Google’s Pixel pops up, Sonos Plays in, Lego Boosts kids, and GoPro gets better. Get stuck into The Wrap.
For the first week of October, this is The Wrap, Australia’s fastest serving of technology, brought to you by people who just love talking about tech and writing with words, and really just being an interpretation system for everything jargon filled in gadgets and games.
And this week, we’re continuing those efforts as we fill in the week that was, starting with what’s new from Google.
The past month has been filled with phones, from Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 to what’s new from Motorola and of course to the new iPhones, all three of them, but this week, the news is squarely focused on what Google has to offer, so what does Google have coming?
Just like it did last year, Google has a couple of Pixels on the way, and unlike the pixels on your screen or camera, these Pixels are big enough to hold and carry.
Specifically, there are two, with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, and much like how Apple makes an iPhone 8 and an iPhone 8 Plus with nearly identical bits except for screen and battery life, Google is doing the same.
The Pixel 2 has a 5 inch screen and is basically a “normal-sized” phone, while the Pixel 2 XL is a 6 inch device with a screen that takes up most of the body and is that “bigger phone with a better battery life”, but outside of those things, they’re largely the same.
When both do arrive in October, they’ll both come with a new Snapdragon eight core processor, water resistance, either 64 or 128GB of storage, fast WiFi and 4G, and a 12 megapixel camera that takes advantage of some very cool computer smarts to do things like those neat portrait effects every major phone camera is coming with.
It will also allow you to squeeze the phone as the edges of the phone act as a button to activate the Google Assistant, and in a really nice touch, the always on display is always listening, and not in a creepy way, either. It’s always listening to the music you’re hearing, so it will tell you on the screen just what you’re hearing in a cafe or at that sushi place you like where they always play jazz but you have no idea what songs it is.
We’re getting off topic, but listening is part of what makes the Pixel 2 special, and while Google has joined Apple and HTC by killing the headphone jack, it has been working on a pair of wireless earphones that do something kind of cool: when paired with the Pixel, they will work as a universal translator, switching on when you hold the Google Assistant button down on the right earphone.
That’s a technology we’re looking into, and we can’t help but feel it’ll be dependent more on Android and less on the earphones, but we’ll find out if it will roll out to any other Google Assistant-enabled earphones.
You know Bose just launched its Quiet Comfort 35 II headphones with a Google Assistant button, so one wonders if that will be supported there.
We’ll know as soon as we get a pair, and that should be before either the Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL rock up, as they’re not expected at least for another few weeks.
Coming before that, however, is a new camera from GoPro, as the company drives the market it practically started a little harder.
Before GoPro arrived, there’s a good chance you’d never heard of an action camera, and that’s because really it’s a GoPro thing.
Seriously, this company has been making action cameras for about ten years, and its latest is its best yet.
Announced this week, it’s called the Hero 6 Black, and it’s basically the top of the line-up, as GoPro builds a better 4K action camera, boasting 60 frames per second in 4K Ultra HD, 240 frames per second if you switch it back to Full HD, not to mention GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi, and a chip that not only will make those scenes pop, but has the potential to recognise scenes you film and help you sort them out later on.
GoPro’s Hero 6 Black also doesn’t need a case, with a fully waterproof design that you can take in the surf with you and capture slow motion.
And how would you do that? Well those frame per second counts we mentioned earlier directly relate to slow motion: the faster you can capture video at, the smoother the slow motion can be. So normal film is captured at around 30 frames per second, sometimes under depending on where in the world you are. Sixty is a little smoother, and 240 will let you slow right down, though this obviously affects what the result looks like.
Still, GoPro’s Hero 6 Black will support both, and it will do so for around $750 locally when it lands in stores very shortly.
Also landing in stores shortly is something new from Sonos, as word spreads that people around the world are after home-based digital assistants.
Right now, Google’s Home is one of the only assistants, and while it’s a cool product, it’s not a great sound system. Many people already have great sound systems, some of them available in rooms across the house, and Sonos is one of them. Like how GoPro built the action camera game, Sonos practically made the multiroom audio world, and as such, it kind of dominates there.
This week, though, Sonos joins the world of the digital assistant, announcing the Sonos One, an upgrade to the humidity-proof Sonos Play:1 speaker, the smallest in its range, and this change improves things a bit, most notably with a microphone.
The inclusion of that mic means you can ask it questions, much like you can ask a Google home, but while Google Assistant support is coming, to start with, Sonos will be supporting Amazon’s Alexa, and it will do mostly the same thing, except without as much reliance on Google.
You can ask it for the weather, or what the sport sport scores are, and if you have multiple speakers around your home, you can ask the Sonos One to play to several of them, like the one in your living room, kitchen, and bathroom. Because everyone deserved music.
And everyone deserves music to be good, too, and so Sonos has improved the sound, and announced that Apple AirPlay 2 will be supported soon enough.
You’ll find this one in stores later this month for $299, and while Sonos hasn’t said whether the Sonos One would be a direct replacement, the original Play:1 costs $299 and so does this, so you do the math.
And finally, if you’ve been struggling to find a toy that fits the right balance between “fun” and “educational”, Lego might have the ticket this year with a new set of programmable blocks called “Boost”.
Now Lego’s Boost isn’t like your ordinary Ninjago or Star Wars lego brick sets. Rather, it offers instructions to help you build one of five slightly robotic toys, and provided you have a tablet, it will even help kids building the robotic toys to learn how to program.
Or in other words, it’s an educational toy. There, we said it. It’s a toy designed to help kids learn how to program, and while you can program Lego’s own creations, you can also build your own, with programmable Lego bricks that are either a motor or a collection of sensors.
Seriously, kids these days have it so easy. Back in my day, we had to learn programming by reading books. Paper books. We’d carry them around like giant manuals and fall asleep browsing the pages. And then we’d pull apart someone’s code and try to put it together again.
Lego would have been awesome. Boost isn’t necessarily cheap at just under $250, but given what it can do, it’s a very cool educational toy. There, we said it again. And we’ll keep saying it. Educational toy.
Now we’re going to go pile our envy into something more useful, like ending the show.
You’ve been listening to The Wrap, Pickr’s technology podcast wrapping as much tech as we can into the smallest space we can find. We’ll be back next week for more news and hopefully a review. Until then, be sure to have a great weekend and a lovely week, and we shall see you next time on The Wrap. Take care.