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Google I/O 2019: The Biggest Announcements from Google's Annual Conference


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Google’s 2019 instalment of its I/O conference wrapped up yesterday with a huge amount of new tech and software developments to talk about.

Two main themes were prominent throughout: AI’s integration into software, making our daily lives easier, and enhanced security controls for the user. Here are the biggest announcements to come from this year’s show.

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL

The new Pixel 3a and 3a XL smartphones come equipped with the same iconic two-tone design, a Snapdragon 670 processor, USB-C fast charging, 4gb of ram and our long-lost 3.5mm-sized friend Jack. The smaller 3a contains a 5.6-inch OLED and a 3,000mAh battery, with the bigger 6-inch variant possessing a 3,700mAh unit to handle the additional pixels. 

Image Credit: WCCftech

Sounds pretty standard, but the 3as have a unique selling point: the camera. They're equipped with all the camera features Pixel owners know and love, including Night Sight, Super-Res Zoom, portrait mode on both rear and front shooters and a new time-lapse mode. The 3a comes in at $399, with the XL being priced at $479, a real steal for a phone that possesses the king of all smartphone cameras.

Google did have to cut corners somewhere, so the phones lack the same wide-angle camera found on the front of the Pixel 3s, in addition to wireless charging, splash resistance and the lower-than-expected spec sheet by today’s standards. Google is also using Japanese Dragon Tail glass on its screens, presumably a cost-saving measure over the more common and robust Corning Gorilla Glass.

The 3as come in three colours: just black, clearly white and purple-ish, available now in 13 markets across the globe. The phones are available to buy now.

Android Q

Android Q’s third beta comes installed with a system-wide Dark Mode (finally), improved gesture navigation, and more transparent security controls.

In the security department, Android Q’s settings menu has a security tab, enabling easy control over what apps are using locations services. You can set apps to use location services only if the app is in use and restrict its background usage. If an app is using location data in the background, Q will now alert you with a notification, giving you the option to toggle it off.

Smart Reply utilises on-device machine learning to draft quick and short text replies to incoming messages, much like quick replies on Gmail. This is supported on third-party messaging apps.  

The Nest Hub Max

This ten-inch tablet device essentially combines the Nest Camera, Google Home Max and Google Home Hub. The Hub Max has a built-in wide-angle camera for video calls using Google Duo. Google’s Face Match feature allows the camera to scan an image of a face (which is encrypted and stored locally), and when you walk-by the tablet it shows your own personalised information such as commuting information. On the security side, the camera has a green LED to signify when it is on, and there is a physical switch on the back of the device to toggle the camera completely off.

Image credit: Business Insider Singapore

Improvements to the Google Assistant and AI

The Google Assistant is getting smarter, helping to write messages, emails, and even drive with its Drive Mode.  

Google Duplex, that dystopian feature that allows AI to make a phone call for you, will now work on the web to book cinema tickets or rental cars for an upcoming trip. Users will, however, need to scan forms to approve what Duplex has carried out, instead of the AI having near-to-complete autonomy.

New and Improved Google Maps

In addition to Maps gaining a complete design overhaul on Pixel devices, utilising AR to show streets in real-time and actual arrows, Google wants Maps to feel more secure for the user.

That’s why Incognito mode from Chrome is coming to Maps, to ensure that the locations you go are not stored on-device or anywhere else, ensuring a more private environment for maps searches. This comes after the company announced that auto-deletion of location, web and app data is coming soon.

Image Credit: Android Police

Google, like every year, has shown off awesome new hardware and software. Which of Google's announcements are you most looking forward to? 

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