Google Late September 2015 Event Summary & Thoughts

[This article has been re-posted/edited from our old website]

Being the mastermind company behind the world’s leading search engine and the creator of my favorite operating system and cross-platform browser, Google has made quite a name for itself in my household as well as many others worldwide. Many Android devices are unveiled at the annual IFA event in Berlin, however certain manufacturers choose to unveil their devices an event focused on them. Among these companies is Google, who chose to unveil their new devices only days after Apple (see my posts on Apple’s eventhere and here!) on no day other than National Coffee Day! In addition to their excellent software, Google teams up with various phone manufacturers to make devices that run “pure/stock/vanilla Android”. However you choose to put it, this is essentially Android without the bloat of a manufacturer skin (such as Samsung’s Touchwiz). Why does this appeal to many? Well Samsung Touchwiz for example is feature rich with multi tasking, smart features and Samsung exclusive apps that cannot be uninstalled (they can only be ‘turned off’). Many of these features are handy but any additional software slows down even the most powerful of devices. This is why simplistic Android users love devices such as the Nexus 9 and the Nexus 6 (tablet and phone, respectively): the natural feature-rich Android operating system without unwanted bloat. This equation essentially leads to a very fast and smooth Android experience with minimized lag, crashing, etc. In the past, Google has tended to price these devices relatively fairly (less-so now than before, in my opinion) compared to competition. Will Google’s new stock Android devices live up to their predecessors? Let’s find out, I’m John, you’re reading Morning Coffee Tech and as always, thanks for reading!

Nexus 6P and 5X: 

Following the trend of many popular phone manufacturers, Google chose to release two different handsets side by side. Going in numerical order we’ll start with the 5X.

5X:

Hardware: Manufactured with LG, this device is meant to be a successor to Google’s Nexus 5 released years back. Different from many current phones made of glass or metal, the 5X sports a light and plastic back. The device has a 5.2 inch 1080p display. Following the mobile trend, the new device now sports a speedy fingerprint scanner located on the back. On the inside of the device is a Snapdragon 808 processor with two gigabytes of RAM. This may seem under powered when held side by side with other leading devices, and that’s because it is. The 808 is an outdated processor and two gigabytes of RAM is half of what is found on a powerhouse phone such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 5. However, similar to Apple products, pure Android doesn’t require as much power to function as heavily skinned versions. Once again, time will tell how this device performs under actual usage. As for the camera, the 5X packs almost 13 megapixels with some promising new software features such as UHD video recording and more. It seems that Google aimed to create a more conservative, mid range device with the 5X. Evidence of this includes the less expensive and less visually appealing (but functional) material choice, very modest specifications and a 1080p screen instead of the QHD screens which are now becoming the norm.

Software: The software situation with Google is pretty much as described in the intro. One’s experience with a Nexus device will be fast, clean and simple. Nexus users also get the luxury of prompt updates that will continue to come for the life of the device (most likely). There are some new software features being described but there is nothing broken and very little that needs fixing with the highly praised “vanilla Android” experience. Of course, the new Nexus devices will come out of the box with the newest iteration of Android: Marshmallow.

Battery: Not much can be said about a phone’s battery prior to its release as battery life is largely based on real life usage and software optimization. Google has put a 2700mAh battery with USB-C powered fast charging in the Nexus 5X. These specifications may give us a day and a half of battery life, which would be quite impressive.

Pricing: Pricing of the 5X starts at $379.00 here in the U.S. which is quite reasonable considering most flagships charge at least $600.00 for their base models. The pricing of Google phones always impressed me, personally.

Overall: The 5X seems like a very promising device. It won’t necessarily appeal to power users because of the lacking specifications, but to those looking for a very inexpensive, solid, pure and simple device, the 5X will probably be more than enough to satisfy and possibly even impress.

6P: Next comes the 5X’s 5.7 inch older brother, the 6P.

Hardware: This device was manufactured by Huawei instead of LG like its younger brother (brother from another mother, if you will). Holding this device side by side with the 5X, one can easily see that the 6P was meant to be the more powerful device of the two. A larger 5.7 inch QHD display, metal construction, and better specifications support this. Instead of the Snapdragon 808 found in the 5X, the 6P has the newest Snapdragon 810 processor and an additional gigabyte of RAM. The 6P also has a fingerprint scanner that attracts slightly more attention than the 5X. This is because Huawei is known for very high performing fingerprint scanners in their phones. The camera experience on the 6P should be very similar to that of the 5X.

Software: The software situation for the 6P should be nearly identical to the 5X (please see above). The only difference may be better performance due to the upgraded processor and additional gigabyte of RAM.

Battery: The 6P stunts a larger 3450mAh battery also equipped with USB-C fast charging. The battery on this device is shaping up to be quite impressive, even to power users.

Pricing: The Nexus 6P will start at $499.00 in the U.S. This is still a very impressive price point especially considering how powerful this device is shaping up to be.

Overall: For a user such as myself, there is no contest in choosing between the 5X and the 6P. The 6P is clearly aimed at the power user and should be an excellent performer. With a price point of only $500.00 off contract, the Nexus 6P should appeal to many. I personally am very excited to see how this device turns out.  

Nexus Pixel C:

Finally we have Google’s convertible (yes, that’s what the C stands for). Convertible, in the context of technology is essentially a midpoint between a tablet and laptop. In my opinion, tablets will soon be a thought of the past (be on the lookout for an article further expanding this idea). These “convertibles” are keeping the tablet form factor alive. If someone were to be given just a tablet without the keyboard attachment that makes it a convertible, he/she wouldn’t get a whole lot of work done. No one who I have ever met wants to type an essay, article, etc. using a 7-10inch on screen keyboard. The reason I put quotes around the word convertibles earlier in the paragraph is due to the fact that I wouldn’t call the Pixel C a convertible, I’d call it a tablet. This is because the keyboard is separate from the device. Notice I say “separate” not “detachable”. Google will charge a whopping $150 for the keyboard alone as opposed to a device like the Lenovo Yoga convertible where the keyboard is included with the unit. Either way, Google made the Pixel C out to be a powerful device with serious potential to help the working man with his ever increasing workflow.

Hardware: One thing that I do like about tablet form factor in general is that tablets tend to carry a much smaller footprint than even the thinnest and lightest of ultrabooks. Since they tend to be less powerful than laptops, manufacturers can afford to keep them thin, light and easy to carry with one hand. The Pixel C is no exception to this. Even with the keyboard attached, the Pixel C is small, thin, light and pleasant to hold with its metal build manufactured “end-to-end by Google”. The screen is a pinch over 10 inches, a size I believe to be better for both media and productivity than smaller seven or eight inch tablets. Speaking of the screen, it will be beautiful with a 2560 x 1800 resolution. The device looks simplistic, functional, premium and futuristic, all traits that make a good tablet. Like Google’s phones released at this event, the tablet’s specs are…alright. There is an Nvidia Tegra mobile processor and three gigabytes of RAM. As for the processor, it is important to remember some convertibles such as the Microsoft Surface Pro come with computer-grade processors and more RAM. Devices like this do come at a higher price point of course and also run computer -grade software which naturally requires more power. Still, three gigabytes of RAM is certainly conservative, noting that the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 phone has four gigabytes of RAM. Of course, only time will tell how the Pixel C performs under real conditions.

Software: As previously mentioned, software across stock Android devices is pretty constant. A notable feature that comes with the Pixel C is the software integration with the detachable keyboard. The device can sense when the keyboard is magnetically attached and responds appropriately. This is not unique to devices in this class but it certainly is nice to have. Running stock Android on a tablet is pleasant as powerful tablets can sometimes be laggy and slow: words not found in a stock Android user’s dictionary.

Battery: With lack of real world usage at the moment, there isn’t much to say for battery either. Google implemented a 34 watt-hour battery promising around 10 hours of usage.

Pricing: It is in this category where opinion greatly overpowers fact. The device starts at $499 for the tablet only and starts at $649 with the keyboard. I think this is a very steep price point. You may note it is the same price as the recently released iPad Pro, which I also think is steep. The Pixel C is still hundreds of dollars less expensive than Microsoft’s Surface Pro, but you get what you pay for. I think that pricing a keyboard at $150 is unreasonable to say the least. Unless there is a factor that I am overlooking, (this is of course a possibility) it is not expensive to manufacture a Bluetooth keyboard. There are plenty of very nice looking, metal, Bluetooth keyboards one could pick up on Amazon for $20. I do realize that the $150 keyboards found as accessories for the iPad, Surface and Pixel come with nice magnetic strips and software optimization, but nevertheless $150 is a lot for an accessory. I was speaking to a friend of mine the other day about how now that two-year phone contracts are phased out, one must pay $600-800 for a top of the line phone. To this, my friend said: “you can buy a laptop for that amount!” This comment really got me thinking about value. The other day, I was wandering around my local Microsoft store and I came across a tiny, Asus mini-laptop. That’s right, the kind that if you take to school or work you may get laughed at. Yes, this device only had two gigabytes of ram but it was running full Windows 10, was light and thin and was only $300! I feel that these devices are underestimated. I personally feel as if I would get more done on that Asus mini-laptop than I would with a Pixel C. But in the end, the concepts of value and preference are exclusive to the individual. I’m sure there are people out there that can’t get work done on a laptop or anything other than a desktop computer. Whatever it may be, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and who am I to judge?

Overall: The Nexus Pixel C is a very nice device. It will be fast, smooth and responsive with the cleanest mobile operating system available. The keyboard will be a necessary accessory for those looking to get work of any kind done with this device. To those willing to pay for it, the Pixel C will be a great device to keep around to get some quick work done during available down time. Are there better devices out there? That’s for the consumer to decide based on their own wants and needs.

Chromecast Audio:

I try to write relatively concisely, but just like when I speak, once I start, I can’t stop. I will try to make this portion of the post a bit shorter than the previous sections. Essentially, this little device will turn regular speakers into Bluetooth speakers. Instead of using Bluetooth technology, the Chromecast will use Wi-Fi to stream audio from a device (computer, tablet, phone, etc.) directly to the speaker using a downloadable application. The device itself is a circular dongle that will plug into a power source and also into the speakers. Some quick setup is required and compatibility may be limited (to be determined upon release but right now there is no Apple Music support). In my opinion, it is a smarter option to purchase an inexpensive Bluetooth host (the price difference between a device like this and the Chromecast Audio dongle will be minimal) that works almost exactly the same, but a user doesn’t have to worry about setup, downloading an application or compatibility. Also, using Bluetooth, the connection won’t depend on internet connectivity availability. I recently purchased one of these hosts for myself and am awaiting its arrival. Please be on the lookout for a review!

That just about sums up the event! Thank you so much for reading Morning Coffee Tech! Hopefully you learned a little something about Google’s newest devices. Please feel free to leave your opinions, suggestions or just a hello in the comments! Also make sure to follow Morning Coffee Tech on Twitter @amcoffeetech! Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing you in the next one!

-John

Images Courtesy:

bgr.com

indianexpress.com

betanews.com

engadget.com

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