The 11 coolest announcements Google made at its biggest product event of the year

GoogleGoogle’s new hardware range.

On Tuesday, Google invited journalists to New York City to debut its newest smartphone, the Pixel 3, among several other hardware goodies.

Google made dozens of announcements in its 75-minute event, but a handful of “wow” moments stole the show.

Here are the 11 coolest announcements Google made at its big hardware event:


1. The Pixel 3 has an impressive-looking feature called “Night Sight,” which could blow other low-light modes on rival smartphones out of the water.

Google

Google came up with a better solution to flash photography in smartphones that “blinds your friends and leaves you with an unnatural-looking photo,” according to Google’s Liza Ma.

Night Sight made a pretty big impression at Tuesday’s event. When Google showed two photos – one taken with the Pixel 3 and one taken with Apple’s new iPhone XS – the crowd started laughing and clapping.

The Pixel 3 photo looked much brighter and clearer than the iPhone one, as you can see above. Google said neither photo was edited.

As for how good Night Sight is in the real world, we’ll have to test that for ourselves. But it looks promising.


2. Google came up with a way to let you capture wider selfies in the Pixel 3, so you can include more people and details.

Google

Google’s “Group Selfie Cam” in the Pixel 3 lets you capture more of your selfies by simply zooming out. Google says you can capture 184% more in your selfies with the Pixel 3.

Given how much people love selfies, this could very well be a game-changer and was one of the cooler announcements of the event.


3. “Photobooth” mode, a new camera mode for the Pixel 3, will automatically take pictures if you’re smiling or making a funny face.

Google

It’s a clever touch that could result in more fun and natural-looking photos.


4. Google integrated its futuristic Lens feature into the Pixel 3’s camera — so if you point your phone at a restaurant menu, for example, it can spot the address or email address and prompt you to open it in Google Maps or Gmail.

Google

You can also point your camera at things you want to buy.

So let’s say you see someone wearing a beautiful jacket – just point your Pixel 3’s camera at them (try not to be creepy) and your phone will surface similar jackets you can buy online.


5. Google’s Pixel 3 takes portrait mode to the next level, even one-upping the iPhone XS.

Google

Portrait mode on the Pixel 3 lets you adjust several settings after the photo is taken.

You can edit the depth of field, like you can in the new iPhone XS, but you can also make colours pop by muting other colours, or change the focal subject of the photo, something tech companies have been trying to accomplish since the Lytro camera.

The number of new portrait-mode features – and the level of control you get for each one – shows why Google’s smartphone cameras are best-in-class.


6. Google’s new Pixel 3 phones come with a feature called “Super Res Zoom” to give you better close-up photos that don’t lose detail.

Google

Here’s Google’s Brian Rakowski describing the feature:

“Anyone who’s tried to take a photo at a concert knows that phone cameras take terrible zoom. Instead of shooting a grainy photo, Pixel 3 shoots a burst of photos, each a bit different, taking advantage of the natural tiny movements of your hand. We run the variations through a merging algorithm to create a beautiful zoomed-in shot.

“This technique of merging slightly different photos for higher resolution has been used in advanced astronomy research to image the surface of Mars. Pixel 3 puts this technology into a device you can hold in your hand.”

So basically Google is using the same technique astronomers use to map planetary surfaces, but for your smartphone, so you can get better zoomed-in photos. How cool is that? Amazingly cool is the correct answer.


7. “Flip to Shhh” is a great new feature for the Pixel 3. If the setting is on and you put your phone face-down on a table, it will automatically mute sounds and notifications.

Google

Every smartphone should have this feature.


8. Google’s new “Call Screen” feature for the Pixel 3 is the first time you’ll be able to use Google’s advanced Duplex technology, which uses Google Assistant to deal with phone calls on your behalf.

Google

With Call Screen, if you don’t know who’s calling you or think it’s a telemarketer, you can have your Google Assistant answer.

It will tell the caller it’s an assistant responding on your behalf and ask what it’s about. At that point, the entire conversation will be transcribed on your lock screen, in real time, so you can choose to answer or hang up.


9. Google also introduced a special accessory for the Pixel 3: a $US79 wireless charger called Pixel Stand, which actually changes how your phone looks when it’s docked.

Google

When you dock your Pixel 3 to the Pixel Stand, it basically becomes a little Google Home Hub, another product Google unveiled on Tuesday that can show you visual information at a glance.

With the Pixel Stand, you can use your Pixel 3 as an alarm clock – where your phone’s screen gets increasingly bright until your alarm finally goes off – or just to check the weather.

The Pixel 3 can also become a digital photo frame when it’s attached to the stand and not busy with other tasks. It will automatically scan your Google Photos, being careful to remove blurry or “bad” photos to make sure your phone is displaying only your best pictures.


10. The Google Home Hub, a new smart-home device Google unveiled on Tuesday, features a “Home View” where you can control all your various other smart-home devices in one place — no need to open a million different apps.

Google

One of the biggest issues with existing smart-home devices is that they have separate apps and interfaces. With Google Home Hub, all those connected devices can be controlled from a single place, making it a whole lot easier to operate your smart lights and thermostats.

You’ll also be able to access the Home View from your Android phone.


11. Google made a special keyboard for its new Pixel Slate tablet — and it will probably give you keyboard envy.

Google

Google unveiled the Pixel Slate tablet at its big hardware event, but an accessory for that device stole its thunder.

Google made a new keyboard that you can push the Pixel Slate down into – and once you hear it click, just start typing.

You don’t have to worry about recharging the keyboard or syncing it up with the tablet; it all just works.

The keyboard also comes with a full trackpad and quiet, backlit keys. It’s pretty to look at, but it also sounds comfortable and easy to use.

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