Google’s Pixel phone event: what to expect

Now that Apple has had its big fall phone event, it’s Google’s turn to show off its goods. And that’s going to happen next week, October 4th, at an event in San Francisco. We’ll be there live covering the event soup to nuts, with a live blog and more. But if you want a heads up for what the rumors suggest that Google’s likely to announce, you’ve come to the right place.

Based on everything we know so far, this event is going to have a lot of hardware announcements. A lot. We’re expecting to see new phones; release dates and pricing for Google’s Amazon Echo competitor; a new Chromecast; and even a new router. And tying this all together will be Google’s new Assistant, which debuted with the Allo messaging app.

Let’s dive in.

The main stars of the show will likely be the new Pixel and Pixel XL phones. Many of the details of the new devices have leaked over the past few months, and it’s not clear how many surprises Google will have in store about them.

The new phones will reportedly replace Google’s long-standing Nexus program, and will feature only Google’s branding — no manufacturer or Nexus tags will be found on them (though consensus is that HTC is actually building the phones behind the scenes). Google has already been hyping up interest in the new devices through marketing campaigns across the world.

Two sizes: The Pixel and Pixel XL will be largely identical, save for their size. The smaller Pixel is expected to have a 5-inch display, while the Pixel XL will have a phablet-class 5.5-inch screen.

Powerhouse specs: Both phones are expected to have the same overall slate of specs, and they will be cutting edge. Expect to see Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, 1080p (Pixel) and quad HD (Pixel XL) displays, 12-megapixel cameras, fingerprint scanners, and large batteries. Basically, if there’s a spec that’s expected for a high-end Android phone in late 2016, the Pixel phones will have it.

Premium design: As both devices are expected to be manufactured by HTC (but with Google’s branding), they are likely to have premium materials and finishes. Based on images that have leaked so far, both phones will look very similar to the iPhone and will have aluminum unibody designs. But instead of a fingerprint scanner on the front, the Pixel phones have theirs on the back, similar to last year’s Nexus 5X and 6P.

Premium pricing: To go along with that premium design, the Pixel phones are expected to be priced premium as well. According to Android Police, the devices will start at $649, which puts them in line with the best phones from Apple and Samsung. This is a shift from Google’s aggressive pricing strategy with some Nexus devices and may cause frustration for a few longtime fans of those phones. On the plus side, it’s said that Google will offer financing options to make the high price easier to manage.

Android 7.1 Nougat: The new Pixel phones won’t just bring updated hardware: they are also expected to launch with Android 7.1 Nougat, an update to the Android 7.0 that just launched in August. There aren’t many details about what 7.1 has in store, but the Pixel phones are expected to have a few exclusive goodies, including a new app launcher and icon design.

Google announced its competitor to Amazon’s wildly popular Echo back at its I/O developer conference in May, but next week we expect to get information on when you’ll be able to buy the Google Home and how much it will cost.

Android Police has reported that the Google Home will sell for $129, which is $50 less than Amazon’s full-size Echo, but $80 more than the smaller Echo Dot. We don’t have an exact date for when Home will be available, but we expect Google will put it up for sale in time for the holiday shopping season.

Not to be left out of the party, it appears that the Chromecast will be getting an update next week, too. Android Police has reported that a Chromecast Ultra will be announced, which will support 4K and HDR content and will sell for $69. That price is a bit more expensive than the standard Chromecasts, but given the Ultra’s higher-end capabilities, that’s not a huge surprise.

This one also comes to us by way of Android Police: Google is reportedly going to announce a new, multi-point router system that will compete with Eero and similar routers that have come out this year. The simply named Google Wi-Fi router is expected to cost $129 for each unit and can be linked together to cover an entire home, just like Eero. It will likely have smart home features, as well.

What does this mean for Google’s other router platform, OnHub? It’s not yet clear, but Google Wi-Fi is said to have Google’s own branding on it (just like the Pixel phones) and won’t be a partner play like OnHub is.

New Chromebook Pixel

This last one is a bit odd, but the rumor mill has been gaining steam over the past few weeks claiming that Google is going to announce yet another computing platform at next week’s event. Allegedly code-named Andromeda, the new platform is said to combine elements of Chrome OS and Android, and will be suited for laptop and tablet devices.

The information supporting these theories is largely based on old code commits, though a number of outlets are reporting that Google has tested the new platform on the Nexus 9 tablet and a yet-to-be-announced Huawei tablet. Some have pointed to a recent tweet from Google’s Android and Chrome OS boss Hiroshi Lockheimer as evidence that a big change to Android will be announced.

We announced the 1st version of Android 8 years ago today. I have a feeling 8 years from now we'll be talking about Oct 4, 2016.

— Hiroshi Lockheimer (@lockheimer) September 24, 2016

A combined Chrome and Android platform has been rumored for years, with the most credible source being the Wall Street Journal’s report from October 2015 saying that Google was working on such a thing. Google denied that the two platforms were being combined, but it has launched the Play Store and Android apps on Chrome OS. Andromeda could be a wholly new thing, or it could be the very same Android apps on Chrome OS that we’ve already seen.

Could this be Google’s big surprise reveal at the end of the event on Tuesday? You’ll have to tune in next week to find out. Our coverage starts at 1PM ET on October 4th. See you there!


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