In Review

Google I/O 2019 announcements: Pixel 3a and 3a XL, Maps AR, Android Q and more

The firm’s annual tech conference is now under way - here are the biggest product reveals

Google has announced an array of new gadgets and software features at its annual I/O tech conference, including new smartphones and a smart display.  

The three-day event, at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California, kicked off yesterday evening with a product keynote headlined by the company’s much-rumoured Pixel 3a smartphone range and details about the latest version of its Android mobile software.

However, there was no mention of Google’s new Pixel 4 smartphones, which are likely to remain under wraps until the next major product keynote in October. 

 For now, though, here are the biggest announcements from yesterday’s I/O conference: 

Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL 

Arguably the biggest news yesterday was the Google Pixel 3a range, a cheaper alternative to the current Pixel 3 smartphone line-up. 

There have been rumours aplenty around the Pixel 3a and larger 3a XL in recent months, many of which were confirmed at the conference. As expected, the devices adopt OLED screens and single-lens camera systems that match the Pixel 3s, says 9to5Google

However, the tech site says the processors on the Pixel 3a and 3a XL have been downgraded to allow for price tags that are nearly half the cost of the Pixel 3 range. 

The handsets are available to order now, with prices starting at £399. 

Android Q 

The latest version of Google’s Android mobile software was showcased during yesterday’s conference, previewing a host of new features that centre around security and reducing the amount of time you spend on your device.

The system, dubbed Android Q, will come with a Live Caption that adds subtitles to any video or audio source, along with a Smart Reply setting that predicts words, phrases and “even full replies” on messaging apps, says tech news site BGR

It will also feature “tons of new privacy settings” and will be “far more proactive in notifying users when apps want to access sensitive information”, the website says. 

Android Q has been in public testing since March. Those already on the beta program can download the latest version with all the new features from today. Google is still accepting applicants for the Android Q beta program and a sign-up sheet can be found on its website.

Google Maps in AR

Google Maps has been a godsend for those navigating busy city streets on foot, but its 2D design can lead some to lose their bearings and get lost. However, the tech firm has presented a solution to the problem. 

The new and improved Maps app will now allow users to hold their phone’s camera up and directions to their destination will appear in front of them, The Daily Telegraph says. The feature uses augmented reality (AR), where computer graphics are layered over a real-world image in real time, along with data from Google’s street view. 

Google Pixel users will be able to make use of the new feature from today, while a wider roll-out for devices from other phone makers is expected “in the coming months”, the newspaper adds. 

Nest Hub Max 

Following the slew of mobile product announcements, Google also revealed a larger version of its Nest Hub smart display. 

 Called the Nest Hub Max, the screen has now grown from the standard model’s 7in display to a 10in panel, the BBC reports. It also introduces a front-facing camera, which can be used for video chats and a “motion-triggered” home security camera. 

While the cameras on smart displays from rival firms Facebook and Amazon have raised privacy concerns, Google told the broadcaster that it is making user privacy a priority. For instance, a green light will display on the device when the camera is recording and “captured footage would not be viewed by its staff”. 

The Nest Hub Max will go on sale on 15 July for £219, according to Tech Advisor.

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