Opinion: Google’s forthcoming Android Wear rebirth will be similar to the Pixel launch

Google’s Pixel event has come and gone. With it, Google introduced its first solely self-branded smartphone, claiming that the Pixel and Pixel XL bring the very best that Google has to offer — for the moment, at least — in both hardware and software. It’s a refreshing move from a company that has traditionally only sold hardware built in partnership with OEMs, and it’s finally a sign that Google wants to take a serious top-to-bottom design approach with its future products.

But what about its other product lines? Google replicated the Android strategy with Android Wear a couple of years ago, and in that case the company has yet to release any Android Wear hardware that has its name on it. The company never even did a “Nexus” Android Wear device to give OEMs an idea of what Android Wear would look like if Google did it themselves. That’s about to change according to recent reports, perhaps as soon as the first quarter of next year…

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Opinion: Google’s future is in AI, but Chrome OS getting the Play Store is a big deal today

This year’s I/O was a big one. Maybe not the largest in terms of new products and services, but definitely not the smallest either. Among other things, the Mountain View, California company announced its Daydream VR platform for Android, an evolution of the Google Now assistant in the form of an AI-powered “Google Assistant,” a couple of new messaging apps and some hardware to play the part of debuting the Assistant, a new version of Android Wear, and more.

The keynote had this overarching theme that Google is no longer just a company that does search and ads. Now, Google is diving head first into artificial intelligence and machine learning, and most of the things that were announced in the keynote fell into that narrative for the most part. This is the stuff that’s not coming out for at least half a year. Most things, from Allo and Duo to Google Home, felt half-baked. It felt like everything was unfinished, and to some degree, that’s true. It’s still early days.

While Google wanted to paint this big picture of what the company envisions for the next few years and beyond, it saved some of the stuff that’s actually really cool today for other events at the conference. The most obvious of these was the press-only event Google hosted on day 2, showing off a huge new feature for Chrome OS: support for the Play Store that has long been tied down to Android. We’ve known this was coming for a long time, but now it’s here — serving as the next move to make Chrome OS and Android more alike than ever…

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Opinion: The Huawei Mate 9 is the best Android alternative to Google’s Pixel XL

I love the Google Pixel. Since the day I bought it I’ve been a fan of almost everything about it and even recommended it to some close friends. Despite how good the Pixel is, though, it’s important to remember that it’s not the only great Android smartphone on the market.

There are several others that are fantastic, and I’m lucky enough to have gotten my hands on most of them. After spending time with almost every major flagship smartphone released in the past several months, I can easily say that my favorite option that’s not the Pixel, is the Huawei Mate 9

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Opinion: I don’t love the Pixel, but I bought it because of Google’s software package and what it means

Today Google officially introduced the Pixel and Pixel XL, and it’s everything we expected and more. Google nailed a lot with these phones, especially in the software department. However, the company also did a lot of things that I really dislike with these devices. Yet, I have a confirmation email for my very own Pixel XL sitting in my inbox. Why? Let’s dig in a bit…

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Opinion: Google Pixel is still the best Android phone because of its sheer simplicity

I’ve had the privilege of testing out most flagship and mid-range Android phones over the last couple of years. While in the past I have always been partial to Nexus devices because of its “stock” Android, I always preferred other OEM’s hardware and features.

This all changed with the Google Pixel, the first phone which, at least for me, was the most ideal package of software and hardware Android has seen to date…

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Opinion: Google’s Project Soli could solve one of the biggest problems with Android Wear

At Google I/O 2016, the Mountain View company decided — although admittedly not an entirely new theme — that it would be a good idea to spread its announcements across three days. The keynote showed off Google’s vision for the future: virtual reality, its new AI and machine learning initiatives, Google Home hardware to take advantage of them, and a few sprinkles of Android Wear 2.0 goodness. The second day saw the announcement of the Play Store coming to Chrome OS.

But the third day was ATAP day, admittedly my favorite day of Google I/O. Last year the Advanced Technologies and Projects group at Google showed off Project Jacquard, Project Soli, some more details on Project Ara, and more. And then the company went silent. For pretty much an entire year.

Maybe that’s a good thing, as Google tends to show its projects and technologies off a little early in general. It’s not exactly out of Google’s character to show a product or service, say that it’s coming in 6 months, it not arrive for 12 months or 18 months, and then the final product share hardly any resemblance to what was originally announced. Admittedly that’s happening with some of ATAP’s projects either way (I’m looking at you, Ara), but at least it’s not a constant barrage of teases and false hope.

Anyway, Google ATAP finally came out of hiding on the third day of I/O yesterday, and with it came updates on Project Jacquard, Project Soli, Project Ara, and Spotlight Stories. Jacquard brought the announcement of the first retail product based on the tech, Ara brought a little update on how progress is coming including the most current prototype device with new module connectors (and promise of a dev kit coming soon), and the Spotlight Stories mention came with some progress in VR storytelling. All cool stuff.

But Soli is what makes my jaw drop.

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Opinion: Samsung and Fitbit’s latest wearables will give Android Wear a run for its money

Over the past few days, we’ve seen announcements for new smartwatches from Fitbit and Samsung. These latest wearables are shaping up to be some of the best options yet from each company, and in that same breath, possibly two of the best smartwatches for all of 2017. Neither the Fitbit Ionic or Samsung Gear Sport are powered by Android Wear, but in all honesty, that might be a good thing.

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Opinion: After a couple weeks, the Pixel 2 XL’s bad display isn’t enough to keep me away

I spent my first several days with the Google Pixel 2 XL tearing its display to pieces. In light of concerns regarding its quality that were brought up in the first round of reviews (including ours) I wanted to know exactly what its shortcomings were. Lots of units — mine included — had burn-in/image persistence issues, blue tint shift, black smear, graininess, and other undesirable qualities. None of these issues are entirely unique to the Pixel 2 XL, but I came to the conclusion that Google’s flagship seems to suffer from them more than average at this price point. I stand by that.

I took it upon myself to look at every one of these problems under a microscope so that anyone that cared — which, I know, in the grand scheme of things is a tiny minority of Google’s target market — could know exactly what they’re getting in comparison to other flagships, the smaller Pixel 2, and even last year’s original Pixel. But even with all of the problems I’ve hounded on and pixel peeping I’ve admittedly done, I’ve finally come to a conclusion on this display: It’s not bad enough to keep me away.

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Opinion: A Samsung Bixby speaker would be doomed to fail, and not just because it doesn’t even work on the phone yet

Samsung has always been interesting in both the hardware and software departments. On the hardware side, the company’s Samsung Galaxy S8 has simply incredible hardware, and we’ve also seen budget smartphones that have rings of light around the camera. The most interesting move the company has made in the past year or so, though, has been Bixby — Samsung’s digital assistant that’s supposed to conquer the rest, eventually.

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Opinion: Three months later, is the Nexus 6P still the best Android phone?

One of Google’s latest slogans created to showcase the essence of Android in a nutshell spells: “Be together, not the same.” It is both a testament to the company’s general embracement of diversity and arguably one of the most precise ways to describe the OS as a whole. Fans, however, have long had trouble trying to identify the ‘ultimate’ Android device, despite the sea of devices whose supposed heterogeneity should guarantee a perfect match for everyone.

In an endless fight among the various OEMs to come out at the top of the critics’ — as well as the fans’ — rankings, one trend has notoriously stood out. People love Android devices because of the software (specifically its flexibility), and in spite of the countless efforts made by manufacturers to tweak and enhance the OS in order to make it better, the pure, unadulterated experience offered by Google has long been preferred by virtually every enthusiast.

Be it because of its simplicity and cleanliness, dedication to Google’s brand, or the sheer fact that updates are not hampered by carriers and other third parties, stock Android has always had the upper hand over UXs such as Samsung’s TouchWiz or HTC’s Sense — at least to those who even know what “TouchWiz” is. To this day, the problem with Google’s vanilla OS still resides almost solely in the hardware it runs on.

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