Made By Google 2018 Event Thoughts

October 9, 2018

Google held their 2018 Made By Google hardware event today, and we pretty much knew everything that was being announced well before the event took place or was even announced. (Despite Google claiming that there was something unexpected, there really wasn't) Regardless, here's my thoughts on everything announced at the event.

Pixel 3 / Pixel 3 XL

There are a number of things wrong with the Pixel 3, especially with the Pixel 3 XL. The camera appears to be the biggest change, and there's actually some cool features there, with the way that it appears to handle low-light shots, or features such as Top Shot or Photobooth. As for the new "not pink" color, I have mixed feelings on it. It looks ok. That's where my positive feelings end though. The Pixel 3 XL is an incredibly ugly design, with a long, deep notch combined with a somewhat sizeable bottom bezel. This large, deep notch that cuts into the display significantly and leaves little room for little notifications sharply contrasts with the thoughtful notch design of the iPhone X and demonstrates Google not understanding why the notch is there (which is to allow for a bezeless display while having a place to store sensors) and only including it because it's a trend. On the other hand, the (non-XL) Pixel 3 looks fine. It has relatively thin bezels (which is what the Pixel 3 XL should've done), and although the bezels on the Pixel 3 are not as thin as I would've liked, they're acceptable.

The biggest problem the Pixel 3 is going to run into however is pricing. In the US, the Pixel 3 starts at $799. I can get a 128GB iPhone XR for $50 less, or a 128GB Samsung Galaxy S9+ for $10 less. The Pixel 3 XL starts at $899. I can get a 256GB Samsung Galaxy S9+ for $30 less, or a 256GB iPhone XR for the same price. For the same price as a 128GB Pixel 3 (the highest option you can get) I can get a 128GB Galaxy Note 9 or a base level 5.8 inch iPhone XS for the same price. See the pattern here? I can get much more popular (and arguably better) phones for the same price or less. So why would someone at a Verizon store buy a Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL over the iPhones or Samsung devices that I mentioned? That's the biggest problem I feel with the Pixel 3. It's way too overpriced for what it is, and it's going to turn a lot of people away from buying a Pixel 3. I feel like it would be a more competitive choice if it had a starting price of something like $650.

Pixel Stand

The Pixel Stand actually seems like a pretty neat device. It's a wireless charging stand for the Pixel 3 that also turns it into a Google Assistant device that can display your calendar, the time, etc. I forsee the Pixel Stand being pretty useful and thus being a "must buy" accessory for Pixel 3 owners.

Home Hub

The Google Home Hub was without a doubt the most exciting item at the event for me. It's essentially a Google Home with a touchscreen, so it can show you things as you're asking for it. It apparently is also designed to serve as a hub for your smart home, judging not only by how much Google focused on the smart home when talking about this thing, but also the fact that you can swipe down from the bottom to see all of your smart home devices. It also allows you to view the video feeds of your Nest Hello doorbells, or your Nest Cameras, which I could see being a useful security feature The most exciting feature for me, however, is the cooking feature, where it can show you how to make this a recipe as you go. I forsee this being a killer feature for a lot of people. The pricing isn't bad either, as at $150, it undercut's Amazon's 2nd generation Echo Show, which has a pricetag of $230. I honestly see the Home Hub being the device that sells the best.

Pixel Slate

The Pixel Slate is a very interesting device, as it's basically a tablet counterpart to the Pixelbook. That's why the keyboard is seperate. What's even more interesting is that this is a tablet running Chrome OS, which to me kinda signals that Google believes that Android tablets are well and truely dead. I have mixed feelings on the Pixel Slate. As a tablet, it seems pretty good, although it's overpriced for the specs, as I can get a max-spec Microsoft Surface Go for $50 less (and with the surface type cover, its $120 less than the Pixel Slate with it's keyboard) or a 9.7 inch 128GB iPad with Cellular for $50 less. Combined with the fact that it has no headphone jack (apparently to "follow trends", which is the actual justification Google gave) and I don't really see any justification to purchase it.

Updated Chromecast

Not really mentioned was the 3rd Generation Chromecast refresh. It has a design much more in line with Google's other devices, support for 60 FPS 1080P video, the ability to play music in sync with other Google devices much like a Chromecast audio, and (probably, not officially confirmed yet) faster Wi-Fi. But besides that, there really isn't much changed. It's still $35. It still doesn't have the ability to play 4K video (you'll still need the Chromecast Ultra to do that) It remains a compelling cheap streaming device. If you already have a 2nd Generation Chromecast, there's no reason to upgrade. However, if you've been looking at buying a Chromecast, now's the time.

Overall, the event was mediocre in terms of what was announced. There was some cool stuff in there such as the Home Hub, but many devices, such as the Pixel 3 or Pixel Slate, will have a hard time competing in their respective categories.