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Google I/O 2019: new Pixel and Home devices, Android Q, 10x faster Assistant, AR Search & more

I/O, Google's annual developers conference, kicked off today with a keynote talk and there are some notable announcements Apple fans should be aware of. We've summarized all the news in a bulleted fashion so check out what's new in the Google world, then meet us in comments.

Here's what was announced today at Google I/O 2019.

Android Q

The next major iterations to Google's mobile operating system (Android is reaching version 10) is Android Q. It includes a system-wide dark theme along with some cool AI-driven features, such as suggested replies from the notifications and live captioning.

With Android Q, Google is promising (stop me if you heard this) background security updates that won't require a restart and new privacy options that will hopefully limit what developers can do with your data. Android Q is getting its own Screen Time—they're calling it Focus Mode and it lets you limit distracting apps, like Instagram and Facebook—while new parental controls let parents limit apps their kids can access on a per-app basis.

A Smart Reply feature will offer up suggested actions, similar to how Siri suggestions work on iOS devices. Android Q, like iOS 13, will have a built-in system-wide dark mode option.

The Android Q beta for all Pixel phones is available today.

Cheaper Pixels

The Pixel smartphone brand now includes additional options covering the lower end of the market, with Pixel 3a and 3aXL offering features from the premium Pixel devices at lower price, starting at $399.

These phones have smart cameras the Pixels are known for and include the AI-powered Night Sight feature that boosts night shoots with a little help from machine learning.

Google's adaptive battery technology delivers up to 30 hours of run time on a single charge.

A new Home hub

Google is renaming all of its smart home products under the Nest brand whilst unveiling a new screen and camera-outfitted hub, dubbed Nest Hub Max. You can play YouTube videos on it, watch movies and television shows, enjoy pictures or even use it as a digital photo frame. Like Apple TV, it acts as a remote hub for all your smart hopme products.

The device doubles as a security camera that streams video to the cloud. Multi-user support is also part of the package, thanks to Google's Face Match technology.

Priced at $229, Nest Max Hub is arriving this summer.

Search goes augmented reality

Google Search is getting support for augmented reality objects in search results. Similar to AR QuickView in macOS Mojave and iOS 12, people will be able to just click an object to enter augmented reality mode, which should be cool for certain shopping scenarios.

As part of Google's newly-found privacy angle, Search is getting Incognito Mode like Google's Chrome browser. So, rather than use a privacy-browsing mode in your browser, you'll be able to enter Incognito Mode on Google Search for those times when you don't want your searches to be saved in your Google Account.

Search will also index podcasts and let you play episodes inline. Lens, Google's impressive AI-powered visual search technology, can now calculate a tip by scanning a receipt, read aloud a menu and even highlight the most popular dishes.


Here are some other notable announcements:

New domains for Duplex

Duplex, Google's creepy human-sounding AI that can book a reservation for you, can now book a rental car from a supported service on your behalf, as well as reserve a movie ticket and even fill in web forms for you.

Incognito in Maps

Google Maps is getting an Incognito mode akin to the Chrome browser which lets you research directions and get directions without sharing your data with Google.

Another legitimately cool feature in Google Maps: an augmented reality walking mode, something we've suspected would come to Apple Maps, too.

A faster Assistant

Google has done some plumbing work so now Assistant is 10x faster, responding to rapid fire requests with ease without needing to hear the Hey Google hot word multiple times. According to Goole, Assistant will be running directly on the new Pixel phones launching later this year.

The algorithm has been perfected so Assistant is now smarter, and you'll get some new recommendations as well, such as podcasts and recipes. On top of that, Assistant will be picking up a new Driving Mode on Android this summer.

Assistant will be also coming to Waze soon, Google has said.

What's your favorite announcement from Google I/O 2019?

Let us know in the commenting section down below!

Google, not Amazon now leads smart speaker market

Google Home

There's a new leader in the growing smart speaker market. During the first quarter of 2018, Google overtook Amazon for the top spot. Meanwhile, Apple's nowhere to be found in the new Canalys survey of the top smart speaker producers in the world, suggesting it might be awhile before the HomePod maker makes a mark in the emerging product category.

Here’s what people are mainly using their smart speakers for

Smart speakers such as Amazon's Echo, Google's Home (and, soon, Apple's alleged standalone Siri device) allow users to get answers in the more comfortable settings of their homes.

As these things are always listening, there's no need to press a button or pull a phone out of your pocket. But what exactly are people using Amazon Echo and other smart speakers for?

A ComScore study, charted by Statista, says the most common use case is asking basic questions with 60 percent of US smart speaker owners using their device for simple requests, followed by weather queries (57 percent), playing music (54 percent), setting timers/alarms (41 percent), creating reminders/to-dos (39 percent) and more.

In what's bound to be disappointing to Amazon, the study found that very few users of smart speakers use them to order goods or services online, with just 8 percent of US smart speaker owners using their device to order food/services and 11 percent ordering products online.

According to a May research conducted by digital agency Stone Temple, providing answers to basic questions actually is not Alexa’s strong suit.

Amazon's digital assistant powering the Echo family of devices was able to answer just 20.7 percent of the 5,000 questions asked as part of the experiment.

Siri performed similar to Alexa.

Amazon said today that Echo owners and iOS customers who use the mobile Alexa app or the Amazon shopping app can now enable integration with iCloud Calendar.

Speaking of which, the comScore study found that less than one-third of smart speaker owners in the US (27 percent) use their device to find what's on their calendar for the day or add new appointments to the calendar hands-free.

Google Home is gaining hands-free calling, Apple Music streaming via Bluetooth & visual responses via iPhone

Google's AI-powered speaker, called Home, is getting new features announced earlier today during the keynote address at the company's annual conference for developers. Soon, Home owners will be able to stream songs from Apple Music and other apps running on their iPhone, iPad, Mac or Android device via Bluetooth.

Hands-free calling

And with hands-free calling, customers will be able ask Assistant running on the device to place calls to mobile phones or landlines in the US or Canada for free.

Even better, there’ll be no setup and no need for a phone or additional app.

Visual responses

Yet another upcoming enhancement, called visual responses, will let the smart speaker put responses to queries on a supported display, including your iPhone's.

That's right, you’ll be able to see Assistant answers on the biggest screen in your house, whether you're asking “What's on YouTube TV right now?” or “What's on my calendar today?”

Getting visual responses from Home's Assistant on a TV will be even easier with Chromecast.

Bluetooth streaming

Google is adding Bluetooth support to let Home users enjoy more music, movies and TV shows in apps running on Bluetooth-enabled smartphones, tablets and computers, like Apple Music.

Soundcloud, Deezer and Spotify’s free music offering are coming soon to Home as well. On the video front, they've already added Netflix, and have more partners on the way like HBO NOW, CBS All Access and HGTV.

Reminders, additional countries

You can now use your Home speaker to schedule new calendar appointments and create reminders (support for adding reminders is coming soon). “Since it’s the same Google Assistant across devices, you’ll be able to get a reminder at home or on the go,” said the firm.

Google provided this brief explanation for proactive notifications:

Conversations can take place in many different ways. Sometimes your Assistant should be the one to start it—so over the next few months, we’re bringing proactive notifications to Google Home.

Google Home is currently available in a few markets, but that's about to change later this year as they expand it to new places, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan.

Assistant updates

Hands-free calling, adding reminders, Bluetooth streaming and visual responses will all be enabled for Google Home users in the coming months via a free firmware update.

Google Home is powered by Google Assistant (now available as a dedicated iPhone app).

Speaking of Assistant, the AI-powered helper will be rolling out to eligible Android phones in Brazilian Portuguese, French, German and Japanese. By the end of the year, Assistant will support Italian, Korean and Spanish.

Starting today, developers can build conversational apps for the Google Assistant on phones. As a result, you’ll soon be able to not only get help and answers from Google, but also from third party services.

The company currently has 70+ smart home partners backing Assistant across Google Home, Android phones and iPhone, including August locks, TP-Link, Honeywell, Logitech and LG.