Google I/O 2019 is for its Google developers community. But developers are always hungry for new toys, so Google did not disappoint.

Google I/O 2019 attracts more than 7000 people. This year’s conference focused on helpfulness, user privacy, security, and AI for social good. The two-day event covers Android, Stadia game streaming, Chrome, Android for Cars, Deep machine learning and its impacts on AI.

AI was a focus of Google I/O 2019 because it is becoming so much a part of our lives.

From OK Google to smart devices designed to free up your time. Conversational AI (the next big step) is helping us in an increasingly ambient way with our daily lives.

But also applying ML and AI to positively impact some of the world’s biggest humanitarian and environmental challenges. Through a pilot program in India, a Google team has been able to predict the path of a flood and can warn communities via public alerts.

Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL

Google’s aim is a flagship class phone delivering all that entails at around half the price. Did they succeed?

  • Price – 5.6-inch for $649 and 6-inch for $799 inc free delivery in Australia from www.google.com, JB Hi-Fi, Officeworks, Harvey Norman and Vodafone.
  • OLED FHD+ 18.5:9 with Dragontrail Glass (a competitor to Corning)
  • 10nm Qualcomm SD670, 4GB LPDDR4x, 64GB eMMC, Adreno 616 GPU
  • Battery – 3000/3700mAh, 30 hours typical use and 18W Qualcomm 4+ fast charge
  • Camera Rear – 12mp, f/12.8, 1.4 μm, Dual Pixel phase detection autofocus, OIS and EIS, 76°, [email protected], dual LED flash, Night Sight, portrait mode, digital bokeh, colour pop, Unlimited Google Photo cloud storage
  • Camera Front – 8MP, f/2.0, 1.4 μm, fixed focus, 84°, [email protected]
  • Wi-Fi AC, BT 5.0 (aptX/HD), NFC, GPS, Google Cast (not Miracast)
  • Cat 11/5 600/75Mbps, 3CA, LTE: 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/20/25/26/28/32/38/40/41/66
  • eSIM
  • Google Assistant and edge squeeze activation
  • Just black or white with largish bezels
  • Android 9 and three years of updates
  • Website here
Google I/O 2019

You are not losing much over a full Pixel 3/XL.

  • Polycarbonate body versus Glass/frame
  • no IP rating
  • Single front camera
  • No Pixel Visual Core
  • No Wireless charge
  • You gain a 3.5mm jack and a larger battery

Overall the camera has been proven in the Pixel 3, but the loss of the Pixel Visual Core using the Qualcomm Spectra Dual camera ISP instead will mean its photos are not quite as post-processed.

The Qualcomm SD 670 is perfect mid-market chip and in many ways the equal of the Qualcomm 835. GadgetGuy will be reviewing this soon.

iFixit strips Pixel 3a stark naked and gives it a 6-out-of-10 repairability – great

iFixit says the Pixel 3a breaks the rules – a polycarbonate back panel, no wireless charging, visible bezels, a headphone jack, and a top-notch camera in a budget phone. Is there a method to Google’s madness?

Google I/O 2019

It has gone back to Samsung OLED after some minor issues with the LG panels in the Pixel 3/XL. The camera is its pièce de résistance – serious camera quality for a budget phone. The loss of the Pixel Visual core – its Pixel 3 secret camera sauce, seems to be compensated by the Qualcomm SD670 DSP and ISP.

Both phones are well made, in certain respects a throwback to the good old days for repairability and present excellent specifications for the money.

The teardown is here, and a video teardown of the Pixel 3a XL is here.

Google Nest Hub Max

Coming soon (possibly late July) this is the Google Home Hub rebranded as its Google Nest Hub Max with a new 10-inch screen and camera – to take on the excellent Lenovo Smart Display (GadgetGuy highly recommends this, but we also have a Google Home Hub in the bedroom, and it’s great too).

The rebranding to Nest is to help focus more on smart home automation products. By the way, if you buy a product that is fully Google Home compatible you can look forward to easy installation and control from the Google Home app – sweet.

Google I/O 2019

We don’t have a lot of tech information yet, but we do know

  • It has on device (secure) 2D facial recognition (Nest Cam 127° FOV, auto zoom/framing/motion tracking) to enhance the privacy of individual users (Face Match up to six faces) and for a security camera (needs Nest Aware subscription). It has a switch to disable it and shows a red LED
  • A 10-inch HD 1280 x 800, 16:10 touch screen
  • Two full-range speakers and a woofer (2.1)
  • Two far-field mics and switch to disable them
  • Supports hand gestures – raise/lower volume, next track etc.
  • Chromecast device so it will display Google Photos, YouTube and other video content.
  • Google Duo support for video calls
  • And design cues are the same as the Google Home hub

You can read more here.

Android privacy

Before we get into the slippery slope of privacy, we ask the question, “What does Google do with our information?”

The short answer is that if a product is free, the product is you. Google, like everyone else, monetise this to present highly targeted advertisements through its search function. Google is a closed loop – it allows advertisers to select the demographics they want to reach, and Google does it without revealing the user’s details to the advertiser. This is the opposite of most social media that sells user’s data to advertisers.

Google AI also uses the data (let’s call it your profile) to make life easier. By knowing more about you, your likes, dislikes etc., it can do more. It may be that you like pink sweaters so it will steer you towards these. Or it may be having access to your calendar to help schedule your day/week etc.

And on a far greater humanitarian scale, it uses aggregated data to predict trends, where new hospitals, schools, roads, trains and planes are needed.

Google is open on the data it collects and where it collects it from. But you should have complete control over how your data is used, and that is what the company is aiming for.

Google states:

You should be able to understand and manage your data—and make privacy choices that are right for you. That’s why easy-to-use privacy features and controls have always been built into our products. At I/O, we announced several additional privacy and security tools across our products and platforms:

One tap to Google Account. As the number of Google products has grown, we’re making it even easier to find these controls in just one tap across more products including Search, Maps, YouTube, Chrome, the Assistant and News. Your Google Account gives you one place to access your privacy and security settings.

Auto-Delete. A new control that lets you limit the time your Location History and Web and App Activity data will be saved—3 or 18 months. Any data older than that is automatically and continuously deleted from your account. This new control is available today for Web & App Activity and coming next month to Location History.

Incognito. Since launching more than a decade ago, Incognito mode in Chrome has given you a choice to browse the internet without saving your activity to your browser or device. As our phones become the primary way we access the internet, we thought it was important to build Incognito mode for our most popular apps. It’s available in YouTube and coming soon to Maps and Search.

Also, Android Q has stronger privacy settings that are ‘upfront’ and transparent allowing users to see what permissions apps have and to vary them granularly. Why should a weather app have access to phone, contacts, camera etc?

You can read more here.

Family

Family Link will be a part of every Android Q device. Look for it under the setting “Digital Wellbeing and parental controls”. New Family Link features include:

Time limits on the apps kids use: Since not all screen time is created equal, parents will soon be able to set app-specific time limits to help kids make better choices about how they’re spending time on their device.

Giving kids bonus screen time. And while parents love that they can set a bedtime or daily screen time limit, sometimes kids just need a few more minutes to finish up what they’re doing on their devices. Soon, parents will be able to give kids bonus screen time directly from their own device.

You can read more here

AR (Augmented reality) in Search

Search has evolved to include richer, visual content in your results, like images and videos. With new augmented reality (AR) features rolling out at the end of the month, now you can view 3D objects right from Search and place them into your own space. It’s all part of the Google Lens evolution.

Knowledge Panel. We’re bringing AR to the Knowledge Panel in Search starting with select animals. So if you search for say, Great White Shark – you’ll get an option in the Knowledge Panel to view a life-sized Great White Shark in 3D and place it right in front of you in AR.

3D Models for All. We’re also working closely with partners like New Balance, Visible Body, NASA, Lowe’s, Volvo and Wayfair to help them bring 3D models that can be viewed in AR on their sites or directly in the web results from Search.

You can read more here