Google announces its latest releases in Wi-Fi and smart home tech

Oct 15, 2019

‘Tis the season for product announcements.

Google unveiled a slew of new products at its annual hardware event on Tuesday, hot on the heels of similar events from Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. The theme of this release was delivering a seamless online experience no matter where you go.

“We think technology can be even more useful when computing is anywhere you need it, always available to help you,” said Rick Osterloh, Senior Vice President of Devices & Services.

“Your devices fade into the background, working together with AI and software to assist you throughout your day. We call this ambient computing.”

Privacy concerns aside, the Google announcement did reveal plenty of legitimately interesting and ambitious products today. Here are some of the highlights.

Nest Wi-Fi combines a smart speaker and router

Price: Two-pack with one router and one point for $269, or a three-pack with one router and two points for $349
Release date: November 4

Google has been in the Wi-Fi game since 2016, when it introduced a mesh system for $300. It received positive reviews overall, with Consumer Reports noting that it “can cover very large areas but other models offer more speed.” According to Google, this new version will deliver “up to two times the speed and up to 25% better coverage.”

Mesh networks are helpful for extending your internet connection to your entire home. You’ll get a Wi-Fi router that plugs directly into your modem, plus one or two “Nest Wi-Fi Points” that you put around your home to expand coverage.

Google claims that a two-pack ($269) can provide enough coverage for a 3,800 square foot home, but you can add more points at any time ($149 each).

Having a smart router also gives you more control of your Wi-Fi. You can prioritize certain devices (if you’re streaming a big game, for example) or pause access from others (if it’s past bedtime, say).

But where Google really innovates here is how it incorporates its voice assistant. Both the router and Wi-Fi points are equipped with Google Assistant, so you can check the weather, play music or adjust your smart home devices.

With its taller body, the Nest Wi-Fi Point should sound more like a real speaker than a voice assistant, too. We haven’t gotten our hands on one yet, but early reports have been promising.

They also happen to look really nice. While most routers and their web of cables get hidden behind furniture, Google’s router and Wi-Fi points are designed to fit into your home’s decor.

This is more important than you might think. You get the best Wi-Fi coverage when the router is high up and in the center of the room. Because the Nest Wi-Fi Points are actually attractive to look at, people will presumably be more comfortable putting them where they need to be. Google estimates this will reduce signal blockage by up to 50%.

You’ll also be able to use it as a hub for smart home devices. Because it has local home connectivity, you’ll be able to connect most lights and plugs directly to the Nest Wi-Fi system through the Google Home app.

Pixel 4 and 4 XL

Price: $799 for Pixel 4, $899 for 4 XL
Release date: October 24

The headliner from today’s Google announcement was the latest version of Google’s smartphone, the Pixel 4 and a slightly larger 4 XL. The Pixel 4 has a 5.7-inch display, while the 4 XL goes up to 6.3 inches. Both come with 64 GB of storage, but can be upgraded to 128 GB for an extra $100.

Both phones will have two cameras on the back for sharper images, new and improved Google Assistant and a Motion Sense feature that allows you to complete certain actions without even touching the phone.

Pixel Buds

Price: $179
Release date: 2020

Google is coming for Apple’s Beats/Airpods earbud empire. The Pixel Buds will come in four colors — “Clearly White, Oh So Orange, Quite Mint and Almost Black” — and are dropping sometime next year. They’re equipped with Google Assistant, long-range Bluetooth and two microphones in each earbud.

Google also says that the Pixel Buds will have something called a “voice accelerometer,” which has the ability to “detect speech through the vibrations of your jawbone, so that you can be heard even in windy conditions.”

Pixelbook Go Chromebook

Price: $649
Release date: Unknown

The Chromebook has been one of Google’s most popular hardware offerings for years, but they’ve started to push the $1,000 price point for most models. The Pixelbook Go Chromebook looks to bring that back down to a more affordable tier, with a $649 starting price.

It doesn’t have the convertible lid that allows other Chromebooks to double as laptops and tablets, and Google also dropped the pen input, making it touchscreen and keyboard only. It also has only two USB-C ports. Its cheaper price point also means it has lower computing power, with a lower-end M3 processor and only 8 GB of RAM.

Google Nest Mini

Price: $49
Release date: October 22

Along with Amazon’s Echo series, Google’s Nest has been an incredibly popular voice assistant for years. The new version will offer an improved version of Google Assistant, more powerful audio and the ability to call other Home and Nest devices.

Daydream View VR is being discontinued

Tucked inside Google’s splurge of product announcements was one surrender: the Daydream View VR will be taken off the shelves, real and virtual. While it received positive reviews overall — Wirecutter named it runner-up for best VR headset for your phone — it never made much of a splash with consumers.

“[There hasn’t] been the broad consumer or developer adoption we had hoped, and we’ve seen decreasing usage over time of the Daydream View headset,” a Google spokesperson told Engadget.

“So while we are no longer selling Daydream View or supporting Daydream on Pixel 4, the Daydream app and store will remain available for existing users.”