Google held it's much anticipated #madebygoogle event in San Francisco today in which they unveiled a range of new products, including their iPhone challenger, Pixel. Here's a rundown of all the big announcements from the event, and a look at their application from a social media marketing perspective.
The first project showcased was Google new's Pixel smartphones, the company's next generation challenger for the iPhone.
As you can see, the full list of features is impressive, and the (very) early buzz suggests Google may have something.
From a social media perspective, there's plenty to like. First, there's the 12.4 MP camera, which Google's touting at "the highest rated smartphone camera ever".
"Pixel's camera lets you take stunning photos in low light, bright light or any light. Catch action shots as they happen with Smartburst, which takes a rapid-fire sequence of shots and automatically selects the best one. Use Lens Blur to achieve shallow depth of field and bokeh effects, making your subject pop. You can capture dramatic landscapes or make faces glow with new exposure controls."
Pixel's camera has already been given an 89 rating from DxOMark, which is higher than the iPhone 7 Plus, while it can also capture 4K video at 30 frames per second and 1080p video at 120fps. Pixel's video camera will also utilize Google's advanced stabilization processes, an addition which, as demonstrated by Facebook recently, can be significantly beneficial when shooting in 360 mode.
The quality of the camera delivers obvious benefits for social media users, with the emphasis on visual elements increasing over time. Audiences gravitate towards the tools that best enable them to share their perspective with the world on social, and we've seen that evolve from text to images to video. The next evolution of that will be 360 content and VR, and Google is at the forefront of the VR shift. Given this, Pixel supports those future actions, while also providing users with arguably the best smartphone camera available, which is a big positive for the new device.
In terms of core functionality, the two key features baked into the device of most interest are Google's Allo and Duo apps. Allo, which we covered recently, is Google's attempt to tap into the rising instant messaging trend, but with the added bonus of Google's advanced smart assistant built in.
Google Assistant uses machine learning and is designed to understand conversation context and provide relevant information as you need it. Google's vision is to eventually expand Google Assistant into people's homes, cars and phones, keeping you connected to Google's vast data resources 24/7 (which was also expanded upon in today's announcement). And there are some compelling use cases for such utility, especially when you consider the database it has to draw from.
Duo, meanwhile, is a one-to-one video calling app which has been built to deliver optimal experiences across varying connections.
And while both those apps in themselves are interesting, the concern for both is that people just won't utilize them - the majority of people already have established networks on Facebook Messenger or Snapchat, it'll be hard sell to get them to switch to another app. But building them into Pixel will definitely help boost adoption, and if those new features provide great functionality, that'll inspire more users to switch over and check them out.
Overall, there are some very obvious social media benefits to Pixel, but most will relate to audience take-up. Allo, in particular, could be a major development to watch, particularly if more people utilize Google Assistant and it becomes a more pressing SEO concern - i.e. how does Assistant decide what to show users based on each query? Allo could also shift some focus away from other messaging apps, which may be another social marketing consideration, but we won't know till the phone is actually released and we see the user response and adoption.
The shift towards VR is slowly gaining momentum, and while the costs of buying a fully capable VR-ready device are somewhat restrictive right now, anyone who's ever used even a basic Google Cardboard device to check out 360 videos knows that the technology is going to change the game, in more ways than one.
On this front, Google today showcased their Daydream 'View' headsets for the first time, a fabric-lined VR device which is 30% lighter than typical headsets.
As shown in the video, Daydream headsets will come paired with a handheld controller to enable users to control the action. And while Pixel will obviously be the phone Google wants people to use with Daydream, the company's also working with Samsung, HTC, ZTE, Huawei, Xiaomi, Alcatel, Asus and LG to ensure the device is compatible with a wide range of mobiles to deliver an optimum VR experience - you just slide in your phone and away you go.
As noted, the VR shift will be significant, and while it's difficult to imagine conducting social media interactions in a virtual world, that's definitely very much where we're headed. While live-streaming is the current leader, in terms of shared perspective and experience, VR takes that to the next level - you'll soon be able to not only see a video of something happening, but through VR, you'll be able to experience it for yourself. Truly, there's nothing like it, and as the technology develops, we're going to see more and more options for immersive, shared experiences.
Gaming is where VR begins - and Google's already touting the many game experiences that'll soon be made available for Daydream (examples of which are in the above video) - but virtual experience will shift beyond that. Soon, you'll be able to sit and have a coffee with a friend on the other side of the world, and it'll feel like you're actually there with them.
Daydream View and the controller will be released in November for just $79.
One of the biggest challenges for live-streaming - the trending function of the moment in social media circles - is that it's largely constrained to mobile devices. In general, that's fine, more and more people are consuming media on mobile anyway, but when it comes to bigger events - like, say, live NFL coverage - people naturally want to consume that content on the big screen, either to see the game in more detail or to be able to watch it with friends.
This is where live-streaming can go to the next level - if live-streaming from YouTube, for example, could be broadcast in full HD on your home TV, that would provide an amazingly powerful platform for both YouTube and for individual live-streamers. Imagine if you could watch the game on your TV through the internet, and then get a notification on-screen about an active live-stream that also might be of interest that you could switch to?
This is why Twitter and Facebook are so keen on pushing live-streaming and signing up new live broadcast deals, because it may, eventually, enable them to supplant the last medium which holds them back from a full advertising takeover - your home TV. While online advertising is growing at a rapid rate, TV still leads the pack. But if they could control the TV too, their business value would significantly increase, while also enabling them to build a whole new platform to foster (and benefit from) creative talent.
On this front, Google has unveiled the Chromecast Ultra - a streaming device that pairs with your phone and plugs into your TV to deliver 4K video content over the web.
The new Chromecast is 1.8x faster than the previous edition and offers improved Wi-Fi performance, enabling you to stream YouTube content, for example, in full HD.
It's a smaller addition in the scheme of today's Google announcement, but devices like these could soon become significantly more important - Facebook too is reportedly working on their own, similar device, while Twitter recently released a new app to help boost the potential of their new live broadcasts.
Google also announced advances in their home connectivity offerings.
First, they announced an updated Google WiFi to improve connectivity around the home.
Google's new system uses mesh wi-fi, which Google says is something only seen in commercial installations. Within this framework, each wi-fi point throughout your home creates a high-powered connection, ensuring better, faster coverage.
But the bigger home addition was the announcement of Google Home, a device that enables you to control your devices, and even conduct online activity, simply by speaking voice commands as you go about your day-to-day life.
As noted by Google:
"With Google Home, it's as simple as using your voice to turn up the music, get answers to a myriad of questions, manage tasks around the house, and even adjust the thermostat or lights. It allows you to bring the Google Assistant into your kitchen, living room or anywhere else around the house."
Sounds kind of like Star Trek, right? Through Google Home, all you need to do is say "OK Google" and you can ask it to play music, for example - "Play something by The Beatles" (note: Google Home will also come with 6 months free access to YouTube Red). But more than that, Google Home is also connected to Google Assistant, so you can use it to conduct Google searches and get real-time answers.
"Kneading pizza dough and need to change ounces to grams? Ask and get unit conversions and nutritional info, too. Getting ready for the day? Get real-time info on the weather, the stock market, the traffic, or your favorite sports team. Google Home can also help you find answers to more obscure questions directly on the web. It's all the power of Google with a simple voice command."
Google Home can also look up your calendar and tell you about your day's schedule, can play movies from Netflix on demand and can control your thermostat. It's very similar to the smart home project Mark Zuckerberg's been working on as part of his new year's resolution - and there's good reason why Facebook and Google are keen to get into home connectivity and process facilitation.
For Google, it works in line with their main focus, in getting more people to use their search queries. More people using search gives Google more ways to monetize that data access - but beyond that, and why Facebook is also very interested, these new devices also give the providers access to a whole new set of data: what you do within the walls of your own home.
For every query you speak, every action you take, all that data can be stored, contextualized against other people, then used to match you with more relevant ads, insights that would be of huge value to marketers. Google, for example, already tracks foot traffic to stores to help show peak patronage times - imagine if they had data that tracked the foot traffic within your home, that showed what you eat, when you eat it, what you watch, your daily schedule - all of your personal traits and preferences, tracked, filed and used to provide you with contextually relevant ads.
The potential of that data source is limitless, and while some will understandably see such access as creepy, what we've learned from Facebook is that the majority of people are willing to concede some privacy in order to utilize functions they desire. We give Facebook our data because the alternative is to not use Facebook, a platform which everyone else is using. If Google Home can provide great functionality that makes people's lives easier, they'll care less about giving up their intimate insights.
If you're not overly comfortable speaking into the air, you can also use your smartphone or tablet to control the device.
There was some amazing tech announced within Google's event, much of which we likely can't even fully appreciate at this stage, underlining why Google remains a leader in the tech sector, and one of the key leaders at the forefront of the next consumer evolution. And while some of these apps and devices may still feel distant, that their widespread adoption can't be that close, the fact that all will soon be publicly available shows that we're actually not that far away from that next stage. It'll take time, and there'll be teething problems along the way, but soon, you may be speaking to your house, conducting all your searches via message and streaming TV direct from YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, as opposed to regular channels.
Today's Google event shows that this new media reality may not be as far off as you think.