Sunday, September 5, 2010

Nexus phones, an Android laptop, and more: Your guide to all the new Google announcements

mardi 29 septembre 2015
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Nexus! Pixel! Chromecast! Marshmallow! Man, oh man: Today's Google event was just oozing with news. There's a ton of new stuff to digest -- and some of the most interesting info is in the easy-to-miss detail.

Not to fear, my friends: I've got you covered. Here are the key takeaways -- and some accompanying tasty tidbits -- you, you, you oughta know.

1. You'll have a choice of two new Nexus phones this year -- and they're both pretty darn affordable.

As most of us were expecting, Google is launching not one but two new Nexus phones: the 5.2-in. LG-made Nexus 5X and the larger Huawei-made Nexus 6P. Unlike last year's surprisingly expensive Nexus 6, the new phones are both fantastic deals, at least on paper: $379 for the base model of the Nexus 5X and $499 for the starting-level Nexus 6P.

Last year's Nexus 6, for comparison, started at $649 -- a price that's competitive with off-contract phones in general but quite high compared to Google's traditional Nexus pricing.

The Nexus 5X, at left, and Nexus 6P, at right

Both new Nexii promise top-notch camera quality (as do most new phones these days, to be fair, so we shall see). Both include fingerprint sensors and new USB Type-C connector ports -- the latter of which is probably going to be a blessing and a curse for a while but will definitely be a welcomed change in the long run.

The two phones are up for presale in the Google Play Store now and slated to start shipping "later in October."

Interesting tidbits:

[UPDATE: Hands on: Getting to know the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P]

2. Google's making its own convertible Android tablet -- but it isn't a Nexus device.

The Pixel C is a high-end Android device from the same team responsible for Google's top-of-the-line Chromebook Pixel devices. (The "C" there stands for "convertible." See? Sensible letter-naming isn't so hard!)

Google's new Pixel C Android convertible

The system looks a lot like the impressive Dell Venue 10 8000 convertible I reviewed earlier this year, only with the style and quality you'd expect from a Pixel-branded device. It starts at the same price, too: $499 for the tablet alone and an extra $149 for the laptop-creating keyboard attachment.

And don't be misled: This bad boy runs Android, not Chrome OS. It'll launch "in time for the holidays," according to Google, with Android 6.0 on board.

Interesting tidbits:

[UPDATE: The crucial factor everyone's forgetting about Google's Pixel C]

3. Android 6.0, Marshmallow, will start to show up next week.

The key phrase there is "start to" -- remember, Google typically sends out software in phases, and the company's rollouts affect only its own Nexus devices.

That being said, if you have a Nexus 5 (the original version), Nexus 6, Nexus 7 (presumably only the 2013 version), Nexus 9, or Nexus Player, next week is the time to keep your eyes open for that elusive update prompt. That means the Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 have apparently reached the end of their update cycles and won't be getting any Marshmallow love (sorry, Charlie).

Got a non-Nexus phone? Only time will tell how the various manufacturers fare with upgrade speediness this go-round. (Here's how they all did with Lollipop, which may or may not serve as an indication of what to expect.) So far, HTC has come forward to say it'll be sending Marshmallow to its One M9 and One M8 starting later this year and then to a handful of other models after that. Some manufacturers are better than others at communicating, but odds are, we'll hear from at least a few other companies about their plans before long.

Interesting tidbits:

[UPDATE: Android 6.0, Marshmallow: The complete FAQ]

4. Google Photos is getting some fancy new features.

Google's already-excellent photo service is getting some serious love with a few new features -- two of which address a couple of my chief complaints.

First and perhaps most exciting is the addition of a new shared photo albums feature. It allows two people to "own" and control an album -- so, for instance, my wife and I could both add photos of our daughter to a single album from our own individual phones and accounts. That feature is launching "later this year."

Photos is finally gaining support for Chromecast, too, so you can wirelessly beam photos from your Android device to your TV.

And Photos is getting a new option for privately labeling people in your photo collection, which should -- in theory -- make it easier to keep track of faces (which Photos already does automatically, but not always with 100% success).

[UPDATE: How Google Photos' new custom-labeling feature can help clean up your collection]

Interesting tidbit:

5. Google Play Music is getting a new family plan.

Right now, you can subscribe to Google's All Access streaming service for 10 bucks a month. Starting later this year, you'll be able to pay just $5 more to get a family-level membership -- which will give you unlimited streaming for up to six people on their own individual accounts and devices.

Interesting tidbit:

6. Chromecast is getting a makeover -- and a new Sonos-like expansion option.

More than two years after its release, Google's dead-simple streaming stick is getting fresh hardware.

The new Chromecast -- still just $35 -- has an updated look (which doesn't really mean much since you probably plug it into the back of your TV and then never see it again, anyway, but nevertheless). It also offers improved Wi-Fi performance and faster play times, thanks to a new system that starts to load content before you even ask for it. Google says waiting should be cut down by as much as 80% from what the current generation product delivers.

[UPDATE: Living with Google's new Chromecast (2015): Is it worth the upgrade?]

The new $35 Chromecast streaming device

Perhaps more significant, Google is also launching a new Chromecast Audio device that lets you turn any old speaker into part of your connected sound system. You just plug the device into a speaker -- via a 3.5mm, RCA, or optical input port -- and you can then cast audio to it from any computer or mobile device, just like you cast video now.

[UPDATE: Living with Chromecast Audio: A brilliantly simple audio streaming solution]

The coolest part is yet to come: a multi-room synchronization feature that'll give you Sonos-like functionality -- being able to send audio to multiple speakers in different parts of your house -- at a fraction of the cost (provided you already have your own speakers, of course). That feature won't be present until later this year, when it's set to arrive via an over-the-air software update.

Interesting tidbits:

Whew! Quite the collection of goodies to mull over, eh? There's much more to be said about all of this stuff -- and rest assured: We'll get to it soon. 

Stay tuned, gang. The end of 2015 is going to be anything but quiet.