Google takes on Apple with Pixel 3, Pixel Slate and Home Hub

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The new Made by Google products.
The new Made by Google products.
Photo: Google

Google unleashed its latest wave of hardware designed to take on Apple and Amazon by combining its powerful software with custom-designed hardware. And it actually looks pretty good.

Three new products were unveiled at Google’s event in New York City this morning: the Pixel 3, Pixel Slate and Google Home Hub. All three pack some interesting new features that some of Apple’s own products can’t match. But there are also glaring weaknesses in the new Google products. Like the horrifically huge notch on the Pixel 3 to start with.

Take a closer look at all the new products:

Pixel 3

Pixel 3
The new Google Pixel 3.
Photo: Google

Google says its the world’s best camera, put inside the world’s most friendly phone.

There are two sizes, Pixel 3 and Pixel XL. Both have a matte glass back with finger sensor on the back (no facial recognition unlock here yet). There are three color options: black, white, and pink.

The displays go edge-to-edge just like on the iPhone XS with a notch at the top but there’s a big black space at the bottom too. Speakers on the front are 40% louder than last year’s model. It ships with 6 free months of YouTube Music.

google pixel keynote
Google had to toss in an iPhone diss.
Photo: Google

Pixel 3 camera

Pixel 3’s camera is the flagship feature of the new phones. Using Google’s AI to capture even better photos, Pixel 3 can know a good photo when it sees it. The feature called Top Shot is very similar to Apple’s Live Photos option which lets you select the best shot from a series of photos snapped before and after you pressed the shutter button.

Night Sight mode has been added for improved shots in low-light situations. Google’s software uses AI to select which areas should be brightened or darkened so you don’t have to use a flash. By adding a second camera upfront, Pixel 3’s Group Selfie feature allows you to capture 184% more of the scene than an iPhone X selfie cam. Google also has a depth control feature for Portrait Mode, just like on the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max.

Pixel 3
Google tried to hide the Pixel 3’s huge notch during the presentation.
Photo: Google

To show off the new cameras, Google recruited Anne Leibowitz to take pictures with the Pixel 3 on all her latest travels. Google also got some of the biggest magazines in the world to shoot their latest covers with the Pixel 3.

Google also has a new Pixel Stand for the Pixel 3 that provides wireless charging and changes the way you interact with your phone. The UI changes so you can see it from across the room. It turns the Pixel 3 into a more thoughtful alarm clock and works kind of like a Google Home hub.

Prices on the Pixel 3 start at $799. It arrives on October 18th through Verizon, but you can buy an unlocked version through the Google Store. The Pixel Stand will cost $79.

Pixel Slate

Pixel Slate
Pixel Slate is Google’s answer for the iPad Pro.
Photo: Google

The new Google Pixel Slate is the next step in Google’s vision for ChromeOS.

It pushes performance to the limit while being versatile at the same time with a big 12.3-inch display with a 3000 x 2000 resolution. For RAM it comes with 8GB and 16GB options and has dual front-firing speakers direct sound toward the user instead of out to the sides.

8MP rear and front cameras so you can take photos on the go. It also includes Portrait Mode. There’s a wide-angle lens up front to get more of you in the frame during video calls. Google is also tossing in 3 free months of YouTube TV.

The top power button doubles as a fingerprint sensor allowing you to unlock it just as quickly as your phone. Google created a Pixel Slate Keyboard to go with it that’s full-sized and backlit. It connects with a snap and doesn’t require any pairing.

Prices start at $599. The keyboard costs an extra $199 and the pen is another $99. Google says it will be available later this year but a specific launch date wasn’t given.

Google Home Hub

Google Home Hub
Google Home Hub doesn’t have a camera, and that’s probably a good thing.
Photo: Google

The new Google Home Hub is basically a Google Home with a TV display attached to it. You can use it complete any “Hey Google” tasks like checking traffic, viewing your calendar, news and more. It can recognize you by your voice so it can support multiple users in the family.

YouTube has been optimized to support Google Home Hub giving you access to thousands of How To videos that can been pulled up with voice commands. Music can also be queued up through the hub and it comes with 6 months of free YouTube Premium.

To help you disconnect, Hub comes with a downtime mode. You can set the parameters for how long it lasts so no notifications or apps bother you.

For smart home features, Google added a new Home View feature. It gives you an overview of all of your connected devices and lets you manage them. You can use Hub to turn up the thermostat, turn off the lights in the living room, and open your garage door all from the same spot. Google also created a mobile app so you can connect to your Home View remotely.

When Google Home Hub isn’t being used, it acts as a brilliant photo frame. Deep integration with Google Photos allows Hub to pull up your best photos using machine learning to filter out the blurry shots you took. There are also Live Albums that update anytime you take pictures so your pics on the Hub are never stale.

Preorders for Google Home Hub open today for $149. It will be available in retail locations on October 22 in the U.S., U.K. and Australia.