LIVE BLOG: Google's Pixel Phone Launch, As It Happened

Image: Gizmodo

It's almost time, folks. In just a few hours -- ugh, I should be asleep -- Google will unveil something to the world. Now, we'll be playing along live here, so if you're keen on learning about everything that the big G has to show off, here's the place to tune in.

Update 5:00AM: So, that is a wrap folks! Read through below to see how everything panned out in chronological order...

9:00PM: Evening, everyone! Who's going to be up and awake at 3:00AM AEDT tomorrow morning? That's when this whole shebang kicks off. Even if you're not going to be, we will -- me, and Gizmodo journo Rae Johnston will be awake and blogging away.

Want to watch along with us? We'll link that YouTube livestream in here closer to the launch starting, but if you want to get an extra tab open right now just in case, this is where you go.

Now, what do I think we're going to see? Well, two Pixel smartphones -- a 5-inch Pixel and a 5.5-inch Pixel XL -- are almost a certainty after all the leaks we've had so far. But anything more, like maybe the 'Andromeda' operating system that brings Android and ChromeOS together on laptops? Maybe a Pixel (or Nexus) tablet? Maybe Google is pivoting to some sweet middle-out compression software? Leave your best guesses in the comments below!

I'll be back online at around 2AM tomorrow morning to get this live blog a-churnin'. If I don't wake up, someone tweet angry things at me.

2:10AM: Morning fam! I'm awake and one Red Bull deep so far. I'm being driven on my way to Google's secret location in Sydney, with a bag that was on my doorstep when I stepped outside. (This is like some kind of weird adventure.) Full disclosure: the bag has Berocca and Tic-Tacs and a bottle of water in it. Joke's on you, bag, I'm not tired because I forgot to sleep.

2:45AM: Guys! I'm at the super secret Google place. We made it. I'm sitting in a comfortable chair in front of a big screen. 15 minutes until show time. MY BODY IS READY. In case you'd forgotten, here is where you can watch along with the livestream on YouTube.

This is what the livestream is showing right now -- if you're seeing this, do not adjust your set.

2:55AM: T-minus 5 minutes, y'all. Get ready. Start your YouTubes, quickly run to the bathroom, fill up your coffee Thermos. GO.

3:00AM: And we're off and running! The livestream kicks off with a bit of a skit from Guilfoyle and Dinesh from Silicon Valley -- about how everyone who wasn't in the beta will find out what's going on. Wait, you weren't in the beta?

After the skit, the livestream has started. Google's Sundar Pichai is on stage at a transformed power station -- some supervillian lair somewhere -- and talking about "a seminal moment in computing".

Pichai: "At Google, we are very very excited about this shift and we've been working a long time. At the heart of our efforts is a Google Assistant. A two-way conversation, a natural dialogue between our users and Google. It'll be available, when the users need, and personal -- one for each and every user."

We're now getting a quick video intro -- an "early introduction" -- to Google Assistant, the natural language text-to-speech software magic robot that'll get you absolutely any information from Google in a natural context.

Machine learning and AI are the massive pillars that Google Assistant needs to do its job -- voice recognition, image processing and algorithms and so on. Pichai is talking about Google's Alpha Go victory over champion Lee Sedol, which was a pretty good sign that AI is getting to human levels of intelligence and interaction.

3:10AM: Image processing advancements have made massive improvements in small areas to make image descriptions more accurate, and machine learning allows for more complicated translations -- like Chinese to English -- in a more natural way.

We're now getting a bit of information on how text to speech -- y'know, how Google talks back to you with an answer after you throw it a curve-ball question -- works. Thousands of hours of voice recording is now being overtaken by something called WaveNet, which records the pitch and tone of voices rather than phrases themselves, allowing computers to speak any phrase, in any intonation or inflection or accent. This is, Pichai says, one way that the company is trying to make "an Assistant for all users."

3:15AM: Google has done a lot of this already with Allo, its chat client that also integrates Google Assistant. Assistant is coming to two new places -- hardware products and software products.

Rick Osterloh is on stage, head of Google's new hardware group. Osterloh says "the next big innovation will take place at the intersection of hardware and software, with AI in the middle." Hardware "with the Google Assistant" at their core will "just work (for you)" -- is that a phrase we've heard from a Google competitor somewhere before, maybe?

First up is phones.

3:18AM: Phones are the most important thing we own. They rarely leave our side. And so, there's a new phone designed and built by the Mountain View technology giant:

This is Pixel, the Phone by Google. It's built on five pillars, Google says:

  • Pixel has Google Assistant built in
  • An excellent photography experience
  • Google Cloud, so you never run out of space
  • Communications to keep in touch "no matter what phone or operating system you use"
  • It's the first phone "made for virtual reality"

The Google Assistant is basically a hardcore evolution of Google Now, and it works universally throughout the Android OS. And it's built into the new Pixel Launcher, which hides the search bar off to the side of the top of the screen in a circle, and is also accessible by long-pressing the home button.

Importantly, the Assistant works with third-party apps like Viber or Whatsapp as well as first-party Google services for things like voice recognition during messaging and the like.

3:25AM We're getting a quick guide on how Google Assistant works -- checking the shows that are on at a nearby theatre, checking for restaurants near that theatre, booking a table at the restaurant all through voice and natural language interaction. Like Siri on steroids, basically.

Now on to the camera! DXOMark rated the Pixel's camera an 89, the highest ever for a smartphone. But what's the sensor and lens setup inside? A 12.3-megapixel sensor with a f/2.0 lens but big 1.55um pixels to capture more light, apparently. And Google's usual big-time software suite that does things like capture massive photo bursts and then pick the sharpest from the lot.

Apparently Pixel's camera has the fastest shutter actuation speed of any the company has tested, and incredibly good video stabilisation as well. It actually sounds like a pretty damn good phone camera, despite having a tiny aperture on the rear of the phone itself.

3:35AM: How are we going, guys? Still awake? We're just getting a quick look at Google's new advertising for Pixel. It's fun, bright, simple and shows off the phone and Google Photos at work.

Now we're past a very quick demo of Google Duo -- the Facetime-esque video messaging app. And onto the battery -- seven hours of battery in just 15 minutes of charging, apparently! That's some kind of fast charging at work, definitely. Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box, too, means the phone gets software updates in the background and installs them on every restart.

24/7 live customer care built into the phone -- either by phone or by chat -- lets you talk to a real person whenever you want to fix a problem or better understand a feature, even with the option to share your screen with the tech support guru.

Hey, there's some confirmation! Google Pixel comes in two sizes -- 5-inch and 5.5-inch. Three amazing names -- Quite Black, Very Silver and Really Blue -- are just about the best I've heard of for any phone. Seriously, great naming convention guys.

3:38AM: The phone starts at $US649, but we're still waiting on Aussie pricing. Pre-orders start today in Australia, by the way.

There's been a fair bit of low-key Apple sledging throughout -- hey, a headphone jack! Hey, unlimited cloud storage! -- but it's all been in good humour.

3:40AM: Now we're talking about Daydream, Google's next big thing in VR. There's a headset that can be bought for the Pixels, which are the first phones "built for Daydream", and apparently it has some pretty swish specs if you're a VR nerd as well.

It looks a little less nerdy than other VR headsets out there, it's wrapped in some lovely suede or alcantara or something, and it works wirelessly -- no cables or ports to plug in.

There's a wireless controller, too! It fits away inside the headset when you're not using it, apparently. Here's what it looks like -- and it looks sexy, as far as a virtual reality headset ever has. The headset won't work with just the Pixel phones, too, more will be on the way.

Daydream View launches in a grey Slate finish. More colours -- Snow and Crimson -- are on the way.

3:45AM: Oh, shit son. Google has teamed up with Warner Bros to bring an exclusive Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them virtual reality experience to the Google Daydream VR headset. AND there's a CCP game built on the EVE universe, and there's Netflix and HBO (in the US) apps for Daydream viewing. SIGN ME UP A THOUSAND TIMES, GUYS.

There's a Street View app for Daydream! It makes perfect sense, really. You can go visit the Faroe Islands as a sheep. Oh, and YouTube, including in 360 degrees. Duh.

Daydream and the controller will go on sale in November for $US79. Again, check back some time for Aussie pricing and availability in a couple of hours.

3:50AM: Now we're starting to talk about home products. Don't get too excited, because these may not come to Australia -- we're not so mature a market for these kind of things. But still...

First up is Google Wi-Fi, a modular Wi-Fi system that works on small, mesh-network repeaters that will talk to each other and actively manage your network to take all the confusion and guesswork out of it. Google Wi-Fi will be a $US129 single purchase or $US299 as a three-pack.

3:55AM: Hey, new Chromecasts! In particular, a badass black puck called the Chromecast Ultra, supporting 4K Ultra HD including HDR and Dolby Vision support. So this is what turns your Netflix stream from your phone into the kind of super-high-res monster that makes your 65-inch TV sing. As long as you have fast 'net, at least.

$US69 for the Chromecast Ultra later this year, and we think it'll probably come to Australia a little while after that if previous products are anything to go by.

Now we're talking about Google Home, the Amazon Alexa competitors that includes the Google Assistant -- y'know, when you talk to your robot speaker to check the weather or book a movie ticket or whatever. It's built to pick speech out of noisy rooms, and to recognise your voice and not just some random's.

The Google Home is actually a pretty decent speaker, apparently, too. It has a full-range driver built into the base, which can be switched for different colours. We're getting a quick demo of how Google Home works...

4:00AM: One hour in! Who's staying strong?

Hey, here's a cool feature -- you can teach Google Assistant what your default music streaming apps are, so you don't always have to say "...on Spotify" or similar. That's really nice to see -- it's great when software guys are platform-agnostic, because we as users actually use a bunch of different things and not just first-party products.

4:05AM: Google Home is being tested with some definitely-not-pre-planned questions, like "what is Adele's real name" and "can dogs eat chocolate" and "how do you get wine stains out of a rug" and "hey can you help me move a body". Maybe not that last one. Not yet. Wait for those badass Boston Dynamics robots first.

More demos. Now showing off Google Maps data and Calendar info. "If the President can get a daily briefing, why can't you?"

Here's a useful feature -- because the Assistant lives across devices, you can add something to your shopping list by voice through Google Home and then check it on the Pixel when you're out at the shops.

Google is working with some big smart home companies like Nest, Samsung's Smartthings, Philips Hue and IFTTT -- as well as, y'know, the Chromecast, including through apps like Netflix (soon!) -- to make Google Home work with other devices around your house.

Google Home will work with a bunch of different Google Cast devices, too. There's a whole ecosystem of devices already out there from brands like LG and Harman/Kardon that support Cast, so you might even have one in your house without you even knowing.

Inside your house. Right now.

4:15AM: Internationally, the Google Home speaker will be available for pre-order today and on sale on November 4 for $US129, with a bunch of changeable fabric and metal bases available as add-ons. No word on Aussie availability though -- these things take a while to pass through Wi-Fi certification locally and whatnot, y'know.

4:20AM: We're getting some more info from a Google engineering boffin about Assistant. It's not only about first-party apps and information, though -- Google is opening up the Assistant SDK to developers that want to use voice activation to create "direct actions" within their own apps.

Direct Actions are being built into a bunch of different things, but Google wants to make it easier for users to ask things naturally -- without knowing specific codewords, in the way that you've had to talk to a 'smart' TV in the past. Google is really banking a lot on Assistant -- we've used it a bit in Allo, and it's pretty damn good, but the proof is in the pudding...

4:25AM: Hey, we're done!!! Find out more here.

This is what's coming to Australia and when and how much:

Coming to Australia will be two devices -- Pixel and Pixel XL available for pre-order:

Pixel: 32GB: $1079 128GB: $1229

Pixel XL 32GB: $1269 128GB: $1419

Both the Quite Black and Very Silver variants will be available in Australia. The 20th of October is the launch date.

Daydream View is $119, and it'll be out in November. Chromecast Ultra is coming later this year for $99.

In Australia, Telstra is the exclusive launch partner on a bunch of Go Mobile plans, and outright through JB Hi-Fi.

Oh, and thanks for tuning in! You've been a wonderful crowd, I'm here all day until I fall asleep.

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