The third annual Google hardware extravaganza is kicking off in just a few days. On October 9 at 11am, Google will show off its next flagship smartphone, the Pixel 3, along with a few other products. The new Pixel phone is usually the headline launch at these hardware events, but Google often announces four or five other products alongside the new phone.
Last year, we saw the Pixel 2, the Chrome OS-powered Pixelbook, the Google Home Mini and Google Home Max, a new version of the Daydream View VR headset, the Google Pixel Buds, and a dead-on-arrival AI camera called “Google Clips.”
The Pixel 3 and 3 XL
Right now, the Pixel 3 might be the tech world’s worst-kept secret. There have been over 20 (!) individual leaks since June, and some sites have even done full reviews already. Apparently, Google and/or Foxconn lost an entire box of pre-production Pixel 3 XLs, and the units have been circulating on the Ukrainian black market for $2000 a pop. Other than the retail price, there’s not much we don’t know about the Pixel 3.
Just like last year, the big and small Pixels have wildly different front designs. The smaller Pixel 3 has straight top and bottom bezels, front-facing stereo speakers, and rounded display corners, making it look like a small version of the Pixel 2 XL. The Pixel 3 XL is following the 2018 flagship design trend by going with a notched display, but Google’s notch looks about twice as tall as nearly every other phone on the market. It still has front-facing stereo speakers, so there’s also a sizable bottom bezel. The back switches from metal to all-glass but keeps the Pixel’s traditional two-tone design by putting some kind of coating on the bottom three fourths of the glass panel.
Google’s camera setup with both Pixel 3s is definitely unique. You get one camera on the back and two on the front. Google has repeatedly turned in one of the best smartphone cameras out there with a single rear lens, but it’s the dual-front camera setup that has everyone wondering. HTC—which shares more than a little DNA with the Pixel phones—recently launched a device that used dual front cameras for a front bokeh effect. It would not be surprising to see Google go with a similar solution. Google’s Pixel team loves letting Apple dictate the future of smartphones, so it would also not be surprising to see the dual front cameras used for some kind of answer to Apple’s Face ID and Animojis.
Specs should be a standard 2018 flagship loadout with a Snapdragon 845, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB or 128GB of storage. The display on the Pixel 3 XL is a 2960×1440 OLED. Both devices have stereo speakers and no headphone jack. The battery in the leaked Pixel 3 XL prototypes clocked in at 3,430mAh, which is smaller than the 3520mAh in the Pixel 2 XL. The smaller Pixel 3 battery should be somewhere around 2900mAh. The colors leaked so far have been black, white, and pink.
Pixel 3 is expected to have a new accessory called “Pixel Stand.” With wireless charging included in the Pixel 3s, this will be a first-party wireless charging. The stand keeps the phone upright and is supposed to kick it into a special software mode that seems like something close to a Google Smart Display. Animations hidden in the Google App show a photo-slideshow mode and full-screen displays for timers, messages, calendar events, and music.
The main Pixel 3 mysteries left to be uncovered are the pricing and what new software additions Google will throw into the Pixel skin.
The Google Home Hub
Speaking of smart displays, Google launches its smart-display software this year, creating a Google Assistant-powered answer to the Amazon Echo Show. This is basically a Google Home with a screen, which has a special display used for things like smart-home functionality, photos, weather, timers, and YouTube.
Google launched its smart-display software earlier this year, but it has let third parties handle the hardware work, like Lenovo and LG. In all likelihood, Google’s first hardware to use its smart-display software will be called the “Google Home Hub.” Press images of the device leaked to MySmartPrice, showing a device that looks like a tablet mounted to a speaker. The design carries over a lot of Google Home motifs like the color scheme and cloth speaker cover, so it should fit in with Google’s existing collection of smart speakers. The leaked renders show three features along the top bezel of the device, and it’s not clear what these do. The two outside holes are presumably microphones, while the larger center hole might be a camera. On the back, you’ll find the traditional Google Home mute switch, which will stop the unit from scanning for the “OK Google” hotword.
Don’t expect any special software on Google’s smart display compared to the LG and Lenovo models. Like the Google Home speakers, the idea is that every device has the same software and, regardless of the manufacturer, receives centralized updates from Google. The real differentiator for Google’s smart display (besides looking way better than LG or Lenovo’s efforts) appears to be the price. One leaked retail listing pegged the price at $149, which would undercut Lenovo’s $199 device.
The Google Pixel Slate
From the Chrome OS side of the street, expect some kind of sequel to last year’s Pixelbook. Again, earlier Google software releases are driving Google hardware releases at this event. Chrome OS has been slowly building up a Chrome OS tablet mode, so we should see some kind of Chrome OS tablet—detachable or otherwise—at the extravaganza.
A new Google device codenamed “Nocturne” is expected to launch as the “Google Pixel Slate.” Just this weekend, MySmartPrice scored rather complete looking renders of the device, showing a tablet, pen, and keyboard cover just like the Microsoft Surface. There was also an earlier leak of the device from keyboard manufacturer “Brydge.” Brydge is apparently making its own attachable keyboard with integrated hinges, which would turn the tablet into more of a laptop-style device.
The Pixel Slate is expected to be the first Chrome OS device with a fingerprint reader, and the render show a wide button on the top of the device that matches previously leaked text descriptions and images of the fingerprint reader location. The rest of the renders show, well, a big screen with a USB-C port on either side. The keyboard cover looks really strange with rounded keys, but the good news is that is has a physical connection to the tablet via pogo pins. Google’s previous tablet/keyboard combo, the Pixel C, featured an awful Bluetooth connection pairing the keyboard to the tablet. The keyboard would fall asleep all the time, so typing usually meant mashing on the keyboard to wake it up, waiting five or so seconds for it to connect, and only then could you type. Bluetooth also meant the keyboard section had its own battery, which would only charge when the unit was closed. Pogo pins should mean no extra battery and no connection issues.
Specs for the Pixel Slate have popped up in Geekbench’s database with configurations ranging from an eighth-gen Intel Core i7-8500Y with 16GB of RAM to an Intel Celeron 3965Y with 8GB of RAM. In total, four different CPUs have popped up in Geekbench, so expect a range of price points. Geekbench also shows the device running “Android 9,” so it looks like an update for the Android subsystem in Chrome OS is in the works. Currently, Chrome OS uses Android 7.1 Nougat. Chrome OS’s open-source nature means the Nocturne firmware is freely available on the Internet, and the OS shows a display with a 3:2 aspect ratio and an even 3000×2000 resolution.
An “Atlas” Chrome OS device is also out there with a 4K display and a traditional, non-detachable laptop form factor, which sounds like a possible Pixelbook 2.
A new Chromecast and new Pixel Buds?
We know a third-gen Chromecast is coming, because it’s already in stock at some Best Buys. What we don’t know is how big of a deal it is or if Google will even mention it at the event.
The new Chromecast sports the mysterious addition of Bluetooth, which could be used for a remote control or a game controller, or it could just be a boring addition to the initial setup process. Best Buy lists a launch date of October 9, and the happy few who have managed to buy the new Chromecast early can’t set it up yet.
Interestingly, Google did just announce “Project Stream,” a “test” of playable streaming video games in the same vein as GeForce Now or PlayStation Now. The test is only for the desktop Chrome browser, but if Google really is launching a commercial game-streaming service, bringing it to TVs via the dirt-cheap Chromecast seems like a great idea.
Finally, the Pixel Buds. The first ones were pretty bad. Google’s first-ever earbuds connected to your phone wirelessly, but a wire between the two earbuds made them seem dated. The sound quality wasn’t great, and the controls were finicky. The new Pixel Buds are rumored to be totally wireless. That’s about all we know so far.
Google’s event kicks off October 9 at 11am ET. We’ll be there bringing you the latest news on everything Google announces.
Listing image by Google