The Pixel Tablet’s dock should have been a Nest speaker


I’m not stunned; I’m simply disenchanted.

As anticipated, Google launched the Pixel Pill at its Google I/O developer convention yesterday. It’s an 11-inch Android pill with a “charging speaker dock,” and when it’s on the dock, it seems and features like a Nest Hub Max, Google’s top-of-the-line sensible show. Google stored saying the Pixel Pill was “like” a sensible show, whereas insisting that it isn’t one.

The factor is, when the pill is docked in Hub mode, it actually looks like a sensible show. The pill acts like a digital picture body. You possibly can speak to Google Assistant. You need to use it as a sensible dwelling controller. You possibly can Chromecast audio and video to it. These are all issues the Nest Hub does. The dock, which comes with the pill, makes it clear that the pill is meant to reside out within the open, not shoved in a drawer or wherever folks preserve tablets once they’re not utilizing them.

The Dwelling Panel on the Pixel Pill.

Now, there are loads of the explanation why an Android pill is a greater sensible dwelling controller than the underpowered, uncared for Nest Hubs. I imply, the phrases “underpowered” and “uncared for” are massive ones. The Pixel Pill is a little bit of a do-over, with a contemporary interface, way more highly effective {hardware}, and a a lot bigger app ecosystem. It has the potential to be an excellent sensible show and sensible dwelling controller — however there’s one main omission in attaining that potential.

I simply can’t determine why the dock isn’t a Nest speaker.

At launch — phrases I’ll come again to — it’s only a dock. It expenses the Pixel Pill, and it has audio system that the pill can use when it’s docked. And it permits that Hub mode I used to be speaking about. If you take the pill off the dock, it’s a pill. However the dock is simply litter. You possibly can’t forged audio to it, you possibly can’t ask it questions, and you’ll’t even use it to cost your different gadgets. It simply takes up house.

Earlier than Google I/O, I had this entire idea in my head that it would be a Nest speaker. The choice simply didn’t make sense. It’s at the very least as massive as a Nest speaker. It has audio system in it. It’s at all times plugged in, and it’s designed to be out within the open. It prices $129.99 by itself, which is greater than a Nest Audio or a Nest Hub.

If it have been a Nest speaker, it will nonetheless be helpful when somebody walks off with the pill. If it had a Matter controller and a Thread border router in it, as a number of Nest Hubs do, it may work in tandem with the Pixel Pill to be a one-stop sensible dwelling answer, even when the pill is elsewhere. As a substitute, you continue to want a separate machine (or two) to regulate your sensible dwelling, along with your $500 pill and its cumbersome dock. I’m not the only one to notice the missed potential right here.

It makes loads of sense to make use of an Android pill as a household sensible dwelling controller, nevertheless it makes much less sense for that sensible dwelling controller to be unavailable as a result of any person took the display off and is enjoying Minecraft within the subsequent room. A Nest speaker within the dock would repair the “the place did the pill go” drawback, and the Pixel Pill fixes the most important drawback with the Nest Hub sensible shows, which is that they’re essentially voice-first sensible audio system with a clumsy touchscreen interface grafted on, operating on {hardware} that struggles to maintain up.

That is only a dock. It doesn’t have a microphone or a privateness change.

I believe the dock was imagined to do extra. And both there was a change of route or among the {hardware} is there however dormant as a result of Google simply didn’t get it achieved in time for I/O. Contemplate the next.

In early 2022 — earlier than the Pixel Pill was introduced eventually 12 months’s I/O — there was a rumor that Google was working on a Nest Hub with a detachable display. Late final 12 months, Google seemed to be ramping up development on Fuchsia OS prematurely of a brand new Nest speaker launch in 2023. And it has spent the final two years porting its current Nest Hub audio system to Fuchsia. The second-gen Nest Hub obtained the OS last week. All to no apparent consequence; all of them nonetheless run the identical dilapidated entrance finish as earlier than, and no new Nest merchandise have been introduced. That’s loads of effort to go to for nothing.

For some time, I used to be half-convinced that not solely was the dock a Nest speaker but in addition that the Dwelling Panel interface of the Pixel Pill was truly operating on the dock itself and simply overlaid on Android when the pill was docked. And that, as a result of that Dwelling Panel interface didn’t appear to be the Nest Hub interface, Google was about to replace the Nest Hub interfaces when the Pixel Pill launched. Simply goes to point out you shouldn’t consider one thing is true simply since you need it to be true or since you’re fed up together with your Nest Hub Max and don’t need to spend $500.

If this looks like I’m greedy at straws, to begin with: most likely! The charging dock doesn’t have a microphone or a privateness change, so it’s nearly actually not a Nest speaker. However second, try what Anish Kattukaran, the director of product on Google Dwelling, instructed my colleague Jennifer Pattison Tuohy: “at launch, the brand new Pixel Pill is not going to be a Matter controller or Thread border router.”

“At launch” is a bizarre option to put it if what you imply is “by no means.” So there’s a slim hope that the sensible dwelling management capabilities at the very least may nonetheless be within the dock.

Replace: Google spokesperson Mia Nicholson instructed The Verge through e-mail that neither the pill nor the dock has a Thread radio. Oh nicely.

Simply goes to point out you shouldn’t consider one thing is true simply since you need it to be true

After all, Google did lay off a chunk of the Fuchsia dev team in January — shoutout to 9to5Google for staying on prime of Fuchsia information, by the way in which — after which reorged the Assistant team in March, so possibly plans modified. Or possibly they tried the Nest speaker factor and determined it was too complicated, or they couldn’t get the working programs to play properly. Or they couldn’t get the group to play properly. Perhaps they’re nonetheless engaged on it! Perhaps they’ll have a unique dock coming later that does have a Nest speaker in it.

Or possibly the Nest Hub is an evolutionary lifeless finish, and the speaker dock is only a massive, costly charging stand for an Android pill. That Android pill will likely be a very good sensible dwelling controller when it’s docked, thanks largely to the brand new Google Dwelling app and the truth that it’s designed to sit down out within the open. However the sensible dwelling wants an excellent controller. The Pixel Pill has all the appropriate elements. It’s too dangerous the dock is only a dock.

Images by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Up to date Could 11, 2023 at 5:48PM EST: Added new data from Google confirming the dearth of Thread radio within the Pixel Pill or charging speaker dock in addition to the worth of the dock when bought individually.


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