Going into Wednesday's event, Google, a division of Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL -0.27%) (GOOG -0.28%), had teased that a new upgraded phone might be in the offing. Billboards advertising the event instructed consumers to "Ask more of your phone" with the date of "Oct 4".
With Apple Inc.'s (AAPL 1.30%) anniversary iPhone release firmly in the bag, it seemed that Google wanted consumers to turn their attention to its devices. The date coincided with last year's release of the Pixel and Pixel XL, the first Google-branded phones, while "ask more" seemed an indication of announcements concerning the Google Assistant voice-activated digital assistant.
What consumers got, however, was a multitude of products designed to take the fight to Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN 1.42%), Apple, and even GoPro, Inc. (GPRO -3.61%). Google took great pains, however, to emphasize that the key differentiator between its products and the competition would be the artificial intelligence (AI) at the heart of its Google Assistant.
Stealing Apple's thunder?
Google rolled out two new Pixel smartphones -- the Pixel 2 and the Pixel XL. The main selling point of the devices was the capabilities of the Google Assistant, which can now be accessed with Active Edge by simply squeezing the phone. Users can say things like "turn on do not disturb" going into a movie theater or class. Google takes a little shot at the competition saying, "You won't need to edit the text messages you dictate as often as you do with other assistants."
The company also revealed that automated routines would be coming to the phone, such as by saying "good night," the Assistant can "silence your phone, turn off the lights, set your alarm, and more."
Google also touted an exclusive preview of its Google Lens image recognition app, which combines computer vision and machine learning with Google Search, to allow users to take a picture of a landmark, a flower, or even a restaurant and get more information using the app.
The phones are priced at $649 and $849 to start, each $50 cheaper than the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, respectively.
Look out, Alexa: Google's Home
After the barrage of Echo devices Amazon released in late September, Google just countered with a surprise of its own. The company is adding two new products to the Google Home smart-speaker lineup: the Max and the Mini.
The Google Home Max is a high-end speaker designed to counter the Echo, as well as the upcoming Apple HomePod, and smart audio speakers from Sonos. The Max uses Smart Sound AI to adapt to its place in the room, similar to HomePod "spatial awareness" while learning your musical preferences. Google says it can play "loud, really loud," and is "20 times more powerful than the original Google Home." It can also be placed horizontally or vertically to fit the user's space. Max starts at $399 and comes with a free year of YouTube Music, slightly more expensive than the competing HomePod at $349. Both will be released later this year.
The Google Home Mini sports a much smaller form factor than its larger brethren, designed to take on Amazon's Echo Dot, and matches its $49.99 price tag.
GoPro, meet Clips
Google Clips is a lightweight, hands-free camera that can take photos and video remotely and sync the clips directly to a connected phone. It is imbued with machine learning that learns to recognize friends and family and help take "stable, clear shots of people you know." Both the camera and the app have a shutter button for remote activation, and Clips can be set down on a table or clipped to a shirt or even a chair to get the shot.
At $249, Google Clips is aimed squarely at potential GoPro customers who might flinch at the $399 price tag, as well as more casual users.
Pixel buds, a.k.a. universal translator?
The most unexpected revelation came from the least likely candidate -- earbuds.
Google released Pixel Buds, its wireless earbuds to compete with Apple's AirPods. The company revealed an astonishing futuristic feature that translates your speech into another language that emanates from your phone. Pressing on the right earbud activates the feature when the user says "Help me speak (insert foreign language)." As the user speaks, the Pixel phone will play the translated speech out loud, and it works in 40 different languages. At $159, they cost the same as AirPod, but with a serious advantage.
The key takeaway from this product release is that while Google is upping its game in the hardware department, every product it unveiled has the AI-based Google Assistant at its core. The artificially intelligent digital assistant is poised to provide greater capabilities to all the tech giant's hardware, and it just put the competition on notice.