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Home News Google's giving up too much ground in the smart home fight

Google’s giving up too much ground in the smart home fight

While Amazon’s smart home lineup continues to boom, Google’s is stagnating.


Amazon announced dozens of updated smart home devices this last week, from a drone home security camera to a new swiveling Echo Show and an excellent overhaul of the Echo speaker line. They even rolled out a game streaming service that looks like it might be able to beat Stadia at its own game.

We’re also three days out from Google’s Launch Night In event, where we’ll see the latest Pixels and updates to several Google Nest products. As someone who uses Google Assistant-powered speakers and is loving the absolute crap out her Pixel 4a, I should be giddy as a kid on Christmas Eve right now. Unfortunately, I just can’t help this sinking feeling in the back of my mind that whatever Google shows us on Wednesday will feel like crumbs after Amazon’s feast.


Nowhere is this more apparent than the upcoming Nest Audio. This is the first direct successor to the original Google Home, which came out in 2016 — yeah, it’s really been that long, I can’t believe it either — while Amazon has updated the main Echo speaker three times in the last four years.

In addition, the new Amazon Echo is sporting a new spherical design that’s oddly reminiscent of the Nexus Q, the Nest Audio’s design is basically the same design we’ve seen for three years with the Nest Mini and the Google Home Max. While the new Echo is boasting new features like a built-in Zigbee hub and new custom co-processors powering its on-device AI, about the juiciest rumor we have for the Nest Audio is the hope that it might double as a portable speaker rather than being tied down to one room, a niche limited to third-party Google Assistant speakers so far.


We’re also only expecting an update for the main Nest Audio, whereas Amazon has been updating the Echo Dot whenever it does the main Echo to ensure that it’s smaller, more affordable speaker has the latest features and the cutest looks, like the insanely adorable tiger and panda Echo Dot Kids Editions. Combine that with the entire Alexa line getting even more intelligent features over the last 12 months, and Google’s smart speakers start feeling more and more like they’re falling behind.

The same can be said of the Nest Learning Thermostat, which we’re still not sure we’ll actually see this week. Nest’s last new thermostat came out in 2017, but that was the stripped down Nest E; the Nest 3rd Gen has been out for 5 years now. Granted, we don’t replace a thermostat every other year the way we replace a phone, but there’s always improvements that can be made. Nest’s main competitor, Ecobee, has released three new generations of its thermostat since the Nest 3rd Gen launched in 2015.


I understand that Google’s a services company first and a hardware company second, but is it too much to ask for a little more hustle out of Google’s hardware team when the competition is giving it all they’ve got?

We know that Google can turn out a great product that fits users needs. The Pixel 4a is the best phone of 2020 not just because it’s the perfect size for one-handed use on the go, but because it offers a great Android experience for $349 instead of the $900+ you’d pay for most 2020 flagships. The Chromecast was a great tool that helped turn millions of dumb TVs into smart TVs, and it did so for $35.

We know Google can hit home runs. And we could see home runs this week: the ‘Sabrina’ Android TV in particular looks very promising, and the Pixel 4a 5G will be offering up a big screen at a low price while still packing 5G for the future.

But I also know how often Google tends to whiff on a shot, too.


From the rest of the tech world last week:

  • Finally, Chromebook availability is starting to recover from the back to school rush! At check this morning, most of the models in our Best Chromebook are in stock at regular price, including the Lenovo Flex 5 that’s been selling out within hours for the last three months. The Flex 5 at $410 is a phenomenal value and I wouldn’t wait for Prime Day to buy it.
  • We got a new Chromebox from HP this week, and I am pleased as punch. Chromeboxes aren’t sexy, but they’re useful and we deserve updated choices.
  • The TicWatch Pro 3 is a great watch that I look forward to wearing for the foreseeable future. I’m not thrilled about the hybrid screen now turning on the backlight via tilt-to-wake — I find it distracting — but it does make it easier to read at night.
  • The bold colors, the flat screen and the lower price make the Galaxy S20 FE a very alluring prospect, but unless you love Samsung’s look, I recommend grabbing the Pixel 4a.


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Nokia phone buyer’s guide (Fall 2020)

Buying a phone in 2020 is an entirely different situation than it was just a few years back. Many consumers are used to buying their phones from their wireless service provider but that’s slowly changing.Thanks to the growing presence of unlocked handsets, customers are now able to choose from a much wider selection. Instead of being stuck with what your carrier offers, consider going direct to the manufacturer.Nokia is one brand that has done pretty well in the unlocked space; it continues to grow its portfolio with models at a variety of price points and hardware features.We’ve put together this Nokia phone buyer’s guide to help you make heads or tails out of everything. This should help you get a better understanding of what’s currently available from Nokia.Nokia Phone Buyer’s GuideNokia’s phones are essentially named and classified with a number. The general rule of thumb here is the bigger the number, the more powerful the phone.As of today there are phones split across the 2, 5, 6, 7, and 8 series of phones. The Nokia 7.2, for instance, is a successor to the Nokia 7.1.Android OneOne of the best parts about Nokia phones is that they come with a stock version of Android. It’s lean and clean and left the way Google intended it to be.Additionally, Nokia does a wonderful job of supporting its phones with major software updates and monthly security patches. Its devices receive two years of major platform updates and three years of security and bug fixes.Dedicated ButtonAnother common feature in Nokia phones is a dedicated hardware button for Google Assistant. This gives users a quick and easy way of accessing the popular search tool and virtual assistant.Key PhonesThese are some of the current phones and their respective features offered by Nokia.Nokia 8.3 5GThe biggest and best of the bunch, this one will be highlighted in the upcoming James Bond film No Time to Die. The phone runs Android 10 and offers support for all 5G bands.Users get a large 6.81-inch display as well as a quad-camera (64MP + 8MP Ultra-Wide + 2MP Macro + 2MP Depth) array with ZEISS cinematic effects​.Under the hood are a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor bolstered by 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. Rounding things out are a 4,500mAh battery and a side-mounted power and fingerprint sensor button.Nokia 7.2Powered by Android 9 Pie, the device provides users with a 6.3-inch HD+ screen, a triple camera array, and 3,500mAh battery.A mid-range phone with wide support for 4G LTE bands, it packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor with 4/6GB RAM. Storage is listed at 64GB of space but a microSD expansion card slot allows for up to 512GB external media.Nokia 6.2This one’s pretty similar to the aforementioned model but just slightly less powerful. If the 7.2 leans a bit in the direction of upper end, the 6.2 is firmly in the middle of the pack.The phone runs Android 10, has a triple-camera setup, and a 6.3-inch display. The key difference comes in the hardware which is dialed down a smidge. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 chip is paired with 3GB and 4GB options. Storage starts at 32GB and goes up to 128GB; microSD allows for external media.Nokia 5.3An excellent option for first-time users and those who don’t demand much of their phone, this one packs a large 6.55-inch screen and an equally large 4,000mAh battery.The handset runs Android 10 and comes with 3GB, 4GB, and 6GB memory options. A quad-camera configuration snaps ultra-wide and macro shots while the expandable 64GB storage ensures you’ve got room to store them.Nokia 3 SeriesOften sold through prepaid carriers and MVNOs, these are a shade above entry-level. Although they are a little lighter on hardware, they still come with a wonderful software experience that’s backed with years of support.Nokia 2 SeriesCurrently comprised of a couple of models, this is where you’d start if you’ve really had much experience with a smartphone. You won’t have any fancy bells or whistles but you’ll still get important features like big screens, generous battery life, and dedicated Google Assistant buttons.

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