Google Unveils New Pixel Hardware, Makes Duplex Publicly Available

Ever wondered how a Surface Pro might work without a proper, locally-based operating system? Google answered that this week with the Pixel Slate, which it released alongside new Pixel smartphones.

At its core, Pixel Slate is a tablet. A fairly dense 12-inch screen packs 293ppi, and it has front- and rear-facing 8MP cameras. Speakers flank the sides (in landscape mode).

As with the more top-end Pixelbook, Pixel Slate runs Chrome OS. It’s not the first Chrome OS tablet (Acer launched the first earlier this year, geared toward the education market), but it’s the first available straight from Google, and for the everyday consumer.

It also leans heavily on Android for apps. Android apps on Chrome OS typically run in a limited windowed environment rather than full-screen, so this feels very much like mirroring. It’s a measure to bolster Chrome OS’s nonexistent native app ecosystem, but also feels a lot like Google hedging its bets against Chrome OS failing in the marketplace.

When you’re ready to work, Pixel Slate has an optional folio keyboard. Each of the round keys are backlit at the periphery, and the folio doubles as a case when you want to pack up and go. It’s essentially a Surface Pro. Or Go. We don’t know.

What we do know is it’s $599, and the keyboard folio is $199. There’s also an optional stylus for $99.

Google Duplex Beta Rollout

From Pixel Computers to Phones – and Duplex

The Pixel smartphone was also refreshed at today’s event. After being leaked to absolute death, Google officially announced the new hardware.

As expected, the Pixel 3 is an incremental upgrade to the Pixel 2. It comes in a 5.5-inch and a 6.3-inch ‘XL’ variant. White, black and a pink-ish scheme are all you get, color-wise, and the back is a mix of matte and glass. There’s a single camera on the rear of the device, and a notch on the screen. Save for performance boosts, there’s nothing notable about the hardware.

Google is launching it with Duplex, the company’s controversial robo-calling artificial intelligence (A.I.) bot. First demonstrated at Google I/O this year, Duplex is positioned as a service that can do things like schedule appointments or reservations via a phone call rather than forcing you to do it yourself.

Duplex will announce it’s a bot when calling a business, says Google, which is both an ethical stance and a legal one. In the wake of a new California law demanding bots tell humans they’re digital beings, expect Duplex (and its copycats) to follow suit. Google says Duplex will roll out on a city-by-city basis in the United States, but isn’t detailing its rollout timeframe or plans.

Doubling down on the A.I front, new Pixel smartphones will also get Google Lens, a service that identifies real-world objects for you to purchase online. If you’re enamored with a particular lamp in a magazine, for instance, you could use Lens to scan it and hopefully find out where to buy one for your home.

Google is also following Apple down the pricing rabbit-hole. Though not as expensive as new iPhones, the Pixel 3 starts at $799, a full $150 more than last year’s starting price. The Pixel 3 XL starts at $899.

Google Chrome Android Dice

Google & Developers

Google also rolled out its newest Google Home product, the Home Hub, which is essentially a tablet with a speaker. It does provide the Google Assistant with a screen, which may be nice if you’re a visual learner. The company also tweaked its smart home software and home app to make controlling and receiving updates on your home simpler.

Android and web developers needn’t get too worked up about anything announced today, really. The Pixel 3 has a larger screen, but that’s not a huge concern. Same with the Pixel Slate; there may be slight screen size/resolution tweaks to make to your code, but there’s nothing alarming here if your website or app already supports mobile.

We’re also not seeing any new APIs for Duplex or Lens, suggesting they’re wholly Google’s for now. Android 9, or ‘Pie,’ is already available to developers, and we’d suggest moving that direction now if you haven’t bothered to update your apps to support it. It does seem Google is done building Android tablets, though, so if the larger screen is of interest for non-iOS and proper desktop environments, a web app is your best bet.