad HD display, Core i5 or Core i7 CPUs, 10 hours of battery life, Google Assistant, an optional Pixelbook Pen stylus and a $999 starting price tag.
Google also announced an update to its Daydream View VR virtual reality headset. Designed to work with the Pixel smartphones, it comes in three colors and a $99 price. Pixel Buds also made an appearance –Google’s new wireless $159 earbuds with integrated Google Assistant and real-time translation. The final, surprise announcement, was Google Clips, a $249 compact, clip-on camera.
Today’s event was an important one for Google and for GOOGL stock. The company is pushing further into hardware, in an effort to diversify from its dominantly ad-based revenue stream. At the same time, the hardware it’s focusing on –the Pixel 2 smartphones, Google Home smart speakers and Google PixelBook — keep users looked into Google services, protecting that ad revenue and potentially growing it.
Pixel 2 starts at $649 while the Pixel 2 XL starts at $849. Both are available for pre-order today and come with a free Home Mini smart speaker. Most of the other Google hardware is also available for pre-order starting today, with Google Clips “coming soon.”
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.