Google Pixel phones unveiled at I/O event


Google’s new smart screen can also act as a Nest surveillance camera, constantly uploading video to the cloud, plus display the view from other Nest cameras around the home. Similar to the Facebook Portal and Amazon Show, the screen also lets users make and receive video calls to Android devices, iPhones or other Hubs using Google’s Duo service.

A green light on the front of Hub Max indicates when the camera is streaming, a light which can no longer be disabled under Google’s latest privacy changes. Users also have multiple controls to disable camera features like Nest Cam, including a hardware switch which physically disables the microphone and camera.

To address privacy and security concerns, encrypted facial recognition data is only stored on the device and not in the cloud, says Google senior vice president of devices Rick Osterloh.

“Your home is the most special place in your life, so we need to be thoughtful about the technology we create for it,” Osterloh says.

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“Most importantly, the helpful home needs to respect your privacy and today we’re publishing privacy commitments for our Home products that clearly explain how they work, the data we’re storing and how its used.”

The new privacy policies come after the recent revelation that Google’s Nest home alarm products feature an undisclosed microphone.

The privacy commitment includes revealing the details of all embedded sensors, whether they are enabled or not. It also includes explaining how video footage, audio recordings and home environment sensor readings are used, while committing to keep this data separate from advertising and ad personalisation.

Google is renaming its smart display range from Home Hub to Nest Hub, using the branding of its Nest smart home subsidiary which was folded into Google last year.

Due to land on Australia shelves “this winter”, the $349 Google Nest Hub Max builds on the Google Home Hub unveiled last year, with the new larger version featuring a 10-inch HD touchscreen, improved 2.1-channel speakers and a front 6.5 megapixel 127-degree camera.

Meanwhile the new smartphones, called the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, have a less powerful processor, a plastic body instead of glass and a less complex selfie camera compared to the flagship Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, but will be sold for 60 per cent of the price. Google characterised the devices as “entry premium” models and said they represented access to Google’s best hardware, software and AI at an accessible price point.

Google chief Sundar Pichai talks about the phone's new features.

Google chief Sundar Pichai talks about the phone’s new features. Credit:Bloomberg

Both phones have OLED screens and the same primary camera as the more expensive Pixel pair, as well as the same suite of software tricks like Night Sight and Google Lens. Google’s Pixel-exclusive takes on the Android 9 system are also present in the cheaper phones, including brand new offerings unveiled at I/O like an Augmented Reality navigation system within Google Maps for walking.

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL will be available now for $649 and $799 respectively.

Adam Turner travelled to California as a guest of Google.

Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian technology journalist and co-host of weekly podcast Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News.

Tim is the editor of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald technology sections.

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