Google September 2015 event recap

At a San Francisco event Tuesday, Google announced its next wave of products for the holiday season and beyond.

Starting with general updates, Android is now being used actively (in the last 30 days) by at least 1.4 billion devices. Google Play, the company’s marketplace for digital goods, now also has a billion users. 20 million Chromecast streaming sticks have also been sold to date.

“The scale at which everything is working is pretty breathtaking to see.”

– Sundar Pichai, Google CEO

Google partnered with LG to launch the 5.2-inch Nexus 5X, and with Huawei to launch the 5.7-inch Nexus 6P. Both devices will launch in October with Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

Built around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 808 processor, the 5X features a 1080p display coated with Gorilla Glass 3, a 12-megapixel rear camera that can shoot 4K video, a 5-megapixel front camera, 2,700mAh battery, 2GB of RAM, and a USB-C charging connector, which is also used by Google’s Chromebook Pixel and Apple’s 12-inch MacBook.

Speaking of cameras, you can now get to it by double-tapping the power button. The camera also features LG’s laser autofocus system that was introduced last year with the G3.

Perhaps most importantly, both Nexus devices feature a fingerprint sensor on the back. Dubbed Nexus Imprint, the sensor “gets better over time,” according to Google, learning more about your fingerprint.

The phones also share Nexus Protect, which will offer two years of coverage for “mechanical breakdown” and accidental damage. Protect costs $69 with the Nexus 5X and $89 with the Nexus 6P.

The 16GB Nexus 5X is available to preorder today for $379. Both phones are unlocked, meaning that you’re not tied to a contract, and can use it across multiple carriers. Preorders come with a 90-day free trial of Google Play Music, and US buyers will also get a $50 credit in Google’s Play Store.

In addition to the United States, the Nexus 5X is available for preorder from the Google Store in Canada, the UK, Ireland, Korea, and Japan.

The Nexus 6P is only 7.3mm thick and is meant to be about the same size as the iPhone 6 Plus. The company’s “most premium phone yet” includes an all-metal body, two front-facing speakers, the Nexus 5X’s 12-megapixel rear camera with slow motion video and burst mode, a 5-megapixel front camera, a USB Type-C port for charging, and fast charging to allow charges that are twice as fast as the iPhone 6 Plus’, according to Google.

The 6P also has a Snapdragon 810 processor, 3GB of RAM, and a 3450mAh battery.

Pricing starts at $499 for a 32GB model, $549 for a 64GB model, and $649 for a phone with 128GB of storage in white, black, and silver.

Both phones will also be available on the company’s own Project Fi mobile network, which switches between Sprint and T-Mobile’s cellular service with WiFi to find the best signal.

Following a roughly four month beta, Android 6.0 Marshmallow will be widely available starting next week, first rolling out to Google’s Nexus devices.

Google Photos has also been updated with Chromecast support and the ability to add name labels to Google’s photo collections for friends and loved ones. These names are private and not used by Google for targeting. However, they are used to make search more powerful: for example, searching “mom Christmas” will allow the company to find them using the label and its facial recognition technology. There’s also a new feature for letting friends contribute to your albums, which is coming later this year.

Google Play Music received a new family plan option, which allows up to six subscribers for $14.99/month.

The Chromecast has two new members to its family: the traditional Chromecast stick for streaming video, and a new audio dongle that adds wireless music streaming to any speaker with a 3.5mm aux jack.

Like last year, the main Chromecast plugs into the back of a TV through HDMI and mirrors content from the Chromecast app to your television, for $35. It becomes a round, hockey puck-esque plastic device with a long HDMI arm extending from it. According to Google, this is so the device hangs further away from the TV set and other devices plugged into it to reduce interference. It ships in yellow, red, and black.

“Fast Play” allows the Chromecast to pre-fetch a video streaming app (think YouTube) and video content it thinks you’ll want to watch before you press play.

According to Google, thousands of apps now support Chromecast casting like Netflix, Sling TV, Discovery, Showtime, and DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticker. The Chromecast app has also been refreshed with a “What’s On” section to show top content from the streaming video apps on your phone.

The Chromecast Audio looks identical to the flagship Chromecast, with a 3.5mm audio port instead of HDMI.

Users can cast music from apps like Spotify, Google Play Music, or Pandora.

Lastly, Google announced the Pixel C, a tablet with a 10.2-inch screen, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, USB-C for charging that starts at $499.

Under the hood, the tablet has an Nvidia Tegra X1 processor and 3GB of RAM.

The company also showed off a separate $149 keyboard accessory that doesn’t need a kickstand and can be adjusted from 100-135 degrees. It connects via Bluetooth, and the tablet can actually charge the keyboard when the latter is placed over the tablet’s screen.

Both the tablet and keyboard will be available in time for the holidays.

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