Here's everything Google announced on Wednesday

Key Points
  • Google announced a handful of new gadgets ahead of the holiday shopping season, including a new Pixel phone, Chromecast and Nest smart speaker.
  • The Pixel 5 phone is Google's new flagship product and starts at $699.
  • Google's popular Chromecast got a significant upgrade, and finally includes menus for your TV so you're not limited to beaming video from your phone or computer.

In this article

Google TV software running on a Chromecast.

Google kicked off its annual hardware event Wednesday where it announced several new products, including the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G phones, the Chromecast with Google TV and the Nest Audio speaker.

This was Google's chance to show off its latest products ahead of the holiday shopping season. Its event follows a similar one from Amazon just last week, where Amazon revealed new speakers, Fire TV products, a flying security drone and more.

It also follows an event earlier this month where Apple announced a new Apple Watch, iPads and subscription services. Apple is expected to have a separate event in October to announce the next version of the iPhone.

Here's what Google announced.

Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G

Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G

Google announced its new Android phones for the year, including a 5G version of the Pixel 4a that launched earlier this year and the Pixel 5.

The Pixel 4a 5G has a slightly larger display than the original Pixel 4a, which is still a great phone for the price. The Pixel 4a 5G starts at $499, which is $150 more than the regular Pixel 4a.

The Pixel 5 starts at $699 and includes more features, like wireless-charging, splash resistance and a metal body instead of plastic.

Both come with mid-range Qualcomm processors, which is likely one place where Google is saving money on the final cost compared to other flagship phone that offer Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 865+ chip. They also have full HD displays, instead of more expensive quad-HD displays in higher-priced devices.

Google says 5G will help with services like Google Duo video chat, so you can share your screen and watch videos with other people. Or for Google Stadia, its streaming video game service. Those things require faster internet. But 5G is still really limited around the U.S. right now, so it's not yet a reason to buy a new phone. It's just good for a bit of future-proofing.

Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G have the same cameras, which Google says is its "best one yet." There's an ultrawide lens on the back for fitting more people into the frame and new support for HDR+ for "even sharper photos." There's a new portrait mode with Night Sight, Google's low-light imaging mode. That means you can take better pictures with blurred backgrounds even in dark settings, like around a campfire.

Portrait mode is improved with "Portrait Light" to improve the lighting in a picture shot in that mode. It's similar to the lighting effects Apple adds in portrait mode on iPhones. 

Google said software improvements provide up to 48 hours of battery life. That's a big promise, so I'll see how well that claim holds up once I can test them.

Google's Pixel phones don't have a huge market the way Apple iPhones or Samsung's devices do, but it's a way for Google to attract customers to its Android mobile platform by offering relatively affordable phones that provide the best integration with Google apps and a camera that rivals more expensive phones. It's expected to continue that trend with a newer lower-cost Pixel this year.

Pre-orders for both phones start Wednesday and should start shipping as early as Oct. 30.

Nest Audio

Nest Audio speaker

Google also revealed a new connected home speaker that will compete with Amazon Echo and Sonos products. It will cost $99 and connects with other Nest speakers (previously called Google Home) to create whole-home audio.

Like earlier speakers, it lets you speak with Google Assistant. So, you can ask it the weather, what's on your calendar, to call someone or to play music from several music services, such as YouTube Music, Spotify and others.

It'll compete most directly with Amazon's new Echo, which costs the same but provides access to Amazon's Alexa voice assistant instead of Google's. It goes on sale Oct. 5.

Chromecast with Google TV

Finally, Google revealed the Chromecast with Google TV is a little dongle that plugs into the back of your TV, similar to a Roku or Amazon's Fire TV products, and gives you access to more than 6,500 apps like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Peloton, YouTube and more.

It's Google's latest effort to take market share away from Roku and Amazon, which have the lion's share of the streaming TV market. 

Google TV software running on a Chromecast.

This is the first Chromecast from Google to ship with software and a remote to control it. Previously, a Chromecast would allow you to pick movies and videos to watch on your phone, but there wasn't an on-screen menu of apps, TV shows and movies to choose from. Google hopes this helps people discover more content to watch, and ultimately spend more time using it. The latest Chromecast runs new Google TV software, a totally redesigned version of Android TV that was previously only available on third-party devices from companies like Nvidia.

Chromecast with Google TV

Google TV shows you recommendations for movies and TV shows to watch, and lets you dive right into the app they're available in. So, it might recommend shows from Hulu, Netflix or any other service you pay for, similar to how Roku, Amazon and Apple TV integrate other services.

The remote has a Google Assistant button, so you can search for anything by voice, or ask Google TV to pull up your Nest camera to keep an eye on the front door. It also includes quick-launch buttons for YouTube and Netflix and dedicated volume keys.

The new Chromecast supports up to 4K video and HDR if you have a TV that offers that, and Dolby Atmos sound if you have speakers that support it. Oddly, it does not yet support Google Stadia, the company's new game-streaming service, although Google Nest's director of product management Gerardo Capiel told CNBC that's a priority and will be available in the first half of next year.

The Chromecast with Google TV launches on Sept. 30 in the U.S. for $49.99. It'll be available in other countries by the end of the year.

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